I've been asleep an hour, still in a dreamless state, loosely draped in only a sheet against the midnight heat, when I feel the unmistakable texture of a very small, very raspy (cat-like) tongue licking my index finger.
Some deep, primal part of my hindbrain recognises this sensation as WRONG and I wake instantly and fully with a yelp and a thrash. A small animal scuttles the WRONG way, up the bed towards my pillow and thankfully past it to disappear into the gap between mattress and wall before I can turn on the light.
Remarkably calmly considering the sharp teeth that probably could have accompanied the rough tongue, I lie back and wrap the sheet tightly over my entire head and body for a few seconds before the suffocating heat becomes unbearable and I kick it off again. Inspired, I kick the mattress beneath me to try and scare off the finger-licker and it must work, because later, as I gradually coast back into sleep, I hear a small scuttling along the floor, away from the bed and towards the open window. Sleepily I wonder what might have motivated its investigative tongue. Was he looking for a midnight snack and testing my taste before taking a bite?
The following afternoon as I bask in lazy sunshine with my feet in the fish pond being tickled by guppies and my own personal dragonfly coming to rest repeatedly on my knee (he does this most sunny days when I sit in the gazebo) my daydreamy mind reconsiders. Really, the night's tongue brushing my finger was just as gentle a touch as the guppies delicately nibbling dead skin. If I were a different kind of animal I would probably be able to interpret a lick like that as communicating (as well as collecting) a great deal of information. If I only knew how to understand wild animals with more than my eyes and ears, perhaps I would know whether the lick was as benign in intention as the dragonfly's trusting flutter.
I don't really want to invite more unexpected encounters with animal mouths, but in truth, there was nothing horrible about this one.