I said I’d go in there. But did not promise when.
During the same week, Anna and Colby welcomed “Baby Golda” into the world, and are also moving to a new house. One of our responsibilities during these turbulent transitions is to housesit their cat Tiki.
And right now, I am the only one in the house.
“Our” responsibilities are now mine.
Tiki, black as midnight, is a prodigiously large cat. Baby panthers look up and go, “Daddy?”
Here are my feelings about cats, which I hasten-before-I-am-critically-rebuked to report are respectful, but apprehensive. And if they are extremely large cats, as is our current resident, enormously apprehensive.
This personal apprehension comes from a deeply held though scientifically questionable belief; to wit,
“If you mistreat a cat, they can go to the phone and call lions.”
“We’re on our way.”
I know people who love cats. Concerning their natural aloofness and the undulating scratches decorating their owners’ bodies reminiscent of victims of a knife fight….?
“That is simply the way they are.”
…. their exoneratingly dismissive explanation.
I know cats a little. Wait’ll you hear this. I jotted it down beforehand, so I know it’s a doozy.
We had a cat once. Her name was Franky. Except she wasn’t our cat. And her real name was Clara.
Crazy paragraph, huh?
Once while we were eating dinner, a small but sleek yellow-and-black cat padded up to the open door of our kitchen and began scratching feverishly at the screen door... screen. First, we ignored her. Then we took her a saucer of water. And then table scraps. Soon we were buying her cat food. And taking her to the vet. Including the last time, when we said goodbye and they put her to sleep.
A multi-year “cat story”, rendered in seven sentences.
We called her Franky. Which, it turned out, was not her real name.
One night while I was working in New York I received a tearful phone call from Anna.
“Dad! They say Franky’s not Franky! She’s Clara!”
The neighbors behind us had a flurry of cats. One of them, whom we called Franky but who was apparently Clara, chose to “adopt” us and we took total care of her until, six or so years later, she died.
Franky was an “outside cat”, living in “the Wild” – if you can call the urban domesticity of Santa Monica “the Wild” – ultimately succumbing to an ailment “outdoor cats” are prone to succumbing to, if they can avoid run-ins with coyotes.
My enduring memory of our unlikely relationship is dragging myself home from work after midnight or substantially later, opening the garage door leading to the house, and there’s Franky/Clara, waiting alertly to greet me. As I stumbled up the steps, Franky continually cut in front of me. This was her idea of a game… played with an exhausted comedy writer with bad eyesight. But, you know… it’s an affectionate gesture. Like when she’d bring me a dead bird as a present. And I’d pretend to be grateful.
I believe it was comedian George Carlin who said pets are, in fact, tragedies waiting to happen. You love them and they die. But it recently occurred to me that that’s true about every relationship. Unless you die first… it can only be wished.
Okay. It is just about time to visit his feline lair.
Tiki currently resides in a little-used bedroom, behind an ominously closed door. With wary trepidation, I imagine opening the… you know what? I don’t want to imagine that. There is pouncing and jugular veins involved. And desperate crawling to the telephone.
Please forgive the frenzied hyperbole. Realistically, I just need to accept that every “cat experience” is going to be different. I know Tiki’s not Franky. Then again, neither was Franky.
Maybe we’ll bond. That’s a nice thought. You know an even nicer thought, it just occurred to me?
Before I know it,
… they’ll be taking him to their new house.
Okay. Let’s do this thing.
“Nice kitty. Nice…” – I’m rehearsing – “…kitty. Nice kitty…”
he was gone.