Poolside View

by Nels Lindberg

My darling, it is with great apprehension I approach you. Your sweet gaze
seems to invite me forward, but an unhappy memory holds me back. Can I
ever be sure you have forgiven me for biting you? I love you, but can
never know your mind beyond the caress of your hand on my fur and the
warmth of your lap. So I think I'll hesitate for a moment. Does this
irritate you? Ah well, here goes. Tritt-trot to your flipper and give it a
few good licks until you scritch my ears. I must confess that I was
originally attracted to the taste. That was why I impulsively bit the
delicate tissue through, a Lemnian deed. Your cry of pain broke my heart
as the guilty taste of blood filled my mouth. Later, when I hid under the
bed with my shame, you were so cruel as to drag me out and pet me so

The memory of all this runs through my mind as I walk up, lick lick,
scritch scritch, and hop into your lap so you can wheel us from the pool
into the house, now that you're done swimming.

One of my other guilty pleasures is to knead my claws through your dress
and pick at the scales underneath. I love the clik-clik noise they make,
even though I know that this is a good way to be ejected from your lap.
Apparently it irritates you. Oh well, I think I hear a bowl of kibbles
calling my name anyway. It is astonishing how much of an appetite one gets
just laying around, watching you swim.

Truly dearest, kibble is merely food for the stomach. Only when I am with
you can I be totally satisfied. But it's no good if you won't pay
attention to me. After all, I watched you all day while you swam in the
pool, so it is unreasonable for you to ignore me completely now that
you're out and dry. Those papers you are scribbling on so earnestly, are
they really that fascinating? Perhaps you will find me more difficult to
ignore when I sit on top of them. No, I am not to be dissuaded my love.
Here, let me rub my cheek against yours and headbutt your shoulder.
Doesn't that feel good? Now I will climb back into your lap, so you can
pet me and I can purr for you. Paying attention to papers can wait. I love
the feeling of your hand stroking my back. The skin is so much different
than the web of your flipper or the scales underneath your dress. Why is
that? Neither myself, nor anyone else I have ever seen is made of two
parts like you are. I have begun to love you for your uniqueness, too. I
think that's a sign that our relationship is maturing, don't you agree?

I hear footsteps in the hallway. Heavy sounding. I think that it's the one
who ignores me and never fills the kibble dish. Drat.

The door opens and in he walks. I decide to play it cool and look away. He
rumbles a little, and your voice pipes a reply. You don't sound too happy,
and heave a little sigh when he grabs me around the chest with both of his
giant hands. He rumbles at you a little more and you return to scribbling
on those papers.

Being suspended in midair by the chest while your hindquarters dangle
downward is both undignified and uncomfortable, but it never occurs to him
to support my back while he hauls me out of the room, closes the door, and
chucks me out into the hallway. I look into his eyes and try to start a
staring contest, but he just lumbers down the hallway, forcing me to
scamper out of his way. I nose at the door to see if it was improperly
latched, and decide to find somewhere to take a nap.

I settle on a square of sunlit rug near the television. It isn't on, thank
god, and I curl up for a little catnap. I don't really sleep, but I do
doze a little, and periodically open my eyes slightly to look at some thing
or another. Presently, I hear the sound of adenoidal breathing and the
rustle of clothing. Looking up, I see a pair of eyes staring at me. Before
I can move, something hits me in the side. I see a wooden block lying on
the floor. I look back, and sure enough, there it stands. Short, loud,
smelly, and very aggressive, the thrower of the block obviously wants to
play again. I am never in the mood to play with the short one, and slink
past it with my belly close to the ground. It is faster than I expect, and
grabs my tail. Panic grips my heart as it shrieks in triumph. I try to
pull away, but grubby fingers pull my fur and hold me close. It grabs my
paws and pulls them apart, making my struggles useless. Then, horror of
horrors, it sits on me. I can't breathe. Oh,
icantbreatheicantbreatheicantbreatheicantbreathe. Then it gets up and
stares at me, as if considering what to do next. I run.

The next thing I know, I'm under your bed, sweetheart. I'm still terribly
upset, but I'm not completely panicked anymore. I need reassurance
dearest. I need you. So first I crawl out from under the bed and get up on
the pillow, so I can smell where you've slept, and then I start to clean
myself. By the time I've finished, I feel a little better, but I think
that it's time for you to pay more attention to me, dearest.

