Tag Archives: #catstories

No Goodbye: A Cat Story

Five years ago, when the gardener and I adopted Kana, our black cat, I wrote a little bit about my first cat who also happened to be black. I thought I’d tell you the whole story this time. Here is TOBY’S STORY (and I’m sorry, but it’s not a pretty one):

The cat that lived with the Cuban brothers across the street had kittens the year I was seven. My parents had never shown an interest in animals, but because I was an only child and begged so desperately, they gave in and let me choose an all-black kitten.  My mother named him Toby. The only other interest I remember her taking in him was when he had a hairball, and she read up about how to care for cats with hairballs.

Toby spent most of his time hiding under my bed or in the basement.  Mom would tell me to take him outside to go potty, but he would refuse to come out. I had to find him in a dark corner downstairs or slide under my narrow bed and grab him so that he wouldn’t make a mess in the house.  I wonder if Toby and I were afraid of the same things in that house.

I don’t know how I got this pic of Toby in the living room!

One day my mother screamed. “Look what that cat’s done to my drapes!!” I ran into the living room. Tears streamed down her cheeks. The silk drapes had dozens of snags on them. Unfortunately, the drapes were the most elegant furnishing in our bungalow. They were cast-offs from one of my grandmother’s wealthy clients, and she had altered them for my parents.  I realized then that my secretive cat ventured out to the living room when everyone was asleep or not home.

A few months later, we picked up the baby brother I had been waiting for from the adoption agency office. Ted was a 6-week-old infant with a red rash covering his face. My mother hadn’t taken care of a baby for many years, and she became nervous and worried, imagining dangers.

One day that spring, when I got off the school bus, my father met me in front of the house. I was not used to seeing him home during the day. He sat me down and explained that Toby was gone. “Toby had to go away because of your new baby brother.” He told me he took Toby to a house in the country where he could live with more freedom. I don’t remember particularly believing him, but grief welled up in me like bile. Up to that point in my life, the only other serious loss I had encountered was three years before when I accidentally saw my mother cramming my white blankie into the garbage. Later, my mother would tell me, “Cats are dangerous to babies, Luanne. Toby could accidentally smother Ted.” But in those moments after I arrived home, only my father was there for me.

I still feel ashamed about what happened next. To stop my tears, Dad offered to take me to the store right then to pick out any toy I wanted. I had never in my life been able to pick out a toy. A Golden Book, yes, but not a toy. When I did receive something lovely, it was usually a hand-me-down or a gift my grandmother had sewn. We always had enough food to eat, but we were upwardly mobile poor, and my parents never bought me trendy, name-brand toys. While my friends had Barbie dolls, I had a Miss Suzette doll from Grant’s basement.

Although I continued to cry, I followed Dad to the car, and we drove to a fancy children’s store I had only seen from the outside. Once inside, my tears and confusion made it difficult to concentrate. I tried to focus my eyes, and the first item I noticed was a black imitation patent leather Barbie doll case. It epitomized the type of toys I could never dream of owning, so I pointed at it.

On the way home, I clutched the case in my hand, knowing I had betrayed Toby. I had begged to have him, which altered the course of his life. Then I accepted an empty plastic box with a handle in exchange for his silky fur and beating heart.

###

I don’t know what ever really happened to Toby. I think it’s probably true that he went to live in the country because my father knew a lot of people and could have easily made that happen. But was he safe in his new home? That I don’t know. I hope he was happier than at our house. My father yelled too much, and that probably scared Toby. Since he would hide under my bed, I have to assume he wanted me to protect him. But I couldn’t protect him while I was at school. My parents would have never intentionally hurt Toby, but they didn’t make his life any easier. While I think it’s a likely story about Toby going to live in the country, I have never actually asked my parents if that is what really happened.

Alternative end to memory: I asked one of my parents, and he/she lied to me because they know I love animals and freak out about any harm to them.

I really can’t remember. What do you think?

 

63 Comments

Filed under #amrevising, #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

Official Cat Update

The big news around our house is that we finally adopted Perry. He’s no longer our foster cat, but our permanent family member.

Perry is full of cuteness. He still fetches and cuddles and licks. He also sits up on his butt like a little meerkat. He looks like he’s praying.

Perry seems to be feeling ok. He’s been out more with the other cats, annoying Felix and Kana in particular. He wants to spoon with Felix, and Felix won’t stand for it, but then Felix wanders the kitchen looking for a safe place and not finding one. He wears a forlorn expression now, except early morning and evening when Perry is in his room. Kana can’t even eat in peace. Perry lies in wait to grab her food as soon as she is done.

Yup, Kana is eating in the pic. And that is Perry on our left, smelling that special hypoallergenic kibble.

