The Cat and Mr. Slugworth

Now I am not much of a cat person.  In fact, a cat person I am not.  Period.  This does not mean that I would fling one off of a bridge in a desperate attempt to rid the world of them, but it does bring back memories of riding along in the truck with my Grandpa.

On many a Saturday growing up, my Dad and me, along with my Grandpa, would load ourselves up in the old pickup and head on down to the sale barn.  On the thirty minute trip to the sale barn, where farmers traded cows, pigs, goats, and all manner of other four-footed beasts, I would ride in the middle.  That was back in the good ole days when a pickup was a pickup.  Nope, none of those backseat four-door fancy pants models back then.  It was shoulder to shoulder, cheek to cheek.  When you ran out of room you sat in the back, in the open air.  I somehow managed to survive many a trip in the back of a pickup as a kid without the government telling my dad to strap me in.

As we made our way down the road to the sale barn, Dad on my left and Grandpa on my right, we would travel through the countryside where Grandpa grew up.  These were his old stompin’ grounds, and as we drove along, it conjured up wonderful memories in Grandpa’s mind.  After we had taken this trip a number of times, it was almost predictable that when we approached within a half-mile of a certain bridge, Grandpa would start telling me the story about when he was my age, and how they would come down to “cat creek” in the summer and cool off in the creek.  With the name “cat creek”, I was certain that there must have been some cats back in his day that were less than enthusiastic about their swim.

Anyway, back to the cats.  For me, cats are just one of those animals that belong outside.  It’s a no brainer.  God gave them a fur coat so they could handle it.  All of the squirrels out in our woods seem to be doing quite well, so why can’t the cats take a few lessons?  One particular cat comes to mind.

A month or so ago, we acquired one.  A cat, that is.  This cat did not come to live here because of my adoration for it.  It was because of my adoration for our daughter, Hannah, that I caved and allowed her to adopt a kitten from my mom and dad, who had been the victims of a recent pet explosion at their house.  Since we had been through a few too many lost rabbits delivered by the Easter Bunny, it was time to bring Hannah home some furry joy in the form of a kitty.  So we travelled to Grandma and Grandpa’s and brought home Hannah’s new friend, Oliver.

Since Oliver’s arrival the kids have adored him.  A certain mindset that exists with all of our pets is that there are two rules regarding what to do with the pets in the house: Dad’s rule, and the “other” rule.  My rule is to leave them outside.  It’s very simple.  No pets allowed.  Three words.  While Katrina would like to have a nice sign over our front door that says “Welcome to our Home”, I’d be satisfied with one of those bold red circles with a line across the middle indicating “NO PETS ALLOWED”.  I think blinking neon would be a nice touch here.  To ensure its readability, perhaps a picture of a dog or cat with the line through it would be even better.  This sign would need to be mounted at a two to three foot eye level for the little people in the house who haven’t quite developed their reading skills yet.  A picture is worth a thousand words you know.

As I sat down today to do some writing, I was reminded of the “other rule”.  The other rule is “when Dad’s away, the pets will play.”  Katrina had left moments ago to take the kids to the dentist, and I settled in for a couple of hours of peace and quiet after having tucked Olivia in for her afternoon nap.  As I sat my coffee on the corner of the end table, glad to be sitting here in my spot on the loveseat, I flipped open my laptop and calmly waited for it to purr to life.  Then, out of the corner of my eye, something else seemed to be purring to life.  Just a shoe throw away on the couch laid Oliver.  I kindly stepped over to him, scooped him up, showed him to the door, and muttered something under my breath regarding which forgetful little person left him in this time.  Their rule, not mine.

Oliver is just one of the intruders we’ve had over the years.  Actually, he happens to be one of the more manageable ones.  As I sit right here in this spot I’m reminded of one of the more less manageable visitors we’ve had of late.  Our children’s teacher, my wife, Mrs. Katrina, is the culprit here.

Katrina loves to take the kids outside while teaching them about God and the great outdoors.  There are many trips made to the woods, the yard, and the creek down the hill, in which she and all of the kids discover all manner of wildlife and bring them home.  I have to say that I enjoy that quite immensely myself.  There is nothing like the excitement of discovering a new creature, or one you haven’t seen in a while, or one that is bigger and larger than you’ve ever seen before.  Katrina found one of those recently—a giant slug.

Now this was not your ordinary slug.  This was the king of slugs.  Big, black, and dripping with slime, a snail without a castle.  Katrina was so proud of her find that she brought him inside to show him off.  She put him in one of our thousands of bug jars and displayed him prominently on the kitchen cabinet.  After a day or two the excitement subsided over Mr. Slugworth, and he was nearly forgotten about.  In fact, I thought that Katrina had left him in the jar too long and that he might have shriveled up and died.  That was not the case at all.

One morning not long after Mr. Slugworth’s arrival, I noticed that the cover was not on the jar and that he was gone.  I was relieved at the thought that Katrina had finally dumped him outside.  So I went on my way, off to work.

When I arrived home that evening, Katrina shared the news with me that her pet had escaped.  “What!” I exclaimed.  “I thought that you had let him go,” I said.  She had not.  He was on the loose, somewhere.  Visions of slug flesh squishing through my toes in the middle of the night ran through my mind.  Over the years I had become conditioned regarding the creatures roaming around the inside of our home.  What would be the harm in a spineless, snail-without-a-home on the loose?  So I put it out of my mind, and so did everyone else.

Later on that evening, as I sat in the living room, I glanced up at the illuminated ceiling, and caught a glimpse of something shimmery.  I hadn’t seen it before and wondered what it could be shining on the ceiling.  Then, as I moved around, allowing the light to reflect from other angles, I noticed a pattern, a trail.  A slug trail.  Mr. Slugworth had left slimeprints of his escape!

I jumped up and began tracing his trail around the ceiling.  Sure enough, he had escaped from his jar, gone up the wall, and across the entire living room ceiling.  It looked like he must have gotten dizzy, given some of the circles that he had travelled, but we didn’t see him anywhere, and we didn’t find him.  A couple of days later, though, he turned up on the kitchen floor near the garage door, dead.  Mr. Slugworth was a goner, out of slime.

Over the years we have entertained quite a few critters that would have certainly been better off left outside, for their sakes, and ours.  One year our oldest son Andrew brought in a whole nest of bagworms to put in Bradley’s aquarium where he housed his pet lizard he’d caught outside.  Needless to say, the screen on top of the aquarium was good for containing lizards, but not bagworms.  Other notable indoor friends over the years have been scorpions, giant red-headed centipedes, frogs, wild rabbits, walking sticks, and turtles, just to name a few.

Perhaps all of these little creatures over the years have been an annoyance, but we have survived it.  Many times we let all of the little things in life drive us out of our mind, but God has put all of these “little people” in our lives, with all of their little critters, to grow us and love on us, even when the hugs they are giving us are wet with frog pee and slug slime.

Have you hugged your little people today?   

Written by David Steen, with God Smiling, November 24, 2009.

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