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Funny Friendship

Great, just great. A mere misunderstanding, and now I was here of all places.

“You say Artemis isn’t settling in well?” Strong hands gripped me, stopping my bid for escape off of the table. I wriggled and hissed, letting both people present know in no uncertain terms what I thought of this entire farce. “Easy there, poppet, nobody’s going to hurt you.”

Poppet? I flattened my ears. How dare that strange-smelling lady call such a majestic being as myself by a name so demeaning? And nobody was going to hurt me? Like I hadn’t heard that one before. This room, with its odd equipment and acrid stench, was the exact kind of place where these sadists carried out torture protocols. Bitter capsules they called “medicine” forced down my throat, temperature taking devices stuck you-know-where, sharp things resembling hedgehog spikes jabbed into my skin, all manner of indignities they took pleasure in inflicting on innocent felines.

This time, I was hoisted onto the most uncomfortable metal tray, with some kind of dial attached to it. It sapped the warmth right out of my paws. I kept struggling, but one of those huge grabby hands took hold of my scruff, and my body slackened. Meanwhile, Nanna Bea stood there and watched, the lines on her forehead and between her eyebrows deepening. I’d come to recognise this as an expression of worry. Silly human. If not for her worrying, I wouldn’t be in this mess. Why couldn’t she follow my example and chill on the couch more often?

“It’s difficult to say,” Nanna Bea replied. “You see, Artie’s a rescue, and I think she’s still somewhat wary around people. Just when I think she’s starting to get comfortable, she starts glaring at me for some reason.”

Oh? This was what all this was about? Just when I thought I couldn’t be any more astounded at how dense humans could be.

“How long have you had her for?” the vet asked, lifting me off of the tray. She ran those fingers, which bore that sharp, unnatural smell that didn’t quite mask the whiff of dogs and other cats, through my fur. “It can take a while with rescues,” she continued in that typical matter-of-fact medic way. “She isn’t showing physical signs of major stress though, her weight’s healthy, and she isn’t suffering any abnormal hair loss.”

This didn’t appear to reassure Nanna Bea, who clasped her hands. “Four months. To be honest I’m not used to pets, my daughter said I needed one for company, and the grandkids all agreed. Strongly.” She gave a strained laugh, while I suppressed a grumble at the thought of those little brats and their constant pestering whenever they visited. “Uh, anyway, I’m trying everything. Taking it slowly, letting her approach me, but as soon as she gets on my lap or curls up against me, that’s when she gives me the death glare.”

The vet’s fluttery laugh grated right through me. “I see what might be happening. Does she blink at you slowly at all?”

Nanna Bea grimaced. “Yes, every time… What am I doing wrong?”

I gave her a blank stare and meowed. Nothing, you lovable dolt, I wanted to say. Nothing except jumping to conclusions. Humans thought they were so smart, but compared to us cats, they were hopeless at reading body language. That was the entire reason we had to meow at them, and not even that always got across what we wanted to say.

“Sounds like you’re doing things right, in fact,” the vet told her. “When cats narrow their eyes at you, and blink slowly, it’s a sign of trust. So when she looks like she’s death glaring, she’s just being friendly.” I reluctantly put up with the head scratches she gave me, harder than the ones Nanna Bea ever did. “Aren’t you, girl?”

Just when she’d cleared up the communication issues, she just had to go and talk to me in that awful cooing voice. I sat tall, to show them I was too noble a being to deserve such a tone, only to break into a sneezing fit from the overwhelming myriad of smells. Not exactly conducive to putting up a dignified air.

“Aw, bless you!” Nanna Bea ruffled my fur, her touch much gentler than that of the vet. “Sorry Artie, I’ve been quite the fool haven’t I? Seeing stress where there wasn’t any, and actually stressing you out for real.”

Yes, yes she had been a fool, but at least this was a learning curve.

After a profuse apology to the vet for wasting her time – which only kept both of us waiting – she lifted me back into the carrier, the only box I couldn’t stand. It was just my luck that we passed through the waiting room as several dogs sat gathered there, each of them turning their heads to sniff and bark, undeterred by my hisses and puffed-up coat. The car journey back home wasn’t much better, seeming to stretch out forever, the vibrations juddering through my body like some growling mechanical beast had swallowed me up.

At long last, she took me out of that awful contraption and into the house. The familiar sights and smells – scratched furniture, catnip-stuffed toy mice, my kibble bowl - made my taut muscles relax. Still, I had to make a point, so as soon as she opened the carrier door, I slunk out and turned my back to her.

“Sulking? Can’t say I blame you. Here, though, I hope this helps.” At the creaking of a drawer and the rustle of a packet, I couldn’t help but turn my head. For all our communication issues, Nanna Bea had the most annoying tendency to know exactly how to get through my defenses. I approached and sniffed, unable to stay mad when faced with tuna-flavoured snacks. Once I’d crunched up the peace offering, I raised my head and purred, letting her know she’d almost earned forgiveness. Keyword being almost.

“I see it did.” Leaning down, she tickled me under the chin. My purrs grew louder as I nuzzled her hand, and slowly blinked at her, a gesture she now understood. Maybe, just maybe, I could let today slide. “You know what they say, all’s well that ends well.”

Then, for some reason, the corners of her lips rose and she bared her teeth at me.

Every flight instinct I had flared up. I spun round and bolted away, fur standing on end as I hid under a chair and stared out at her bemused face.

“What? What did I do?”

It looked like we both had things to learn each other’s body language.

February 24, 2023 17:55

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5 comments

Jeannette Miller
20:01 Mar 11, 2023

Hahaha, I love this story! I think you really nailed each character as they had their voice within the story. I love the cat narrating and letting us know what was going on and it felt true and now I'm wondering if that's what my pets think every time I take them to the vet, haha. Really well done! A solid first submission. Welcome to Reedsy!

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Philippa Hibberd
20:23 Mar 11, 2023

Thanks! Writing from an animal POV is challenging but fun. My cat absolutely hates going to the vet, so that's probably more or less what she goes through! Glad you liked it! I'm sure I'll enjoy it here, I've already read some amazing submissions.

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Jeannette Miller
20:30 Mar 11, 2023

Cool! I look forward to reading more of yours :)

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13:58 Mar 12, 2023

Philippa, this was so much fun to read! I love how you compare the human and cat body language (I'm a cat person, so it was so relatable) The differences between our human and feline means of displaying affection are so hilarious. I had never taken the time to really thing about it, so thank you for writing this and opening my perspective! Great job!

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Philippa Hibberd
19:20 Mar 12, 2023

Thanks, yeah cats can be much, much more affectionate than people give them credit for, it's just that some of their ways of showing it don't always get across.

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