I had a nightmare last week about Kana. It went on and on and on. I kept waking up, only to fall back asleep into the same dream. My cats were at the neighbor’s house (but it wasn’t my neighborhood or my neighbor’s house and there were no people in the dream) and when I went to get them, the front door was open about 5″. I grabbed a couple of cats and ran them home, slamming that door shut behind me. Then I went back for more cats. When I looked around my house, I realized Kana was gone. I couldn’t find her anywhere. She must have gotten out before I got to my neighbors. This dream was on repeat for SO long.

Kana

The day after the dream I realized it was Black Cat Appreciation Day. So I dunno. But one of the triggers for the dream was probably what happened a while back. SLOOPY ANNE GOT OUT OF MY HOUSE IN THE DARK OF NIGHT! If you have indoor/outdoor cats and have had no problems, bully for you. But in my neighborhood, there is a pack of gynormous coyotes and the humongousest bobcat of all. There are no living cats in my neighborhood which was why we had to trap Perry and get him indoors right away.

What must have happened was that the gardener was grilling a burger for himself and, since he’s Sloopy Anne’s favorite person, she must have followed him outside. He spotted her sitting under a patio chair, although it was so dark even with the patio light that at first he thought it was a generic cat, not one of OUR cats. Then he realized it was our sweet pea. We both started trying to get her. Understand that she’s the cat that is the most difficult to catch of all six. I couldn’t even bring her to the vet for a recheck after her teeth cleaning because she was too wily.

If it hadn’t been so serious and scary, our attempts to grab her would have been quite the slapstick. We, and especially me, ran through all the flower beds and bushes as Sloopy Anne climbed the palo verde trees, the outside wall, and even the oleanders (which are toxic to animals). She sat up on a tree branch taunting me. I began to think about the long night ahead. I realized I would have to sit outside, ready to scare off coyotes, if we couldn’t get her to come in. At one point my bad foot came down on a rock half embedded in the dirt, I twisted my ankle, and fell–smack into freshly cut tree branches and bushes with thistles. YAY! The more we ran after her, the more the old Sloopster refined her movements, thereby reducing her exertion, but keeping us moving.

When there is an urgent situation (or an emergency), the gardener is more of the panic-driven-take-charge type. I am more of the calm-and-hyper-focused-fall-apart-later type. And he’s never tried to grab Sloopy Anne in his life, leaving that sport to me. So he was trying to call the shots. Giving me a sheet to throw over her, telling me go run that way and I’ll go this way, that sort of thing. For a half hour. Finally, I yelled at him to go to the other side of the patio and stay away. He was so worn out at that point, he slunk off. walked over to where I told him to wait. Then I ran and opened all three doors to the outside: front, side, garage. Within five minutes Sloopy Anne went near the gardener, he chased her inside, and I scurried on my don’t-ever-run-again foot and the other foot to slam the doors shut. Sweet pea captured. Whew.

I started shaking at that point. Later, when I was able to think clearly, I noticed and thought about a few things.

  1. I was lucky I didn’t get hurt worse. I had abrasions and bruises all over, even on my forehead, but these are all easily healed with no long-term effects.
  2. Whenever I am outside, I avoid shadows and dark areas religiously. One never knows where a rattlesnake waits, ready to strike. But I never gave them a thought when I was worried about Sloopy Anne. I get brave when I’m scared. It’s just afterwards when I think of what could have happened . . . .
  3. Sloopy Anne is mad about Perry. She doesn’t like him, and she’s the only one he’s scared of. Keep in mind, she’s a little thing, but moves back and forth along the bitchy to sweet scale very rapidly.
  4. Sloopy Anne LOVED climbing trees. And she had fun outside. She has no idea of the dangers, figuring she can just come back inside whenever the going gets tough. So now she sits by the glass door waiting for someone to open it so she can squeeze out.
  5. My other cats are not eager to go outside, although Kana and Tiger each have been out once before–but this was the first time one of US let a cat outside.
  6. I can’t trust the gardener any longer around doors.

 

Sloopy Anne

While I’m on the subject of cats, I wanted to mention elephants (because you know I love elephants, too). If you have been out and about–at least on the internet–in the last week, you know that the United States is set to betray elephants BIG TIME.  The Department of the Interior plans to allow imports of elephant and lion trophies from Africa! This gives a big green light to all the creeps in this country who want to kill elephants and cart home their serial killer trophies to remind them of their own evil.

You can watch Ellen DeGeneres talk about elephants in this video. For everyone who reposts or retweets the elephant photo she shows in the video and the hashtag #BeKindtoElephants on social media, Ellen will make a donation to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he was going to take another look at this matter. Don’t let up the pressure.

GO. NOW. #BEKINDTOELEPHANTS and sign some of those many petitions circulating Facebook and Twitter!

60 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction