Sorry I haven't been around: I've been immersed in a different sort of writer's group [click post title for link].
I've also not-quite-enjoyed an aborted love affair; got my mental fanny spanked for being "too emotional" (again; and the first and second items are not related except through my being on the receiving end); written a ream of poetry formed emails that have changed my perception on ... everything.
on top of everything else...
I've picked up a new addiction: her name is A.A., she's an Editor-goddess. This is her cat, Mousette. Magnificent: her cattitude here reminds me of Maneater.
been doing a clean up on The Cat Story: I'll have to finish the re-write and post it again. I'm going to let the original stand -- just to remind anyone who cares to compare both 2,000+ word essays what a DIFFERENCE an editor can make!
I feel like I've been reprieved from prison.
(lighthearted, laughing) Lilly
Here's the full piece, edited. I've put a line where the submission begins -- and colored the lines that were excised (tying the piece together with the first half)
You can compare it to the original, HERE
I had a dream about cats last night.
A few weeks ago I was in a pet supply mega-store and they were having a cat adoption program-drive: a bunch of lovely, shy, resigned felines in cages looking at the humans looking at them.
I don't allow myself to look in eyes like that -- I am too much a cat myself these days to bow in service to the Supreme Lifeform of the Earth. I still resent being born this time around sans tail, but I'd thought I'd gotten over the need of ownership. Not to be a Cat Owner (as if any human ever "owned" a cat!) but to be Kept by one...
In my dream last night I was back in the pet store -- and all the cats I'd ever known but one were in the cages...
Growing up in a near rural area, we had cats as a necessity: the house was between two creeks with a swampy back lot and an ancient barn my father used as a garage shop. There were lots of critters one would not want to become too friendly with or be surprised by in the dark, and so the succession of patrol felines.
I use the term "near rural" because the one road going past the house was a major route from deep boonies into the more populated city, and it was located approximately three feet from the front door. (You would be surprised at the sort of noise you can be right on top of and sleep straight through!)
This did make our home a final destination for Humane Society cats. On the right, land and swamp-jungle and wildflower tangle meadows as far as a cat may ramble. On the left -- the IMMEDIATE left! -- sudden death screaming down on you at about 70 mph in the form of interstate tractor trailers and beer-pumped teenagers in too much car for that little share of brains.
We went through a bunch of cats -- some lasting a year, more than a few a matter of weeks, and a memorable handful that I can only describe as --"Free At Last!! YAY!!" -- SPLAT!! (awful, but reminiscent of the Monty Python film "Life of Brian", in which a Roman Centurion questions the nonchalant attitude of an old codger toward the possibility of his impending death by crucifixion by exclaiming, "But that's a horrible death!" The old man says "Yes, but at least you're out in the open air...")
I didn't really get attached to any of the cats until I was old enough to start having a hand in naming them. "Inky" was a black and white Asian mixed kitten my sister Carol found at the back of the convenience store a mile up the road. Inky lived to be 14 and eventually died of the dread Meatloaf Disease so well chronicled by B. Kilban in his cat drawings (where the cat as she ages gradually turns into a (barely animated) meatloaf-shaped entity.)
In Inky's twilight months we brought home a kitten to stimulate her, as is recommended by certain animal "experts"; and the only stimulus effect I could see was that Inky would stop cold in the doorway of the room where Guinevere was frolicking in high cuteness kitty mode, give the cattish glare of "What Fresh Hell Is This?" feline disdain towards all bipeds present, and do the slink and inversion reverse cat exit from the doorway.
I interpreted this to mean Inky did not care for the energetic charms of the kitten; and I had my suspicions further confirmed by the dear old girl departing this world shortly after Guinevere's arrival, Inky having attained full meatloaf form: an inert island on a flood of bladder release, dead center between my wheelchair dependent younger sister's ankles -- perhaps Inky had knotted onto her mortal skein, holding out for one of Susan's rare visits home from College? I'd like to think so: Who wouldn't want to take the option of leaving this Earth surrounded by the comfortingly familiar?..
But I didn't want to talk about Inky and Gwen -- I wanted to talk about MY cats: Maneater and Godzilla.
They arrived as kittens at the same time, though I don't remember if they were litter mates. Zilla was the definition of a Kipling cat. She was a sinewy spar gray,with the hint of tiger striping in charcoal from her shoulders back to her tail, which was plain gray and held in a perpetual question mark "?" bend and curl, whatever her mood or occasion.
Godzilla was a backyard ghost. She was a house ghost. I tried to bond with her over the years, but she was not the sort to approve of human-feline fraternization; all I saw of her was, fittingly, a shadow (what "Zilla" means, in Hebrew) and two emerald green eyes peering-into-the-unseen from the haunts of kitty corners. When I moved out of the house at nineteen, Zilla took The Road Out in beginner "FROGGER" fashion within the first two weeks of my leaving. Did she miss me? Had I mattered to her? Was it just her name getting read out from the karma kitty-callup? I got the cleanup call, as ever, and thought about what makes a self-contained proper cat do the splat, as I tried to give her burial in frost-hardened winter ground.