You were bored with those silly papers, weren't you? I could tell because
you opened the door for me after the other one closed it. I think I'll get
your attention by sharpening my claws on your dress. I like this dress,
the cloth is nice and thick, and I can really dig my claws in. But enough
of that, my nerves are frazzled, and I want to be petted now. So I hop
into your lap and do the preliminaries. First I reach up and smell your
breath, then rub my cheek against your face. I've started to purr already,
and feel a warm glow inside. Now I'll lay down and let you pet me, your
small, soft hands smooth my fur and my loosen the knotted muscles
underneath. I can't really know for how long we sit there; this is a
happiness beyond thought or memory. After a while the warmth inside cools
a little, and so I sit up and let you scratch me behind the ears while I
meditate on various things.

Clearly, I shouldn't take naps in places where the short one could
catch me, he is becoming quite dangerous. I can hear him crashing around
in the next room. Ordinarily, I could ignore it, but the ugly incident
makes it impossible for me to tear my mind off the little monster. As we
sit here, the computer makes little chugging noises to itself every few
minutes. I have heard the most hideous sounds coming out of that thing
when you type at it, but it never fails to amaze me that it can make noise
of it's own volition. And yet, how astonishing it is that any of us ever
do anything of our own volition, rather than being always in the grip of
some unfathomable drive.

The short one appears in the doorway, breathing noisily, and makes some
sort of noise at you. You reply, and he charges back down the hallway. A
measure of how much I trust you is the fact that I consider your lap the
safest place for me when he's around. Consider that if you will.
Presently, you put your hands on the large wheels of your chair and push
us down the hall. Judging by the way the air smells, I'd guess that it was
time for your evening meal. If you don't want your chicken, give me some

As usual, I awake by your side and quickly get up, blinking in the dim
dawn light of your bedroom. I stretch and lick myself clean, glancing at
your sleeping form occasionally. Your mouth is open slightly, and your
breath smells faintly of spittle and sour milk. You make little "hrm"
noises as I crawl on your chest and sniff at your face. Finally, you start
to wake up when my paws sink into your soft belly as I walk down the bed.
Patiently, I watch as you yawn, stretch, yawn again and haul yourself from
under the covers to the wheelchair by the bedside. Your flipper and tail
stick out from the frills of your nightclothes. To emphasize how eager I
am to be fed, I rub my head against the lintel of the door as you wheel
yourself over to open it. Of course, patience is the rule in the morning.
Before I may be fed, I must sit on the corner and watch as you scrub your
teeth with a little brush, and wait politely outside the bathroom while
you use your water-litterbox. Then finally we can go into the kitchen
where I can have kibble while you munch on something crunchy soaked in

Mornings are my favorite time of day, and I always make sure we are up
well before the others so I can share this special time with you. There's
a certain quality to the light that I love. We've both finished eating,
and I've been sitting in your lap for quite a while before I hear the
klunking and bumping that means that the large one who ignores me is
starting his morning ritual. Presently, he lumbers into the kitchen,
rumbles something at you, and gives me an idle scritch behind the ears. I
ignore him, and he is gone after drinking a cup of something nasty
smelling. He won't be back until the evening, which suits me fine.

When you wheel yourself back into your room to put your swimming clothes,
I decide to tritt-trott to the pool and wait for you. Today is a special
day, did you know that dearest? Yes, today is the day I am finally going
to overcome my disgust of water and join you in the pool. I think that
this will really deepen our relationship. If we can share your favorite
thing to do, I think we will come to understand each other even better.
Soon, you wheel up to the pool, the nightshirt replaced by a black, shiny,
skin covering your torso and some of your tail. You wheel over to me and
run a finger along my spine as I rub against your tail. The scales are dry
and dull, and the membrane of your flipper is wrinkled and pale from
sleep. You shift out of your chair into a bench along the edge of the
pool, grasp a pair of rails that come from under the water, and heave
yourself into the water. I am hit by a few drops from the splash and cringe
a bit. I am beginning to wonder how I will ever tolerate being completely
immersed. Still, I hop up on the bench and look into the water. You are
gliding along the bottom, scales flashing as your fin flips up and down.
It is a glorious sight, and I start to purr from sheer joy. I will join
you, no matter how difficult it is.

I put a paw on the ledge at the side of the pool. It is covered with a
thin puddle of water that washes over a lip and down the drain. I hold it
there for as long as I can stand, trying to force the other paw forward. I
feel a shudder run up my spine, and when it reaches my head the paw jerks
back of it's own accord. Clearly, this is going to be difficult. I try
again, hopping onto the ledge and tritt-trotting down it, shaking my paws
as I go. I can see the corner of the pool coming up, and I know that I
won't be able to stop myself from hopping off the wet ledge onto the dry
cement. As soon as I hop onto the cement, I am struck by the example of
your computer. If it can sit and make little noises at itself, then I can
certainly get into the water if please.

