Another Sucker Born Every Minute
After years of having a dog—and not having a cat—I had begun to think of myself as a dog-person. Actually I have become a Mandy-person; no other pet can possibly come close to the level of personality that dog has.
I’ve been wanting to take home one of the endless adorable road-dog puppies—or two. I even have a clever name all picked out, a pun in English and Sinhala. Lucky for me, unlucky for Puppy, my landlords hate dogs (“they will dirty the garden”) and I’ve acted in accordance with sanity. (You just know I’d end up trying to bring Puppy home with me in July.) Was thinking about a parakeet but the sight of a caged bird makes me sad and I have lots of birds to watch from my verandah.
However, I have been adopted by a cat. There are two that commute, several times daily, down the length of the verandah. I assumed they were buddies or coworkers or something, as they look alike and frequent the same routes. Last night one actually stopped off and sat a while in the doorway, blinking winking whiskers twitching, until I conceived that she was in fact hungry.
At that point I saw it all clear: myself as salve and slave to gritty-ethereal, grimy-delicate, streetwise-starving kitty. Also myself as hapless gooey-minded lover of cute animals, roped into providing tasty morsels for cunning little beggar. I had eaten all the dinner I wanted, so I figured she could have a shot at it. If a cat is willing to eat kotthu roti, well, she can have it. (Recall: kotthu is chopped Indian-style flatbread, with veggies and eggs and spices scrambled in. Not exactly Purina.) Sure enough, she chowed it down. Immediately I dubbed her “Wink,” after the manner of her previous communication, and resolved to feed her leftovers forever and ever.
I sat and watched, getting misty-eyed in the candlelight from my hastily improvised menorah’s two candles. I made it out of a Kerry-Edwards pillbox (thanks, Mom!) with six compartments open and one closed, to elevate the shamas. I hadn’t really gotten around to thinking about the seventh and eighth days, and now I don’t have to, because the plastic pillbox caught on fire when one of the candles burned down. Who knew plastic burned so easily? Who knows what awful chemicals I inhaled in the five seconds before I put it out? Anyway it was a valiant Little Menorah That Ultimately Couldn’t. Today I’m going to get some little traditional clay oil-lamps and dispense with the treacherous candle regime.
After Wink had eaten some, the other (bigger, male, ugly) cat showed up and my grrl-power instincts had me all up in arms. Tsst! Tsst! I angrily hissed—the customary “go away, cat/dog/crow/goat/cow/monkey” sound in Sri Lanka. Interestingly enough, for elephants you shout “hey! elephants!” repeatedly. Not that I’ve ever shooed an elephant. Sadly Wink fled, along with Mr. Meanie Cat.
She did reappear to polish off the kotthu, and then again this morning. I fixed her a bowl of instant full-cream milk, at which she turned up her nose. I ripped up some bread, which seemed to interest her more. The milk cooled down a bit and then she lapped it up like a good storybook kitty. (One has to mix the milk powder with hot water or it doesn’t blend well.) Now she’s eating slightly moldy cream caramel flanlike pudding, culled from my ill-ordered fridge, which the ants are loving as well. I’ve never seen a cat eat flan either.
I feel a bit bad whenever I take away some tasty sugary ant-food and kill fifty ants just in rinsing off the plate or wiping up the counter. I imagine that little spill or tablespoon of pudding could feed the ants like manna for hundreds of ant-years, an entire colony blessed by the generous god of Messy Cooking. I suppose the ants are doing okay; the ant population of my apartment and verandah probably outweighs me in strict biomass terms.
Wink has departed—teatime over, back to work no doubt—and the ants are having a ball with the leftover-leftover caramel. The container is a small reused margarine tub with the charming label “fat spread,” which as Jeremy says is a marketable term only outside the US. We don’t get a lot of ‘shortening’ here; it’s not a euphemistic language in general.
By the way—I didn’t vanish last week. I’ve been in Colombo and busy. Only one piece of physical mail upon return, you slackers! (Miriam, you don’t have to cover shirtless men on postcards.) Staying home today to read all 55 emails (a project with dial-up), catch up on fieldnotes (I do work, really), devour Cloud Atlas (amazing novel, read it!), and engage in the lengthy process of making hummus. Will try to post some thoughts on last week at some point. Along with all that other stuff I said I’d put here. Ha.
Happy Hanukkah, Happy Wink.