sequestered in the house, felled and fevered by a bug that would not leave, the little one was left to dull diversion: his mother’s whims, the drone of a channel she disdains (but after five days of fever, who does not surrender?), whatever flickered by the window.
and so, it was as if abbott and costello had rolled in the neighborhood when a pair of chipmunks took to romping just the other side of the patio door on day 5, the fever hostage crisis.
heck, with all the romping just beyond the screen, even the drowsy cat stirred from his deep slumber. as he ambled to the door, john wayne style, he caught a glimpse of what was causing all the ruckus, and i tell you he licked his little lips.
the cat, you see, has been on something of a chipmunk binge this summer. there’s been some whispering in the house that he was on a mission to right the wrongs of the scampering population that, months ago, had set the other brother, the manchild, soaring through the air, launched from the seat of his mountain bike by a chipmunk in the trail whom he didn’t want to squish.
that bit of aeronautics, you might recall, resulted in a neck that broke in two. the boy’s, not the chipmunk’s, mind you.
and while i’ll spare you the bits and pieces that i’ve discovered, morning after morning, waiting on the doormat, i will assure you it is not the morning’s news. although i am certain what i find is reaping heartache and big headlines in the nearby land of furry little critters. they must be quaking at the knees, fearing for their futures.
it had been decreed, by the fevered child, that the hungry cat would not be leaving the premises. the cat, poor thing, would be stuck inside with the rest of us. as long as those two chipmunks were within sniffing distance.
but the cat, you see, had been sleeping since the morning. and the cat was wiggling in that way that kitties do when they need to, you know, attend to kitty business behind a bush. that cat, i’m telling you, was all but crossing its legs.
i tried to bargain with the gatekeeper. please let him out, i begged. or there will be a puddle to pay.
and besides, i tried convincing, we are right here. those chipmunks aren’t so dumb that they’ll not run away. (sometimes as a parent you must make up little ruses that skirt the truth; you must grease your way to winning the debates that crop up, oh, on the 8s, as they say on all-news radio. you must fib, even on a day of high, high fevers. how did i know it would not be chipmunk legs for dinner?)
at last, the screen was pulled, the cat let out. but then, in a flash, the fevered one went with him.
the cat leapt down behind a bush. the fevered child went too. the cat crawled over branch. the fevered child, too.
egad, i squawked, what are you doing?
“i am keeping turkey” (psst, that’s our cat; don’t ask) “out of trouble. i’m guarding him from chipmunks.”
it went on like this for a whole zig and zag of moves. (that purple advil, have you noticed, is a wonder drug.) wherever kitty went, the boy was sure to follow.
i could hear, i swear, those chipmunks snickering in the offing.
the little one was all over his campaign to save the ‘munks. for a boy with sweaty brow, the feat was rather something. he was, apparently, trying out all his superhero moves. had there been a tall building, he would have leapt from it. had there been a phone booth, he would have torn off his pajamas, emerged with flapping cape.
as it was, our episode of chipmunk boy to the rescue drew to a whimpering conclusion when the crusader merely scooped the cat, held him wobbly by the belly, and hauled him back inside.
with the kitty safe beside us, still drooling for the tasty morsels, we slid the markers on the scoreboard: chipmunks 2, cat 0.
ah, but that was just an inning. for the summer’s game, the cat, alas, is way ahead.
and that’s the sorry entertainment for a mama stuck inside since sunday.
psst. what do you do to keep from going nuts when you too are housebound by an ailing child? or an ailing self? besides chasing cats, we spent some time constructing a get-better box, which i might have mentioned in the past. it is a fine thing, a thing i‘d made for sick boy no. 1, but it’s since worn out, so we made a new one. it is a box that is filled with little quiet things you can play in bed, or on the couch. it only slides off the shelf when you are aching, or hot and fevered. it makes the land of counterpain not so lonely. and when you’re better you air it out in the sun, chase away the germs, return it to the shelf. wait to play ’til another sickday. you might tuck inside some jacks and a ball. a little set of colored pencils. a teeny deck of cards. a particularly chambered seashell. a rock that could be from the moon. besides the cool wet washcloth to the brow, it is the sweetest part of being sick. at least at our house it is.
on a much deeper note, today is the day my farmer friend terry is marking the fourth anniversary of her firstborn, beau, dying. it is a terribly hard day down on the farm. i would ask you to remember her, and him, today. and hold her up, however you do so. she could use some arms around her. i am reaching mine.