There is a board that extends a ways over one end of the pool and I crawl
out on it a ways to look into the pool. Perhaps I could jump down from
here. The drop isn't far. I imagine myself landing gracefully on the
water, just like jumping off the kitchen counter. Suddenly, an image jumps
unbidden into my mind, and before I can stop myself I see a vision of the
big one who doesn't feed me running along this very board and, with a jump
and a whoop, making the most enormous splash. I suppose I would make a
smaller splash, but the idea frightens me so much that I freeze, petrified
by the thought of falling in. I begin to feel miserable, trapped on over
the water by my own fear, and I cry to you to help me.



I call, but you can't hear me underwater. I try to back up, but the slight
wobbling of the board I cause forces me to freeze again.

I call again. Miau!





Finally one of my calls reaches your ears as you surface. I am greatly
relieved by the speed with which you answer my calls. I am somewhat less
relieved by the fact that you leap out of the water and grab on to the
board, causing it to wobble wildly. Then you haul yourself out of the pool
and lay on the board. It sags a bit, but wobbles a lot less. Much better.
I watch as the water quickly runs off the skin of your arm, leaving it
only slightly damp, beaded with little droplets. Your long golden hair is
the only part of you that's still as wet I got the fur on my paws when I
trotted along the edge of the pool. I wish that I didn't get so wet when I
got into the water. Still, I feel better now that you've paid some
attention to me. No, I don't want to be petted now, your hands are still
wet. I think I'm going to take a nap now. Go ahead and enjoy your swim.

I was so fatigued by my attempt to get into the pool that I didn't awake
from my nap in the windowsill by the pool until I heard a loud screech
from the far end of the pool, followed by a splash. Apparently the short
and aggressive one has decided to join you in the pool. From my perch, I
can also see that your mother is in the pool with you. Your mother is an
enigma to me. She feeds me when I beg, but never otherwise. Also, she
doesn't pet me, even when I rub against her legs. Yet she treats you and
the small, loud one with every possible kindness, showing affection even
when you don't seem to need it, and especially when you do. The tender,
watchful way she looks after you while carefully keeping the tiny one's
head above water speaks volumes to me about her great ability at being a
mother. It seems like every other day this happens, they join you in the
pool, and splash around happily. I watch as the little one rides on your
back, shrieking happily as you skim just under the surface at high speed.
Why can't I be there with you? What makes it so difficult for to get in
the pool, even though I try with all my might? It makes my heart bitter.

After wallowing in self-pity for a while, I decide to go sharpen my claws
or something, and see if there's anything good to eat out on the kitchen
counter. A few good licks at the butter dish would be just the thing to
bring me out of this funk.

When you get back from the pool, I have already retreated to my "secret"
perch on top of the bookshelves, where I can watch all the action in the
kitchen, dining room, and living room without being noticed. Presently,
your mother begins to cook an afternoon meal, while you and the small loud
one stare at the television for a while. Unlike the computer, the
television puts out an endless stream of the most unearthly noises while
it is being used, but never makes little noises to itself. I hate it.
Anyway, it gets turned off, and the three of you sit down and eat your
midday meal. I hop down and try to beg, but your mother speaks roughly to
me, and makes some sort of vague gesture toward the butter dish. Oh well.

After the dishes are cleared away from the table, you wheel your chair off
to the study for another interminable session of tapping at the computer
and scribbling at papers. Today your mother joins you, and she makes me
shrink by pointing her finger at me and speaking forcefully when I enter
the room. I decide to wait until she leaves the room before trying to sit
in your lap. Today's computer-tapping and paper-scribbling session is
especially difficult. You sigh a lot, while your mother speaks to you in a
coaxing tone of voice. After a while everyone's nerves start to get
frazzled, your sighs turn to whining, and the your mother's voice loses
its patient tone. The small loud one makes an appearance and begs for
attention by whining at your mother, but is banished after a small battle
of wills. Finally, I decide I've had enough, and jump onto the papers that
my darling's been so vexed by. It irritates me to see anything make my
sweetheart less than happy, even though I know I'm risking being ejected
from the room. However, your mother makes a fatal mistake. Instead of just
grabbing me and putting me out, she first tries to push me off the desk. I
oblige her by "falling" right into my dearest's lap. Immediately, I hook
my claws into the thick material of your dress, and hold on for dear life.
Then my darling cleverly forestalls her mother's next attack by petting me
luxuriantly. In these sorts of battles, the loser is the one who gives up
first. So when she reaches to grab me, I instantly flip on my back and
attack one of her hands, grabbing it with my claws and biting it ever so
delicately. With a cry of dismay, she gives up. I win.

