2:30 a.m. Wake up and groggily try to get my bearings. Someone is sleeping on my head. Someone else is sleeping in my face. Sensing movement he stretches luxuriously, extending one paw into my right eye, the other into the corner of my mouth. I spit fur and jockey for position on the pillow. I'm fully awake now. A second too late, I realize my mistake. I try to feign sleep again, but it's too late. Sensing the return of a human consciousness, the downstairs cat starts wailing for her breakfast. I sense I have failed to impress upon her the meaning of the end of daylight savings time. Perhaps if I lie here quietly for a few minutes, she will go back to sleep. However, this just gives me time to reflect on the fact that I have to use the bathroom and I really want something to drink. Decision time. If I get up, I will wake EVERYBODY up. With the exception of my human companion, who can seemingly sleep through anything...thunder storms, earthquakes, six hungry cats impatient for their breakfast...
Resignedly, I get up. Stumble to the bathroom. The word goes out. "She's up! She's up!" A flurry of activity. The bathroom door crashes open. Two of the boys swagger in to see if I am doing anything interesting in there with the door closed. I spend a moment longing for a place of my own, where I can wake up thirsty, get a drink and be back in bed in thirty seconds. Or pee in privacy, for that matter. Not in this lifetime.
I creep down the stairs, still labouring under the delusion that I can put off the breakfast ordeal until a more reasonable hour. The house is dark. Outside it is peaceful and quiet. I would like to enjoy the silence and solitude for a few minutes. I sit on the couch and light a smoke. "Just give me a minute to wake up, okay? It's not breakfast time yet!", I say, with what I hope is authoritative firmness and resolve. The darkness envelops me. I sink into the couch and relax. Suddenly, a dark shape slithers along the floor. It launches itself onto one of the other dark lumps on the carpet. A vicious sneak attack! Miscellanous thumps and bumps. Body slams and slapping tails. A wrestling match in progress. At last a plaintive cry. "Whoever that is, let whoever else that is out of that headlock!", I shout. The shapes scatter. The downstairs cat starts whining again.
Something nudges my foot. A cat toy? I lean over, trying to distinguish whether it is a tinfoil ball or a spongeball..."Arrrrghhh!! That's my foot, dammit! Your ball's over there!" Teeth and nails are extracted painfully as a three cat freight train goes rumbling by at high speed, heading from upstairs to the basement. The frenzy has only just begun.
Suddenly, I hear a rustling, crunching sound. "Is someone eating my plants?", I shout, an edge of hysteria creeping into my voice now. "That better not be someone eating my plants!" The sound stops, temporarily. Growling now in the kitchen, from the girl cat. Translation: "Mom, Buttley's staring at me!" Me, "Buttley, stop staring at your sister." More growling. "Mom! Buttley's MAKING FACES AT ME!!" "Buttley! STOP MAKING FACES AT YOUR SISTER!!" More wrestling, thumping, fat paw pads slapping on the linoleum. Whining from the dining room. Growling in the kitchen. And the plant noise is back.
"All right! That's it! You guys are in trouble now!" I shout, losing it entirely. I grab for the squirt bottle and start firing blindly, blanketing the room with water fire. At least some of my shots find their targets and the dark shapes scatter. Nothing for it now but to feed the monsters.
Collateral damage. I slog through damp puddles to the kitchen and hit the lights, muttering something about spoiled cats and it being only 3:00 in the morning, after all. I gather plates and tins of cat food. This takes some effort. Six cats equals six plates of wet food, four bowls of dry kibble and a communal water bowl. We used to have a communal kibble bowl too until we got Fat Merlin who has to be watched like a hawk lest he eat everything in sight.
I busy myself with my role of short order cook. Let's see. That's four bowls of liver & bacon, two with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and two without. Two bowls of senior's beef, one for the elderly cat and one for the boy who doesn't like liver. Except when he does. Okay, I'll put some of each on your plate and you can choose. A bowl of kibble for each of the boys, none for the elderly cat who finds kibble beneath her dignity and none for the fat girl who is on a diet. Feed the elderly one in the dining room where she currently lives (she's old, she does what she wants - hey, she spent three months living on our kitchen table this summer - whatever). The girl eats on the dining room table. Won't eat anywhere else. The skinny boy eats on the kitchen table so Fat Merlin can't steal his food. Fat Merlin eats in the kitchen where I can keep an eye on him. The other boy has to have his wet food and kibble in the dining room next to the water bowl, although he will not drink from it. The last boy eats on the stairs. Okay, one particular stair. I hover, picking up bowls as soon as they are finished eating, on account of Fat Merlin.
Next, it is time for drinks. Two boys will only drink from the bathtub faucet, except for when Tigger wants to drink from the kitchen faucet. Fat Merlin prefers the bathroom sink. Two cats will actually drink from the water dish, but only if their brother has not dropped kibble into it. So I make the rounds turning on the taps, and a few minutes later have to go around again turning them off.
The downstairs cat is crying again. She's ready for a refill. Then I have to carry her to the cat pan, since she won't go there on her own anymore. So I stand there, a grown woman, saying "Come on, Garfie, make a pee so Mommy can go back to bed, okay?" Usually she obliges. I will wait fifteen minutes and then take her back down again so she can poo.
After they have been fed, of course, they want to play again. I spend some time surrounded by the four boys, trying to convince them that between the four of them they should be able to come up with some sort of game to play that doesn't involve ME. No matter. We get the toys out. Only an hour now until I have to get up for work. Maybe a quick game.
Finally they start to wind down. I'm back on the couch for another smoke. Ten dirty plates are stacked in the sink. The cat pan has been well used and scooped out. The house is silent and dark. Outside it is peaceful and quiet. I lie down on the couch, thinking to catch a quick nap before work. No sooner do I close my eyes than I hear the alarm go off upstairs. I struggle up again. The dining room cat, sensing the return of a human consciousness, starts whining for her breakfast...
I step carefully around the cat toys and leftover damp patches on the carpet from the water cannon, making my way to the kitchen for orange juice. The boys come running, hoping for breakfast. Expectant faces. I yell upstairs that it is my spouse's turn to feed them. Struggle into the shower, hoping the blasting water will wake me up enough to make it through the day at work. The bathroom door crashes open, and two of the boys swagger in to see if I am doing anything interesting in there with the door closed. A few minutes later the door crashes open again. "Can't you just go away!", I shout, "Leave me alone for a minute, would you? I'm busy!!" Muttering under his breath about incomprehensible mood swings, my spouse slinks from the bathroom. I spend a moment longing for a place of my own where I could shower in peace.
Exhausted, I descend the stairs. Ten more dirty plates in the sink. Thank God for the dishwasher. I look around the livingroom. The carpet is littered with toys, clumps of fur and kibble crumbs. Fat Merlin is asleep in the wing chair, on his back with his feet in the air, drooling. The dining room cat is curled up asleep by the baseboard heater. The skinny boy is cuddled up asleep on his blanket on the couch. The two other boys are snoozing on the other couch, snuggled up one at each end. The fat girl is sleeping on the dining room table. No one even wakes up to say goodbye as I head off to work.