Monday, December 12, 2005

A Tale of Five Kitties

Ok, I know it isn't a food story...but I did mention a glass of Mosel!

"Five cats!" I said "You have five cats?" My disapproval was tactlessly revealed. She looked at me as if to say "I thought you were a really nice guy up to this point!" "I can't believe anyone would have five cats!" There was a pause while she looked at the ground. In a stronger voice she said "We like cats!"...We? Oh, now she was bringing her mother into this picture, I suppose she thought her mother's age and wisdom would lend some validity to this folly. As I looked at this beautiful young girl I began to realize the cold truth: if I had any chance of getting to know this delightful creature I was going to have to inventory five cats into the deal. My God, five cats! It might as well have been couple of children as far as I was concerned. I thought having five cats was something old spinsters did to keep themselves company, or perhaps used by witches for casting spells, not girls like this. From all other angles she was quite normal...but five cats!

"How do you remember all their names?" I asked, like a moron. She smiled with the look of a mother teaching something to a small child. Clearly I had a lot to learn about cats. "You will meet them," she said "don't worry."

Then it happened, my first introduction to "the family". We had to round them up, they were all over the house. First I was greeted by Halley named after the comet. She was a calico and the most sociable by far. The second was Pretty, an enormous cream-colored Persian male. "My mother's favorite" she said proudly. As I looked at him, I invisioned shedded hair all over the house, but, I kept my blasphemous thoughts to myself. As we searched the house for the others, we saw a quick flash as another furry goblin darted from underneath one bed to another. "That's Wally, he's anti-social." she said in a very matter-of-fact way. Great, five cats and at least one of them needs a psychiatrist. I could scarcely imagine how many hours a day this woman vacuumed up cat hair, but I'm sure the task was a formidable one. Something told me this was not going to be a very long relationship.

Ok, three down and two to go. "Let's look outside!" she said as if it were an Easter egg hunt. In the neighbor's yard I spotted a tail-less orange cat stretched out in the shade and sound asleep. "There he is...that's Studebaker or Studly for short". He was quite the specimen, strong as an ox and very lazy. Perhaps his tail-lessness caused him some insecurity and therefore he compensated for it by doing kitty body building. He was the Dolf Lungren of cats.

"Where is Rusty?" she said as she looked around the yard "he must be here somewhere." She called and called but "Herr Russelmeier" apparently had another engagement. We decided that it was time for a glass of Mosel on the patio, so we sat and chatted as we sipped. I was making every effort not to bring up the subject of cats, but that didn't last long!

The last of the clan finally decided to make an appearance...I say "an appearance" because it definitely could not be described as a grand entrance. Here before me stood the saddest example of a cat I had ever seen. He was boney and a washed-out looking orange, his face had several scars and there were notches in his ears where bits were missing altogether! Good God, what's that? I leered. "That's Rusty, he is MY cat!" she said proudly. Her taste in men was beginning to worry me, suddenly I wondered if she felt sorry for me too!

What have I walked into? Of the five cats, there was a big, fat, furry Pasha, a psychotic recluse, a vainglorious macho man, and a beaten up sack of bones, the only one that held any promise was the calico. What in the world could her criteria for picking cats possibly be? Something akin to the Charlie Brown Christmas tree syndrome?

"Ok, (the sound of a needle scratching a record) hold everything!" I know what you are thinking... I am going to end up loving every one of these cats like adopted children and everything I have written up to this point is an elaborate and brilliant feint to make you think I don't like cats...right? Well, I only have one thing to say.... you are right....but it wasn't my fault. You see, my original astute observation about old ladies and witches was correct.

Melanie is a witch...not a wicked witch (though she has her moments). Melanie is a good witch, like Glenda in the Wizard of Oz, she is even from Kansas which proves my point. She used the cats to cast a spell over me, I'm sure of it. She fed them stinky magic potions that came in little tin cans which made the cats inordinately happy and agreeable to me. She also gave me a magic wand with feathers on the end, that when waved in the air, had magical powers that made the cats dance and play, then fall fast asleep in my arms. It was magic, I'm sure.

But the biggest spell was cast by the most unlikely of the cats. I was trapped and there was no way out...the ugliest, scrawniest, boniest cat loved me. He didn't just love me, there was something magical in it, and I was powerless to defend myself, Melanie's spell was too strong. He slept with me, he followed me, he talked to me, and I loved having him around. We became best friends, and as soon as I sat down he was in my lap. If we left him for more than a day he would pout and not talk to me for a day or two, then after he felt that he had punished me enough, everything was normal again. He caught squirrels and mice and proudly delivered them to me, and I repaid him with constant attention. I called him dozens of different names and he came to everyone of them.

All of this began 20 years ago, and as perfect of a witch as Melanie is, she couldn't bestow immortality on her little accomplices. One by one we lost them...Studly and Wally were the first to go, then Halley and Pretty, and finally that wonderful old sack of bones that had made me so happy for so long, could go no further. Each one died in my arms, and I would have gladly sold my soul to a real witch to bring them back.

I guess that's the trouble with magic spells...they don't last.


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