After a watching me pet you for a few moments, your mother leaves the
room, presumably to go look after the small, loud one. After a little bit
of petting, I decide I'd rather play. So we play a game where you try to
poke my chest before I can grab your hand and "attack" it. Then we play my
favorite game, where you get out a wand with a big feather at the end and
wave it around while I chase after it. Great fun.

Too much fun is exhausting. I want to get in your lap and take a nap, but
your mother returns and makes noises at your. Apparently, she wants you to
return to paper-scribbling and computer-tapping, so I decide to leave
before she makes me suffer the indignity of being chucked out. I decide to
go on a smelling tour of the house, starting in your bedroom. Carefully I
give your bed a few delicate sniffs. It smells like me, and it smells like
you. I notice a few of my hairs on the comforter, as well as a single
golden strand on your pillow. Next on the tour is the bedroom of the
small, loud one. Carefully, I ease my snout around the door, ears pricked
for the tell-tale raspy breathing that's my cue to skedaddle. I don't
spend much time here, chary of his return, only staying long enough to
note the slightly sour smell of his bedspread and the indescribably icky
smell that permeates most of the other toys in the room. The next room is
the room of my darling's mother and the large one who doesn't feed me.
However, the door is shut fast, as usual, and I am unable to sample the
fascinating scents that some of the items in their bathroom have to offer.
So now out into the living room. I hear the television blaring away, and
surmise that the small, loud one is in its thrall. So I decide to
investigate the shoe closet first. The smell is, to me, amazing. I don't
get very far though, before the door to the outside opens and closes with
a bang. The big one who ignores me shucks off a pair of shoes, and
narrowly misses hitting me when he throws them in the closet. How typical.

Foolishly, I gorge myself on dinner, and am forced to find a quiet place
to sleep it off. So I miss whatever it is you did in the evening. Oh well.
Anyway, by the time I get up, it's already time for you to go to bed.
Unfortunately, instead of tiring myself out playing with you, I slept, and
am in no mood to go back to sleep. But, since I love you, I accompany you
to bed anyway, riding on your lap as your mother pushes your chair into
the bedroom. I sit and watch as you change out of your day dress and into
your nightgown. It never fails to amaze me how well you tolerate putting
clothes on. I still remember the time you tried to make me wear something.
I'm glad you had good enough sense not to try that again.

I'm restless tonight sweetheart. I can't sleep. But you apparently have no
trouble drifting right off. Next to mornings, bed time is my favorite time
with you. You lay in bed next to me, and pet me softly while making faint
murmurings until your hand stops moving on my back, you grow still, and
your breathing has the deep even rhythm of sleep.

Ordinarily, I would drift with you. Your slow caress and the almost-purr
of your voice would send me to a deep, happy rest. But tonight I am wide
awake and somewhat agitated. I still haven't gotten over my failure to get
in the pool with you earlier. So as soon as I am sure that you are
dreaming peacefully, I slide off the bed and make my way out into the
hallway to prowl around a bit. Everything is completely quiet, save the
hum of the refrigerator, and quite dark in those areas where the light of
the moon doesn't sneak in through closed blinds. Presently, my wanderings
bring me to the pool where, the unshaded windows let the moon light the
whole moon brilliantly.

The water is totally black, except where the moon plays on the surface,
sending an ever changing pattern of light shooting to the ceiling. Feeling
somewhat frisky, I begin to tritt-trott around the rim, listening to my
pawsteps, my heartbeat, and the faint lapping of the water in the pool.
After a while the sounds seem to lure the thoughts out. Why can't I get
into the pool? Answer: Because I hate getting wet. Why do I hate getting
wet? Answer: Unknown. After a few laps tritt-trotting around the pool, all
I can think on is that one question. Why do I hate getting wet, when the
One I Love Most loves nothing more than spending a day in the pool? Why do
I hate getting wet? It is not the exercise of circumambulating the pool
that exhausts me, but the persistence of that one, simple, unanswerable
question. So I stop to drink a little pool water on the end farthest from
the window. As I lap up the water, I notice a small image of the moon
floating on the water just in front of me. It makes me wonder, how can the
moon be in the water, and outside the window? Struck by wonderment, I
decide to return to bed, and try to sleep by The One I Love Most.

