Imaginary Cats

I’ve gone back to Neko Atsume lately, because… honestly, who wouldn’t want to? Sprawling on my office floor with the dogs while feeding entirely imaginary cats is one of the few things that doesn’t make my heart hurt right now.

Stay as safe as you can, my friends, and take whatever self-care you can, in whatever fashion you can. I am braced for the worst, but hoping for the best.

Hope is an agony. But it’s better than the alternative.

Cherry Tree, Lesson

There’s a cherry tree down the street who doesn’t know it’s still January. It has drawn its fleecy robe out of storage and shrugged into it, branch-fingers stretching out of the sleeves, the dryad inside blinking hazily.

I keep telling her to wait, to be sure, to be safe, that there could be a cold snap at any moment–but she doesn’t listen. She never listens, just laughs each year, always at least a month earlier than any other cherries, and forget the apple trees. They’re late, as far as she’s concerned.

I’m up and have had a bit of broth. My stomach is rolling and roiling like an angry sea. Our neighbor’s Big Cat What Thinks He’s A Dog–the only cat I’ve ever met whose belly was not a furry deathtrap–had to be put to sleep as a result of the saddle thrombosis. It’s usually a complication of invisible heart disease, strikes male cats more than female, and there’s very little that can be done.

Our neighbor’s devastated; Big Cat is her eldest, and she’s already had much grief in the past year and a half. The Little Prince, who found Big Cat after the initial attack, is looking a little pinched, despite me reminding him that he did everything right–in an emergency, the first step is to call Mum, which he did.

So yesterday was full of the arrangements to get Big Cat to his regular vet instead of the animal hospital I took him to on Sunday. He had enough gabapentin from the hospital that he didn’t seem to be in a lot of pain, but his poor back paws were cyanotic. Poor, poor little fellow.

I keep looking at Miss B, who is an Elderly Statesdog, and my eyes begin to prickle. We must do what we can and love as hard as we can; who knows what tomorrow brings?

That’s what the dryad keeps whispering. It’s her job, risky as it is, to take her ceremonial robe out of winter storage early, to remind us all. She’s incapable of caution when she has a task of this stature. Yes, there could be a cold snap at any moment…

…but there’s that cherry tree down the street, reminding us that winter isn’t forever, and to love flagrantly, deeply, often, too early, too much, always.

Even in the dark.

While They Stay

The weekend was… busy. The neighbor’s beloved Big Cat–more properly a dog in a feline body, one of the few cats I’ve ever met whose fuzzy belly is not a trap–came down late Saturday night with what we’re almost sure is saddle thrombosis. The vet at the animal hospital agrees, so now it’s just keeping him quiet and stable long enough to get him to his regular vet, where further decisions will be made.

Poor fellow. He’s got painkillers, so his human is probably feeling worse than he is at this point. I just wish I could punch the offending disorder right in the face, knocking it out of his poor kitty body and restoring him to health. May Bastet watch over him and his human today.

So that’s happening. I did get the winners of the Happy New Strange Angels Giveaway notified, so at least there’s that. And I got plenty of housework done in between trips to the animal hospital and helping with Big Cat. I swear, I need Monday and Tuesday to recover from every damn weekend lately.

I feel like I want to change up some of the Soundtrack Monday vibe, too, so I’ve got to think of that. Maybe I’ll highlight a song on a working soundtrack instead of one for a published book. Hm.

…I’d add more, but I’m too tired. I should probably think about breakfast; 6am was just too early for a nervous stomach to accept anything but coffee. I’m tetchy despite a short run. Maybe wanting to punch intangibles will go away when I get something solid in me, but I’m not betting on it.

The rest of today’s work involves outlining, after a fashion. I know I’m going to throw out the outline halfway through when the true shape of the work becomes visible, but before then it’s nice to have handholds, even if they’re entirely wrong. As in warfare, no plan survives contact with the enemy but planning is indispensable nonetheless.

Hug your furry friends today, my dears. They are with us so briefly, and give so much while they stay.

*sigh* Onwards, I guess. If I sit still and think about it, I’ll drown.

Unmatched Stubbornness

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So there was a book release, a zero finished, then another book release–this one ultra-stressful for a variety of reasons–and a beloved pet dying.

No wonder I feel like the last few weeks have been an endurance contest, and one I’ve got the worst of. There was also a shift to a new desktop, which is mostly pleasant–as in, my damn computer isn’t requiring a restart every ninety minutes–and partly goddamn annoying. (Catalina broke my Time Machine backups. Fortunately, I have several different automatic backups for work, so it wasn’t a catastrophe, just a series of minor disasters to be surmounted with ingenuity and stubbornness.

I have a limited stock of the former, but my stubbornness is unmatched.

