Sunday, June 03, 2007

Not the garden of Eden

I love cats, but I have no delusions about their usefulness or their ability to love human beings. I understand that those of us who have cats are simply tolerated by our feline companions, and that cats are really aliens plotting the demise of humankind. I’m cool with that, as long as I get a purry snuggle now and then. I’m easy that way.

However, cats are efficacious in one way – hunting. Even the seemingly laziest, most feckless of all felines can come through where there is something flying around, or otherwise moving in their field of vision.

We have three cats, and since they all stay indoors, only one is generally the designated huntress. She plays a wicked game with all manner of bugs, sort of similar to a child picking wings off a fly. She damages the creature enough so it can no longer move easily, and then bats it around, taking care to make sure it stays alive. Usually, once she is done playing one of the other cats comes along and eats the prey, effectively putting it out of its drawn out misery. Of course, this all comes in handy when we end up with the odd roach, mosquito or fly that makes its way into the apartment (although the streak of blood across the wall where Phoebe smacked a mosquito is not so pretty).

I never appreciated cat skills more than when we lived on Kos. And this is where the story begins.

When my husband first got word that he would be stationed at a small camp on the island of Kos in 2003, I was a bit peeved. I mean, of ALL the islands it is one of the farthest from the Greek mainland (except for Rodos, I guess) and it seemed sort of like we were being shipped off to Tartarus, out of sight and out of mind. After the initial irritation wore off, I decided to think on it more positively. We’d be living on a Greek island, right? How more romantic and glamorous can you get? Well, apparently, I wasn’t anywhere near prepared for what life on a Greek island might entail.

The island setting was nice enough. Crystalline blue waters wherever your eye could see. There were fantastic views of other islands - even the coast of Turkey. Our village, Pyli, was a small community, filled with friendly and somewhat eccentric people. It was a lazy place that brimmed over with tourists half the year. Our apartment was nice, spacious, and comfortable, aside from the ditzy landlady, who was, I suppose, friendly enough. The house it was in was a bit ragtag – redone construction, a single story house that had a second story attachment built on top recently. It had the air of misshapen plans, blueprints made in the dark, 50 cent workers doing a 50 cent job. Not that the place wasn’t structurally sound, but if I had redone it to add a second story, I’m pretty sure I would have gone about it a hell of a lot differently. This lady just wanted a rental – she had some grand plans for making money out of the place, for what it was worth, I think she had too much debt already to get rich off of it.

The house had a nice, large patio area, and sort of sat on the edge of the mountain, surrounded by nature. Now, there were several houses around us, and we were walking distance to the town square, but in a village like Pyli, that still means you are in the sticks. I’ve lived in the sticks before, but American sticks – ie. suburbs, and suburbs that were well built up by the time I left (not to mention we lived in a condominium complex there, so it might as well have been the city). So I never really lived in any true country-like settings, no farm life in my background. Aside from the normal amount of bugs, spiders, and maybe a mouse once or twice, I never had much of an issue with unwanted creatures in my house. On a few forays out into nature (ie. summer camp, going to someone’s cabin in the woods), I heard tell of snakes in the bathroom or shower area, but never came across one myself, thank god. Until, of course (you know where this is going), I moved to Kos.

I always slept in after my husband left for work (typical lazy housewife). But this particular morning, my cats were determined not to let me sleep, and one of my cats kept insisting on lying beside me on the bed – not the open part of the bed, but she’d push on the edge until I moved over enough so she was lying between me and the edge of the bed. She’d do that, then get down after a few minutes and try to get me up with her wailing, then come back and assume the position. Finally I decided I’d had enough of weird cat behavior for the morning and got up and made my way to the bathroom. On the way, however, I spotted something dark out of the corner of my eye. I turned and looked down, and be damned if there wasn’t a small black snake on the floor.

