You offered us capfuls of Costa Rican gasolina beneath your rancho’s corrugated steel roof before you pulled out your guitar to sing us some of your favourite patriotic songs. Your wife played a cheese grater with a metal skewer, and our faces grew warm, and I didn’t understand a word.
When you showed up in my grade four class as a student teacher, I was immediately infatuated with you. I loved you as fully and unconsciously as only a nine-year-old with a fresh heart can. I still have your autograph on brown construction paper in a box in the closet.
We lost Oskar.
I do not mean lost, as in "died", although I had all the worst case scenarios running through my head while we searched for him last night. I grew nauseous over thoughts of him with his head stuck up a pipe in the basement of our apartment building or eviscerated by the lunatic dogs that are kept in a front yard across the street.
I mean that we lost him, as in "we could not find him anywhere in the apartment". The Palinode and I searched our closets and cupboards, the building's basement, the courtyard, and the area around the building several times. Each time, we would come back to the apartment and hear a distant scratching, which would start the hunt all over again.
The scratching was most audible in the bathroom, so I eventually got down on my hands and knees and called his name a few times. Scratch, scratch. It almost sounded like he was inside the bathtub. I called his name again. Scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch. This time it was more frantic and right next to my head. He was definitely inside the bathtub, and not in it like when you have a bath, but really INSIDE it.
We pulled the board away from the one end of the tub to reveal the pipes, and there Oskar was, reeking of shit with pupils that filled his entire eye sockets. This was one fucked up cat.
As soon as we lured him out from the wall with food, he ran to the kitchen, into a cupboard, and disappeared. The freak had found a hole in the back of the kitchen cupboard that led under the bathroom floor, and the stench of cat poop wafted out around our cooking pots.
Oskar is a bit of a special case. When we brought him home from the humane society in the fall of 2005, it was apparent that he had been underfed and mistreated by his previous owners. He would do anything to eat and drink, including attacking hot salsa and cups of coffee. I had to stay with him for two days when he almost died from a respiratory infection. He spent a good part of his days then racing with anxiety and crying without seeming provocation.
Since then, he has learned that we will not try to kill him or starve him, but he has occasional setbacks. In all seriousness, I think he has a cat version of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If he finds himself in a scary situation for too long, such as getting lost in the basement of our building, he turns almost feral. It takes him hours if not days to figure out that he doesn't have to creep around with his belly on the floor trying to scout out where the scary torturer is hiding. It is really very sad.
We figured that he had spent a day, and possibly days, skulking around under the bathroom floor, and it was obvious that his poor little brain couldn't do the math anymore. His fur was gritty from his tiny crawl space, and he smelled like he had been living in a litter box for two days, which I think is pretty much what he was doing under there.
We have now blocked up the hole under the kitchen cupboards and the one leading to the pipes underneath the bathtub, so we are hoping that he will soon regain his former stoic, if a little neurotic, composure. He is a lovely cat when he is well, but his fear of his former owner is so great that it sometimes gets the better of him.
On the bright side, he appeared to be almost normal this morning. I found him sitting on top of a bookshelf blinking slow cat eyes at me, which he does when he is happy.
Does anyone know the number of a good cat therapist, though? Because I don't know if the Palinode and I can handle having a roommate who goes wild and hides in the walls like a rabid bat.
I'm kidding. We'll keep him as long as he's breathing. I don't think anyone else would understand his, um, how shall I put this? His quirks.