Work was interrupted Saturday morning by the loud arrival under my desk of a cat - Xena. She was growling. Which meant she'd caught something. And, par for the course for cats, she'd brought it back to her squeamish master so he could watch and listen to her torture and tear it to shreds.
Cats are natural born sharers.
I looked down from my chair and ... was that a hornet in her mouth?
It was and it wasn't. Yes, it was a hornet but ... it was no longer in her mouth. She'd presented it to me, dropped it by my foot and sat back to watch.
Of course, I did what any rational adult would do when finding an angry hornet buzzing inches away from an exposed trouser leg. I ran screaming from the room.
And regrouped in the lounge, grabbing stout gardening gloves and a shoe. Of course Xena didn't wait for me to return. She picked up the hornet and started playing with it. A game which did not look like fun for hornets and involved much carrying around in the teeth, some throwing up in the air, a modicum of paw patting and a lot of scurrying. A game which enticed Kai and The Last Tribble to join in.
I was the slow one at the back of the pack, racing around the desk, the furniture and doing all the shouting. Commands like "Drop! Get back! Leave it alone!" hold no sway with cats. I gave up on Xena and the hornet and made repeated grabs for the tribble, not knowing if a hornet sting could be fatal for a little kitten.
But little kittens are sneakily fast and find all manner of narrow gaps to shoot under. Like under sideboards. Lying on the floor with your outstretched hand sweeping under a sideboard, feeling blind for a lost tribble is lent a considerable piquancy when you have two cats and an angry hornet racing around you, over you, and squeezing under the sideboard where your hand was last seen.
If I hadn't had a tribble to save I would have run screaming from the room. When my hands closed on the tribble that's exactly what I did do.
And put the tribble outside, closed the door and returned to the fray. More chasing, more lunging, more buzzing and more futile pleading.
Naturally Shelagh chose that moment to arrive and, opening the door, told me to stop getting the cats excited. Opening the door also let The Last Tribble back into the excitement. Square One was revisited with me lying on it, one hand delving under the sideboard snatching at fluff and tribbles while the other batted at killer mutant death hornets which I could hear buzzing all around me.
The excitement came to an end when Shelagh grabbed Xena and escorted her and the hornet outside onto the lawn. Sharp words were exchanged, jaws were prised open and a confused hornet flopped to the ground. And was despatched.
Five minutes later Xena reappeared under my desk. She had another hornet. Deja vu with yellow and black hoops. Had she found a nest? Was this what I had to look forward to for the next 24 hours. Groundhog Day with hornets?
We ran, we hid, we lunged, we buzzed. The entire household mobilised until once more Xena and her prey were caught and escorted outside.
For the next hour Xena was not allowed outside unaccompanied. I followed her everywhere - into the barn, the garage, the stables. But found nothing. Xena strolled around, looking up at me with a wide-eyed innocence that suggested butter - even the hornet flavoured variety - would not melt in her mouth.
Somehow, I think this story may not be over.