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Great Balls
Of Fire!

by Stephen Lautens


December 8, 2000

OK. So I'm no cat lover. But that doesn't mean I want to see them set on fire.

As usual, this will take a little explaining.

My wife and I have been invited over to another couple's house for dinner, and I'm a little nervous considering what happened last time.

Our hostess is a cat lover. Our host smiles and puts up with it. It must be a case of love me, love my cat.

Except it's not just one cat - it's eight of them. One more and you qualify as an animal shelter. Two more and you qualify as "the crazy cat lady down the street".

Their house is beautiful, except everywhere you look there's a cat staring at you. If it's not a cat, it's a bowl of half eaten food or toy or something that's been scratched to pieces. They're constantly getting on each others nerves, hissing, swatting and taking cover behind the curtains.

In short, the perfect ambiance for an elegant dinner party.

Did I mention how they like to get up on the table and lick the plates? My wife shooed one off the dinner table, and it took half a place setting with it.

I'll give them one thing - cats are extremely intuitive. They can sense that I'm a dog person - that's why they zero in on me and insist on sitting in my lap for the entire evening. Claws extended. Plus I'm allergic, so the cats get a double word score with me.

And as soon as you unhook one from your tender regions, another one jumps in. If this house has one thing, it's an inexhaustible supply of cats.

They're independent, aloof, moody and territorial. I don't know why people think these qualities are charming in a cat when you wouldn't put up with them in a human. Give me a big dumb dog any day.

All I ask of a pet is that it stay on the floor. With a cat you know that the minute your back is turned it's up on the counter sitting in the butter.

And that leads me back to the problem.

The cats were unhappy that humans were eating off their dining room table. They expressed their displeasure in various ways, including going for a stroll on the other furniture. As long as they weren't giving me a razor sharp lap dance, I was happy.

"What's that smell?" It's not a question you usually put to your hostess, but something was burning.

The person across from me yelled, and I turned around to see a cat running down the hallway like a burning schoolhouse with legs.

It had been up on a side table, and rubbed against a candle.

I don't know what Martha Stewart says about the proper way to extinguish your host's flaming cat at a dinner party. By the time I found my glass of water, the lightly toasted feline had put itself out and was angrily looking for someone to blame.

The rest of the meal was overshadowed by the smell of burnt fur and our hostess disappearing down the hall to check on the cat flambé. The cat was OK and spent the night hissing at anyone who came near.

So we're heading back for dinner again. I just hope we're not having fondue.

© Stephen Lautens 2000

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