Lame

Lame
Pieter Brueghel the Elder: The Beggars (1568)
"We're all each others' metaphors here."

Max, our erstwhile kitten now budding house cat, turned up lame evening before last. He and his sister Molly had (as usual) accidentally escaped after I left the slider open and stood on the deck imploring them to come outside, and I noticed Max walking with three legs, just like the three-legged dog on my childhood paper route. That dog chased me like every other dog on that route, seemingly unperturbed over his missing leg. Max held his left front paw immobile and hesitated before heading down the long, steep deck stairs to his favorite flower bed out back. I coaxed him over with a few kitty treats and investigated for obvious damage, but I couldn't see anything troubling in the fading light. I carried him back inside while he complained.

The next morning, he was still avoiding any use of that leg, so I scheduled a visit to the Vet.
Max had not been in the cat carrier or the car since we first fetched him from the shelter almost a year before, and he accepted this fresh humiliation about as well as any petulant nine year old. He's a year and a half, which I think roughly equates to nine human years, still well within the self-centered bratty period everyone gets to live through. He cried all the way down out of the foothills and along the always crowded road to Boulder, and I held empathy for his dilemma. I was trying to help, but as seems so often the case, any helpful intervention, especially those intended to be for another's own good, first raises emphatic complaints. I'd kidnapped my own kitten and we both knew it.

The clinic was closed to inside visitors thanks to The Damned Pandemic, so we received curbside service. A young woman carried Max into the place while I idled outside until another young woman came out to tell me that they'd need to keep Max for a couple of hours since his emergency had arrived during a previously-scheduled busy time. I left after agreeing to a telephone consultation with the Vet when she had a free minute. I drove home to take a scheduled call. The Vet reported that she couldn't see any obvious damage, though when palpating that "wrist", she noticed Max flinching. We decided an analgesic might remove the edge while he healed himself and I returned to fetch him after a couple of hours. Gratefully, no x-rays seemed necessary. I get to administer the syringes filled with pain meds for the next ten days. The Vet also suggested that Max be sequestered in a room with nothing for him to jump up on for the duration, a stipulation I quickly agreed to, knowing that I would not comply. A) We don't have such a room in this house. B) Even if we did, I would not put Max through that ordeal. He's still a cat.

Back home, Max wandered around as if he felt dizzy before curling up on the bed to accept my penance, delivered by means of deep petting for an hour or more. He was walking on that leg again. The following morning, he played untouchable for the first hour, crying, but probably because Molly hadn't returned last night, though I imagined his leg was paining him again. I couldn't catch him so I couldn't administer his medicine. Finally, after Molly returned, I cornered him on his basement perch, and managed to squirt that stuff down his gullet. He accepted it with surprise before simply laying his head down again to return to his primary morning occupation, sleeping and purring.

Max as metaphor, he cleverly demonstrated just how to behave when turning up lame. I reflected on all the times I'd turned up lame and how I'd not always been so well treated. Those experiences probably taught me how to be empathic, for it seems to me that no one who was ever wounded could possibly remain cold-hearted after recovering. There but for fortune, and all that. If I cannot see myself in the native adaptive behavior of a house cat, I very likely could never come to see or know myself at all. We're all each others' metaphors here. Those jeering Proud Boys probably piss me off because they so accurately represent some nascent element of my own personality I work hard to keep secret. They're lame, sure, but then so have I been lame more times than I ever care to mention. Any well-intentioned intervention will likely produce emphatic complaints. Thems the brakes.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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