The Avanti outdoor furnished patio is near the main entrance. The residents’ rooms flank out on both sides in a horseshoe shape lending a coziness to the property and especially the patio area itself which faces a beautiful thicket of trees and bushes. You can have your meals served outdoors in the patio area anytime you wish.
I was using a wheelchair for a few days while I waited for my Rheumatoid Arthritis flare to pass and needed some time to myself so dining al fresco on the patio filled with pretty, wrought-iron furniture with cheerful umbrellas was just the ticket. I was happy as a clam reading a trashy romance novel about one fireman’s trysts with a group of bored housewives in a sleepy fishing village and finishing my tuna sandwich, fresh fruit cup, and hot tea when I saw him. He was a large fellow with gorgeous green eyes. He stared at me. I stared at him, and he carefully walked toward me. Scared, I tucked my feet under the blanket Nurse Sarah had sweetly put around my legs.
“Meow!”, he cried out.
I looked around. There were four other residents dining on the patio, but they were on the other side and busy playing cards. I was the only one who saw or heard this stately looking cat.
“Here kitty, kitty!” I put some tuna from my sandwich on my tea cup saucer and lowered it towards him. Gleefully, he gobbled it up and looked up at me with those big emerald-colored eyes. He jumped up on the chair beside me. His fur was a beautiful rum color, so I decided to call him “Rummy” as he reminded me of the wild Rum Tug Tugger cat from the musical Cats. He was wearing a brand new yellow collar with the name “Felix” on a shiny metal tag that had his owner’s phone number and rabies vaccination information. How random it was to enjoy a cat’s company this evening while sipping a warm beverage outdoors on a slightly chilly day in the American South where it’s usually hot, humid and buggy. After some doting and petting he made his way onto my lap and began softly purring. It was like having a little personal heater on you. I petted this most marvelous creature who looked at me as if we had known each other for years. Although Felix was his name I still liked the name Rummy better. Quietly, I sang his song from Cats:
The Rum Tug Tugger is a curious cat.
And there isn’t any need for you to shout it.
Cause he will do as he do-do and there is no
doing anything about..about..about it!
He loved it and it lulled him to sleep. He was like a newborn baby. So innocent.
When Nurse Sarah came to help me back to my room my maternal instincts kicked in and I took off my scarf and hid Rummy underneath it so he could finish his nap on my lap. One must not wake a sleeping baby! He was so quiet. He was such a good baby.
“Thank you and good night,” I told Nurse Sarah as I hustled her out of my room.
I closed the door. We made it! I was alone in my room with Rummy. It felt so empowering. I was so excited. I knew it was wrong, but I was under some kind of cat mother spell. I felt drunk on love looking at this cat. My plan was to play with him for a quick bit and then call the owner whose phone number was on collar tag. No harm done. Easy peasy.
What should Rummy and I do first? Hair combing? Have a snack? As a million ideas raced through my mind, Rummy woke up and sprang onto my desk. He was taking a tour of my room. What a great idea. He was such a smart cat.
I wheeled over to my cane and pulled myself up and out of the chair to follow and narrate the room tour for him which he seemed to really enjoy. He especially liked the ficus tree — so much so, that he jumped into the plant’s pot and started scratching the trunk with his claws. Then, he started pawing at the dirt and batting at the hanging tree leaves. It was such a cute thing to see.
Everything was going so well with his exploration of the tree until he assumed this strange body position with his tail straight up in the air and his fanny pressed to the wall behind the plant. This did not look normal. It made me worry. Was he having a stroke? Did he hurt himself while jumping around my room?
Suddenly, his strange body position became even stranger when he added a back arch, and a wild look came over his left eye. He started making a HISSING sound and then proceeded to emit a steady stream of liquid from underneath his tail all over the wall behind the plant! The liquid was noxious. Was this urine? No way. This was way beyond regular animal urine. This was an unearthly poison! Something was wrong. Terribly wrong!
Rummy cackled as he leapt from the ficus tree onto the floor, then started pacing around the room. He started futzing with his collar and finally wiggled it free from his neck. His frantic movements caused the collar to sail across the floor towards me. I used my cane to grab it and bring it up to my wrist. I wore it like a bracelet. The fumes from Rummy’s “spray station” started causing my eyes to sting and my arms to itch like when I eat peaches.
