# 10: Animales, 2

            Temptations come in all shapes and sizes. Renaissance painters like Patiner and Bosch and Brueghel kept their own personal beguiling demons at bay by painting Saint Anthony wrestling with his: imps and devils, luxurious foods, rich clothes, intoxicants, naked women (they never seem to have painted women tempted by naked men, though; well, not Christian women, anyway; pagan Romans was another thing altogether). Whatever. Resisting temptation raises one’s moral stock, and if your stock goes high enough you presumably get fast-tracked to heaven. Paradoxically, this means that to offer someone a temptation is a positive act in that it may provide a means for the person to build up moral bonus points.

            So please feel good about leaving an open bowl of jelly beans on the table the next time you invite me over. Not the licorice ones, though. They have no seductive power over me whatsoever.

            Linda is much better than I in resisting temptation. An extra helping of string beans stir-fried with balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with toasted almond slivers? No problem. An offer to publish an essay on abstruse pilgrim paraphernalia if she will just invest 6 months in doing the research and writing it up without remuneration. She can turn that down in the blink of an eye. Chocolate? Well, . . . sometimes. A yarn store? Fifty-fifty chance.

            But to expect her drive past a store offering month-old Siamese kittens without stopping? Not even Saint Anthony could resist. It is no mystery why Breughel never put kittens in those paintings.

 

            The kittens’ names are Vilu and Mistiú and they are cute as the dickens (another veiled Saint Anthony reference?). Blue eyes, black tips on their tails, fuzzy white fur. Both of them nestle easily into one of Linda’s hands. They climb up her leg. They sleep on her neck.


They tackle and tickle each other and pounce on dust motes and chew up my several-holed, no-longer-wearable tennis shoes with vigor. Then, in the midst of whatever they are doing, they suddenly fall asleep. They also have fleas, and poop incessantly, and their food stinks. Linda’s study is now off-limits for me, thank goodness. Allergies. I touch a cat and the welts come out to play, the nose runs, the eyes itch, the bronchial tubes constrict, and I wheeze with the sound of a bagpipe filling its bag. I have a couple of Albuterol inhalers always on hand for such occasions, but even so . . . . Religiously-inspired fasting aside, there are no brownie points in self-inflicted misery.

 

            Vilu and Mistiú. Linda has had cats named kedi (Turkish for cat), jatul (Hebrew for cat), and Misifuf (Spanish for ... well, for a mock epic hero cat in a long satirical Renaissance poem by Lope de Vega). The words Vilu and Mistiú are, respectively, Mixtec and Zapotec for . . . . wait for it . . . cat. Fortunately for us there are more languages than we have years in which to host cats.

 

            When Linda brought them home, Qalba (which happens to be Hebrew for female dog) was at first puzzled. She sniffed at them, but cautiously, not aggressively. She followed Linda doggedly (of course) back and forth from the dispensa to Linda’s study as she rounded up bowls, towels, rags for wiping up, a spoon for drizzling kitty milk, kitty litter, more rags for wiping up. Qalba’s demeanor with the kittens was entirely ... well, maternal. These were little baby mammals, and they needed protection. They were not her own puppies, true, and not even all that puppy-ish when you get right down to it, what with their little claws and their climbing and their mewling, but in the absence of anyone else to be maternal about, they would have to do. Since the day we welcomed Qalba into our home (and Linda conveniently left town for five weeks) I have been the alpha-human in Qalba’s life. But now, she seems to be saying “for some mysterious reason my alpha is not taking me into the room with the kitties. Maybe I’d better hang out with my beta-human for a while instead.”

 

            Traitor.

 

            So while Linda and Qalba co-parent Vilu and Mistiú, I sit on our front porch looking out at Monte Alban and Atzompa across the valley, and I watch the goldfinches and Mexican finches, the blue grossbeaks and white-collared seedeaters, the Inca doves and the curved-bill thrasher cavorting in the wild meadow that has taken over the lower portion of our property. I drink my coffee, work on the papers I am writing now that the mining book is off my desk for a while, and relish the calm. Not even Saint Anthony could find the fiber to turn down a deal like this.

 

 

David (and Linda)

 

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