I awoke this morning to something being dropped on my face.
It was still dark but if I squinted, I could see the time on the cable box on the TV stand at the end of my bed.
5:10. Hmmm. The kids slept in.
Moving only my eyes, I glanced to the left and found myself looking directly into two amber eyes with football-shaped pupils on a jet-black face with a single white whisker.
The bad twin.
He had dropped — right in the middle of my face — a neon orange pipe cleaner from a bag of them I bought at the dollar store for the boys to play with. It's his favorite fetch toy.
He brings it to me — or drops it on my sleeping face — and I throw it.
I can't very well muster a split-finger fastball when I'm chucking an object as light as Forrest Gump's feather, but the pipe cleaner usually manages to clear the coffee table (or in this case, the bed) when I throw it. Tiki jumps down, runs after it, picks it up and brings it back to me as proudly as any gift-bearing golden retriever delivering the limb of a sequoia to his beloved master.
I've had many cats, but this is the first time for siblings. I raised them from kittens.
Some unkind person had placed two tiny black identical fluff-ball brothers in a waste can on Cocoa Beach; some very kind person had nursed them back to health; and some bleeding heart cat-lover from the other side of the state adopted them.
I knew I was in trouble from Day 1. My sons (whose idea it was to get Mom a kitten and who drove across Florida with me to fetch them) bought them different colored collars in the Pets R Us so we could tell them apart.
Although modern-day collars are made to release so animals can't hang themselves, it's unlikely a lone cat could get one off. However, it's a piece of cake to monster twins. I walked into another room and when I came back, both collars were on the floor and Houdini I and Houdini II were lounging naked on the sofa. Amazing what an extra set of adorable, fat, fuzzy paws (that I always forget have hidden little needles that rip flesh from bone) can do.
As they turned into teenage kittens, they became as different as two human twin brothers raised in the same household.
Teaks (I call him) is soft as a bunny and the pistol of the 9-month-old pair. His brother's name is Ronde, poor skittish thing as wary of his brother as I am but without the opposable thumbs needed to outsmart him.
Ronde is able to fetch, too — when he's brave enough to emerge from the protective cover of the coffee table under which he hides to keep from getting tackled by his brother on the way to a neon quarry.
I understand why he hides; I can't beat the bad twin to anything, either. At best, it's a photo finish with the decision going to him and the bloody scratches to me.
Which brings me back to the pipe cleaner Teaks was eyeing after he laid it across my face with the same amount of pride he would have laid a dead mouse — if he had one.
I couldn't stand it one second longer. He was so absolutely adorable in his earnestness, I just started laughing and grabbed him and hugged him and kissed him and hugged him again.
This was not the way he wanted the game to end but it seems he has become as accepting of my hugs as I have of his scratches. So, he begrudgingly let me snuggle and squeeze a few more seconds before he started to squirm.
Something else had caught his eye. On the floor.
In a flash, Tiki was out of my arms and a thundering herd of two went flying down the stairs.
Run, Ronde, run!
Patti Ewald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8746.