Cats! Ugh! At one time, the mere mention of the word cat caused my flesh to crawl, a cold shiver to travel up my spine, and my head to grow dizzy. After all, hadn’t my mother told me in a confidential tone “They’ll suck your breath”? They were the very personification of evil―or so I had been taught. No, no, there’d be no cats in my life. No sir-ee! And then, one day things changed. I can remember it all now as if it were yesterday.
It was a Sunday evening in September 1988. I had spent the weekend fly fishing on the Beaverkill River, outside Roscoe, NY, a place that was to become the setting for my Matt Davis Mystery Series. Before leaving for the ninety-minute drive home to New Jersey, I stopped at the Roscoe Diner and called my wife, Becky, to tell her I was on my way. This was a ritual we had established to minimize worry on my wife’s part. As I recall it, the call went something like this:
Me: “I’m leaving Roscoe now.”
Becky: “Okay. Oh, by the way, we have a guest.”
Me: “Who is it, Bill?” (Bill was an old friend, who occasionally surprised us with a visit.)
Becky: “No, it’s a cat.”
Me: “A cat?!“
Becky: “It’s a kitten, actually. I ran over its mother and when I stopped, it was on the side of the road.”
Me: “Well, just get rid of it. You know how I feel about cats.” (The world knew how I felt about cats.)
Becky: “I promise it won’t be any trouble. Can’t we please keep it? Please?”
Me: “I’ll see you later.”
In Exactly ninety minutes, I arrived home to find my wife and my stepson, Jared, in the kitchen on their hands and knees, both of them in tears. No trouble, huh? I thought. “Okay, what’s going on?” I asked. They explained that the kitten had somehow gotten into the tiny space behind the kick plate of one of the bottom cabinets. It wouldn’t come out for food, and neither of them could fit a hand inside the opening to retrieve the frightened feline. “No problem,” I announced. I went down to my basement workshop and got a five-pound sledge hammer. In the blink of an eye, I splintered the Luan plywood bottom of the cabinet, exposing the trembling kitten. I reached my hand through the opening and grabbed it. Holding it aloft for both of them to see, I stared at the little gray ball of fluff . . . and fell in love! (We later found out he was a Maine Coon.)
Naturally, I couldn’t admit my feelings immediately. I had to continue the charade for at least another day. It took my mother-in-law, Arminè Giragossian (Armenian, what else?) to set the stage for that occurrence. Monday, as I worked on the deck I was building for Mommy, she asked, “Honey, don’t you think you could let them keep the cat? You know Becky and Jared would just love it. Please?” It was a known fact (especially to her) that I could never say no to my mother-in-law, so, the die was cast.
That evening, when I got home, I announced to the family, “Okay. You can keep the cat. But only on two conditions. Number one, I want to name it (I named him Wolfgang Amadeus) and number two, I don’t want anything to do with feeding him or any of that other stuff.” Yeah, fat chance.
Within a week, “Wolfie,” as we ended up calling him, was sleeping in the crook of my knees every night; I was feeding him every morning; wiping his butt when he had an accident; cleaning his litter, and cutting his nails. In short, Wolfie became my constant companion for the next thirteen years, until he finally succumbed to kidney disease and congestive heart failure. I’ve never cried harder than the day he left us. Today, we have two wonderful calico cats, Cassandra Catherine (Cassie) and Calliope Catherine (Callie) that are approaching eleven years of age. Cassie is “mine,” and Callie belongs to Becky. Collectively, they are the glue that holds our lives together.
So, after all these years, what is my opinion of cats? It’s simple: I don’t know how I ever lived without them. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go feed my babies. Callie! Cassie! Daddy’s coming . . .
NOTE: Joe Perrone Jr is the author of the highly-successful Matt Davis Mystery Series: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day (a 2012 Indie B.R.A.G. medallion winner), Twice Bitten, and Broken Promises. All four are available in paperback and E-book. As the Twig is Bent and Opening Day are also in audiobook, with Twice Bitten and Broken Promises soon to follow.
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