I had many pets growing up. Three cats, two dogs, two other cats, a beloved hamster, Beatrix, who is buried in a matchbox by the Governor's mansion in NY, with the East River rippling by. I love all God's critters. He knows I do. He also knows that owning a pet at this stage of my life was something I wanted like a paper cut on my taint. Sometimes God is funny. Not hilarious, but cute funny. Mildy entertaining, like a co-worker performing at an open mic.
My kids, one and two, were desperate for a furred object. Preferably Dog in nature, something giant, and wet and slobbery, something optimally that would eat its own poo; something they could boss around on a leash. I could not possibly...
That's when Louis started asking for a kitten. Much in the way you might ask for a bike, when what you really want is a Cabriolet. Thing is, kittens, while adorable, are banana-cakes, loony, spastic, wind-up springing dander-balls, that are un-catch-able, impossible to cuddle. To prove this point I took the boy to Rescue Village, and let him play with three kittens...at once. Little did young Louis know, kittens can easily and without provocation launch themselves vertically from all four paws at once, like each pad has a Jetsons style propulsion unit embedded in it. Just straight up in the air, from a stand still, like they'd been burned by the very linoleum on which they'd just piddled. Also, they have claws, a rude awakening for the kid, because they used them to climb Lou's sweater, right up to his neck. This for him was a little like a kitten version of the scene from Alien; If they'd climbed out if his intestines, he could not have been more horrified. He wanted to hold them, pet them, love them. All they wanted to do was hang from the lampshades by their toenails.
I felt like I might be in the clear, pet-wise.
Not having a pet is a little like being a married couple without children. People look immediately for your damages. What fundamental flaw in character has led you to become trapped on the soul's ice floe, where love and compassion for the small cannot survive? I assure you I've got a warm lap and some adept scratching fingers for many a floppy and pointed ear. I freaking LOVE dogs, you just have to believe me on this.
We've already owned two hamsters in this house. Sunny, who went on walkabout and fell behind the dresser where she met her maker. I removed her with salad tongs and buried her in a shallow grave. I had no love for Sunny. And then there was Bitter, who was adored, living long and well under my care until she died of old age. She too is buried in a matchbox, under the swing in the yard. Her box is lined in purple satin, and decorated with little rhinestones, like a matchbox stolen from a Graceland guest room. Bitter was a good girl who could bite the shit out of you in a hurts-so-good kind of way with her needle-like teeth. Lily and I wept, well, Bitterly, well into the night, remembering the good times we'd had with our dwarf-rodent.
So, like I said, God is funny. He sent Vild away for a long time in a far away land and then he sent our neighbors over for a meet and greet with a very special stray. She'd shown up in the neighborhood, which is to say on our road, and the nice neighbors took her door to door to find her people. Her people were not to be found.
Immediately this cat showed herself to be a lady, well-mannered and affable. She tolerated the kid's overbearing attentions as they showed her around the house by her armpits. She endured while they snuggled her upside down, on her back, like a baby. She did not drag my sweaters out and screw them, like a male cat we once had, who would select his lovers from your shelves and leave them duly fucked around the house. She has no front claws, which, whatever your feelings about de-clawing, is a stroke of luck for us, and for Lou's sweaters and courage. I said I would foster her until the Rescue Village could take her. I wasn't going to get a pet, see.
You all know how this story ends. Its not a surprise ending. I fell for her when I was home one day from work and she came and tended me like a kitten of her own, kneading my chest into dough, purring loudly at even the smallest attention. She loved me without needing me too much. Delighted in my games of fetch and string. Pooped in her cat box. What could I do? And then there was this:
My ice floe melts, an inconvenient truth.
And then there was this:
And what the hell is a girl supposed to do?
Especially with this:
You hear that laughing, don't you? I hear it too. Meet Ella. She's our cat. You may now feel free to cough up a hair ball and drive into a ditch.