Monday, November 14, 2016

Maggots, Tapeworms, and Leeches

The next time I visited with the as-yet-unnamed kitten, I came prepared. I brought the dog's blanket and a little cat toy I'd made by balling a wad of both Teddy's and Seth's fur until it behaved like a felted wool toy. I reinforced it with a few stitches and added a string. I was resourceful, prepared, right?

It reminded me of when Nick was born and we brought home one of his baby blankets from the hospital so that our dog Indiana could get a whiff of him in advance.We had nothing to worry about. Indiana loved Nick on sight. He was her baby. We could see the love on her face.

I thought the blanket and this little toy would inspire some curiosity, a moment of recognition, cat and dog with this human. I thought it might make getting to know my kitty easier.

The technician brought me and the kitten into the same room along with a blanket and a pillow. I could take my time, she said. He was one pound, eleven ounces and could come home with us when he was two pounds and could be treated for fleas and worms. Worms?

Nobody said anything about worms.

But then the technician left and I was stuck in the room with a flea bitten, wild and possibly wormy little kitten.

It didn't seem like so much fun after that. I tried not to think about the worms. Seth had had worms when he was a kitten. No one, not even the five year old Nick who played with him, had gotten worms before we found out and got him treated. So, I tried not to visualize those worms eating through my intestines, or Nick's. I sat back on the pillow on the floor and waited, throwing the little cat toy around by its string.

Nothing. He had no response to it. None, except the occasional time I hit him with it and then, he'd cower further under the little table. I sat that way for ten minutes or so. I'm not that patient. I should be after two dogs, two cats, a boy, and now a kitten. Are there evolutionary advantages to being impatient?

I don't know, but if there are, my line will last through the ages and more than one toddler will say 'dammit' as his first word. Don't ask. Really, it's embarrassing.

Then, I felt stupid because I still had to corner the poor creature, throw a blanket over him, and roll him into a burrito again to get him into my arms.

Once he was there, he sat like an antelope in the jaws of a cheetah, staring into the near space without making eye contact.

I petted him with my one finger again. He stiffened.

Then, remembering the effect the tears had on him the last time I had visited. I wondered if I could dampen my finger on my tears again to make it feel like what his mom would do. No tears.

And then a vision of worms in my eye sprung to mind. No tears.

Spit, maybe?

But I couldn't put my kitteny-possibly-wormy fingers in my mouth. I just couldn't.

See, if I have a kryptonite, it's maggots, tape worms, and leeches. They're all the same in my book, things that will eat me from the inside out if I let them. I'm telling you that I have observed open-heart surgery and kidney surgery. I can clean up shit, vomit, and spoiled food like a champ. But put maggots on the compost and I become a sweaty heaving mess. If I discover little white worms crawling around in the turds in the litter box and I can puke my split pea soup on them for additional nutrients. I carried an ounce of salt like a talisman on me at all times for a week on a canoe trip in leech country. I don't do parasites.

I sat and stared at the tiny kitten. Eli/Blitz/Yeager. Whatever his name might be. Fuck.

So, I spit on him.

It was just a little globule of spit, but it was enough that I could use the one finger to clean him the way his momma would have. He seemed to relax a little. I smeared my spit around until it had the right resistance when I petted him with my one finger, pulling at his skin just a tiny bit. He closed his eyes as if momma had appeared out of the mist. This was working.

The only problem I had then was that the one spot on his fur, the middle of where I had spit, stuck up like a wet cowlick. Do you remember that scene in the movie There's Something about Mary where she accidentally uses his sperm in her hair and spends the whole meal with her bangs sticking up and you know what that crap in her hair is even though she doesn't?

It looked like that.

I could imagine the technician asking how he got wet. I might be able to raise my eyebrows and say I had no clue, but could I lie? Could I really?

So, I got to work on the spot. I think he was getting tired of big momma licking the same spot over and over again, of me rubbing it with the furry dog blanket, my T-shirt, the terry cloth inside of my jacket. But he tolerated it because maybe if he didn't, the big predator would just eat him.

Finally, I got the spit spot smoothed out and looking normal, for the most part.

It was time for me to go. I wrapped him in the blanket they'd provided for me and took him back to the front desk.

"So," the cheerful receptionist asked, "can we change you from 'potential' to a 'definite' new momma?"

I stood at the door, took a deep breath, and thought of Nick's face if I said no.

"Oh yeah, sure," I said vaguely. "Sure."

Thank you for listening, jb

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