Who’s Counting?


A long time ago, I bought one of those variety cat toy packs with fuzzy mice, tinkle balls, pompoms, and a few plastic springs. All eventually gobbled up by the couch, the loveseat, or some other piece of furniture with more than an inch of clearance underneath.


So I bought another pack.


Then another.


I’ve lost count of how many value packs of happiness have made it home from the grocery store.


But who’s counting? Because these rescue kitties have had a tough go of it, and they need their pretties. And they had not one pretty left anywhere in the house. Or so we thought.


Then we moved the couch to clean and found a hundred or so of the “lost forever, buy us new ones, please” toys.


Stella, our mini-Maine Coon girl, prefers one toy for independent play: a chirpy cardinal bird—a hand-me-down from the Great and Glorious Cosmo, may he rest in peace. And for some reason, this noisy thing is NEVER gobbled up by those invisible tongues under the furniture. And its battery never dies. Stella keeps track of her cardinal so she can chant and sing to it. Loudly. Every. Single. Morning. Three a.m. to be precise.


And if, per chance, the bird is missing because one of the other kitties dared stuff it somewhere (or Mom found it and put it away), she will resort, albeit begrudgingly, to the tiny chirpy blue and white narwhal that’s not nearly as loud.


Then she gives me that look, and I fear for my eyelids while I sleep—and I give her the cardinal back.


Malachi, our not-coloring-with-a-full-crayon-box boy, plays with whatever you’re playing with. He’s not picky. And he still can’t work his toenails properly, so playing becomes a frustrating chore, one razor claw after another hopelessly entangled in a fuzzy mouse’s tail or the hide of a catnip chipmunk or the even the carpet. The rest of his day is slotted for deep, comatose sleeps and begging food, the more Italian, the better—though Mexican is high on his favorites.


And until the great couch clean-out after Christmas, Amara, our boss-of-them-all lady who bullies and brutes her way through life, would busy herself with the bullying and the brute-ing and was generally too dignified to play.


Until she discovered the tiny, plastic spirals that came in one of those variety packs but were, unfortunately, greatly outnumbered by fuzzy mice and tinkle balls (which clearly are for dork cats, and she’d not stoop so low as to chase a tinkle ball).


Amara carries these springs in her mouth.


She plays fetch with the springs.


She sleeps with a spring.


She bats and races them down the hallway so hard her paw beans squeak on the hardwood floor.


She loses the coils under closed doors and then screams for us to open the doors (I think this started out as accidental, then she realized she had control over the humans and the opening of doors and now does it on purpose just to be a bossy brute).


She hides them on purpose.


She stores them.


She talks to them. About them. Sings like a dove, even, as she carries them from one end of the house to the other.


Then goes back to being a bully when she runs out or can’t reach her stash deep under the loveseat.


So we bought Amara a bag of bulk springs, 66 in the pack. Sixty-six, in addition to the random ones from other packs and the smaller pack of ten. Over 80 now, but who’s counting?


Why keep her in such a supply? We were getting desperate.


Because when Amara wears herself out with springs, she doesn’t rip out Stella’s tail feathers or bloody Malachi’s ear lobes nearly as often.


I’ve never cleaned under a piece of furniture so often in all my life—all my cleanings put together. Every few days we’re pulling out the loveseat so Amara can retrieve and reorganize her plethora of plastic coils.


(And, yes, we’ve tried to block the loveseat’s “tongue” with bumpers of all sorts, but Malachi gets his toes stuck in them as he plays and pulls out whatever we’ve stuffed under there to prevent spring loss. Then the springs get lost AND we have a mess of foam or blankets littering the room.)


Stella and Malachi give Amara a wide berth and watch her respectfully as she goes about her spring dancing lest they lose fur and one of their nine lives (Not sure of Stella’s life count, as she was three years old when we got her. Malachi, poor thing. Given his tendency for the innocently idiotic, that boy’s got no more lives to lose).


I feel like Amara these days.


I’ve got 82 short stories to bat around and do something with. I know because I’ve counted them.


I’m turning into a grumpy bully. I need solitude and quiet to do my thing lest someone’s willing to give their left eyelid to be in my space.


I have a plethora of short stories to edit, format, make covers for, and put somewhere. They’re everywhere. Some piled under the desk. Some waiting in cyberspace. Some waiting on answers from the market.


I’ve fallen asleep editing them.


I’ve nearly lost a couple, those tech glitches (or operator error??) gobbling up formatting and fonts with giant invisible tongues lurking behind the computer screen.

I’ve stashed most all of them in one form or another onto an external hard drive and stashed the hard drive in a fireproof safe.


Some stories I’ve hidden in a drawer—on purpose—because of timing or because what the actual heck was I thinking when I wrote that one?


I’m talking about them. To them. Pacing with them up and down the hall, keeping an eye and ear out for Amara doing the same, lest we trip each other up and have a heap of manuscript pages flying and springs twirling in all directions—and then enter Little Miss Muse, and well, what chaos would ensue.


I haven’t resorted to singing to the story pages yet, that’s not the mood I’m in. But the crazy is settling in behind my eyeballs and showtunes could be on the horizon.

Perhaps I’ll save the one-woman, one-muse, three-cat chorus line for when I finally learn InDesign well enough to not lose my religion over it. I can’t help but think my younger self would’ve learned the program more quickly. The old me is plodding along much too slowly for my liking.


Bleeds and Margins and Gutters. Oh. My. Word!


I’ve been desperate enough to consider a consult with this high-tech toddler I know. See if he could lend a hand. He’d likely be faster if he could stay focused with all of Amara’s spring shenanigans going on around the office—


And now I hear the cardinal chirping.


Stella’s running through her vocal cord warmup—about fifteen hours early. And, unfortunately, I know this performance isn’t taking the place of the one scheduled for the wee hours of tomorrow morning.


Amara has lost her 79th spring to the giant tongue living under the hall closet door. She informs me there’s just one more spring left—she IS counting—and when the remaining coil is lost or stashed, someone may lose a body part.


And Malachi wants some spaghetti, but he says we can always order Mexican and he’d be fine with that…


He flicks his tail at me and walks out of the office, one page of a manuscript punctured by three toes of his left hind foot. He drags the page out of the room like toilet paper stuck to the bottom of a shoe, shaking his leg as he steps along.


Time to switch the Cardinal out with the Narwhal, pull out the loveseat for the third time in a week, and order Mexican.


Also for the third time in a week.


But who’s counting?


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