First grader Lola had been praying every week since Labor Day to be chosen to be the "Superstar", who gets to sit in front of the class at the end of each day and talk about herself and share off some of her prized possessions. Finally it was Lola's turn.
The culmination of this week of "Superstardom" is the "Live Share", where the Superstar may bring in a pet or a relative to present to the class. Obviously Lola had quite a decision to make, who to bring in for sharing. Her first thought was Ray Charles, our little black cat, but I vetoed that on the grounds that Ray's health was too shaky for all that excitement. Even if Ray were in top form, I wouldn't want to subject him to that. He's a shy animal who has taken to squashing himself flat and scuttling crablike under the dishwasher when Lola has playdates. Al, who of all our pets nominally belongs to Lola, was never in the running. "Too gross" said Lola critically (Al, being unfortunately allergic to plaque, tends to drool and is chronically underweight, although I contend that his unusually bright orange coloring and his extremely long whiskers and fluffy tail compensate for his other aesthetic drawbacks). Similarly the green Amazon parrot was not considered (too bitey). Henry, an attractive animal whose vet refused to believe was feral ("A cat this pretty has to be a purebred", the vet said repeatedly), was cute enough for the job but temperamentally unsound, as Henry hates to be picked up, held, or restrained in any way. "She might scratch them," said Lola.
In the end, it came down to either Pigwidgeon, the African grey parrot, or Frowst, the big, fluffy black cat. Which would be the most impressive and popular? Lola chose Frowst, and she authorized me to bring Pigwidgeon in his stead if I were unable to capture Frowst on the day itself.
Iris was critical of this decision. "Pigwidgeon is cooler." Iris recalled her own days as a First Grade Superstar, when she had brought in her pet rats, Goosebye and Cutebone, instead of the adorable foster kittens we had at that time. Iris had done that to educate her fellow students. One little girl had heard that Iris had pet rats and sneered "That's gross" at her, and Iris became hellbent on proving to the first grade that rats are sweet and cute. Even as a first grader, Iris preferred making a moral point to being popular.
On Live Share Day, I lured Frowst in from the backyard with a fresh can of cat food and promptly crammed him into a carrier. He went into the carrier peaceably enough, and for almost the whole ride he laid quietly in his box, nuzzling my fingers when I put them up to the carrier door. Then suddenly as I was driving past Washington High School, which always requires the utmost in driving concentration as heedless teenagers are so often darting out into the street, Frowst freaked and started screaming his head off. We got to the school, and I had great difficulty in extricating him from his box, which he had decided was preferable as a known evil over the unknown evils of the classroom.
When I got him out finally, I learned that his screaming fit was not the only symptom of his distress. Poor Frowst had lost control of his bladder as well, and his glamorous long fur was soaked. I toweled him off the best I could and held him in a way which concealed his shame.
The first graders were exuberant and noisy at the sight of a Genuinely Fluffy Kitty. Many of these children live in petless homes (many lamented of parents who are allegedly allergic to animals) or homes populated only by the ghosts of dead pets (child after child told the gory details of how their pets had passed away). Lola was in heaven, sitting up in front of everyone and getting to call on them and to talk about her cat. Frowst hunkered down in my lap like he was digging in at Iwo Jima.
Half an hour went by quickly, and on their way out of the classroom, each girl was allowed to pet Frowst, who truly proved his merit by submitting to this. His only sign of resistance was his lowered ears.
Then we had to wait for Iris's class to be dismissed, and the fourth graders fell upon Frowst in a throbbing, shouting throng. "Can we touch him?" "Why is he here?"
In the car Frowst started screaming immediately, and I told Iris to take him out of his box. He cowered down on the floor of the backseat, hiding his head under the seat, and occasionally letting out a mournful moan. Lola was floating still, enjoying the aftermath of having been the subject of so much attention and admiration, but Iris was profoundly worried about Frowst escaping from the car. "He's not going to jump out of the window, Iris", I reassured her, but she couldn't relax. "Keep the windows up!" she instructed her little sister.
"He's going to explode out of here when I open the door," predicted Iris direly. But in the end, he refused to budge when we got home. I had to rip him up off the floormat forcibly, poor Frowst having decided that the car was a safe alternative to the first grade and having dug his claws in with all his might into the floormats. It took the poor animal some time to realize that he had been restored to his natural habitat. When he did, he took off for the backyard as though his tail were on fire.
In the evening, Frowst came back inside and was unusually loving. Purring and rubbing up against us, he avowed his love in a way which was heartbreaking. "Poor thing, he doesn't know enough to hold a grudge," I pointed out to the Sober Husband.
i have to admit i felt a little guilty laughing so wholeheartedly at poor frowst's dilemma. i'm not even sure why or what tickled me about this so much (though i think it was more the thought of lola preening and wallowing in the admiration and her chance to dominate her classmates). i'm sure that frowst's effusive love was due to him recognizing you as his saviour from the heel that was first grade.
I think he's saying "please don't rehome me! I'll be good !" lol
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