Sue is not a morning person. She's not a noon person. Doesn't really like the late afternoons much either. She tolerates the evening, and, as I get ready for bed, she is wide awake.
"You go ahead, I've got some e-mail to catch up on, some laundry to do, I want to clean the oven, can some tomatoes, order some seeds, hem those slacks I just bought." It's been like this for 35 years.
I'm almost used to it.
About three years ago, I went to the pet rescue place to get a replacement cat. I didn't want a kitten, I wanted a full-grown, housebroken cat. There were hundreds of cats trying to out-cute one another. I'm not a cat expert, I just like low-maintenance pets.
My last cat used to like it when — after dinner parties — I would pick him up like a ventriloquist's dummy and put words in his mouth.
"Jim, does this fur make me look fat?" "Jim, was I adopted?" "Jim, can I take a personal day off tomorrow?" "Jim, let's talk about my 401K plan."
So, feeling good in general about cats, I picked up the first one that rubbed up against my leg and let me pet her.
The pet rescue people didn't warn me by saying anything as direct as, "You've just decided to bring Satan into your home," or "Sir, think about it, why do you think this beautiful cat doesn't already have a home?" Or "Don't do it, mister! It will wreck your marriage, you'll lose your job, you'll lose your house!" No. No one was that direct. One guy did cough into his hand and said casually, "Most people don't like to adopt older cats." Lights should have flashed, buzzers should have sounded, security doors should have automatically slammed shut to keep this cat from escaping. Instead, I took it home in a cardboard cage they provided for free.
I was so naÜve. For a few days, we called out names to the cat to see what she would respond to. If someone had owned her before, she must have a name. Betty? No response. Linda? No response. Missy? Wynonna? Imelda? Leona? Moon Unit? Ephigene? Camilla? Mary Jane? Apple? Salt? Pepa? Fergie? Nothing.
Lucy? Sue swears she turned her head when I said Lucy. Lucy it was. Of course she turned her head. It's short for her real name, Lucifer. Even scarier is when we realized the cat was deaf. You can vacuum right beside her and she won't wake up. She won't wake up until you are deep into pleasant REM sleep.
I am flying in the clouds, the sky is blue, there is gleaming white city below me, an island in the middle of peaceful ocean, waves of relaxation wash over me … EYOWWWWW! Lucy is sitting on my pillow screaming into my ear at the top of her lungs. She sounds like a fork caught in garbage disposal — only louder. Why not? She can't hear herself. One of her claws is digging into my shoulder. I shoo her off, but five minutes latter: EYOWWWWW! This goes on five times a night for weeks. 4:30 a.m. 5:30 a.m. There are bags under Sue's eyes. Did I mention Sue's not a morning person? She's not even a night person, now. Her slacks go unhemmed. I started doing the laundry. Her e-mail is stacking up.
A friend says get yourself a squirt bottle with water and keep it beside the bed. The cat misbehaves you squirt it. After a few nights, Lucy will be trained, end of problem.
"This works on your cats?" I ask.
"I don't have any cats," he says. "But it works on my children."
So I buy the squirt bottle and fill it full of water. EYOWWWWW! I fumble for the squirt bottle in the dark and find it and wrap my hand around it, index finger on the long trigger. I can't see the cat in the dark. EYOWWWWW! There she is, I quickly fire three times and squirt myself in the face all three times. Sue turns on the light and looks at me holding the squirt bottle backwards and Lucy innocently washing her face at the end of the bed.
"Please," she says. "Someone come rescue me."
Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life" and "Baby's First Tattoo." You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org