Now that I’ve recovered from the trauma of that awful storm and Mama’s managed to carve some time out of her busy, busy schedule (humph!), I can finally get back to telling my story!
I’d heard Mama talk about getting The Treatment before. The first images I saw in her head whenever she said the word “treatment” were of receiving loving petties that relaxed her muscles or being poked with tiny, tiny needles that made parts of her body wake up. So it seemed like a treatment should be a good thing, so why was she so sad whenever she came back to our little apartment from the Big House, where, it seemed, she regularly got The Treatment?
I asked Siouxsie what The Treatment is, and she just mumbled something about a crazy [ooh! cuss word!].
“What’s a crazy [cuss word]?” I said.
“Never you mind,” Siouxsie replied. “You’re too young to understand.”
“But is a crazy [cuss word] a bad thing?”
“You’d better believe it is!”
“But Mama says she’s crazy. Is she a crazy [cuss word]?”
“Crazy means weird but mostly harmless,” Siouxsie said. “Crazy [cuss word] means weird and definitely not harmless! Mama’s crazy, but she’s not a crazy [cuss word].”
Well, that’s as clear as mud, I thought. I still had no idea what The Treatment was, and now I had to figure out this crazy-versus-crazy-[cuss word] thing too!
Alas, one day it all became clear to me.
Thomas came in for breakfast that morning and he wasn’t acting at all like himself. Usually a night of hunting left him feeling joyful and satisfied, but this morning his whiskers were drooping, his ears were flat, and his tail was hanging so low it was practically dragging on the ground. Mama noticed, too; she stroked his body and looked all over for injuries or signs of illness as she cooed reassuringly in his ear. She didn’t find any trouble spots and he didn’t have a fever … but Mama got even more worried when Thomas sniffed at his breakfast, took one desultory bite, and then slunk to his favorite sleeping spot on the couch.
“Oh, Thomas, I’m sorry you’re feeling bad,” Mama said. “I wish I didn’t have to leave for work right now! And I hope you’re doing better when I get home from work tonight ’cause I’m worried about you.”
Siouxsie and I both knew that Thomas’s problems had nothing to do with a physical illness. Despair and shame wafted off him like the stink of skunk spray.
“What’s the matter, Thomas?” I murmured in his ear as I curled up next to him.
“I’m a wicked, horrible kitty,” Thomas said. He buried his face between his paws.
“What do you mean, you’re a wicked and horrible kitty?” I said.
“That’s what Screaming Woman thinks about me, anyway.” A tear rolled down the side of his nose and I licked it off.
“How could she say such an awful thing about you?”
“She’s had it in for me ever since the day she found my stupid collar by the hen house. Whenever a chicken dies she thinks I did it. She screams at me and chases me away whenever she sees me by the Big House … and sometimes she even throws rocks at me!
“The only reason my collar was anywhere near the hen house is because I was walking by the garden and got attacked by one of those awful roosters! He grabbed onto me and started pecking, and I panicked. As soon as I got free I ran for my life, but then my collar got caught in the grape vines …” He sniffled and licked a tear that had rolled down onto his whisker pad. “… and I guess I ran by the chicken house … and I didn’t even notice the stupid thing had fallen off until Screaming Woman picked it up and started waving it in the air and yelling at me and pelting me with clods of soil!”
“And that, little one, is what The Treatment is!” Siouxsie said. “It’s a devious, hateful game some humans play. They do it when nobody else is around so it’s their word against their victim’s. And it’s even worse when they give The Treatment to a tiny, helpless cat!”
“If you give people The Treatment, does that mean you’re a crazy [cuss word]?” I asked.
“Yes!” Siouxsie hissed. “And don’t use that kind of language! It’s not becoming of a classy kitten like yourself.”
“Hey, I thought I was a nasty, poop-smelling kitten!”
“You’ve got more class in your left rear pinkie claw than anyone who gives other people — or cats — The Treatment,” Siouxsie said.
I actually felt proud when she said that. I gave myself a quick wash and snuggled up next to Thomas. Siouxsie joined me, and together we purred him through his tears and into his morning nap.