Rummy’s pacing was becoming squirrelly. He knocked over my small classical Greek statue of Artemis and took out my pen cup, sending my letter opener, magnifying glass, colored pencils and all writing pens flying in the air. Then, he launched at the walls like a snowboarder, doing 360-degree spins on them and around the floors, tipping artwork to odd angles while making demonic sounds.
I ducked and scooted away as best I could and covered my nose and mouth with a scarf in efforts to not breathe in the atomic-pee-pee-power-fumes filling the room, which Rummy had produced from his…do I even want to know the exact orifice from whence this chemical agent was released? No, I do not! This new stylish, “bank-robber,” look-of-mine, however, spooked him, because he quickly changed gears and scaled the custom curtains, clawing his way to the top and then somehow hoisted his heavy body up and onto the curtain rod. It was odd to see such a large cat balancing on such a tiny pole. Suddenly, he fell off the curtain rod and onto my bed. He started to assume that weird body position again. Tail straight up, buttocks backing against…oh no…not my special cylindrical monogramed neck pillow!
From beneath my makeshift bandana, I screamed into the emergency intercom, “HELP!”
My shrill tone scared Rummy so he buried himself under the bed covers. Only his giant bushy tail protruded from the bedding which he whipped around in odd patterns—
reminiscent of Linda Blair’s unsightly bed bound movements in The Exorcist.
When Nurse Sarah flew in, her eyes turned to saucers at the site of the bushy tail peeking out from the bed coverings. She called into the Care Partner phone’s speaker, police-office-style: “Cat in room 23! Need assist! Repeat, cat in room 23! Need assist!”
While using all my strength to open the window to let in fresh air, Rummy bum-rushed my left leg to bolt to freedom. Nurse Sarah shut the window behind him then hugged me. Then she pulled back to look at me. I could tell she wanted an explanation of how a cat got into my room. She was about to open her mouth:
“Don’t ask, please, don’t ask!” I begged.
Nurse Sarah bit her lip and looked out my window.
“He’s sitting up in that tree now,” she pointed.
“I’ll call the cat’s owner now,” I said sheepishly as I held up Rummy’s cat collar with tags for her to see.
I picked up my in-suite phone and started dialing.
“I’ll confirm the fire department is on their way,” she said and took out her cell phone.
As the Avanti cleaning crew arrived, I felt a rush of mixed emotions: it was fun playing mother to another one of God’s creatures even for a just a small bit of time, but I had caused an unnecessary ruckus and much work for many tonight – and for that I was truly embarrassed and sorry. I also felt bad for the cat. Why was he doing all that marking? The phone rang two times and then a kind woman’s voice answered the phone.
“Are you Felix’s mom?” I said as I watched a fire truck pull up through the window’s glass.
Lillian, Gwendolyn and Curly Sue came bounding around the corner with a flood of excited residents. They filled the doorway.
“You look terrible! What happened?” What’s that smell?” said Gwendolyn who was wearing a dramatic black silk floor length nightgown, robe, and sexy feathery mules.
I motioned I was on the phone, and covered the microphone area so Felix’s owner could not hear me. “It’s a long story Gwendolyn!”
“There are hunky firemen on the premises,” said Lillian who raised her eyebrows suggestively.
“No offense, but you might want to freshen up,” said Curly Sue. “We’ll wait for you”.
“Save me a seat by a window”, I whispered and winked them on as I listened to the muffled cries of a relieved new pet parent hear her precious fur baby had been found.
“He’s all right, dear. Probably just a wild urinary tract infection, but other than that, he’ll be fine.” I said.
I looked at the view of the firemen again through the window. They were unloading a ladder. These men were extremely handsome.
Suddenly, I had an idea.
“Are you single honey?” I spoke into the phone.
My left eyebrow raised as she replied.
“Well, then put on some lipstick and a great dress and get over here to claim your cat,” I smiled and hung up the phone.
Maybe this fluke cat encounter could end on a positive note after all? As I headed into the bathroom to freshen up my mind was aflutter with all the possibilities that young love had to offer.