The cat, that is. Not the drug.
This morning I read an essay by a guy about a cat, and it rang very true. I don’t agree with the writer’s attitude toward cats in general…
I’m a man who doesn’t like cats. I don’t understand why women and certain men don’t get the simple axiom: “Dogs? Cool. Cats? Not.” It is one of the universal truths that no sane man can deny. And yet the chicks and chestless men persist in promoting this most useless of animals which steadfastly resists domestication, becoming an agreeable amusement, and is next to useless if not downright nauseating when sauteed or roasted, grilled or boiled, or even deep-fried.
While I cannot deny that most cats are completely without practical value, I don’t agree at all that cats are uncool. Cats, in fact, are far cooler than dogs. Because cats don’t care. A dog (generally speaking, and with exceptions) wants you to love it. It’s practically obsessed with the desire to be petted, cared for, validated. Dogs are high-maintenance items.
Cats don’t give a damn what you think about them. In any relationship between one cat and one human, there is absolutely no doubt anywhere in that cat’s mind as to who’s in charge – and it’s not the human. “Dogs have owners,” goes the old joke. “Cats have staff.”
I’ve been a waitperson for cats since I was a boy. I barely remember most of them, but a few stand out. They mostly stand out for being pains in the ass.
When I was in my early twenties, I got a shot at an apartment in a duplex near downtown. This was a rough, loud, somewhat dangerous neighborhood, and the biggest problem with the prospective apartment was that the cockroaches objected to being saddled and the termites swarmed twice a year like clockwork. Also, the apartment was already occupied by two cats, whose welfare was henceforth to be my responsibility. There was Neuter, whose principal amusement was to lay on the refrigerator and hiss at you when you passed. And there was Cocaine, whose amusements were…more eclectic.
Cocaine was pure white, of course. He was comprised entirely of muscle, scar tissue, and attitude. He was not – repeat not – emphatically not my cat. Coke was his own cat – a confirmed and highly successful alley cat who had at some point simply taken up residence and demanded to be fed by whatever human infested the place. He was gone most of the time, using the apartment to heal and feed up. The neighborhood swarmed with white kittens.
Heinlein once wrote, “I have spent too much of my life opening doors for cats. I once calculated that, since the dawn of civilization, nine hundred and seventy-eight man-centuries have been used up that way. I could show you figures.” I have no good reason to doubt it. My principal non-food-related duty was to stand by the door should Coke ever want in or out, and I was graded on my performance.
Alas, Coke was not a young cat and it grew clear as months passed that he was not winning all his fights anymore. Also the neighborhood really did swarm with unwanted kittens, to the point where the local Humane Society started a free neutering drive. I decided it was time for the old warhorse to be put to pasture. This started my one serious disagreement with the apartment’s previous human occupant, who thought castration was a terrible thing to do to a cat. “How’d you like it, man?”
I did it anyway. The people at the clinic told me Coke had to stay indoors for five days, to ensure that he healed up. Had I known this ahead of time I might not have taken him there, because Coke never stayed indoors at night. Never. And then followed five nights and days of unrelenting war, as Coke asserted his right to go outdoors any damn time he wanted to.
While that was going on, I decided to do something about the cat door thing. I knocked out a windowpane and built a swinging door that the cats could use any time they wanted. I tested it on Neuter, who was certain I was trying to kill him horribly. Cocaine watched those battles very thoughtfully. I could see the wheels turning. And when at last I stopped insisting that he stay inside, he lept to the table below the new cat door and was gone in a flash.
He stayed gone all night, which was no surprise. Early the next morning, he came back with what could only be described as a funny look on his face. The next night, he stayed in.
Cocaine had never stayed in at night.
He moped around the apartment for the next few weeks, leaving only for physical necessities. He lost weight. He was clearly pining for his lost nads. I endured a certain amount of “I told you so,” but there was nothing to do but be as kind as possible and hope Coke found some consolation in retirement – I couldn’t sew them back on.
Then, one night, Coke disappeared. He returned in the morning, as nonchalant as ever. He did it again the next night. He started to gain weight. Then he started to gain a LOT of weight.
There were two lovely young ladies my age who lived in an apartment over a garage, a few doors down the street. All the guys knew these girls well – they were very popular. Around the time Coke started going out at night, the girls began complaining that something was leaving large, gory pigeon parts on the sidewalk outside their door. They didn’t know what was going on, but they wanted it to stop.
Weeks went by in this way. Coke stayed gone every night. He grew almost as wide as he was long. Girls complained about horribly dismembered pigeons. A connection seemed possible, but I had no proof and anyway, Coke was so big by now it was hard to imagine him chasing and catching pigeons in such wholesale lots.
The garage apartment snuggled up to the rear of a dilapidated three-story apartment building. A set of concrete stairs was pinched between the two buildings, and it was possible to step from the stair to the roof over the garage. The roof came to a peak in the center, where there was a large ventilator.
Early one morning, before Coke came home from his nocturnal smorgasbord, somebody softly knocked on my door. My friend Steve Chase, who lived in that old apartment building, put his finger to his lips and gestured for me to follow him. Out to the sidewalk, down the street, and up the concrete stairs. And there, two flights up, lay Cocaine.
He was on his back, his paws sticking up with no dignity at all. His stomach looked painfully distended. He was surrounded by blood and feathers, and I swear to you there was a trail of more blood and feathers leading up the stair and onto the roof of the garage apartment, making a beeline for that ventilator. It seems pigeons had been roosting in the attic over the apartment, and had not yet figured out that this was no longer a safe haven.
Coke had indeed found solace in his retirement. If he could no longer be Casanova, he’d settle for being Ted Nugent.