Déjà vu All Over Again…Almost!

BonnieDéjà vu All Over Again…Almost!

James R. Aist

If you have cats, you know that they are consummate creatures of habit. And it is often said that they usually forget things after a few weeks. Well, this true story may well be proof positive of those two kitty characteristics.

It all happened on Snyder Hill, just a little southeast of Ithaca, in upstate New York, about 15 years ago. We had two cats, Bonnie and Clyde, but we had to let Clyde “go” because he became mean and unruly. That left just Bonnie, whose personality blossomed after Clyde’s departure, especially her assertiveness. And it was a good thing, too.

One hot summer evening (yes, it does occasionally get hot in upstate New York, believe it or not), Bonnie and I were in the living room when we heard a neighborhood cat let out a menacing verbalization that can best be described as a long-drawn-out, blood-curdling “scrowl.” When this announcement was repeated, it became obvious to both of us that this intruder was approaching the living room window, which was open, with only the window screen between us and him. So, Bonnie took it upon herself to fend off this intruder at all costs, and she began to answer his threats in like manner. As he got closer and closer to the window from the outside, so, too, did Bonnie get closer and closer to it from the inside. Now, both of these ferocious beasts were exchanging the most insidious of threatening insults with seriously hurtful intentions. Suddenly, Bonnie jumped up onto the back of the couch with her face just inches away from the screen. I knew that something violent was about to come down, so I summoned my wife, Janet, to come quickly, so she wouldn’t miss out on the ensuing encounter.

Just as Janet entered the room, the intruder leapt onto the screen with a fierce scream and a menacing glare on his face. In a split second, Bonnie joined him on the screen in like manner. I am constrained to relate exactly the “words” that were rapidly exchanged between the two cats suspended in this pose for a few moments, but suffice it to say that there was no love lost between challenger and defender. Then, realizing that there was no way that he was going to get at Bonnie with the screen separating the two of them, the would-be intruder gingerly relinquished his grip on the screen, dropped to the ground…kerplunk, and slinked away into the night. Convinced that she had won the day, Bonnie then abandoned the screen and returned to her place in the living room, as proud as a peacock. And we, too, were quite impressed and proud of our vicious little attack cat.

But, that’s not the end of the story, not by a long shot. Fast forward a few months. It’s now Fall, the nights are cold, the screen was up and the glass sash was in its lowered position. The evening began innocently enough, but we were in for some exceptional entertainment. Bonnie and I were, once again, in the living room when we heard the same neighborhood cat let out a menacing verbalization that can best be described as a long-drawn-out, blood-curdling “scrowl.” When this announcement was repeated, it became obvious to both of us that this intruder was, once again, approaching the living room window, which was now closed, with only the window glass between us and him. So, again, Bonnie took it upon herself to fend off this intruder at all costs, and she began to answer his threats. As he got closer and closer to the window from the outside, so, too, did Bonnie get closer and closer to it from the inside. Now, both of these ferocious beasts were exchanging the most insidious of threatening insults with seriously hurtful intentions. By this time, I was already saying to myself, “No-no-no, surely he wouldn’t, not with the glass in place now. I don’t know if I can survive the intensity of the ensuing laughter if he were to do that again.” But, just in case, I beckoned Janet into the living room once again, so she wouldn’t miss out on the fun. Anticipating what might be coming, we were already about to burst out in laughter when, low and behold, it happened.

Bonnie jumped up onto the back of the couch with her face just inches away from the glass. As anticipated, the would-be intruder leapt onto the glass with a fierce scream and a menacing glare on his face. In a split second, Bonnie joined him on the glass in like manner. I am constrained to relate exactly the “words” that were rapidly exchanged between the two cats suspended in this pose for a split second, but that pose didn’t last long. Like Wiley Coyote who, chasing feverishly after the Road Runner, failed to make the turn just before the cliff and was briefly suspended in mid-air before crashing to the ground…kuh-thump, so, too, these valiant feline warriors seemed suspended in time for a brief moment before the reality of gravity set in, and, bug-eyed and terrified, they came crashing (more precisely, sliding rapidly) down. At this point we were so consumed by uncontrollable laughter that we had zero concern for Bonnie’s well being following her fall. But, not to worry, we finally regained our composure to find that the couch was soft and had afforded her a perfect landing place. I can’t say that the other cat fared as well, though.

And that was the last we heard from this unwelcome, wannabe intruder. I guess his memory must have lasted more than a few weeks that time!

(For more True Tales on my website, click HERE)

And the Winner Is…

Raffle ticketsAnd the Winner Is…

by James R. Aist

“The Lord works in mysterious ways!”

When I was ten years old, my family was living on a dairy farm in rural, central Arkansas. Daddy had been studying to become a Methodist minister for some time, and he finally was ordained, making him eligible to become a Pastor. So, for the next eight years of my life, my family moved from little town to little town in Arkansas, staying in one place for only 2-3 years (that was the custom in the Methodist church back then). The second move was to a very small little village in North Central Arkansas called Evening Shade, population exactly 315. Now in Evening Shade, everyone knew almost everyone else, and everyone for sure knew the Preacher’s family. Becoming a Preacher’s kid had made me even more self-conscience than I was before, because it seemed that everyone now expected me to be a perfect specimen of holy living, especially since I had just reached the age of accountability. So I made doubly sure that my public behavior was stellar. Didn’t want to embarrass the family, you know.

