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Karen and Cat Lady

I’ve been working in the garage a lot these past couple of months trying to build what is essentially a giant hamster wheel. “Who needs a giant hamster wheel?” you may ask. The answer, silly, is Karen and Cat Lady.
You may have seen Cat Lady about town, she’s the woman that has a special stroller designed to push her cats, currently Sissy Lu and Puffy. While she walks, she talks to her pets much as a mother might, cooing soft words of praise and comfort.
More than one neck has cracked as pedestrians innocently take a peek at what they expect to be a human baby and do a double-take at the furry critter before them. Cat Lady basks in all the glory of a proud mother on these occasions gushing, “Isn’t my baby the best you’ve ever seen?”
Before the onlooker can answer, she’ll turn her attention back to her little darling and praise, “Oh yes she is! Oh yes she is!” If the bystander continues to linger, she’ll unzip the enclosure, swoop up a cat, and offer it saying, “here, would you like to kiss my baby?” And if the innocent stranger isn’t dialing 911 or ducking for cover yet, Cat Lady will pull the cat to her face and give it kisses on the lips.
Tragically, Cat Lady backed her bright yellow sports car over the stroller last year (no one was injured) and is no longer going on her regular ambles. I hear she’s saving up for a new one.
Karen is a totally functioning adult. For the past decade or more, she’s worked a series of jobs at the university as a typist, transcriptionist, secretary, office manager, etc. Before that she was an optometry assistant. I met her in the late 1980s when I was a recently divorced man looking for prescription glasses, and she helped me with the fitting. We flirted that day, went on a date the next, and moved in together two months later. Everything was going fine until her crazy twin, Cat Lady, began showing up with bridal magazines under her arm and they began picking out china patterns. I pointed out to the ladies that I hadn’t proposed, but Cat Lady assured me I would. It was all a little too fast, and I bolted. Luckily, we’ve managed to stay friends over the years. Lately, Sabra and I have been playing Canasta with Karen and her current boyfriend, who is also her cousin, but that’s another story.
Besides working and playing cards with us, Karen interacts with a wide group of friends, stays in touch with a large family, bakes cookies at the drop of a hat, volunteers for causes, and lives in a snug, smartly furnished condo on the edge of town with her alter ego, Cat Lady.
Like a split personality, the décor of their home is halved between the sane human and the one gaga for cats.
Karen’s half is the inside of each room and looks like your everyday assortment of furniture including an oak roll top desk, chairs, sofa and kitchen table. Cat Lady’s half is along the walls, which are hung with empty shelves to make cat walkways to strategically located, plushy upholstered beds and entertainment centers of dangling toys, peep holes, and scratching posts. There’s even a three-story cat castle in one corner complete with a half dozen carpeted chambers, lookout tower and drawbridge.
In short, it’s a cat’s paradise: everything a pet cat could possibly have.
Except a cat exercising wheel.
Both Karen and Cat Lady saw it on YouTube, but it was Karen who emailed me the link. The video showed a cat scrambling up the inside of a giant hamster wheel, maybe four feet in diameter. After the link, Karen wrote the following short message. “Cat Lady says we have to have one of these, but I say they cost $800 and we can’t afford it! Any ideas? Karen.”
“Any ideas,” I thought, “you’re asking a man that has built his own automatic chicken door closer.”
To be continued, stay tuned.