Kitty

When I had only been married a few months, my husband’s aunt, knowing how much I loved cats, told us that her cat had just had kittens. And if we wanted, we could pick one out.

I was overjoyed! The last cat I had ever had was Catrina, who had been killed by a car when I was almost a teenager. So we drove over and there was one kitten that looked exactly like her mother that I immediately claimed.

The mother cat was a huge, long-haired red cat with faint black tiger stripes. I had never seen a red cat before and I always thought she was so beautiful. So after the kittens were weaned in about 6-8 weeks, I would once again have a kitten for my own again.

His aunt called us about 8 weeks later and told us to get the kitten. It had been weaned and was very healthy and ready to come home with us now.

However, when we walked into his aunt’s house and saw only one kitten left, a black and white one instead of the red one I was expecting, I was crushed. His aunt explained that her daughter had wanted the little red one and she thought that this one would do for me just as well.

I reluctantly agreed, and as I carefully held the kitten on the ride home, I kept staring at her, not sure I liked her.

At one point I told Hal, “She has these weird longer white hairs amongst her black areas. I’m not sure I like that.”

He just grunted. Then a few minutes later I said, “And she has these weird two little black spots on the end of her nose. I don’t think I like those either.”

Hal said, exasperated, “Well are you going to keep her not? If you are, then stop being so picky, and shut up. So what you didn’t get the kitten you were hoping for. One cat is just like another cat.”

I shut up but I still wasn’t so sure that I liked this kitten. I had so wanted the other red one!

Little did I know then how much I would grow to love Kitty so deeply and that she would love me back just as much. And little did I know how lucky I would be to have her in my life for so long, going through so much turmoil and happy times that were still in both our futures.

Hal and I had already agreed that since it was his aunt who had given us the kitten, he got to name her. He named her Kitty. I groaned at his lack of imagination but he insisted that Kitty was going to be her name so Kitty she remained.

She was a very happy and active kitten and she soon grew her own Kitty-sized place in my heart. She was a long-haired black and white cat with a long fluffy tail. She had a perfect black raccoon mask on her delicate little face. In amongst the black areas on her back were much longer white hairs, almost like she had been frosted with a lightly tipped white paint brush. She was a very pretty Kitty!

We happily played together for hours. We had an especially favorite game of Frisbee that we both immensely enjoyed.

I had found a little doughnut-shaped Frisbee-like toy in a cereal box shortly after Kitty came to live with us. While I washed dishes, she would bring me that toy, drop it at my feet, then happily dash after it as I threw it into the bathtub that was directly across the hall from the kitchen in our small apartment.

If I managed to throw it just hard enough and aim it into the tub, it would spin around and around inside, delighting Kitty as she would try to catch it during its rotations. Then when she finally caught it, she would jump out of the tub with the little toy in her mouth and we would do this over and over.

Directly above our bed there was a plant hook, inexplicably put in the middle of the room by a previous tenant. One time I attached some fishing line to a wadded up empty pack of cigarettes and Kitty had a ball batting that as hard as she could.

Unfortunately, she also wanted to play with it while we were sleeping. So I had to take it down and attach it to another plant hook in the corner of the living room but that wasn’t as much fun for her as it had been when she could bounce all over our bed.

The longer I was married to Hal, the more I found out what a possessive and jealous person he was. He had tried very hard to interfere with all of my friendships and he even tried to come between me and my family, particularly my dad.

After several months of having a happy and active kitten, Kitty suddenly became withdrawn and she was always hiding whenever I came home from work.

She still played with me, but she would only come out of whatever hiding places she had only after I had been home for more than an hour. She became quite timid and would run and hide if anybody came to the door and that was also so very unlike what she had been like when we had first brought her home. She also noticeably avoided Hal and I became quite suspicious.

Hal had recently begun to complain that I paid Kitty more attention than to him. I supposed it would not have been too polite to tell him that I was beginning to find her company much more enjoyable than his.

He had lost his job and he was being very lazy about getting another one so I was working a lot of overtime in my own job so that our bills could be paid. We were fighting a lot and I would frequently take Kitty into our bedroom, close the door, and cry into her fur.

