On Sunday morning I awoke to find that I had slept until 10:30. I was suspicious. It’s very unusual that I’m not the first one up, and almost unprecedented that I would be allowed to sleep so late. The only time that happens is if Sarah is consumed with some project. She’s much like a child in that way: long silences mean she’s up to something. For example, I might expect to find the furniture of a room completely rearranged, or the walls painted, or the contents of a file cabinet spread around the floor for reorganization.
After a while, I gathered my courage and sat up. I immediately got a look at what Sarah had been doing.
You see, one of Sarah’s many skills is cutting hair. She isn’t very versatile. She only knows one haircut. But if you want your hair to look something like mine, and don’t mind that it will turn out looking slightly different each time, then she can handle it. This started years ago, when I returned from the barber to (yet again) hear Sarah list all the things the barber had done wrong. Sarah finally convinced herself that she could do a better job, got one of those home hair cutting kits (which came with a 10 minute video – Sarah’s only training to date), and set to work. And she has been quite successful with my hair, if you accept as the measure of success Sarah’s own satisfaction. That is the standard she and I both use, so things have worked out fine.
After a while, as owners of multiple long-haired cats, we learned how much grooming costs and how expensive it is to get really bad matted fur cut out with clippers. “Well,” said Sarah, “I’ve got clippers.” At that point of course she meant my clippers, and I had to share with the cats for a while until she finally purchased a new set for the cats. For a variety of reasons Louis and Larry have had particularly bad tangles this season. Whole sections of their hind-quarters and stomachs are covered with fur that is not only tangled, but compacted and cemented together with cat spit. Something had to be done.
This Friday Larry will be washed and given a “lion cut” at the vet. It will be expensive, but for various reasons Larry’s problem should be handled by professionals.
That still left Louis, and to some extent Edward. Sarah went into Single-Minded Problem-Solving mode. She ordered new, more powerful clippers. I knew why, but for some reason I didn’t stop her.
So what I saw, when I sat up sleepily in bed Sunday morning, looked somewhat like Louis sitting at the top of the stairs. Louis is our large brown tabby Maine Coon. Louis is an impressive creature with his broad facial features, heavy mane, thick fur, and long, bushy tail. I say what I saw looked “somewhat” like Louis because he no longer completely matched that description. The face (fortunately), the mane (amazingly), and the tail were unchanged. But the rest of his fur – his thick, colorfully striped fur – was gone. So the overall look – the “gestalt” of Louis, if you will – had changed dramatically. He had transformed from grand creature to the apparent survivor of some freak lawn mower accident. Louis now looked like a poorly-sheared sheep, his body like a field harvested by a drunken farmer with a three-legged mule.
Louis glanced up briefly and gave me a look of undignified panic that just made him appear that much more pathetic. Then he went back to grooming frantically, following the universal cat logic that licking fixes everything. Louis appeared to think that if he just licked enough his fur would grow back. I left him with this delusion, hoping it would soften the shock for a while.
I felt guilty, not only for oversleeping and leaving poor Louis defenseless against Sarah On A Mission, but also because I had known this was coming. The clippers had arrived at our doorstep two nights before, and Sarah had – much like this morning – disappeared quietly upstairs. When I went to look for her I found the bedroom door closed, and upon opening it I found Sarah sitting on the floor, holding her new clippers, surrounded by various shades of brown fur. I eyed her suspiciously.
“Louis is under the bed,” was all she said in explanation. I later found Louis grooming one of his back legs, which was now bare.
I knew she wasn’t done. Yet I had let it happen. So this, really, is my fault:
I’m sorry, Louis. And Edward: RUN!