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I. When Symbolism Sucks

Kittens showed up in our complex. Four, shepherded by a yellow-eyed, scabby feral mom. I glimpsed them as I rounded the corner of my building, heading for the carport. Flashes of black and white shot for the open grate leading to the bowels of our condo. Many, many phonecalls to unhelpful shelters, many pet-rescue-non-profit dead-ends later, we were thankful to find the Cat Lady. She'd take the kittens, tame them and place them in 'loving' homes--provided we did the trapping. "It's easy," she assured us. "Load the cage with wet food, baby goes in, BAM, the thing shuts, no gettin' out. They're greedy when they're babies. Soooo greedy when they're wild."

We gave the Cat Lady a deposit of $100 and brought home four crude rectangular wire cages we would never want to steal. I couldn't imagine a kitten, much less the feral mama cat, crawling inside such a medieval looking house-of-horrors. But we set the cages up in the carport anyway, placed bath towels over them to hide the unfriendliness, hoping the kittens might consider the gaping opening, with it's wafty scent of canned tuna, an intriguing cave. We felt sneaky and semi-evil trying to catch anything--even if it was to save lives. But we did it.

In the morning, the traps were empty. Scott went to work and I kept an appointment consisting of a brisk RN firing off a zillion questions and not waiting for answers. There was a knock on the examination room door. The RN answered it. A male technician informed her he was here to fix the examining table I lay half-naked on. The RN looked distressed-she really wanted her table fixed--the stirrups were 'unstable' and possibly a 'hazard to my patients', she said, though there I was, heels thunked in stirrups (talk about a medeival-looking contraption). I jerked my heels a little, just to see--but nothing happened. The stirrups held. The RN ordered me to wrap the hospital sheet around my body and move to another room. After asking her really? and her quipping yes!, I did--possibly because of a lingering fear of authority when it comes to anyone in uniform. I wrapped the sheet around my body, gathered up my things and scurried down the hall. In the second room, Nurse Ratchet examined me as briskly as her conversational style, then announced I needed an ultrasound--but the only machine available in all of Los Angeles was back in the first room, keeping company with the faulty stirrups. I would have to wait for the technician to finish before I could meet my womb for the first time. Thirty minutes, a second scamper down the hall and one dire ultrasound later, I drove home devastated. When I pulled up in the carport, I numbly lifted the towels and checked the traps. Empty.

The next morning, the traps were still empty and by now stinking of tuna. Scott went to work and I lay in bed paused for dreadful things. When Scott called to check on me, he heard it through the phone right as I heard it from two floors up and a few yards South of the carport. "Kittens," Scott shouted. "You've trapped kittens!"

I lurched across the carport in my bathrobe and cavegirl slippers/boots. Two of the four cages held kittens. Infused with superhuman-grief-strength I hauled the twin torture chambers upstairs and got the kittens out of them by tipping the mouth of each cage into a pet carrier big enough to transport a medium sized German Shepherd. I put the carrier in our bathroom, shut the door and told our own cats not to worry about the pitiful, piercing yowls. Then I returned to bed, weighed in guilt for the mama cat's loss. I know she watched me from her home under our building as I hauled away half of her brood. I could feel her huge yellow eyes on me...unbearable. There's a reason I don't watch Animal Planet.

An hour later I was in the bathroom with the kittens, curled over the toilet bowl, hurling my guts out. I curled in the fetal position on the tile, gasping as my stomach burned. I couldn't uncurl to crawl to the phone and call Scott. I couldn't move. What breath I had came out in a low moan that rattled. Sometimes I'd lift my head and glimpse two black and white faces in the back of the carrier, their yellow button eyes fixed on me, my tiny feral sentries--spooks. For the next three hours as I writhed and moaned, the kittens didn't make a sound. They watched me, creeping closer to the metal mesh of the carrier's door, until their whiskers poked through the openings.

I was back in bed, shivering and babbling when Scott returned. He was surprsied to find the pet carrier on the bed, too, the cage door facing me, the tiny occupants asleep. I was explaining to Scott why I hadn't called him when I was cut off by a horrifying wail from outside. Minutes later a third black and white kitten joined the others and 3a.m. the next morning the runt of the litter was caught--a tiny midnight baby with the biggest yellow eyes of them all.

For the next week the kittens lived on the bed with me. I talked to them excessively, especially the runt, who crept often to the cage door to analyze me with it's mother's eyes and once it sniffed my finger. I imagined it perched on my shoulder as I said my vows in a few days. I imagined it lying camel-style next to my dinner plate at the reception. I imagined it riding in the car with me, sleeping on my desk at work, sitting in the shopping cart as I browsed the aisles at Trader Joe's. Wonder Kitten, I called it and Scott assured me that even though we already had three grown, spoiled, jealous cats we'd make a kitten work. Often we heard the mama cat crying for her brood in the middle of the night. She was way too smart for the traps. In just a few days we would be leaving town. We decided to keep a cage out for the mama cat just in case and enlisted our neighbors to take over the watch. And then it was time for the kittens to go. The Cat Lady promised I could pick up Wonder Kitten post-wedding. Teary eyed, snotty nosed, I told the runt goodbye and Scott and I drove up the coast.

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