Love Is Blind
Not Your Average Kitten
It was an uncomfortably hot Miami night when I awoke at 4 a.m. to a noise I'd never heard before. It sounded like a cat growling. The only one of my three cats I'd ever heard growl was Scarlett, and it wasn't her. And it couldn't be Vashti, who was so unassertive that her meows came out as tiny squeaks. That left Homer, the orphan I'd adopted as a 3-week-old after an eye infection had required the surgical removal of both his eyes. I named him after the Greek poet who had imagined magnificent epics even though he couldn't see.
The mere fact of Homer's growling (he was usually as friendly as a puppy) already had me scared. I squinted and struggled to see him in the darkness. Faint light streamed through the blinds from the streetlights, but Homer, black and eyeless, was invisible. I could feel him close by, though. I sat up and flipped on my bedside lamp.
Homer stood in the middle of the bed, puffed up to about three times his normal size. His back was arched, and every hair on his body stood straight up, his tail bristled and stiff as a pipe cleaner. His legs were set wide apart, and his ears were at full attention. He moved his head and ears evenly from side to side with the precision of a sonar dish. His front claws were extended farther than I would have thought physically possible. His growl continued, low and unbroken -- not completely aggressive yet, but a definite warning.
Beyond Homer, standing at the foot of my bed, was a man I'd never seen before. I stifled a gasp as every muscle in my body stiffened and tensed. The buried nightmare of every woman living alone -- the scenario that has spawned thousands of horror movies -- was playing out right here, right now, in my bedroom. My eyes darted around the room, considering each object I saw and its value as a weapon.
The intruder looked as startled as I felt and, for a crazy moment, this struck me as ridiculous. Surely, among the three of us, he was most prepared for whatever was about to happen. I mean, who had broken into whose apartment? But then I realized he wasn't looking at me: He hadn't taken his eyes off Homer.
He'd obviously heard Homer growling but, like me, had been unable to find any visual evidence of his presence. It was taking the intruder a second to figure out why this cat -- who gave every indication of preparing to attack -- had been so utterly invisible. There was something weird going on here, something off about this cat...
Under more benign circumstances I would have been deeply offended by the look of horror that spread over his face when he realized what it was.
Homer's growl rose dramatically in both volume and pitch. Some cats growl and bristle as a way of avoiding a fight, slowly backing up while maintaining an intimidating posture in the hope that their adversary will back down first. But not Homer. He wasn't backing up -- he was creeping forward, toward the intruder.