Fourteen years ago in winter, Snowball broke into our house. No – really. It had been bitter weather, and he had been hanging around our porch, probably because it afforded some shelter from the miserable cold, semi-enclosed as it was. I had started leaving some food out for him when it became obvious that he was sticking around more than part time. He had a red flea collar at first, and no tags, and no one on the block knew whose cat he was, if he was anyone’s at all – I didn’t feel bad about feeding him even a little bit. He was such a scrawny little bit of a thing.
My mom was up from FL to visit that week, and Our Man Cub was almost two years old. We had gone grocery shopping one evening and were sitting down in the living room after putting things away. Then I turned my head, and there he was, sitting on the back of the couch like he’d lived there all the time and we’d just never noticed. Well, hello you.
And it’s like this: the temps were sub-zero, and I couldn’t bring myself to send him back out. And Dearest Will was in New York that week, when we got the news that our friend Pat Storm had passed away in Thompkins Square Park. And Our Man Cub was really but a squirrely kit then, and my mother was in town, and really? The last thing on my mind was putting an animal back out into the cold.
And furthermore, the cat reminded us of Pat. We went so far as to say that the cat was haunted.* So he liked beer and went out of his way to stick his head in your glass – sure, lots of cats like beer. And he was alternately combative and affectionate – again, pretty much cat behavior. But the bit where I was on the phone with Will, and the cat was belly-flopping off the kitchen table over and over again? That – well, that was eerie, ok.
The Greys** named him Snowball, and he remained annoyed about it his whole life, dontcha know. In June, Dearest Will and I woke to find Snowball sleeping on the bed in the spot where the Greys usually slept – it seems that in the night Snowball had sliced a hole in the screen door and pushed them through into the Big Room. (Yes, we found them that day.***) Despite the spite, he grew into a 28-pound glory, and the very best shedder in the house.
He was a character, that cat. A daddy’s boy, his favorite spot was on top of Will as they both snored. He had a rich interior life that included the writing of various manifestos involving a brand of socialism where what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is also mine. He loved silky a ribbon, and would play with you for hours if you had one. He knew his coat was luxurious**** and would often entreat people to notice. “Tell me my coat is luxurious,” he would say. And then follow that up with, “Tell me I’m glamorous.” And when you did, he would say, “Oh, thank you for noticing.” Toward the end of his life, he was convinced that his screen acting career would take off at any time now.
Already he’s sorely missed.
But this is how it is with our fur babies, isn’t it. We’re honored with their presence for a little while – if we’re lucky, their whole little lives. And they leave a cat-shaped mark on our hearts that never goes away. Rest in peace, darling Snowball rest in peace.
*Briefly. As it turns out, once he was neutered, the Pat-like behaviors stopped. If Pat was actually in there, he vacated after surgery. That kinda proves it’s own point.
**Our firstborn kitties, Serge and Salvador, who were around 3 years old at the time.
***Sal was in the grass of the back yard, laying as close to the ground as he possibly could get. Serge had sought shelter in a hole under the back steps, and then was too fat to get back out – we had to take the stairs apart to extract him.
****Mercy, but he hated to be brushed, tho’. Once he bit me so hard (in the armpit!) during a brushing that I had bruises for two weeks. Every summer we considered getting him groomed into a lion cut (and every summer we chickened out).