When she suddenly became timid, I angrily asked him if he was teasing her or being mean to her during the many hours I was gone, but he became indignant, asking me how did I dare to accuse him of that. But he never completely answered my questions either.

One day in early autumn shortly after our first year anniversary, Hal picked me up after work in my Chevelle. We were living in the upstairs apartment of a duplex and I noticed that the main front door used by both of the apartments was unusually ajar.

Then as we walked up our stairs, I noticed that Hal had left our apartment door completely open. I angrily turned to him and asked him, “Why didn’t you close and lock our door? You know this neighborhood is not very safe and you’re practically handing out engraved invitations for us to be robbed!”

He replied, “Oh, I thought I did. I had forgotten the time and I was in a hurry to pick you up after work so I must have forgotten.”

Then I became even angrier when I couldn’t find Kitty anywhere. I looked in all of her special hiding spots, calling her and calling her, but no Kitty.

I angrily asked Hal, “What did you do with Kitty? I know you did something, so tell me! What did you do with my cat?” “I didn’t do a damn thing to that damned cat of yours! She must have slipped out the doors!” “Yeah and you left them both open too! Are you sure you didn’t do something else to her and you left them both open as an excuse?” “I didn’t do nothing to that cat!” “Well, I’m going out to look for her right now!”

I called and called for her as I walked around several blocks. I checked and re-checked the small backyard behind our house several times until it got too dark for me to see.

When I dispiritedly came back upstairs, Hal started complaining that, once again, I cared more for that cat than for him. Here he was starving to death and I’m off looking for a cat that didn’t care enough to stay in her house.

I gave him the dirtiest of looks. “Are your hands broken? I’m busting my ass at work while you sit here and not do one damn thing! Fix your own supper and if I don’t get my cat back, you’re going to be lucky if I ever speak to you again! I know damn good and well you had something to do with Kitty’s disappearance, you asshole!”

I grabbed a whole bunch of blank paper and markers and took them into the bedroom and slammed the door. I then proceeded to make Lost Cat posters with a $50 reward that I was going to pass out to neighbors and post on telephone poles and in the stores all around the next day.

Hal was pissed that I was offering so much money as a reward for just a dumb cat but I, angrily in return, reminded him, it was my money, my cat and I’d offer a million times that amount if I could only have my Kitty back.

I threw some blankets and a pillow at him and told him to sleep on the couch. I cried and cried into my pillow. I was unhappily married to an asshole and I knew, I KNEW he had either left those doors open on purpose or he had even deliberately taken Kitty outside and made her run away out of his control-freak jealousy.

After calling a Lost Cat ad into “The Flint Journal”, I spent the entire day going door-to-door with all of my neighbors and neighborhood stores, leaving my reward papers behind. I tacked them up on every telephone pole for several blocks. I called and called for Kitty everywhere I went. Then I went home, got my car out, and slowly drove around through further neighborhoods with my window down, calling to her.

Even if I found her dead by the side of a road or a street, at least I would have found her. But I was so unhappy thinking about her alone and scared and not knowing where to go, hungry and lost, that I went through every Kleenex I had in my purse.

When Hal saw my discouraged face after searching for Kitty all day, he had sense enough to not say one word to me. He had fixed us both supper but I had no appetite and I eventually got up and went into the bedroom and closed the door.

I heard him doing up the dishes and I got a sense of satisfaction that it was about time he started doing things around our house. I also had the uneasy thought that maybe he was doing all of this out of a guilty conscience, that I had indeed called him out on what had actually happened.

He knocked on our door, but I told him to sleep on the couch again that night, I was really tired and I just wanted to be left alone. He sighed and I heard him softly cussing while he made up the blankets again on the couch.

After work the next day, I eagerly came home to see if Kitty was back or if I had had any phone calls about her but nothing. So I spent another afternoon and early evening calling and looking for her.

Did Hal ever help me look for Kitty? Not once. He never even offered to help at all. So that made me even more suspicious of his involvement in her disappearance.

The next day was a repeat of the previous one. I worked then came home and searched and called for Kitty until it was quite dark. I had just slammed the car door in the driveway, convinced that I would never see her again when I heard a faint meow from the back yard.