My master to-do list has finishing the zero for HOOD‘s Season Two (featuring a speeder race, a giant heist, and various other fun things) next, but I think I’m going to shift to revising Damage, which needs to go out and start making the rounds. I’ve several projects out on submission; you’d think I’d have a single bite so far. *sigh* Festina lente, that’s publishing. I’m getting to the point where I’ll set time limits for them; if they don’t respond, it’s time to get a damn cover and format something myself.

I’m very tired of being treated like a nuisance instead of the person whose work (creating the damn books) makes everyone else’s job possible.

At least I’ve cardamom coffee, shoes that don’t make my feet hurt (my gods, Alegrias are magic), said new desktop (shiny and new and organized after this past weekend’s drive to get everything in its place) and the kids are healthy. The dogs are attempting to move me out the door for walkies through crisp dry fallen leaves, I can ease back into short interval runs because I’m not walking on knives, and my windowsill is full of freshly dusted and cleaned glass apples.

In short, things are as best as can be expected, in this most semi-perfect of worlds. And I might be able to plug in a beautiful papier-mâché lamp that was a gift many years ago, and contemplate its beauty before whipping a zero into first-draft shape.

It is indeed the little things. Here’s hoping Monday doesn’t get worse than this. I know I missed the Soundtrack Monday last week (grief does funny things to time) but I’ve got a good one for you this week, my friends. It’ll drop this afternoon.

See you then.

Steam, Sun, Cedars

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Some mornings you go outside with the dogs and a cuppa, the sun is peeking through a break in the cedars, and the steam is so beautiful you’ve got to get a shot.1

It’s been a dreadful week after losing poor Fearless!Cat. None of us are quite right. There’s been a lot of hugging, a lot of staring into the distance, a lot of petting and making much of our remaining furry friends.

But sometimes, when the sun comes through the branches and you have a cup of strong fragrant caffeine, when the dogs are pleased with the world and glancing up at you every so often to make sure you’re still looking, when the kids can rest easy because they know you’ve done what’s necessary… well, sometimes it’s not all bad, even when your heart hurts.

Sometimes it’s even pretty good.

Adieu, Fearless

So… yesterday, the Princess padded into my room somewhat early, bearing a mug of coffee and some bad news.

Our Fearless!Cat was not doing well.

Regular Readers will remember Fearless!Cat was my father-in-law’s; when he went into assisted living he was distraught over what would happen to her. Of course we took her in. It was a four-hour drive to bring her home, and she made her displeasure known during every single, solitary minute.

Her name was Ninja, because she had only the faintest spot of white on her chest. Her predecessor in my father-in-law’s house–Taffy Kat–lived to be 23 or 24 and required diapers by the end; father- and mother-in-law had a genius for picking long-lived pets.

Anyway, Ninja was twenty, and Saturday night she was just as robust, vocal, and bossy as ever. Sunday morn she was curled up on her favorite bed, obviously slipping away fast. For a couple hours I thought she’d rally, but then she spoke, loud and clear.

It was time.

Our regular vet is moving offices and closed on Sundays to boot, and I was near frantic. Fortunately, there are area vets who do house calls in this situation, and we got lucky. Or, you know, Ninja knew there was an appointment slot that afternoon with the vet she’d chosen, and acted accordingly.

I would not put it past that cat. After all, she’s Fearless!Cat on the blog because she was known, out in my father-in-law’s neighborhood, for taking on raccoons. She was a stubborn, temperamental warrior, and her ferocity was only matched by her great tenderness with the Princess and Little Prince.

When Ninja came to live with us, she was already past middle age, but she would torment Odd Trundles by perching on the stairs (he would not, under any circumstances, go down the interior stairs, and only the outside ones under mild protest, since he was so front-heavy) and regarding him calmly as he barked, wiggled, and play-bowed frantically at the head of said stairs, longing, wanting, needing her to come up and make acquaintance. The Mad Tortie had trained him not to play roughly, but Ninja was having none of this “play with” nonsense. She was there to torment, and she did her job.

She also slept on the Little Prince’s pillow, slipping down the hall like the soft-footed assassin she was named for as soon as Odd was safely in his crate. And she demanded the Princess feed her twice a day; she wouldn’t touch her bowl otherwise.

What I’m saying is, this cat knew what she wanted. Always. And yesterday she decided her bags were packed; she was ready to go.

So. A very nice veterinarian from Loving Hands came out, and Ninja passed in the midst of her family. There were soft voices, tales told of her glory and stubbornness, prayers said to Bast, Anubis, and Artemis. Then, once she was gone, she was laid to rest deep and safe in our rose garden as the Princess requested.

A special thanks to Dr Xava, who was kind, patient, and did exactly what Ninja told her to do. It’s rare to find doctors who listen so well.

I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time digging graves for small animals, in pouring rain. I didn’t mind the rain; I could blame it for the water on my cheeks.

