Brief Moments of Horrific Panic

So this evening, as James and I wandered about the house in our usual desultory fashion, I heard the oft-repeated call of the cat owner from the other room–“Is this puke?”

I ambled over to inspect it. “I think so. And that looks like more over there…”

And I paused, and examined the more over there.

There was something in it.

Something the approximate shape and color of a piece of cooked fettucini.

Something that resembled a well-chewed industrial sized rubber band.

Something that was a well-chewed industrial sized rubber band.

Oh shit…

I poked it. This was not a rubber band that had merely been in the line of fire for vomit. This was a rubber band threaded through the vomit. This was a rubber band that had been on a journey to the center of the cat before being rudely interrupted. This rubber band had been places.

And half the rubber band was someplace else.

I looked at the cat. I picked up the cat. I palpitated the cat. The cat purred. As a diagnostic, not terribly specific.

“Oh, man…” I said, seeing a long evening of panicking in the emergency vet waiting room, poor stupid Athena getting her stomach pumped at best, or exploratory surgery at worst, my bank account draining away right before a convention, a sleepless night, and a miserable feline (or worst of all, a feline beyond all such miseries.)

“Oh, man…” James said, putting his head in his hands.

“Okay,” I said. “We gotta find the other half. If we can find it, we’ll know she didn’t eat it. If we can’t find it, we’ll have to assume she ate it.”

“If she ate it, she’s a goner!”*

“It can’t have gotten far yet. We’ll take her in tonight, they’ll pump her stomach, we’ll see what we can do. But let’s see if we can find it.”

James glumly cleaned up the vomit while I turned the house upside down looking for any place that a cat might puke up the second half of a deathly rubber treat. Studio, no. Bedroom, no. Bathroom, no. Far reaches of the utility closet, no.

The cat sauntered by, tail held jauntily aloft, at peace with the world.

“AHA!” James made a spectacular sliding-into-home dive past my shins and under my desk, coming up triumphantly with half a chewed rubber band. “I got it!”

“Is it the whole thing? Where’s the other half?”

“Umm….in the toilet…”

We gazed into the toilet, with floating paper towel laden with cat vomit bits. I did not question why James had seen fit to dump the vital evidence into the toilet. I figured he was about to suffer enough. And indeed, James manfully rolled up his sleeve, said “Turn on the sink…” and plunged his hand into the bowl to wrestle out the rubber culprit.

I turned on the sink. With bated breath, we hovered over soggy rubber bits, fitting the ends together, while the cat, excited that we were both in the bathroom and could watch her eat, rubbed around our ankles and then settled down to dine with her newfound audience. (Normally she only gets a captive audience of one.)

Match…and match. It was the whole thing. We exhaled, picked the cat up, danced around the house with the cat, told her what a wonderful, bad, stupid cat she was. She purred.

And that was how I spent a really nerve wracking twenty minutes of my evening.

*It should be mentioned at this point that a previous cat, El Gato Negro, met her end when she ate string. We are generally completely neurotic about keeping string, thread, elastic, or rubber bands away from the cats because of this. Adorable kittens playing with yarn does NOT happen in this house. On some level, I think we both believe that if the cat even looks at string, it will drop dead from the hideous gaze of the tensile medusa.

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