myblackeyedfire: (Wolf of mirth)
[personal profile] myblackeyedfire

This was initially part of an email to a close childhood friend since I deemed it necessary to fill her in on these important matters. And so, the story of how my grandfather incurred the wrath of Remus. Here 'tis:

Remus arrived at our home in a nervous, attentive blur of yellowish fur and the clackclacking of nails on parquet. As a shepherding dog he paced in circles, pausing every twenty seconds to sniff something. When my father started speaking with him, Vot's ze matter, behbeh? Vy you scared? he calmed down some. By the end of the night he was pacing less and vacillated between staying in his crate and exploring my father's office. My parents began crate training him that first day and around eight my father prepared to take him for a short walk. As he was opening the door Remus managed to slip out of his collar and leash and calmly trotted out the door. We were instructed to hide in the kitchen and remain silent while my father sat by the door off to the side. Remus walked in once and quickly made a retreat. The second time he did this my grandfather went behind the door to shut it. Unfortunately, the sound of the door creaking as it closed startled Remus and he went to move just as my grandfather closed the door - and ended up lightly squashing Remus there in the process. It took another fifteen minutes to lure him inside and he was not a happy puppy. And then The Incident happened.

Let me preface by explaining the character of a certain Wassiliy Kandinsky Yefim Samuelovich.

Vasya is a great many things. In gastronomical matters he is an ever-curious, finicky sampler of all life has to offer. Should he spy anyone in the kitchen puttering about in a manner hinting at the possibility of their holding food or about to do so, Vasya's tail will stand straight up and he will march over with the focus and determination of a maximum security prison guard. At confirmation of something in their hands or on the table having a fighting chance of being food-like he will drop all pretenses of being aloof and start to beg, either looking up in a manner suggesting the future of all feline-human relations depend on this moment, or trying to climb up one's leg in a move even those who've scaled Mt. Everest may find impressive.

If you have followed his code of feline etiquette to kneel down, lower the food item and mutter, "Really, dude, it's lettuce. Just lettuce," he will do his part. Resembling a foreign dignitary of state with his chest puffed out (it may just be all that fur, but I can almost imagine several fat medals and awards pinned to his coat) he will saunter over and stretch out his neck, bare his teeth a little, flutter his kitty eyelashes...and sniff. The matter is far from over at this point; if he has confirmed that the item in question is food for humans but of no interest to a cat, he'll shake his head in a manner reminiscent of a grumpy English judge in a horsehair wig and back away, his lust for life clearly diminished temporarily by this crushing defeat.

Say, though, that he spots chicken or some dairy product; a change will come over our furry commander. Used to silence most of his time, Wassiliy will break his monastic vows and mew, purr and trill. All at the same time. Until he gets a taste or is distracted sufficiently to turn away, your pants are not safe. He will try to jump, will follow you looking for all the world like Gollum waiting for Master Frodo to give him a taste. Once he has been given a piece he will crouch down and eat it with such hearty purrs you may feel almost rewarded yourself for spoiling him rotten. Scientists may confirm with research that cats have evolved to do this. And you're wired to obey.

And that, you see, is just what happened.

Living alone, my grandfather needed someone to dote on since poking friends on Facebook isn't his style (nor mine, I should mention). Rest assured, Vasya was only too happy to volunteer for such a serious duty. He has been doing his part for years now, happy to be at the center of my grandfather's admittedly small universe. Lucky for Vasya, Russian food often relies on sour cream. You can't blame him for enjoying that, surely. Blame evolution.

Now, kind reader, I hope you will understand and have some sympathy for Vasya. He had been used to being the little lord of my grandfather's apartment, and my parents' house whenever they visited, all his life. I should politely correct you now: cat's don't look evil. There's no need. Cats look smug, as if the world is run by big corporations and, look at that, they just happen to be the company owners. Catbert, from Dilbert, is an exception. So what did Remus' arrival mean for our furry dictator? Before my parents returned home with Remus they asked me to put Vasya in his travel crate. Vasya, sensing some great injustice about to happen, hid behind the living room couch, wanting nothing more than for this government coup to be over with. And, dear reader, I should note that there is no polite way to shove a cat into a travel crate. I suspect if he were human he would charge me with torture. Crateboarding.

Well, I got him in there and he was clearly dismayed at the reversal of fortune. I expected to hear renditions of songs from Evita in protest. Instead, he spent the next hour mewing sullenly. Vasya was not prepared for the arrival of a new baby. A rather big baby. A baby hardwired to chase Vasya around. Needless to say, peace agreements between their two countries were not likely.

My grandfather, aware of this and worried, put himself in the role of the UN and tried to help. Like the UN, he had less success than he hoped. The day after The Door Incident he blundered like a WWII soldier playing hopscotch over a landmine.

Well familiar by now with matters of inadvertent canine hostility, my grandfather did the unthinkable. Or is that Unforgivable? Remus was locked in his crate and resting, still trying to adjust to his new surroundings. Dedushka decided that if he and Vasya were ever to get along they ought to do so as soon as possible. Thinking he was furthering the cause, he picked Vasya up and, in a manner I can only describe as resembling that memorable scene from The Lion King, thrust Vasya a millimeter away from the cage. Disturbed at being picked up and not presented as the king of all animals, Vasya puffed his fur out and hissed louder than I'd ever heard before. And Remus promptly peed in helpless terror in the cage.

These were his first two encounters with my grandfather and even if he had forgotten the incidents, they clearly left an impression. For the first three weeks he would growl if he heard my grandfather approach, and pee in terror if he actually saw him. Vasya avoided Remus when possible but wouldn't hesitate to voice his displeasure if he came too close.

We've made some progress since then. Remus has not peed in response in two weeks and he and Vasya have come to an agreement to ignore each other. Grandfather swears he would never have done what we accused him of (with two animal and three human witnesses at the scene) and has taken to responding to being growled at by lavishing Vasya with love and blatant favoritism, so much so that I worry about being ousted from the cushy spot of Favorite Being in my grandfather's mental photo album.

And life goes on. I daresay Fortuna's wheel is on the up-and-up for both Vasya and Remus.

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January 2016

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