None of us are feeling too grand right now. Kind thoughts are welcome–though please, none of that rainbow bridge business, I can’t stand it. If you’re moved to make a small donation on behalf of Her Grace Madame Ninja, First of her Name, Wearer of Scythes, Chatterer Upon Stairs, She Who Does Battle With Trash Pandas, I suggest BeeBee’s House Kitten Rescue, or the Humane Society of Southwest Washington, where all our pets except Ninja came from.

No doubt she is in glorious battle somewhere, no longer inside an aching body. I’m sure she’ll come back to visit occasionally, but right now she’s resting. Twenty years, she’s bloody well earned it. Please give your furry friends a gentle pat or two on our account, my friends.

I told the kids that the pain is our hearts getting bigger, and our capacity for love deepening. That it’s a gift, the last gift our fuzzy friends give us. I do believe it, I have to believe it.

But oh, it hurts. It hurts.

Bloody-Haired Beltane

blank Last night I did dream of flying–a good omen, indeed. Happy Beltane, my friends, and may your bonfires be fruitful.

And yet, even though it’s Beltane, it is a Monday. How can I tell, you ask?

Little Prince: *taps at the door*
Me: *groans*
Miss B: SOMEONE AT THE DOOR! ALERT! ALERT!
Little Prince: I always wait until you grunt, so I know you’re awake. I’m going to school.
The Mad Tortie: FINALLY I AM IN YOUR ROOM, HUMAN.
Me: …have a good day at school, kid.
Little Prince: You too…oh, hey, there’s the cat.
Me: Thanks.
Odd Trundles: *snorefartwhistle snore*

Fast-forward about ten minutes.

The Mad Tortie: I SHALL NEST IN YOUR HAIR, AND KNEAD YOUR SCALP.
Me: Cat. Please. No.
Miss B: JOB? IS THERE A JOB FOR THE DOG? *snoot-boops the cat* *repeatedly*
The Mad Tortie: CURSE YOU, FOUL BEAST! *digs claws in*
Me: Well, I’m awake now. *bleeds on pillow*

Five minutes later.

Miss B: JOB? JOB FOR THE DOG? JOB, MOM?
Me: Go away.
Miss B: SNUGGLES? IT’S DAYLIGHT. THAT MEANS GET UP AND DO FUN THINGS.
Odd Trundles: *fartwhistle snore*
The Mad Tortie: YOU’RE AWAKE. THAT MEANS YOU CAN PET ME.
Me: Stop. Please. Just stop.
Miss B: COLD WET SNOOT BOOPS FOR THE HUMAN!
The Mad Tortie: RUB MY EARS, SLAVE.
Me: …I hate you all.
Odd Trundles: *snortsnore* HUH? IS IT BREAKFAST?
The Mad Tortie: *nibbles at my fingers, kneads at my scalp again*

Another five minutes of vainly but determinedly trying to get back to sleep passes. Finally, I sighed, and started unwrapping the sheets and blankets.

The Mad Tortie: ACK! ALERT! MOVEMENT! KILL IT! CLAW! BITE! DESTROY!
Miss B: ACK! ALERT! WET SNOOT DEPLOYED! I’LL SAVE YOU!
Me: *punched in face, clawed, and trapped in blankets* AUGH!
Miss B: WHAT? IS IT A JOB? JOB FOR THE DOG? OOOH, A CAT!
The Mad Tortie: KILL YOU AAAAAAALLLLLLL!
Odd Trundles: *fartsnorewhistle snore smack lips* HUH? BREAKFAST?

Bleeding, wounded, and more than slightly miffed, I struggled mostly free of the blankets and shook the cat away from my head. Miss B, excited past all reason, clawed and nosed at the covers to unpack me, her hind end wiggling so hard she hip-checked the dresser with a meaty sound. Which the cat thought was something Coming To Get Her, so she leapt, twisted in midair, and streaked for the (closed) door to the hallway.

And ran right into it.

Which startled Odd Trundles, who began barking “ALERT! ALERT! FIRE! FLOOD! ANARCHY! SQUIRRELS!” from his crate. Since it’s pretty lightweight–more an idea of a crate than an actual prison–his muscle-dense ass, of course, tipped it back into the closet doors.

Which made Miss B think there was an invader coming through a closet portal. Since I was sleepy and purportedly defenseless, that could only mean one thing: ATTACK.

And all this before coffee.

So, yeah. The dogs have had their breakfast, and the Mad Tortie is safely outside, since I stumbled out into the dining room to find her batting at the French door and cursing me loudly for being an ineffective monkey-slave. Miss B is currently sleeping the sleep of the just in a corner of my office, content to have defended her human, eaten, and unloaded her bowels outside all in the course of twenty minutes. Odd Trundles, freed of the crate and amnesiac of this morning’s events, is *snortwhistlesnore*-ing on my bed, sprawled and deliriously happy that breakfast was had.

Me?

I have the closet doors to get back onto their rails, and dried blood to pick out of my hair. It’s not even 10am yet.

And that’s how I can tell it’s a Monday, my friends.