For most of my childhood I wasn't allowed to have a cat. Every time I'd ask, my father would simply say that some wild dog would probably catch it and eat it, so why bother. This worked well for him because how do you reply to something like that? Naw Dad I'm up for a little excitement...let's try it anyway? I knew right off that there would be no animals in the house, and I also knew that he was probably right about something potentially killing the cat. And because I'd witnessed first hand how excited my father got when his headlights exposed an unsuspecting possom trying to cross the road at night to find a little grub to eat, I also had to think about him as a potential hazard as well. "Ah ha! Looky there" he'd shout upon seeing the possum and then before I could even focus my eyes on the little guy I'd hear him underneath the truck tires. Duh dump! And then, "got 'em!" Ah ha! Ha ha! And if there ever was a time when my father wasn't too sure whether or not the animal was dead, well he'd glance in his rearview mirror to make sure there was no one coming, throw the gear in reverse, and then go at it again, this time with veracity and skill and focus. All I could do was put my hand over my little brother's eyes to shield him from sight of it all, but unfortunately there was not much to be done about the recurring duh dump from underneath us. Such is life in the country. You can actually take time to kill a thing in the road, once, twice, three times if you have to. Dad did this with snakes sunning themselves on the blacktop or the dirt roads in the summers too. There wasn't too much excitement way out there amongst the forest and trees and tractors and gardens and folk but once in a while, a snake or possum would get brave enough to try his luck.
When I was older and had years of therapy under my belt to overcome the duh dumps in my childhood, I decided I would get a cat. First there was Charlotte, the sweetest grey tabby I've ever known, and then six months later we adopted Rusty, her half brother. And because I was whiny about the prospects of them going under the knife, we had a cute little litter of six kittens! Nevermind the fact about the incest. Hal and I helped birth the babies one night. I remember it well. Lost a good comforter that night in the process. Big fat pregnant Charlotte was lying between us in bed when she squawked and squeaked and we knew it was time to get her out of our bed. We picked up the whole comforter with her on it and spread it out in the livingroom floor. And then we watched in equal parts horror and delight as all her tiny little babies were born. The last little guy didn't make it and Hal and I both got tears in our eyes as we wrapped him up and buried him out back. Bradley was the fifth, and most difficult. Because Charlotte was so tired from licking, licking, licking and birthing, birthing, birthing, we'd had to intervene with him and cut his cord and get him out of the little protective sac. His back legs didn't want to work at first so we babied him a lot and wound up keeping him for the next seven years. Charlotte and Rusty and Bradley had to move into the warehouse where Hal's business was when we had to move into the dorm for my graduate assistantship, and eventually Charlotte and Rusty put out a paw and took a ride to some other place I suppose. But Bradley stayed and was the best and loudest and most "talkative" cat I'd ever known. When we were living up in Virginia after grad school, we adoped P.P., a sleek black kitty. She's still with us and has decided that a) she hates the new kittens, and b) she's never coming into the house again. She still shows up for supper and rubs all over my leg if no one's looking. She's a warrior cat and must protect her image in the neighborhood at all cost. This means lots of hissing and growling and not a whole lotta lovin'. Recently a new little kitty has decided that he wants to live here, or at least around here, which sometimes means the garage, again, if no one's looking. Thing is, he looks exactly like P.P. except he's much younger and thinner and scared of me. I discovered him one night when I went to put food out for P.P. and thought for a moment that he was P.P. The cat across the street looks like P.P. too, except he's older and fatter and his face is boxy...so it's not unusual to see a black cat that isn't mine. Over the last two months I've been shooing the old fat cat back to his house and trying to get the young thin cat to trust me. He's got an adorable face and I think P.P. might be willing to tolerate him. So every night I put the Meow Mix out and every night I talk to him in my very best kitty voice and he's getting more and more comfortable. Today I have decided that I will give him a name. But since I've never had a cat adopt ME, this will require some consideration. It needs to be something that evokes survival and bravery and cuteness all in one.
The other day my neighbors and I were chatting about some loose and lost boxers wandering around. Crush was trying to make his eight and a half pound body look menacing and foreboding so the dogs wouldn't come after him. He stood sideways and arched his back and fluffed out all of his thick orange fur.
Is that your cat?
Yes, that's the mighty Crusher as Hal calls him.
Just then the stray comes up on the porch.
Is that P.P.?
Nope, that's our stray I tell her. I catch myself. Our stray?
Then her old fat cat crosses the street towards my yard. P.P. is there too. Soon there will be three black cats standing on my porch, a calico in the shrubs, and little menacing orange tabby fluffing at the edge of the sidewalk.
Boy, all the cats just love your house!
It must be the Meow Mix.