As you might well imagine, small churches in rural Arkansas back then could not afford to pay their preachers very well, so we were, in effect, a financially challenged family, to put it in contemporary, politically correct lingo. Now, to help the local, financially challenged families keep food on the table, the village grocer, Mr. Shaver, would extend credit to them as needed. To reward and encourage their efforts to reduce their tabs, the grocer would award one raffle ticket for every dollar owed and would hold a drawing each month to determine who would walk away with a free bag of groceries that month. Well, the time had come for the month’s drawing, and we happened to have paid off our entire debt that month and had a very large number of tickets. So, Mama sent me down to the store with tickets in hand to represent our family and witness the drawing, thinking that we had a pretty good chance of winning the prize this time, and I would be there to carry it home to her. I was already beginning to feel some apprehension about this developing scenario, but I didn’t yet know why.

A large (for Evening Shade, that is) crowd had already gathered in the store by the time I got there, so I weaved my way through to the front of the store and put our family tickets into the bucket with all the other tickets. It looked to me like we must have had about 25% of the tickets, and suddenly I, too, became excited about our chances of winning; that would really be something! Mr. Shaver stirred the tickets and announced that the drawing was about to begin. A hush came over the eager onlookers. And that’s when things began to go south for me.

To my shock and chagrin, Mr. Shaver picked me to select the winning ticket out of the bucket! Already I was beginning to feel a major public embarrassment coming on. Why did he choose me, of all people, to pick the winner? Didn’t he know that we had a huge number of tickets and, therefore, a good chance of winning? Wouldn’t it at least look better if someone else drew my winning ticket? Nonetheless, the die was cast, and I approached the bucket with great trepidation, saying to myself, “I know we could use the free groceries, but please, Lord, let me draw someone else’s ticket!” I thrust my sweaty, trembling hand into the mass of tickets, all the way down to the bottom of the bucket, somehow hoping that this strategy would spare me, the Preacher’s kid, the embarrassment of drawing my own winning ticket.

Well, I don’t know if it was because I had unwittingly committed some unpardonable sin, or God just didn’t like me for some reason, but, alas, the winning ticket belonged to the Aist family, sure enough! It was one of those moments where you dream — nay, you hope desperately — that you are in some sort of nightmare, from which you will awaken shortly to realize that none of it is real. But alack, no dream; it was really real, and I felt humiliated in front of “the whole town.” In a flash, a series of thoughts raced through my mind: “Now everyone will think that the whole thing was rigged. They’ll think this Preacher’s kid must have been in on it! How can I ever live this down?” Of course everyone cheered when the winner was announced, pretending to be happy for us because they knew we could surely use the free food, but I knew what they were really thinking: “Well, isn’t that just peachy; and he’s the Preacher’s kid!”

As humiliated as I was, I was still eager to get home with a bag of free food to show Mama. My older sister spent most of the afternoon trying to convince me to not be embarrassed, but I was only 12.

(For more articles on TRUE TALES, click HERE)

The Cat and the Collar

The Cat and the Collar

by James R. Aist

We have been cat people for many years now. Cats are a most entertaining animal form, if you just pay attention to them. Quite some time ago we had two cats, Bonnie and Clyde; Clyde because he had large feet and looked like a Clydesdale (horse) when he walked toward you, and Bonnie because, well, it goes with Clyde.

Now Bonnie had, somehow, learned to play “fetch.” One evening I was sitting in the dining room trying to write a letter, and I had a hard time getting the letter off on the right foot, so to speak. I had just tossed my third paper wad to the floor on my way to yet another fresh start, when I noticed that Bonnie had walked up to me with the last paper wad in her mouth. She looked up at me with that excited “Let’s play fetch!” look in her eyes. Now, how could I resist that?! So I retrieved the paper wad from her mouth, showed it to her and gave it a good fling through the doorway and across the kitchen floor. Now the kitchen floor was linoleum and very slick, whereas the dining room floor was carpeted and had really good traction. So Bonnie got off to a rapid sprint in a split second as she raced through the doorway in pursuit of the paper wad. Just then my daughter, Liesel, opened the refrigerator door to get a snack, not seeing Bonnie racing toward her. Bonnie, intent on retrieving the paper wad in record time, failed to notice Liesel opening the refrigerator door, which was square in her path. Seeing all of this unfold before my eyes, I was already getting ready for a really big laugh (don’t ask me why; maybe it’s a guy thing) upon her inevitable collision with the refrigerator door. Well, into the bottom of the refrigerator door she slammed at full bore — BAM — and then bounced back violently, from the impact. At first, this seemed hilariously funny to me, but then I noticed that Bonnie was flailing around on the kitchen floor “like a chicken with its head cut off.” That threw me into a panic, as I thought “Oh no, she must have broken her neck… I killed the cat!” So I sprang from my chair and rushed into the kitchen to see if there was anything I could possibly do to save her. She was still retching and flailing when I finally managed to get her into my grasp to see how badly she was hurt. Then I saw it. Her neck wasn’t broken at all. Instead, her lower jaw had gotten caught in her flea collar when the impact with the refrigerator door forced her head suddenly downward, and she was just struggling violently, in sheer panic, to free her jaw from the flea collar!

Whew, I didn’t kill the cat after all. Then the hilarity of the whole scenario struck me, and I began laughing so hard it took me a while to free her from that demon flea collar and send her on her way, relatively unscathed. Needless to say, that was the first, and the last, “fetch” of that evening!

(For more articles on TRUE TALES, click HERE)