Gasp

I was awakened last night by a feather-like tickle upon my cheek and a soft series of meows. I slowly opened my eyes, believing I was merely dreaming, and found myself face-to-face with the amber eyes of a lithe black cat sitting atop my chest. Aside from the fact that it was sitting on me—and looking at me rather menacingly—the cat was rather beautiful, as most black cats are, with that lustrous shiny dark coat; a color I once, unsuccessfully, tried to dye my hair when I was in college. Seriously, how one can screw up dying one’s hair black takes some great skill.

“It’s time,” he whispered, creeping closer to my face. “I’ve come for your breath,” he added. At least I thought it was a he based upon the sound of his voice, which is truly an odd thing to say. Confused at not only being awakened from a rare deep and restful sleep, but also at the talking feline on my chest, I rubbed my eyes expecting to reopen them to normality.

This was not the case.

I stammered—still believing I was asleep and this was all a dream, “W-w-what did you just say?”

“I said it’s time,” replied the cat, his face mere inches from mine. Those amber eyes were certainly hypnotizing.

“For what?”

“Are you ready to go?” he asked.

I was even more confused than before. “Go where?”

The cat exhaled an annoyed sigh and blinked its eyes.

“Hey, wait a minute,” I started. “I have never seen a cat blink before. Usually they look at me like they just got their eyes and are testing them out.”

“Are you serious?” the cat asked, obviously irritated with my prolonging the situation.

“I’m just making an observation,” I explained. “Why are you so perturbed? Are you on some kind of a deadline or something?”

“Well,” he said, “I do have other house calls to make, so I’d like to get on with it.”

“What, exactly, is ‘it’?” I asked, hoping that my propensity to talk ad nauseum would, perhaps, make him forget why he was here in the first place or simply become so irritated that he would just leave.

“’It’ is my stealing the air from your lungs,” he explained. “Weren’t you paying attention the first time I said it? Let’s get on with it, shall we?. Take a deep breath,” he murmured, “for it will be your last.”

“I thought cats only stole babies’ breath.”

“That’s an old wives’ tale,” he hissed, as I felt the air being drawn slowly from my lungs.

“Hang on a second,” I said, placing my hand over the cat’s nose and mouth to stop the suction.

“Oh, good lord. Now what?”

I reached over to my nightstand and grabbed my mobile phone. “Wait a sec. I want to check something.” Obviously aggravated but surprisingly accommodating, the cat proceeded to clean himself while I was conducting an Internet search for the origin of the cats and baby’s breath old wives’ tale. “Okay, okay, listen to this,” I said, just as he was beginning to clean his backside—which I did not want him doing so close to my face.

“Yes? Go on. But make it fast, would you?” he said.

“Yeah, whatever, “I replied. “Okay, listen,” I began.

The cat lay down upon my chest. “Do you mind?” he asked.

“No, that’s fine. Just please don’t do that kneading thing. Well, unless you’re declawed,” I said.

The cat rolled its eyes this time as he said, “I travel around sneaking into people’s homes—people who likely have dogs that want to eat me—and you think I would do that without claws?”

“Good point,” I acquiesced. “You rolled your eyes. Did you know that? How did you do that? Never mind. It’s not important. Listen to this.”

“I’m listening,” he said before yawning.

“Am I boring you?” I asked, mildly insulted.

“You are truly scintillating. Please continue.”

“Thanks! Anyway, it says here,” I gestured toward
my phone, “that the myth began when people would find their pet cats in their babies’ cribs snuggling up to the child because babies are warm.”

“They are rather warm,” he replied. “And they
usually smell like milk,” he added.

“Exactly!” I exclaimed. “That’s what this article says—that cats would sniff babies’ mouths because they smelled like milk or formula, and some overly paranoid parents thought their beloved kitty was trying to kill their cherished offspring. So, tell me then, do you actually steal people’s breaths? And if so, wouldn’t it be much easier to steal a child’s than a grown adult’s?”

“Holy cow,” he said. “Look, I just get an itinerary each evening and go out and do my job.”

“Does it pay well?” I asked.

“I get Fancy Feast when I’m done. I particularly like the Gravy Lovers line,” he said, licking his…mouth. “It’s incredibly moist.”

“Would you consider, perhaps, a different job if it paid the same?”

The cat looked puzzled. “Such as?” he asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. There is the occasional mouse around here that needs to be caught. And I have a nice yard,” I said.

“I did see your yard,” he replied. “I love that tree out back.”

“There are a lot of birds in that tree,” I said, enticingly.

“Are you propositioning me?” he asked.

“That just sounds weird. I’m simply offering you a nice home with a big tree, lots of birds, the occasional mouse, regular petting and brushing, and whatever flavor of Fancy Feast you want. Every day.”

I could see the cat contemplating my offer. He stuck out his right paw and said, “Deal. I’m getting a bit tired of graveyard shift anyway, and all of this travel can be exhausting. I can’t remember the last time I was able to sleep for nineteen hours.” I shook his paw. Wow, that sounded peculiar. But this whole situation was bizarre. I still didn’t know for sure if I was awake or dreaming.

“What’s your name, by the way?” I asked.

“Cecil,” he replied.

“Great name. I’m Natalie,” I said.

“I know,” he replied. “Itinerary, remember?”

“Oh yeah. So, Cecil, I’d like to go back to sleep, if you don’t mind. And if you promise you won’t kill me.”

“I won’t. You have my word.”

“I do have a favor to ask,” I added. “My neighbor on the corner is really loud. He weed-whacks at six o’clock in the morning on Sundays. He has annoying parties fraught with drunk rednecks. And he leers at me every time he sees me.” I shot Cecil a knowing glance. “He sleeps with the bedroom window open,” I added.

“Like all pure creatures, cats are practical.” ~ William S. Burroughs

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