Friday, July 15, 2011

Observations of ‘that girl:’ Gimpy

Gimpy is wholly original, unlike any other cat I’ve ever encountered. In fact, I’m not entirely convinced she is one.

She is completely at the mercy of the world – ‘helpless’ might be the word – though she often seems too smart for her own good, even for a cat.
Three years old and graying at the ears, when she stares (which is often) it is with impossibly green eyes. The rest of her face, lost to black shadow, dims in comparison to those bright lights.
Three paws (she’s missing one) do their best to keep her upright; often it seems they forget that she is under-staffed. She barrels her way through every movement – somersaulting, vaulting over herself in an effort to get anywhere, colliding with any stationary object in her path (which isn’t always straight).
She frequents the space between feet, usually while they are moving. Being that she’s missing one of her own, it likely ends in disaster more often than naught.
Purrs like a whisper, little more than a silent hum in a narrow chest, the sound is only detected by direct contact with a rib or her very loveable, pettable under-belly.
She cuddles, constantly attached like Velcro – currently attached like Velcro. It is impossible to sit anywhere without Gimpy finding me and taking up residence on my person.
I don’t believe she realizes claws are sharp, evident by scratches and scars – the marks of her devotion as she climbs her way, often forcefully, into my arms.
An inside cat (because three working legs and an escape plan rarely succeed), I am trying to keep her un-pregnant (though somehow she always is).
There is a piece missing from one of her bat-like ears which, when compared to her long, often tilted, face, give the impression of satellites ready to transmit orders, sir. Maybe that is why she always looks confused – she should have made contact months ago.
She sleeps with her eyes half-lidded, it is impossible to tell whether or not she is asleep. Does an operative for the alien enemy really ever sleep?
Mid-rest, she has been known to roll over, leaving her incapacitated on her back, startled and tangled on the floor, very far away from where she last remembers being (namely a few feet higher and in a cushioned chair). Involuntary movements, all; definitely unplanned.
Though seemingly startled by life, she is not without enthusiasm for it – surprised to find that she can walk and eat and roam between two moving feet, she is content to find herself upside-down when her zeal catches up with her. But there is never any doubt that she loves me, she is never startled by that. I often wonder what she must be thinking, something profound and life-changing, no doubt, though instantly forgotten. She is, perhaps, the perfect companion. I love her dearly.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fringe Division, Ghana

Someone call Joshua Jackson, ‘cause I’ve come to a conclusion:

As a continent rife with any number of ailments by way of myopic parasites and creepy-crawlies . . . Africa is kind of gross.

I came to this conclusion in a veterinary clinic, inspecting a type of parasitic larvae imbedded in the hind leg of my cat, Gimpy. How she came to acquire such roommates, I could only guess (she’s currently an inside-cat), but if it was anything – it was gross. Like cross-your-heart, turn in three circles, and spit on your mother gross.

She got a bath (like a child with lice), a standard de-wormer (because apparently you can never be too safe in Africa), and I was left to ponder, like a paranoid volunteer, the parasitic potential of my little piece of the continent.

Once home, I flipped open our medical handbook and did what any paranoid volunteer would do – I sought out every bug-caused malady and tortured myself with its details. As I wavered between engrossed and disgusted, I realized that I live in an episode of The X-Files. Africa: a place where things hatch out of the skin, burn at the touch, and carry Malaria; a place where my own body becomes an enemy (as if I didn’t have enough to worry about with all of the creepy-crawlies).

I have yet to experience, but hear tales of the infamous abscess – an infection and swelling of the hair follicle, sometimes to the size of a quarter, that has to be cut open, drained, and scraped out (insert collective gasp here). Even now, I fear the razor, as I fear my bug-bites catching an antibiotic-worthy infection and scaring my newly-tanned skin for life.

During hot season, I was perplexed to find large, painful blisters behind my knee – a minor infection of the poor, over-worked sweat glands lamenting the day I learned to sit with my legs crossed. And any beetle within ten feet is shooed away in-case it happens to be the Blister Beetle, which releases a chemical that burns the skin and causes a blister which, if popped, will continue causing blisters until the fluid is washed away.

If random tapeworms weren’t enough, the thought of a Tumbu Fly’s eggs hatching under my skin leaves me skittish (though morbidly curious) about whatever caused my three-footed cat’s current predicament. The amount of times I’ve doused my house in bug-poison is kind of ridiculous considering it’s apparently futility, but the false security of my bed net (I looked down to find a giant centipede crawling along my leg in bed the other night) and market-found pesticides (because, let’s face it, the ants just keep coming back) give me enough comfort to let me sleep at night (with my medical handbook far, far away once I retire).

I suppose in the land of follicle cysts and sweat gland infections it’s only natural to find skin-burning beetles and burrowing larvae like an episode of Fringe. It certainly explains the vivid Mefloquin dreams of giant poisonous spiders, snakes, and hungry, hungry ants swarming the bed in a feeding frenzy.

Africa, as it turns out, is a pretty hostile place – a place where survival means inhabiting the intestines of the nearest living creature and stealing their food; a place where the only way to keep a happy home is to douse it regularly with poisonous insecticides; a place where the bugs not only like to bite you, but may give you Malaria as a result. Maybe I shouldn’t hold it against my potentially threatening fellow creatures: in a harsh environment, it seems that harsh is the only way to survive. Maybe one day, it’ll convince Joshua Jackson to visit … a girl can dream, right?