It's bedtime. Dave's sinking into a comfortable snore and I'm just about asleep when I hear Ben The Cat begin his evening performance.
"Reowwww," he says, tuning up. Bass note 'owww' a little tremulous as his cat larnyx warms to the occasion.
Dave's snore is interrupted for a nano-second, then resumes smoothly.
Ben does this almost every night. As soon as we're in bed and the house is quiet, he sings. Usually just a few mournful wails because he knows better. When we first rescued Ben-Ben from the animal shelter six years ago he used to sing and sing and sing, until Dave got mad and chased him around in his underwear, Dave, not the cat, squirt bottle in hand, cussing and shrieking, not happy until the cat was soaking wet from squirt and Dave was soaking wet with sweat and there wasn't a hell's bells chance that anyone was going to get to bed that night.
It took years of midnight-underwear-squirt training but eventually Ben figured out that we didn't want him reowwwing while we were trying to sleep. For years he didn't make a peep. In the last few months, though, Ben-Ben has rediscovered his voice and has been entertaining us with cataphonic operetta most evenings. Luckily for him – and us – he usually only sings a few bars then closes the curtain, knowing that the squirt-bottle-equipped audience has a short attention span for feline divas.
But sometimes he can't help it. Sometimes the show must go on.
"Reeeeeeoooooooooowwwwwww," he says, gaining momentum.
Dave's snores stop.
Uh-oh, I think.
"Reeeooowwww," says Ben.
I open my eyes to the darkness, listening hard to Dave's breathing, wondering if he has woken up. There's a little hitchy sound, then his deep breathing returns. In a few moments he begins to snore.
Shit. Dave's bound to hear this and he's gonna be cheesed if he has to run around the house with a squirt gun. He's had a long week and he's tired. Still, I imagine Ben-Ben sitting out in the living room, tuxedo on, top hat stuck on his pointy head, singing away to the empty room, and I can't help it, I start to smile.
"Reeeeeeeeooooowwwwww," he sings. "Reeeeooow. Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeoooooooooooooowwwwwwwwww."
The smile has amped up and now I'm pressing back on a giggle, the kind of giggle that wants to be free, and the more I try to suppress the giggle, the funnier everything seems to be.
Dave makes a snorty sound, tosses around a bit, and slings a sleepy arm across my face with a thounk.
Omigawd, I'm practically sitting on my giggle now, it's everything I can do not to laugh, then Ben-Ben lets loose with a high end soprano so pure that, if sang in an opera house, would bring the house down.
And that's it, folks! Here comes the giggles! Big sassy from-the-bowels-of-my-bowels giggles! Ben-Ben hears me and closes the show, knowing conscious humans means squirt guns. I hear him running for cover, little kitty feet skittering across the floor and under the couch. Dave wakes up and wants to know what the feck is going on. He has only heard me laughing, not Ben singing, which makes me laugh harder. "Geez," he says, "can't a guy get any sleep around here?" Grumpy, he goes to the bathroom. My giggling eventually stops and apparently I'm sound asleep by the time Dave gets back to bed. In the morning he tells me he laid awake for an hour afterwards, staring at the ceiling while I snored contentedly.
"I don't know what got into you," he said, "but at least that damn cat was quiet."