In real danger of hyperventilating, I decided to go on to the bathroom and figure out what to do with the snake after splashing my face with LOTS of cold water. After taking a deep breath, I felt I was ready to deal with the evil serpent. Yet, when I went back out, the snake was NO LONGER THERE. Panic. Then - how in the hell am I going to stay here knowing there is a snake loose in the house?

At that point I noticed that our three cats were gathered by the couch, obviously enthralled by something. Please let it be the snake. Of course it was the snake! The cats had that summabitch surrounded, and each one was pawing at it in turn. The snake, stricken, was playing dead. That was the only thing it could do. The only thing I wanted to do was get that damn snake out of my house. And so I did the only thing I could do in order to get it out – I opened the front door (thankfully very close to the couch) and kicked the snake towards it. I kept kicking that snake until I had kicked it out the door and across the patio.

I went back in the house, slammed the door shut, and collapsed against the door. The cats kept looking at me as if I had taken away their most prized possession. Then I started to feel a bit guilty, and a bit stupid. Kicking a snake – what might have been a young viper, in fact – is not the smartest thing a person can do. Not to mention the snake was obviously already a bit overwhelmed by the cats, I could have probably gotten it out of the house easily with a broom handle or something without kicking it.

I looked outside to see if it had moved from the spot where I left it, and it was gone. It probably got the hell out of dodge as soon as I left its field of vision. This incident occurred relatively early in our year on Kos, yet we never had another snake invasion after that. I’m certain he told his snake friends “Don’t go in that house. A crazy woman and her three cats live there.”


My Landmark Team said...

I love my kitties and one that used to be an outdoor roamer gave me a similar experience.

I heard him at the door but was enthralled with a TV movie, so I opened the door with my eyes firmly planted on the screen. A few moments later, I heard some thrashing and low growling. I turned my attention to Fat Boy (yes, that's his name) and saw he had a green snake wrapped around his head! I love the cat, but opened the door and pushed the cat outside again with a broom. "Take it outside - come back when he's gone!" Flash forward 30 minutes and the cat was back - unharmed and snakeless.

Also, having visited Kalymnos, I have been to Kos numerous times! We stay in Mastichari to catch the ferry to Kalymnos, but I have to say that Kos is such a picturesque and unique island. Sort of reminds you of the Scottish highlands in a way.

Texas Espresso said...

Oh my GOSH! I would've freaked! especially first thing in the morning. lol I can't believe you kicked it. Thank goodness you had the cats - otherwise who knows where that sucker would've been!

My cat is the designated spider hunter in our house. Very very handy.

Nicole said...

That's hysterical! When I had my kitties I always knew when I came home there wasn't a crazed killer in the house because they would be sitting at the door, blinking at me.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Great story as always! My cat is a great hunter too. So I always feel safe with her around - like nothing too big is going to get in without her alerting me!

Kassandra said...

For me, this is not just a hilarious anecdote; it is, as it happens, quite timely and useful as well! We just got a kitten and, while my boyfriend doesn't dislike cats, he comes from a dog family and isn't quite sure what to do with them. As a result, I'm doing all I can right now to convince him how very wonderful cats are. And as it so happens, his biggest, HUGEST phobia is of snakes. So I can now turn around and say, "See? When Ziggy grows up he's gonna protect you from evil monsters." Thanks!

melusina said...

My Landmark Team - you just never know what is going to happen when it comes to cats! I've never been to the Scottish Highlands (although I would like to) but if it is anything like Kos I bet it is gorgeous there!

Texas Espresso - well, I did freak. Quietly. The way you freak when you first wake up. My main concern was getting the thing out of the house. I was very grateful for the cats.

Nicole - Cats are great watchdogs, aren't they? If something is wrong, they let you know.

Jenndz - Exactly. Cats are awesome.

Kassandra - there you go! The perfect way to convince someone to like cats. Honestly, my husband doesn't like cats much either (he can't wait until we are cat free, whenever that may be) but he still loves the cats. He just doesn't like the hair, the poop, the puke, and the random noise and buggery.