Trying not to let my hopes get the better of me, I ran into the back yard and I called for Kitty and I heard, again, that faint meow. I ran back to my car and got out the flashlight I always kept in my glove box and began shining it around the yard.

I kept calling to Kitty, positive that that was her meow I was hearing and I heard it again and again until I finally spotted her with the flashlight way up high in one of the trees in the backyard.

Was I happy! Unfortunately there were no limbs for me to reach and I tried to coax her back down but all she would do was to rub against the tree trunk, meowing so much, obviously as happy to see me as I was to see her.

So I excitedly ran up our stairs, yelling, “I found her! I found Kitty! But she’s way up a high tree and she can’t get down!”

Hal came out into the yard with me and as I shined the flashlight up at her, she hissed as soon as she saw Hal. I asked him to please ask the two guys who lived in the downstairs apartment if there was a ladder in their basement that I could use to get up to Kitty and bring her down.

Hal came back with Mike, a very tall guy, who was carrying a ladder. I tried to reach Kitty but I was too short. Mike then climbed up and was able to get a grip on her and brought her back down to a happily crying me.

After I had very gratefully thanked Mike for his help, Hal and I, with me holding Kitty so tight in my arms, went back up to our apartment. But as soon as we had stepped inside, Hal grabbed Kitty out of my arms, slammed her down on the doorstep and began to swat her.

He got one in before I grabbed Kitty back. I grabbed his arm as I threatened to neuter him if he put another hand on her ever again. I then slammed the door behind us and I kept pushing him back as I continued to move forward with Kitty in my arms, defying him with a dirty look to just say one word, just do one more mean thing to her. He finally backed into the living room as I took Kitty into our bedroom to see how she was doing.

She was very chilled and very hungry. So I left her in the bedroom while I went and got a towel to rub her warm and get her some food and water. I took everything into the bedroom and then after she had wolfed down her food and drank some water, I rubbed her down until she was warm again and then I brushed the dirt and twigs that had become matted up in her fur.

After she eventually curled up on my pillow for a cat-nap, I left her, closed the bedroom door and went into the living room where Hal was sitting with a very pissed look on his face.

He started to say something but I held up my hand to make him stop. I then asked him in as icy and calm a voice as I could, “Why did you swat Kitty like that?” “She needs to know that she’s not supposed to go past that doorstep!” “Do you really believe that swatting her like that was supposed to teach her that? She’s a cat, she doesn’t understand the link between you trying to beat her up and that she’s not supposed to go downstairs! But I also cannot blame her at all IF she had gotten outside on her own, especially since both doors were left open by YOU! So how about I swat you instead? Maybe the lesson would then be learned by you to not leave both doors wide open!! And if I ever, ever catch you being mean to my cat again, I swear, I won’t stop at swatting you one time either!”

Then I went into the bedroom, slammed the door, and proceeded to get ready for bed…without Hal again either.

Hal and I never talked about that incident of Kitty’s disappearance again. But something happened shortly after that incidence that I found extremely amusing while Hal not so much.

Hal was supposed to take my car to look for a job while I was at work. A few weeks after this, I was in the living room reading the paper, when I suddenly jumped up madder than hell.

I shoved the section of the paper I had been reading under his nose and asked, “Please explain this picture of you at the mall in the paper.” “Oh yeah, there was a reporter at the mall asking people what they thought of the Detroit Tigers’ chances to get into the playoffs and they asked me and took my picture.”

“Really? Why were you at the mall again when you had just told me last month that you had spent several days filling out resumes at all of the stores in the mall. So why were you there instead of looking for a job elsewhere?”

“Well, uh, uh, I had heard that there was a job opening at a different store in the mall. “Heard from who?” I demanded, and when he hesitated, I snapped my fingers, and said, “C’mon, Hal, from who, from who? And what was the name of the store?”

He kept stammering and I said, with disgust, “Let me guess, you were out shopping again. That’s just great, Hal. We’re knee-deep in debt and I can’t even afford to get me some much-needed clothes for work but somehow it’s okay for you to spend money that we can’t afford! God, you can be such an asshole!” So that was another night of arguing between us.

