He used to be known as the medium-sized cat, until Alfie, his much smaller friend, was whisked away by another family. (This, I know, is my romantic interpretation of Alfie’s sudden disappearance last year.) Then he was Mr. Skittles, Little Roarrrr, and the Baron von Scratchhausen. His real name, we think, is Chairman Mao.
Despite initial opposition from T, Middy, who is allergic to cats, and dislikes animals/people who want constant free food and may inflict damage on our rugs, Skittles became part of our daily life. We fed him the wet food he likes twice a day, meals supplemented by dry food left out by Laura, our neighbor. Every morning, when TM opened the screen door, Skittles would either be waiting – often on the doormat, which made opening the door quite difficult – or he would race up the stairs to our porch. He’d be back most evenings for more food, and for excursions into our house to a) roll on the kitchen floor, purring like a nut; b) stalk the hallway; c) roll on the bathroom floor, preferably fighting the shower curtain; d) squeeze himself between the sofa and the wall, just to show he could; e) roll on the floor of the back room; and f) lick, bite and bat around my feet, which he seemed to regard as an all-purpose plaything. His other favored activities included lying around under our plant stands on the porch, leaning through the railings to watch the trash cans being rolled out or in (he never tired of this), and chasing the broom when TM swept up outside. When I went out after dark to water the plants, he would materialize suddenly, wanting attention, and then disappear equally quickly, leaping onto the roof of the garage next door. Sometimes we’d see him sitting on the roof of the house on the corner, looking up at the night sky.
We knew his owners (the people in the house next door who never really spoke to us – maybe because they knew we had designs on one of their cats) were about to move out. Their landlord told us they were moving to a bigger place on Terpsichore Street. They went this weekend, while we were in Florida. Last week I had various related dreams, including one in which the house next door was filling with water, and I couldn’t get in to rescue the cat. (This is a bad New Orleans dream, I think – just in time for hurricane season starting again.) Irrationally, I hoped his owners would leave him when they moved. Skittles and Alfie were strays who wandered into their lives here; they only gave Skittles a collar after a collar-free Alfie disappeared – probably suspecting, as we did, that someone else thought Alfie was still a stray in search of a home. The people next door already had a cat, a very fat one with the face of a bloated raccoon, who spent most of his time inside. Yesterday afternoon, when we driving home, I kept thinking that Skittles would appear, as usual, when we pulled up, racing ahead of me up the stairs and demanding to be let in.
But, of course, they took him with them. When I was out on the porch, the guy who lives in the same building next door, in a downstairs efficiency, came outside to chat: he confirmed that they’d taken both cats with them. Skittles was their cat. He wasn’t ours to keep.
So I was in a terrible funk all evening, and even TM admitted that he’d half-hoped they’d leave Skittles behind, or that the cat would somehow elude capture on their moving day. I’m not the only irrational and sentimental person in our household, though when it comes to blind optimism, irrationality, emotional imbalance, and self-delusion, I am the market leader.
This morning, after I dropped TM off, I had to resist the urge to drive up and down Terpsichore Street looking for their car. (“It’s not like it’s a LONG street or anything,” TM said to me last night.) I’m thinking maybe I can find out where exactly they’ve moved and write them a note, saying that if they ever decide to leave town – they’re recent arrivals, I think – and don’t want to take the little cat with them, they should contact us. We miss him. We would love to have him back.
This is the trouble, I guess, when you grow fond of cats who are not yours.
Laura is either in denial or doesn’t realize they’ve gone, because she left food out for him this morning as usual. When I see her later, I’ll tell her he’s gone. Maybe she’ll co-sign the letter.
Here are some recent pictures of him.