Nothin' But Nuts

Nothin' But Nuts

As I write this, I’m five days into an unfortunate bout with insomnia. Light sleep, no sleep, what’s sleep?

Can I even spell sleep? Seriously, trying to type the previous paragraph, my fingers were doing a dyslexic dance: Pslee, speel, epsel. Good grief. I’m glitching.

My hope is that I’ll have worn myself out enough to crash into some form of restorative rest by the time this piece goes live. If you see me the day after this blog posts, and my hair is frizzy, fizzy, or gone, I failed on the sleep front and moved on to copy a move from Dean Koontz’s Jocko in Frankenstein: I stuck a fork in a light socket.

Sleep and I have had an interesting relationship for the last eighteen months. Sleepwalking, nightmares, and for kicks and giggles, we can toss in some night terrors and two episodes of sleep paralysis (zero stars, do not recommend). I was feeling nuts.

These extremes are much better, thanks to Couch Lady taking a jackhammer to my psyche.

What’s not better—at all—is my cats’ contribution to the nighttime angst.

Often, I’ll send them to the Man Cave. There, they have a plush cat tree, a giant window, food, water, a litter box, toys, two chairs, a shelf, three bar stools, a treadmill, and my purple yoga mat (groovy side down) to utilize. Since this only happens when the sun goes down, rounding them up is a challenge—they know the routine. Time to hide, be oh-so cute, or fast as lightning.

The Man Cave is not kitty jail. It’s not feline prison.

It’s the Hilton.

But in my mind and theirs, life sucks in the Man Cave when you’re not a sports-crazed lunatic who enjoys that kind of décor. They believe they will never, no never ever, see the other rooms. Ever.

I know, it’s nuts.

To add to the dilemma, I like it when they curl up next to me. But this can only happen one or two cats at a time, and Amara can never be one of two; she only cuddles solo. It’s like that mind-bender puzzle where you have a fox, a rabbit, and a head of cabbage—and you’ve got to get all three across the river without anything being eaten.

Three cats. The river is sleep. Amara is the fox. Stella is the rabbit. And my poor Malachi Maxwell is the cabbage.

I’m the fool rowing the boat. Uphill. In circles. With cats.

It’s nuts.

Here’s how it usually goes: Amara doesn’t like me much, so her solo cuddles at nighttime are reserved for the Hubs. I’m fine with that. When she does join me, she scares/beats/bullies the other two off.

Most nights, Malachi curls up on my legs or at my right side, and Stella is on my left. We fall asleep this way until two a.m.

Two a.m. is the magic hour. This is when I stir from dreams or take my walkabout—either slightly awake to find water—or cheese!—or fully asleep, and who even knows what I do in that state because I’m not awake to watch me.

When the dreams or unwilling walkabouts come about, I’m glad for the cats’ company. They’ve pulled me out of many nighttime predicaments with their midnight-and-beyond nuttiness.

They’re very organized in their methods.

Step 1: Where the Kitties Wake Mother

Malachi cleans off the nightstand. He starts by pulling tissues from the box one at a time. When this doesn’t make enough noise, he knocks the box off, shuffles the lamp, and pushes the phone onto the floor.

His backup plan is to step on my forehead. He weighs thirteen pounds, so this is effective.

Stella, a longhaired beauty, prefers the floofy tail to the face. If that doesn’t smother me into awareness, she’ll lay all splayed out across my chest or next to my head and stick her whiskers up my nostrils.

Her backup plan is to dance on my bladder. This is effective.

Amara. Hmph. Amara grabs the curtain hem with her toes and whips her foot back and forth, causing the metal grommets to slide across the curtain rod to summon the butler. Like she lives in Downton Abbey.

Her uber-effective backup plan is to eat my always-present-and-no-I’m-not-putting-them-away-yet-they’re-there-for-emotional-support books. She’ll fan the pages with her paw and give the cover a good chomp. This induces a rage that poll vaults me from the bed to chase her down the hallway.

Step 2: Where the Kitties Set the Obstacle Course

The trip from the bedroom to the Man Cave is wrought with danger. Part of it’s my fault because I refuse to turn on all the lights (if there’s any chance of getting back to sleep). I rely on the street lamps that shine through various windows along the way.   

Malachi Maxwell likes to give leg hugs and thank-you-so-much-for-being-alive-to-feed-me shin bumps. Sometimes he forgets what he’s doing and lays down in the middle of the hall. Like a head of cabbage. He’s a tripping hazard.

Stella likes to litter the hallway with all her plush chirpy toys. This happens after the sun goes down. They’re like landmines. You think you’ve dodged one and then soccer-kick another one five times, the feathered bobble emitting high-pitched digital tweets that echo off the hall walls.

Amara’s thing is springs. Just simple, plastic ones, but if you step on one, you think you’ve stepped on someone’s paw. This starts that awkward dance of “where’s the cat?” that usually sends me into a wall to avoid stepping on another paw, only to step on another spring.

And all three are equal-opportunity one-a.m. pukers.

Moving on.

Step Three: Where Mother Tosses Treats

Upon successfully navigating the hallway, I grab the treat bag and shake it. Amara is a chonk and knows her mind. She also doesn’t care much about me past the fact that I have thumbs and can open things. I’m truly her butler. And she believes the Man Cave is her room.

Malachi’s all about food. Treats make him happy;  if he must trade a few hours in the Man Cave, so be it. 

Amara bullies Stella. Stella hides. She’s dark gray, and I can rarely find her. She waits until the Man Cave door is shut and takes her treats in the kitchen, thank you very much.

The other night I was so out of it, I bobbled this step.

I knew immediately something was wrong, even in the super dim lighting. The sound of the treats hitting the floor was… softer.

Amara stared up at me, unimpressed.

Malachi likewise wondered why he wasted time pulling all those tissues out of the box.

Stella even joined in, inspecting the bites on the floor, confused.

The gang’s collective pause prompted me to flick on the main light. Instead of Temptations Shrimp Flavor, I’d grabbed my similar-sounding/feeling snack sack of Planters Rosemary and Sea Salt Cashews.

My cats don’t care for cashews. Cashews are confusing.

I imagine it would be like ordering a chocolate cheesecake and the waitress hands you a head of cabbage.

Sometimes, especially during spells like this, my manuscripts end up… softer. With rosemary cashews instead of snarky shrimp treats. It’s off. It’s confusion. One must gather up the cashews and replace them with shrimpy bits.

Chuck the cabbage. Grab the cheesecake.

Take a breather.

Take a nap.

Pet a cat.

Hope for better sleep tonight and a fresh run at the story tomorrow.

Remind myself why I put up with any of it.

Oh, yeah. I remember.

I put up with kitty glitches because the cats have rescued me at 2:09, 2:37, and 242 a.m. from dreams I’d rather not stay in.

I put up with writing glitches because writing’s rescued me from reality I’d rather not stay in.

I put up with kitty glitches because sometimes I write at 2:51 a.m. and I like their company.

I put up with writing glitches because words are good company at any hour of the day.

I put up with kitty glitches because sometimes I need a piece of cheese in the middle of the night, but if any of the cats are sequestered in the Man Cave, they’ll know I’m eating and will start to wail, even though they don’t want cheese any more than they want cashews—and anyway, the cashews are all gone now. So I have cheese and those three have shrimpy Temptations and we’re all happy for a moment even though it’s 2:53 a.m.

And sometimes cheese and cats and happiness at 2:54 a.m. is enough to overcome the next day’s writing glitches.

I know.

It’s nuts.

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