She was once a sweet little black kitten named Desdemona who purred and mewed and made people say “awwwwwww.” Each night, she fashioned a crawlspace between the crook of my neck and the pillow, where she curled up and licked behind my ears until she fell asleep.
Fifteen excruciatingly long vomit-on-the-bedspread years later, this creature is so ornery, so hateful, that even Nate (who would prefer to be with animals over adults any day of the week) is crossing his fingers that each hairball she hacks up will be the one that puts us out of our–er, her–misery.
Desi is still all black except for the large hairless patch on her stomach, the result of dragging her massive drooping belly along the rug. She’s easily more than twenty pounds (twenty-seven with the dander) but it’s impossible to know the exact number since no one dares lift her. If you try she will growl. If you ignore the growl she will hiss, summoning breath from a place so deep that it permeates the air with the stench of undigested Pounce treats from 1993. You may think you are brave; this sound will convince you that you are mistaken. Many a houseguest has tiptoed into my room in the middle of the night just to beg me to move the cat from the bathroom doorway.
This is Desi’s house and she makes the rules. You do not touch her, you do not smile at her, you do not try to play with her. And she is willing to hurt you if that’s what it takes to make you understand.
And then, here comes the baby. The sweet, naive baby whose delighted reaction to the cat is only second to her delighted reaction to her daddy when he does his head banging imitation while singing the jingle from the Progressive Insurance commercial.
Yesterday I cautiously allowed Thalia to pet the cat for the first time. As we approached, you could almost hear Desi’s thoughts, a feline Bobby DeNiro asking “Me? You lookin’ at me? You wanna play with me?” But she sat there. And she took it.
Go kiss your children, stat. The apocalypse is upon us.