•••••••••••• exercise starts ••••••••••••
Maneater started out as my sister's cat: When I moved back home two years later
to take care of my mom after surgery, Mannie and Inky lived in a state of detente; and the once aloof, conceited-and-proud-of-it Maneater attached herself to me in doglike fashion. I'm sure she was simply bored and missed Susan, who had started college that year.
Maneater...was a big cat made house cat size. Amongst feline definitions of beauty she excelled all conventional notions -- a Siberian with tortoiseshell brushstrokes of vibrant autumn displayed like treasure on a graduated mink coat with an asymmetrical, broken blaze of honey, amber, and gold echoing the Halloween perfection of pumpkin orange eyes; smooth sable shoulders with the left forepaw gauntleted in a swirl of color; and her back end and tail as full and bushy as if she were dressed in cossack trousers. Breathtaking in a "Oh, what IS that?!!" glimpse of something that should have been feral and predatory as well as Queen of All She Surveyed.
This cat became my companion and gave me the privilege of her direct, Cattitude Attentions. My desk is an old 1930's oak teacher's desk, the surface top of which measures 60"x34". "Manita" would sit like a Bastet statue on the desk just to the left of my left hand and watch me read or write in my journal. I, of course, had to start our conversations, but once she had my attention things rolled along as you might expect between a so called "dumb" animal and a lonely human -- which is to say she played me like a piano and I thought she was a Clever Puss!
We were a team. From the moment the alarm clock went off and she started her kitty yoga alongside my shoulder, taking care of my mom throughout the day, she was always ready to offer suggestions on what "Baby Jane" enhancements we could torture the old lady with -- devious little minx of a mind! At the end of the day, I'd put the reading and writing aside and say, "You ready for bed, Miss Thing?" We'd get up from the desk together and hop into bed, and that swirled left paw would always tap my chin or an ear as if to wish me pleasant dreams before we curled into separate fetal knots for sleep.
She was as content to look upon me as I was pleased to look upon her, and there were times I'd KNOW with absolute certainty she not only understood what I was saying to her (not towards her, but TO her) but agreed with me on that level where words of reply are superfluous; an incline of that head, a perfectly timed blink -- the twitch of a nose as if to say, go on...
She never suggested she was bored and I had to play with her. None of this head butting, "how can you look at that silly book while I am sitting here in all my splendorous beauty"; no attempts to chase the pen scratching along on the paper like some ersatz mouse. She sat. She watched. When invited, she provided feedback -- for my sake, I am sure; all she really ever needed from me in the mix of our friendship was my big bipedal presence. Maybe she liked the sound of my voice? I don't know. What makes a dumb beast dumb, but our own lack of understanding?...
My mom eventually regained mobility and went back to work, and I stayed and got a job working at the kennel down the road.
Maneater at first was quite appalled at the smells I brought back with me at the end of the day and the disruption to our daily routine, but she adjusted -- and gave me the space to get stripped down and showered before she'd pop up and we'd chat over the day we had: Her end of the conversation mostly being a blink for yes; a yawn for, _"You've got to be kidding me, O Two-Legger-No-Tail."_
Mannie had her job to do too: She was the chief patrol cat during the day shift, and she had been neglecting her rounds to care for the caregiver during those first two months of my return home. (Mom had gone into the hospital for a replacement hip and been infected with staph, and then she slipped on a wet floor in the hospital corridor and fractured the good hip! Being that I was the only member of the family who did not have -- a) a husband/family of my own to care for, or b) a career to advance in, or c) an education to be furthering -- I got volunteered to assist at home. Sealing my fate was the fact I was temporarily homeless since the Drug Factory in the third floor apartment had gone up in flames, and all my worldly possessions on the first floor were waterlogged. It was deemed a fortuitous chain of events -- for my other five siblings who would not have to deal with Mother on a daily basis.
BTW it was around this time I stopped believing in a merciful Christian God.)
About four months into the kennel gig, we had a freak summer storm blow through our area -- quite the biblical overkill, with day becoming night and hail the size of golf balls doing major property damage. The dogs in the kennel went berserk. I got home and my sister's boyfriend was sitting in the kitchen. Susan wheeled out of the bathroom and looked at him then looked at me and looked at him again. Mom was still at work.
I don't remember who told me Mannie was dead, though I seem to remember the boyfriend did most of the talking.
Maneater was found in front of the house, on the side of the road:killed by a vehicle in that storm. I was gently led to understand (as gently as a graphic horror can be dissembled) that she'd been turned inside out. My sister's boyfriend had already buried the remains; a small blessing to have it "taken care of" before I would be given the grisly task by Mom.
As I type this, the pain and frustration of that bereavement roars up from the past and bleeds -- hemorrhages -- as if it has just happened... and I need to stop typing and mop up the tears and snot before I fry the keyboard.
This happen 23 years ago, and my consolation is I got over it, and I'll get over it again.
Time heals -- but memory is a knife.
In my family, I have the reputation as the Strong One. The Smart One.
She's got a stainless steel spine and she doesn't take shit from anyone, not her Husband, not Mom, not God -- nobody!My Mother and I have come to a detente of our own -- but that's a story for another time, as are my love-hate love relationships with male figures throughout my life.
That cat was one of the most important relationships of my life.
I've had dogs since... but today... I just ... miss my cat.