So the other day Erica came home to spend a week with us.
She's helping her dad with a special project during the day.
In the evenings she swims with us and watches movies with us and goes to the grocery store with us (for necessities such as lime sherbet and sugar wafers) and in general keeps her aged parrots a very excellent kind of company.
I am sad to report she is leaving tomorrow for the Peach State where she resides.
However, in a few days we're all going up to Ohio to visit with my recently-widowed mother-in-law, so we'll have much more together-time before school starts.
(Erica teaches fifth grade at Peoples Baptist Academy in McDonough, Georgia.)
Anyway it wasn't long after the Boo arrived that I noticed this wee stuffed ... thing on my kitchen table.
It bore the almost-unBEARable cuteness associated with Boyds Bears, which I have been known to sort of collect because if there is one thing I have a great deal of difficulty resisting, it is a bear in a hat.
But this little furry thing flopped over on my table -- sporting a tag identifying "her" simply as Claudine -- didn't look like any bear I'd ever seen.
First of all, there is her prehensile tail.
Now, far be it from me to comment on anyone's caboose, but if you've ever known a bear to have a tail as long as its arm, I would like to know where you saw it.
And what you were smoking.
Then there are her whiskers, which can only be described as unsettlingly longish.
Leading me to believe Claudine is a cat. A cat-bear? Or maybe just one of those creatures included in the and Friends part of Boyds Bears.
Turns out Claudine was on my table because she was a gift. For me.
Which is strange because if there is one thing I most decidedly am not, it is a cat person.
I speak dog. All dogs all the time is my motto -- well, one of them -- and I have the lazy Chihuahua to prove it.
Eventually it came to light that Erica sort of won Claudine -- no, not in a poker game but in, of all places, Sunday School.
I would elaborate but what would be the point? All you need to know is that we Baptists are big on giveaways.
For some reason the Boo thought Claudine would fare better in my orbit than in her own.
So that's why, when I held Claudine up to Erica and said "What's this?" Erica replied (with a sly grin) "That's for you."
And we were living peaceably until today when Claudine, out of the infinite atmosphere, began getting into all sorts of mischief.
First I caught her in the rooster bowl with the open (and half-eaten) package of sugar wafers.
Too bad I haven't got a sardine for Claudine, I thought. In other words, more appropriate Claudine cuisine.
I scowled at Claudine but she did not react. Next time I entered the kitchen she'd appropriated a jar of honey as her own personal ursine-feline perch.
I knew I was in trouble when that time, she refused to make eye contact.
But I had work to do so I left Claudine to her own devices. How much damage could she do? I reasoned.
Perhaps my laissez-faire attitude was ill-advised because practically before I could turn around, she was in -- as in, she had become part and parcel of -- our (sacrosanct) Lindt stash.
Next she snuggled innocently with some unsuspecting and entirely boring zucchini* (one vegetable that ever seems to know when it's being used).
The little darling.
Clearly a hopeless recidivist, back in with the chocolate, Claudine was later caught preparing to embrace a bottle of Parisian pink lemonade.
That time I took pains to upbraid her. "Do you want to spend the rest of your born days occupying a shoebox stuck in the back of my topmost closet shelf?" I said.
Claudine high-tailed it out of the Le Creuset (though not away from the French lemonade) and made herself smaller. I chose to read her actions as an inclination to acquiesce with the law and order we keep around here. Somewhere.
Oh yeah I'm a sucker. But in my own defense, I've had zero experience with cats.
Later still, I noticed Claudine was no longer consorting with the sugar wafers, chocolate, honey, and lemonade. Apparently she'd lost interest in the zucchini. She wasn't even on the counter anymore.
I assumed she'd retreated somewhere to think about what she'd done and consider the dark dimensions of the aforesaid shoebox, a/k/a her forwarding address.
Oh no! She'd managed to get her bad self over onto the baker's rack, where she was holding two sugar wafers hostage.
Of course I took them from her! The wafers were safer with me and besides, it was either that or call a SWAT (Sugar Wafer Accountability Taskforce) team.
I didn't have time for that amount of nonsense.
Where did she turn up next, you ask?
See for yourself.
This cat is jaded, I concluded. A hardened criminal and no mistake.
Good as my word, I went to rummage for the solitary and sole-less domicile I'd promised Claudine.
Upon my return I looked for her in the popcorn bowl.
It was empty.
My eyes swiveled back to the counter.
Claudine's a pirate.
That explains a lot.
She'll be sleeping in my bed tonight.