Everything But Books
Fun and more fun, but none of it relating to books (because I have another page for that)

November 21, 2012

A Thanksgiving memory

This is one of my favorite Thanksgiving stories.

In 1992, I adopted two fluffy white cats from the Humane Society in La Jolla, California. The volunteers there warned me of the possible health problems I could expect with two male all-white part-Persians: bad teeth, bad gums, susceptibility to skin cancer, possible kidney disease, possible heart disease.

I barely listened. It didn’t matter. I was in love. Besides, George and Percy were young, wild, and healthy. It was hard to imagine anything bad ever happening to them. I soon discovered that George was accident prone and, in particular, that he loved to eat things he shouldn’t. He used up five of his nine lives by the time he was three. By the time he was fourteen, he was– as his doctors said– “onto the lives of other cats.”

For a while now, I’ve been collecting stories for a George book about his many, many lives. In honor of Thanksgiving, here is one of them.

Life Number Two — The Thanksgiving Turkey

When George was six months old, my mother traveled from the east coast to be with me for Thanksgiving. George and Percy loved the idea of a day in which we did nothing but eat, and they particularly enjoyed the turkey. In the four days my mother was there, they learned the word “turkey,” and would come running to the kitchen if I announced that it was being offered. Before Mom left for home, she—knowing my slothful and shocking kitchen habits—made me swear that I would walk the fifteen feet from my apartment to the trash chute across the hall to throw away the turkey carcass once I was finished with the leftovers.

“Throw it away after three or four days,” she said, “and whatever you do, do not eat it after that because it will have gone bad.” I didn’t need to ask her what “gone bad” meant– she had been telling me about the horrors of botulism for years.

So, of course, Mom left and I forgot to throw the turkey away. One night in mid-December, I returned home from work and found the entire apartment dark except for an eerie, glowing light coming from the kitchen. It was suspiciously quiet. With thoughts of burglars, I tiptoed toward the kitchen. The refrigerator door was swung open wide and there, on the floor, sat the old Thanksgiving turkey carcass, which– after all these weeks– had turned a kind of alarming gray color.

When I had left the apartment that morning, the door to the fridge had been closed. And the turkey had meat on it. Now, the door had been pried open and the carcass was picked entirely clean.

Realizing that the burglars were small and fuzzy and living right under my nose, I raced through the apartment calling the kitties. I found them on the living room floor, eyes closed, fat, furry bellies turned up toward the ceiling, lying completely, utterly still.

I had killed them. I couldn’t believe it. I had killed my cats. And now I was going to have to call my mother and tell her that, due to my negligence, George and Percy were dead of botulism.

Then George began to snore.

I burst into tears, which roused them from their naps. George chirped at me to be quiet. I picked them up and squeezed them– They’re still with me. There’s still time. Then I stuffed them into one large cat carrier and rushed them to the emergency vet.

He checked their vitals, he took blood. Finally, he said there was nothing more he could do, but all seemed fine. He told me to go home and wait.

So I did.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I stayed up all night watching the cats, playing with them, waking them up if they fell asleep, as if they’d suffered concussions and needed to be kept alert. I talked to them and sang to them and said loud, urgent prayers to the universe to pleasepleaseplease let them live.

Twenty-four hours later, I was bleary-eyed, and George and Percy were irritable and hiding from me, wanting their sleep. But miraculously they were alive.

That night, the three of us slept and slept, and when I woke up, they were already in the kitchen, wanting breakfast. As I stood watching them eat, my heart still pounding from the excitement of the night before, the phone rang.

My mom and I chatted for a minute and then she said, “I’m sure you’ve already done this by now, but you did throw away the Thanksgiving turkey, didn’t you?”

“Of course,” I said. After all, this was true.

Two days later, George and Percy were still alive and my heart was back to its normal rhythm. Then George discovered something else he liked to eat: thumbtacks. I discovered him in my office pulling them out of my bulletin boards and spitting every third or fourth one out onto the floor. I scolded him halfheartedly. Then, once again, I bundled him up and took him to the vet, but even the doctor seemed unconcerned. For some reason, this wasn’t as worrisome as the turkey. After all, as far I knew no one had ever gotten botulism from a thumbtack.

(For more on George’s love of office supplies, stay tuned to Everything Books.)