Samantha "needed" a pet.
She's a 10-year-old girl and this is pretty standard. A lot of ideas were floated, often on the spur of the moment, such as a guinea pig or hamster seen behind glass at a pet supply store.
I didn't see the point of setting mouse traps in my basement and garage only to invite a slightly fluffier one into my daughter's bedroom.
"Maybe," we said to her. "We'll talk about it later." The typical parent things to say.
When I was her age I had a cat named Boots. He was an orange cat who started out as a frisky little kitten and grew to be a fat old cat. For me, as an only child, Boots was a good friend. We had many adventures, including the day I brought him to school without permission.
My wife, Christine, had apparently grown up with all manner of vermin in her house -- a scruffy dog, various cats that hunted the woods along the shore of South Thomaston, guinea pigs, frogs caught outside and so on. Her sister, Leslie, was big on animals and eventually majored in wildlife biology. She now has multiple dogs, chickens, ducks and I think even a turkey in her yard in North Carolina.
Christine and I agreed to one cat.
So Samantha and Christine headed over to the shelter and I sat under the apple tree reading my book. They returned a long time later with not one, but two gray kittens (siblings), that took us over a week to name because we need to get over ourselves.
The male kitten we named Nemo, because I thought the patch of white on his face looked like an anchor. The female was named Luna because we couldn't talk Samantha out of it. I wanted to name her Piglet because she eats too fast, or Bugface, but I was overruled. This is not unusual, since I wanted to name Wesley "Anakin" and Samantha "Atari." What do I know?
That is how we got to where I am today, which is a state of perpetual annoyance.
Let's say, for example, I'm sitting around on a Sunday afternoon watching some old science fiction movie and I want a snack. It used to be that I could simply bring some chips and dip or cheese and crackers out to the coffee table and enjoy my snack.
Now there is a stampede of wide-eyed gray fuzzballs to my location, putting their disgusting, germy paws and slimy noses in my plate, my drink, my chip bag.
"No! That's not for you!" This is a waste of breath. The kittens take absolutely no notice of my voice commands telling them to leave or beckoning them to come. They do not know their names. They do not care about anything except finding something they shouldn't eat and stuffing it into their pink little maws.
They are allowed in the general downstairs living area, the halls and my daughter's bedroom at the top of the stairs. All other rooms are off limits, as is the outside world, which they have yet to discover. So everywhere I go, I have to close all the doors behind me. This is a new nuisance exacerbated by the fact that I live in an extremely old house where four out of five doors have knobs that pop off in your hand when you attempt to close them. This is something I've been meaning to fix for the past 15 years.
The other night when I was trying to write up the Planning Board meeting from South Thomaston, one or the other became interested in my typing fingers and decided that the only way to fully investigate would be to walk over the keyboard.
When I'm playing videogames and closing in on a score streak in a first-person shooter, Nemo likes to climb onto my chest and touch his nose to mine. Then he will turn around and give me a very up-close look at his back end. Given enough time, he will eventually settle into a purring sleep directly under my chin.
Nemo is robust and normal for a cat. Luna, his sister, is odd. She can't make normal cat sounds. She emits batlike squeaks that sound a bit like she has a busted transistor in there somewhere.
I am the only person in the family who sees the cats with anything approaching objectivity. The kids and Christine believe that the cuteness of two flea-bitten heads swiveling in sync to follow any movement outweighs any nuisance they might create.
It's obviously my long years as a journalist looking at things with clear eyes and seeking only the unvarnished truth that makes it possible for me alone to understand that this is an infestation.
Maybe it's really my fault.
After all, I said no to the hamster.
Daniel Dunkle is news director for Courier Publications. He lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, two children and two cats. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.