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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thinking of cats past: Muffet

My arms remember the feel of cats past. My ears remember their purrs and meows. I can breathe in the memory of their spicy-musky scent. All of their antics, all of the fun we had is secure in my memory. No two have been alike.

Heaven for me would be a comfortable armchair, all the books I didn't have time to read - and my favorites to re-read. An unending supply of all my favorite snacks. And most important: all my past cats taking turns purring in my lap.

My first cat was a green-eyed shorthaired tom cat, inexplicably named Muffet. We had just moved to Hastings, Nebraska, and I was going to start first grade in the fall. Across the street was a ramshackle two-story house that always seemed to have dozens of cats running around. The back screen door was visible from our front yard, because it and our house sat on corners, facing different streets.

I had spent weeks watching kittens of assorted sizes running around that house, going in and out through a tear in the screen door. I'd go across the street to see if I could play with them, but they'd all run and hide. Sometimes it was like a river of cats going in that screen door.

After a month or so, I became determined to catch one. I hid around the corner of the house and waited. A little orange tabby stuck its head out, looked right at me, and went back in. Then a little black and white kitten peeked out, but only looked in the other direction. It jumped out and padded off the way it had been looking, and I tiptoed after it and caught it. I carried it across the street, went inside my house, and told Mom I found it on the porch and could I keep it.

Well, I would never have a career as a con artist. Besides the fact I've always been a transparent liar, my Mother had watched the whole thing through the picture window. Amazingly, she told me that if I asked the lady who lived there if I could have the kitten, and she said yes, I could keep it.

Pathologically shy, I looked down at the kitten who looked back up at me, and went back across the street and knocked on the back door. When the lady answered, I murmured my request.

She answered, "Why, of course! Are you sure you want that one? Come on in and pick another one if you want." So I went inside.

I will never forget that room. It reeked of cat pee. The only thing in there besides cats was a brown sofa, laying on its back, shredded. You could see the springs. There were cats and kittens everywhere. I looked at them and then back at the kitten who had settled into my arms and begun to purr. He had little white mittens and boots, a white chin, and half a white mustache on his little black face. The mustache gave him a rakish look. I thanked her kindly, and said I'd keep this one. She ushered me out and told me to come back anytime.

Muffet (where did I get that name?) and I had a seven year relationship. I'll tell some of his stories in the next few blogs.

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