About a month ago, I dreamed of kittens.
There were three of them, a black, a calico, and a grey one with odd little black circular markings, and they lived with us in an odd apartment that seemed to have stairs everywhere, and the kittens were forever having to leap up onto stairs to get from one place to another.
They were cute and fluffy, just reaching the scamper-baby stage, and exploring and tussling with everything around them with what Terry Pratchett rightly calls “the usual mad amazement of kittens everywhere.”
In fact, I’m not even sure if my wife Chaosia and I were in the dream at all. I remember the kittens, mostly. I seem to recall that the Kid was in the dream once or twice, because someone had to pet the kittens occasionally.
…and I woke up.
“Sleep well?” asked Chaosia.
“I dreamed of kittens,” I said.
“We don’t need any kittens,” said Chaosia. “You shouldn’t be dreaming of kittens. You should be dreaming of houses. And jobs.” (at the time, we were both unemployed, and looking at new houses)
Only a wife would gripe at you for what you were dreaming.
It would seem, though, that I have dreamed of kittens for a reason.
Two weeks ago, Chaosia ducked into San Antonio to have a girls’ night out with her friend A Priori Goddess, right? And goin’ thru Schertz and Selma, on IH-35, north of San Antonio, the traffic just gets miserable… down to ten, fifteen miles an hour (in a 70 mph zone).
“Sigh,” says Chaosia to herself. “That’s what I get for being on the interstate at seven o’clock of a Friday night.”
As the traffic speed begins to pick up, she spots a kitten, frantically dodging tires, ripping across the middle lane, across the fast lane, towards the concrete berm separating northbound from southbound!
Well, Chaosia freaks. Well, actually, no, she didn’t. She immediately signaled hard left, cut into the breakdown lane on the left, next to the concrete berm, hit the flashers, put it in PARK, and went after the kitten.
The kitten ran across the breakdown lane, leaped up onto the concrete berm, and down into the northbound side.
Chaosia scrambled over the berm and approached the kitten slowly, cooing and talking to it.
The little orange-and-white kitten sat, hunched against the berm, panting, eyes wild with terror. It did not run. It didn’t even seem to notice Chaosia.
Chaosia carefully scooped the kitten up and petted it. The kitten panted and quivered and lay there, totally unresponsive.
“Hm,” said Chaosia to herself. “Heck of a beginning to a girls’ night out.” She returned to the car with the kitten. The kitten sat in the passenger seat all the way into San Antonio, panting. I should probably point out that the temperature outdoors last night was in the nineties, and it gets hotter on the interstate, for a variety of reasons. Who knows when the cat last had a drink.
When she got to Priori’s house, the two of them examined the kitten. Scraped nose, bit of a gash on the chin. Had someone pitched this poor thing out of a car? Or simply abandoned it on the highway? There are no residential neighborhoods near that section of highway – only a Hooters and a racetrack, and a shopping center. What the hell?
They made the kitten comfortable, and went out for dinner and drinks. When they returned, the kitten had drunk much of the water left for it, and had eaten some of the food, but still seemed kind of shellshocked.
This is where I entered the picture. I was bringing my Hughes Devastator in over the Boeing airfield and construction yard, beginning my strafing run on the Blake Aviation Security zeppelin, and had just opened up with the 70mm autocannons when the damn phone rang.
Dammit. I really hate pausing Crimson Skies, because I always lose track of what I’m doing. It’s a trick not to die when you unpause. I let fly with a couple of flak rockets, right between his port forward engines and that pesky dorsal machine gun turret, hit P and answered the phone.
“Sweetheart baby darling doll…?”
But I am a believer in omens. If a cat is meant to find you, it will. The late and notorious Professor Doktor Faustus got his home with me by the simple act of encountering me on the street and then following me all the way to the store, and then following me all the way home… meowing piteously the whole time.
Plainly, the kitten would have to come home, for one night at least, while we determined his state and whether or not he could be taken to the animal shelter.
I dragged the cat cage in off the deck, lined it with towels, covered it with more towels to make a cave, and put a litter box, water, and food in it.
The Kid, naturally, had to take possession of the kitten, holding him and petting him and gooing on him and calling him George. We all petted the kitten (who still seemed a little shellshocked) and put him in the cage.
He looked around, nosed around, and settled down. Drank some water. Began eating with a vengeance.
The next morning, when The Kid came out to get a shower before her driving lesson, the kitten mewped at her. It was the first thing he’d said since any of us had seen him.
He’s under the desk now as I write; he’s long since gotten over his shockiness and is now exploring and batting a bottle cap around, same as any kitten you’d expect to find. The other cats are NOT wild about this… and his future in the household remains uncertain. Still, it beats dying of heatstroke. Or under a car tire, for that matter.
“What to call him?” said the Kid, the following day, as the kitten explored his new surroundings.
“He’s a marmalade kitten,” said Chaosia, referring to his orange-and-white coloring. “Marmalade?”
“Speedbump,” I said.
The women both looked at me.
“Hey, it commemorates the event,” I said. “and will serve as a reminder forever in living memory of the fate he narrowly escaped. I’m there with Speedbump.”
The debate continues. I’ll keep you informed.