We got the cats because we wanted our kids to have something special. It’s sort of our cross to bear as parents who raise kids in a developing country, forced to wonder if we are doing enough for our children to feel that they are not getting ripped off.

Not now per-say, but you know, down the road, when our kids are grown….

I always play and replay the tapes in my head of conversations that I hope will never happen.

“Dad”

“Yes Sweetie” I reply, instantly attentive at the slight tell tale crack in her voice.

“Why did we live in Ethiopia for all those years” She asks, and I pause, waiting to answer, hoping to find the right words before I begin.

“Well” I say, pausing again to clear my throat.

“We wanted to help, we wanted to make a differe…” I say, but am cut off before I can finish my thought.

“It’s just that we are so different, we are such outsiders now because we didn’t grow up here. People talk about things like Justin Beiber and I don’t even know what they are talking about….”

It’s here that I imagine myself jumping in with this inspired tirade about all of the great things that we were able to experience, and how missing out on pop culture is not really that bad of a burden to bear. But then the darker more morose side of my brain attacks and the conversation goes downhill once again.

“I just wish you would have…..

Each time this tape plays in my head the next part is different, but always something about a stolen childhood and how things would be different.

And so we do things like get cats, or we drive all the way across town to get ice cream from places taste better, or we buy imported cheese…. The list goes on.

Last night though, I was not so happy about the cat getting decision, as a matter of fact I am pretty stinking sure that of the two cats that we did get for our kids, one of them is just about the dumbest animal ever.

She literally gets lost in our front yard, thats how dumb she is.

——

It’s 1 AM and I am up again, lights turned on in our bedroom, stack of papers in my hand, stalking what has to be the loudest mosquito I have ever heard. The same one that I have already tried to kill several times, but am now determined to get even if it takes me all night. Having finally came to terms with the fact that this particular mosquito is so loud and bites so hard that I am not going to sleep unless the thing is dead.

There will be blood! I whisper to myself, as I slowly move my eyes around the room searching for my enemy.

——

It’s 2 AM and I have given up, this mosquito apparently has discovered cloaking technology because although I can hear him, and have the red bumps on my face to prove his existence, I have yet to actually see him.

Lights come on and he is nowhere, lights go off and instantly he is back at my face again.

Instead I have resorted to plan B, the one where I put a sheet over my head. (A tried and true method that allows one to avoid getting bit, but does not provide for good sleeping conditions, only to be used in extreme cases)

I decide that I am tired enough for this plan to work. Besides, I smell awful from the water having been off in our house for the past two weeks, and so I decide that it’s likely that even if this one were to be found and killed another would just come in the cracks under the door to see what is rotting in here.

—–

It’s 2:30 AM and the first part of my plan is working, I am just tired enough to ignore the lesser amount of oxygen that is getting through the sheet, and although I can still hear said phantom mosquito, I have not been bitten in the last 30 minutes.

But now there is another problem. The cat that I told you about, the one who has not much in the way of brains has gotten herself locked out of the compound (again), and is in the middle of an altercation with one of the feline dissidents who roams the streets at night, (again).

I pull a second pillow over my head, arranging things just right so that I am able to both cover my ears, and still breathe through the sheet. It’s a delicate process, but I am experienced. I know what I am doing here.

Things are finally adjusted perfectly, and I am back at it, fully aware that if I don’t get some sleep now it’s too late.

——-

It’s 3:30 AM and the cat has not stopped, neither has the mosquito. I stand up, shaking off the pillows and throwing them off onto the floor.

This time I am serious.

I march down stairs, skipping two and three steps with each determined footstep and throw open the front gate.

This commotion scares the words dumbest cat and she darts under the neighbors gate and into their compound.

Thus I refocus and head back upstairs where I continue the hunt for my phantom mosquito friend, but once again remember his cloaking device and after a few minutes of searching, I give up.

—–

It’s 5 AM, neither of my opponents has stopped their relentless attack on my sanity, dreamless sleep has come and gone in short bursts, but its not enough to go on and I am exhausted.

Once again I head outside, this time being careful not to spook the animal who has now been downgraded to “varmint” status, and I decide shall no longer be called cat.

This time when I open the gate the varmint is sitting a few feet from me, her face mocking me, taunting me. I slowly back up, allowing space for her to feel comfortable, inviting her in, holding back the temptation to kick her as she passes.

I close the door behind her.

One small victory under my belt I head back to my room and once-again I wrap the sheet around my face, this time I pray for at least two hours of sleep.

——

It’s 6:30 AM and the cat has now joined it’s sister and they are both in the kitchen, howling for breakfast.

I stumble from my position in what should have been the place where I slept last night, and head down stairs and fill the cats bowls with food.

I look at my watch and decide to call it, it’s better to use the last hour and a half before the house is bustling for my quiet time, because sleep is never coming. Instead I find the words on my bible all blur together and I fall asleep on the couch while the sun starts to come through the curtains.

——

It’s 8 AM and Jessie calls me from our bedroom, I come up from downstairs.

“Oh there you are” Jessie says. “I was looking for you”

Before I can answer her, she points at the wall. “Did you see this thing?”

I look over, and see a blotch of blood nearly a half of an inch around.

“I killed it just now!” She says triumphantly.

“Thank God” I reply, “Thank God”

——

I might be good at a few things, but surviving off of little sleep is not one of them, and so today I found myself going through the same conversation with my future-old daughter, only this time with a different spin.

“Dad”

“Yes Sweetie?”

“Why did you get rid of that cat that I loved so much when I was a kid?”

 

 

Levi

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