Friday, December 26, 2008

T.H.E. Cat

We have an orange cat in our household for only the second time in my life, and it is about the first that I elect to write about today because my brother David made mention of him in the context of our 'old' house in Abilene and it brought back a series of memories that are worth at least appending to that recollection.

David sparked the memory with a reference to him by his first name only and for a moment was that name so unfamiliar as to fail to even stir it when connected to an incident that I clearly recalled. The name of the cat was Thomas, and the event David so vividly remembers and now I do too, was the day Thomas killed the white cat.

It was not especially odd that the name Thomas would fail to ring the proverbial bell in my brainpan since I have known but two men of that appelation in contrast with countless Toms, and as I bounced that about in my head I couldn't imagine any of them killing a cat back in Abilene. Then I remembered Thomas and the rest of his name, Hewitt Edward Cat.

T.H.E. Cat. That's what Lynda called him, so Bill gave him that 'official' name. It made for a great story to tell visitors for Bill thought it especially clever and witty. I did too.

Thomas was also a true Tomcat. I lured him in from the street, or the back alley to be exact, where he was king long before he came to include our home and hearth as part of his dominion, and whose brutal laws led to his coronation and required his enforcement. As I recall, I convinced him to approach and be touched, petted thence tamed with a bit of discarded melon rind, though this was doubted I took as a sign that he was a special cat. And he was. He was the first.

How exactly Thomas came to be adopted by us is not really clear after all these years. My recollection is that we had no animals until that time, and that it took some convincing to get my parents to allow him to stay. But the truth is, since he was essentially feral, it was his choice to stay with us, not the other way round, and from my parent's perspective, feeding it and absorbing the expense thereof was the equivalent to 'keeping' it. In any case, it was, or so I thought, my cat, and though I doubtless had less contact with him than I might have claimed, he was at the very least, always hanging around the back porch.

He was not allowed inside, as far as I can remember, but even if I don't recall him sitting inside on anyone's lap, I do know that Bill, as much or more than me, was a genuine 'cat' person, and it would have been his indulgence that outweighed Lynda's disdain to the benefit of Thomas should he have wished to stay inside.

But in fact, he was meant to stay outside and preferred it too, for that was his kingdom, as I have said. I didn't understand this in any real sense, however, till the day that I first saw him defend his territory with a primal ferocity that was unexpected, to say the least, and one of the most unsettling moments of my early youth. It turns out that David witnessed the event as well, and I think that he was similarly affected, for, despite being four years younger and therefore less likely to recall this time in Abilene, he is the one who brought this incident back to my mind.

It happened right next to our back porch. I don't know if I encouraged it or not, but I do remember a fluffy little white cat with gold eyes approaching me as I sat on the porch facing the street. Given my nature, I'd say it was likely that I was encouraging the white cat to come up to me, for I do remember getting up and standing in the yard, near the old mesquite tree by the driveway just before it happened.

What happened was a blur of white and orange, a ball of bouncing, rolling and twisting cat fur moving at what seemed like light-speed around the yard, accompanied by a terrible shrieking and hissing that made me believe that both cats were killing each other. In fact, it was Thomas who had the upper hand, instantly, by virtue of his weight and age, and it wasn't long before the ball broke up and the white cat fled into the side yard and turned down into the alley, with Thomas in hot pursuit. More screaming a shrieking ensured, though now out of sight. Then, silence.

In the yard in front of me was a mass of white fur, and the blood on it was likely the first animal blood I'd ever seen. It isn't fair to assign to this any more weight than a simple memory, but it was a moment of heightened awareness; a sudden shifting of gears, so to speak, that left me in a different place and moving at a different pace. My recollection is that Thomas actually killed the little white ragdoll cat, but how I know this I am not sure. I seem to recall finding the white cat's lifeless body in the alleyway later, but this could be an invention, quite honestly, of my story-teller's ambition. What I do remember is that I had a new appreciation for my 'tame' cat.

Cats are killers, even if they are raised by hand from birth. Odd then that I forgot not only this story, but also this simple lesson till recently, when Diablo reminded me just how narrow the line between me and meat really is.


Anonymous said...

ouch! that's gotta hurt....

d2 said...

Well, to be honest, that's all that I remember about T.H.E. Cat - his name, his orangeocity and his killing of the white kitten. BUT, of all the countless cats I've had in between, he IS remembered.