Can you come here and help me with What's-Her-Name's flea medicine? Q said from the bedroom.
We must perform this two-person task once a month. He holds her on his lap, two legs in each hand, so she can't get away and I squeeze some flea medicine between her thin shoulder blades, the one place from which she can't lick it off. What's-Her-Name hates it, of course, although I don't know why, since it doesn't hurt her and it does protect her from fleas.
I decided that this would be a good time for a drug trial I'd been planning for some time. A reader sent me a suggestion about how we might end the war between What's-Her-Name and Ben, the New York ex-pat: put some catnip on the carpet, she said, and let them enjoy it for a bit. Then put some catnip on each cat. They won't fight if you do this, she said.
I carried Ben into the bedroom and What's-Her-Name set up a low growl. I tossed some catnip onto the carpet for Ben, who sank immediately to the floor and began to roll in it. We performed the flea ritual on What's-Her-Name and I sprinkled a little catnip on Q's knee. She began to nibble at it and stopped growling, but she kept Ben in her field of vision. Encouraged, I added more catnip to the carpet and put a little on Ben himself. He began tying himself into knots trying to get at it. He was having a little trouble deciding between the catnip on the floor and the catnip on his own body. You could tell, though, that this was a nice problem to have.
Then I put some of the herb on What's-Her-Name. She flinched dramatically when I touched her, although I have never in my life hurt that cat. Now let's turn loose of her legs, I said, and let's see what she does. Q released his grip on her legs. Catnip fell like confetti as she took off in the general direction of the attic, but she didn't turn back to join her nemesis in abusing catnip. I cannot help but admire her integrity. This was last night after supper. We haven't seen her since.
Ben noticed none of this. He lay on the floor in a catnip-induced stupor. He didn't jump on her as she passed, or chase her up the attic stairs, as he usually does. Ben was a mellow guy.
Well, there was no fight. Nobody would describe their relationship as warm, but they managed, albeit briefly, to occupy the same room without any fur flying. I'm not sure I would describe what we achieved as peace, but it was no longer open war. I suppose that's something.