I awake, my mind still foggy from an uneasy sleep, and try to pinpoint just
what exactly seems wrong. I blink my eyes and notice that the room is
almost completely black. Neither moonlight, nor tender light of dawn filter
through the blinds, and I am beginning to wonder what could have woken me
so early. Then I hear it. A faint gasp, or wheeze from the still form
beside me. My darling is not asleep, but rather struggling for air.

Miau? Are you all right?

Miau?! Why are you making those gasping sounds, and starting to thrash
about in bed?

You can't breathe! Miau!

Please, please breathe darling! Please



Miau! Miau! Miau! Miau! Miau!

I paw desperately at the covers, and pace up and down the bed, but you
start to make little wheezes, and moan slightly. Miau! Miau!!! Miau!!!

Suddenly, the door bursts open and the light comes on. I blink a little
and the one who doesn't feed me is standing in the doorway. Miau! Miau! He
barks down the hallway and your mother rushes to your bedside. She yanks
the covers off you and tries to help you breathe as the large one rushes
back down the hall. I don't think she does any more good than I did
though. Suddenly, there is a loud moaning outside, and two big fellows
rush into your bedroom and surround your bed. I am frightened out of my
mind when one of them straps something over your face, and am even further
alarmed when your own mother takes no steps to stop them. Surely, if you
are having trouble breathing in the first place, that thing could only
make matters worse. Without a second thought, I launch myself from the
floor into the center of the action. I make an attempt to remove the thing
from your face, but am too occupied by hissing fiercely at the crowd
around your bed to make much progress. They swat at me and try to grab me,
but I stand firm. They may be bigger, but I can certainly be fiercer.
Unfortunately, I am so focused on the two murderous strangers that I don't
notice the hand of the one who ignores me until it's too late. The grip
the scruff of my neck like a vice and fling me out into the hallway. By
the time I regain my feet, the one of the strangers is already carrying
you down the hall. I attack their feet, but they quickly move past me and
carry The One I Love Most out the door to the outside, slamming the door
behind them.

I sit and stare at the wall, only barely noticing my darling's mother
gather up the small loud one from his bed and carry his sleeping form
outside. I hear the car door slam, and they leave me all alone.


I don't feel like moving much, but after a while my back starts to ache
and I walk back into the now empty bedroom of my dearest. I can't summon
the energy to jump onto the bed, but the covers are laying on the floor
next to them and I collapse on them, totally exhausted. I can't sleep
though, and eventually decide to go to the pool and think a bit.

The moon isn't in the water any more, because the moon isn't in the
window. Still, the same old question returns. Why do I hate getting wet,
when The One I Love Most loves it? Fatigue and wretchedness don't make the
unanswerable any easier to face. As I plod slowly toward the window, I can
still hear the soft lapping of the water. I pause again for a little
drink. The water is totally black. The board that extends over the water
has a nice rough surface, just the thing to calm my nerves and let me
sleep. I climb on top, rub my flank against the sandpapery surface, and
fall asleep.

At 4:30 AM, Katheryn Palmer, age 9, was admitted to St. Blaze Hospital for
spasmodic laryngitis, also known as the croup. She responded well to
antibiotics and artificial respiration, and recovered quickly. She was
discharged the same day at 9:00 AM.


I awake to the sound of the footsteps of the one who ignores me on the pool
deck. Blearily, I watched as he and my dearest's mother look at me and
make noises at each other. Their voices echo in the high ceiling of the
room, distorted oddly. The One I Love Most isn't there though. Where is

Miau? I inquire. They ignore me. Where has my dearest gone? Was she
suffocated? Miau?

I lay my head flat on the rough surface of the board I slept on, and stare
at nothing. The voices echo on endlessly, it seems. I barely notice the
third voice that joins the babble. The One I Love Most wanders through the
empty space I stare at.


I snap out of my fugue and sit up. My dearest is in the pool! Overjoyed, I
run to the end of the board to get a better look. Oh my darling, I love
you so much! So much in fact, that I don't check my momentum as I reach
the end of the board. Without thinking, I execute a graceful leap from
the end of the board. I look down at the empty space between my paws and
the air. Part of my mind is alarmed that I am about to hit the water, but
its alarm seems small and far away. I realize that I know the answer to my
unanswerable question. The only answer is just this...



Copyright 2000 by Nels Lindberg. If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask for permission first. Thank you.

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