Out of nowhere she strikes. Well, not nowhere, really, this particular attack came from behind the newly drawn winter curtains. The toes of a warm, furry paw are outstretched, claws exposed. You might be watching television, or reading a book. Not paying attention. First you feel a soft, feathery flapping and then a sharp stick.
And then poof, she is gone. You have no time for defense. No time for retaliation. No time for a blast of water from the spray bottle or even an upraised voice. She's disappeared into one of her many nooks, and you are stunned and checking for blood.
There isn't any.
She's just playing at your demise. A game of wits and outwits.
I've begun calling her Cato, after the feisty and fictional manservant who kept Inspector Clouseau in fighting shape as well as in clean shirts.
Although my Cato doesn't know how to use the appliances or answer the phone, I can rely on her to assess where I am in the house at all times, and lie in wait for the perfect (most inopportune) ambush.
Maybe I'll be setting the dining room table. She will reach out and snag my thigh from the comfort of a rush seat. Or perhaps I will be climbing the stairs with a basket of laundry, she will weave between my ankles with the precision of a feline but the speed and indecision of a squirrel.
There is very little I do around here that doesn't pique her interest. Making beds, wrapping presents, changing rolls of toilet paper … each one a siren song for a full-scale attack. I'm not even safe when I'm using the commode. Let's just leave it at that.
Of course, in this scenario, I always play the bumbling Clouseau. I retaliate in full force. Chasing through the house, grabbing her in a damp towel and ruffling her fur with abandon as she harmlessly digs her nails into the thick pile of wet terrycloth.
“Aw … so cute. Wike a wittle baby all swaddled up.”
She growls and I let her go. Her tail wags, her eyes are all pupils as she considers her next move.
“Too far?” I laugh. “Too bad, you little fur bag.”
We part ways.
She disappears into the kids' rooms, where she can hunt the fat paintbrushes that make the floor their habitat instead of the desk drawers where they'd be safe.
Eventually, she'll curl up on a sun-facing windowsill, or in the basket with all the winter hats and mittens, and soak up some sleep.
She's got to get her rest.
Soon, nightfall is coming.
There will be dinner, and clean up, and bedtime rituals. Baths. Toothbrushing. The reading of books. The dog will go out and come in at least three more times. Until finally there is silence. And sleep. …
Except for the one still on the prowl …
I feel her eyes on me before I feel the soft swat. No claws this time.
Two or three circles on my side of the bed before she settles. Some part of her touching some part of me.
And then soft purring.