The Scenic Route: Day 28

Miss Kitty

It’s amazing the difference a day makes.

I am not proud of yesterday’s piece, because it was completely self-involved and out of touch.

The truth is, until I lose my addiction to being a victim, I have very little hope, but this exercise is about writing despite my inner cynic’s ever present monologue. 

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A visit from Miss Kitty

I was visited by the neighborhood cat yesterday. There is a stray cat who enjoys our property like it’s her own. I will frequently see her perched at the the top of the stairs in front of the house.

I never owned a cat. My Mom has been phobic about cats since her childhood, well before I even came along. 

Dad hated cats. He wasn’t afraid of them, he just saw them as filthy and diseased. Where he grew up, in Upper Darby, during the depression, there must have been an abundance of stray and/or feral cats. I will save you from the more graphic stories he told me, they were pretty horrific, and I don’t know if he was a participant as much as an unwilling observer. He was the youngest boy (second youngest child) of seven kids. He had 3 older brothers who were distinctly more rambunctious. Survival was my Dad’s primary motivation. The cat’s and their well being was not high on his list of priorities. He once told me, “A cat can’t scratch you if you’re swinging it by it’s tail.”

Mom’s phobia of cats has lessened over the years. She used to squeal any time she saw a cat on TV, loudly, so everyone knew, in no uncertain terms, that Mom did not like cats. Her’s was an irrational, but absolutely real fear, spawned from her childhood experiences. She saw a mortally wounded rabbit with it’s heart still beating.

She always said that cat’s collectively knew she didn’t like them and therefore were naturally curious of her. It turns out, she might be right. I have personally experienced this with her at a few different functions. The most memorable was a fundraiser event, sponsored by the magazine I worked for, at a mansion on Mt. Washington. In the middle of an enormous party of at least 500 people, spread over 4 floors (and an outdoor pool), the tortoise colored cat made a beeline for Mom. I remember seeing the crowd part to get out of the cat’s way as he came towards us. Mom shrieked slightly, but not wanting to make a scene, we gingerly excused ourselves and headed for the exit. It was a close call. “You know, they go right for your jugular,”  Mom said on the way home.

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Betty circa 1995

The only time in my life that I lived with a cat was when I rented a house on Sarah Street in the Southside. I had 3 roommates at one point and one of them had 2 cats. There was a white and tan cat named Peekin, who was always peeking and freaking and frequently “sang” on the steps when no one was looking. Then there was Betty, a medium length, all black cat who was as calm and serene as a femme fatale from a noir classic. She was Lauren Bacall in cat form. It’s like she stepped out of a pulpy crime novel. She walked like she was balancing on an invisible tight-rope wherever she went, be it the back of the couch or the middle of the rug. Peekin zipped around the house and froze when he stopped, as if he thought he couldn’t be seen, if he didn’t move. 

Betty adopted me. When I came home, she ran up to my room, and flopped on her back,  wriggled, and purred demandingly. She hopped up on my bed and insisted I get to the cuddling. Sometimes I would get her so blissed out that she would be flat on her back, completely prone, almost catatonic, purring uncontrollably and loud, with her chest heaving, and I would notice the tiniest little bit of white on her throat. If she was calm and relaxed enough, I could part her fur on her throat and reveal the whitest of white fur. She would mildly protest, with padded paws, but never stopped me or clawed me. It was almost like a secret she wasn’t ready to reveal. If a cat isn’t happy, they let you know. She was blissing the hell out. 

She slept with me every night and kept me warm, which was good because there was not much heat up in the attic. I wore bulky sweaters because she liked to knead my back. If the sweater was bulky enough, her claws only grazed my back and didn’t dig in too much. It was like that old cartoon with the bulldog and the kitten

When my roommate eventually moved away the next year, he kindly offered to give me Betty. Unfortunately I was moving back home. Mom would never allow it. Betty stayed with my roommate.

I heard she lived a good life, reached a ripe old age, and died peacefully in her sleep. And even if I didn’t hear that, that’s how I’m imagining it happened. 

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Miss Kitty

Yesterday, Miss Kitty stopped by. This time I was able to sit outside, without her running away. She stayed about 20 feet away and just reclined on the concrete and didn’t leave. I didn’t go up to her. She runs away if I get too close. I went back inside and continued to clean the kitchen. We had Philly Cheesesteaks and tater tots for dinner.

After a few minutes, the video doorbell on the side of the house registered motion. I looked out through the small window in the door and saw my little cat friend, rubbing her cheek on the bench where I was sitting. She’s a mostly cream colored cat with brown and tan accents around the eyes and tail. The pale blue eyes are so tiny and close together that she might be just a smidge cross-eyed. It’s like Trixie Mattel did her makeup. Halfway down her tail, she’s either missing some fur or there’s something wrapped around her tail, like a rubber band. Maybe some kids tied something to her tail. 

I went out again and she made herself comfortable under a hedge about 25 feet away from me. She blinked slowly a few times.

Just then, no bullshit, I saw Mom in the doorway. She had a quixotic look on her face and I told her that “my cat” was back. “I won’t let her in,” I assured her. “I promise.”

“Well that’s interesting,” she said, pausing, “because I was just sitting in the TV room and thinking maybe it’s time for you to get a kitten. If you get the attic cleaned up, mind you, and keep it cleaned up!”

I was floored. About a year or so ago, I floated the idea of getting a kitten as a way of battling my depression. Most importantly I would keep it up in my room, not down in the main part of the house. She actually said she would think about it. 

Anything is possible. 

Tomorrow: My Life With Dogs

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