It was day zillion of my head cold. That could be an exaggeration but that’s what it seems like. Illness impacts time perception, just like being in school when you’re young and in school impacts time perception. My illness found me in bed at a time that’s not my norm. Apparently, that fact slipped past my cats.
I can’t say I was dozing. Motionless on my back, I was concentrating on the pains and sounds my body made, sometimes writing in my head, and sometimes attending the sounds and movements of the mucus streams in my head. The moment’s key is that I was motionless and quiet.
I heard the door open but didn’t think about it. Then I heard an unusual voice say, “I come with claws sheathed, brother.” It sort of sounded like James Earl.
“Claws sheathed,” other voices said as my mind said, “What the hell?” I opened my eyes but didn’t otherwise move.
“Why are you here?” a voice like Howard Keel said. “You’re not allowed in here. You’re going to get in trouble with the people.”
“I come to speak about Michael with you,” James Earl said. He’s been sick.”
“I know he’s been sick,” Howard Keel said.
Locating the sounds, I lifted my head and turned it. The bedroom door was open. My four male cats were in a circle. It astonished me. Pape and Boo didn’t get along, Tucker and Boo didn’t get along, and Tucker and Pape didn’t get along.
I had to be dreaming. This didn’t make sense. Why the hell would my cats talk like humans? They’re cats. They have ways to communicate.
“I’m worried about him,” the James Earl voice said. That belonged to Tucker.
“So am I,” Quinn said in a Ray Ramano voice. “That’s why I urged Tucker to come in here. We need to talk about it. If Michael dies, we’ll depend on K to take care of us.”
“So?” Boo said. The big black tailless cat was Howard Keel. “She’s done it before.”
“That’s right,” Pape said in a Doogie Howser voice. “She always take care of me. She likes me.”
Boo stood. “That’s not the point,” Quinn said before Boo could speak or do anything more. “Yes, she’ll take care of us, but I assure you, it’ll be minimal. I’ve lived with them longer than any of you. Michael used to be gone all the time. She took care of us when he was, but it’s not the same. She has an iron will. She can’t be manipulated like him. He’s a soft touch. You can’t give her a mew and a purr and get a treat or catnip. There’s little lap time with her. Trust me, it’s different.”
A cough welled up in me. I swallowed it down and fought to keep it in.
Tucker nodded. “I’ve been around long enough to witness what Quinn says. I can testify that it’s truth.”
“Okay,” Pape said. “So what can we do?”
“We can do our best to keep him alive,” Quinn said.
Pape said, “We’re cats. I don’t see how.”
“Monitor him,” Quinn said. “More than we usually do. Stay on him and with him. Pray to the Nine Lives that they hear our concerns and answer our prayers. Show Michael that we care so that he’ll care and fight to stay alive.”
“You really think it’s that bad?” Boo said.
I launched into a coughing spasm. When it finished, the door was closed and the cats were gone, except for Quinn. Tail up, he grumewed over the bed toward me.
After blowing my nose and wiping my eyes, I put my head down and thought about what I’d seen and heard. It had to be a fever dream. Cats don’t talk human languages.
“Mew,” Quinn said to me. Purrs pouring out of him, he bit my cheek in a gentle love bite and then nestled tight against the side of my head. His purrs thrummed through my skull.
Yes, it had to be a dream.