The next day I found that section of the newspaper on the floor of the living room with the front of the section facing up where Hal’s picture was included in the middle of the other five people that had been interviewed. But his face was shredded, as if by a pair of kitty claws. The other five pictures were left untouched but Hal’s was completely shredded to pieces.

Giggling, I wondered if Kitty had deliberately done that. But I reasoned, naw, how can cats recognize a one-dimensional picture of somebody? It must have occurred some other way. Then I threw the newspaper in the trash.

Later that evening, Hal asked me where that newspaper section was because he wanted to cut out the interview and his picture and then mail it to his mother. I told him that something had happened to it and then I dug it out of the trash and handed it to him.

He immediately blamed Kitty for deliberately shredding his picture but I quickly reassured him that animals can’t see a one-dimensional picture and know what it is they are looking at, that the newspaper was most likely shredded accidentally as she played because I had found it on the floor. But I still secretly wondered if Kitty had done that on purpose.

A few weeks after that, I found a picture of Hal and I on the floor of the bedroom. The glass was shattered but Hal’s face was shredded, just like the newspaper article had been. I began laughing so hard, I fell on the bed. The newspaper picture, maybe, but this was now proof that Kitty had done both on purpose.

After I stopped laughing, I started thinking that a cat doesn’t go out of its way to so intensely dislike someone without a very good reason. And it made me wonder even more about what exactly went on while I was at work.

Several months after that, I left Hal for good. I immediately felt immense relief, not knowing how tense I had constantly become with the constant arguing about him not getting a job, working so much overtime to pay the bills and not being able to trust him about so many things.

Kitty eventually became more playful and she seemed so very much happier now that we were not with Hal anymore. But she still retained some timidity whenever anybody knocked at my door, running to hide until she felt safe again. And other than my dad and a long-time friend, she would not have anything to do with another male her entire life.

My dad and Kitty had a very special, loving relationship. My mom and dad graciously allowed me to do my laundry at their house every week so that I could save on money. But if I forgot to bring Kitty with me, I never heard the end of it from my dad. Sometimes I laughingly wondered if he wanted her to visit more than me!

They played this funny game together. He would sit in his recliner in front of the television set and dangle his arm down. Kitty would come up next to the recliner and flirt her long, bushy tail across his hand and would wait for him to grab at her.

Sometimes he missed then she would saunter in front of him in victory but sometimes he would manage to grab her. Then he would haul her up in his lap, petting her and cooing to her in a language only the two of them understood. Then he would put her back down on the floor and the game would begin all over again.

My brother, Eugene, who had just been discharged from the Navy by the time I divorced Hal, was living at my parents’ house until he found a place of his own.

One time I had brought Kitty with my laundry to my parents’ house. I had an even larger amount of laundry than normal so my mom and dad told me to spend the night in my old bedroom and then finish it the next day.

So I went to bed with Kitty and sometime during the night, I sleepily let Kitty out so that she could use her litter box in the basement. Something woke me up a couple of hours later and I sensed that something was very wrong.

I felt around for Kitty and she wasn’t on my bed like usual. Then I remembered that I had let her out but I was puzzled that she had not scratched at the door to be let back in.

I turned on the hall light and called for her but I didn’t hear her nor did she come running. I went out and saw Eugene asleep on the couch after yet another night of drinking and I went down into the basement.

I turned on the light, went down the basement steps, and I was shocked to find Kitty all tied up in an old dog leash to the ping pong table. The leash was twisted and wrapped around her neck. She was gasping and choking and I screamed as I ran to her and quickly unwound the leash.

She collapsed into my lap as I rubbed her sides trying to help get much needed oxygen into her. My mom and dad, who had heard me scream, came running down into the basement as I sat there, crying, while Kitty finally began breathing a little easier.

My dad ran back up the steps, with my mom and I, clutching Kitty to my chest, closely following on his heels. He grabbed Eugene off the couch with one hand and punched him with the other.

As Eugene lay dazed on the floor, my dad thundered at him, “Why did you tie that cat up?” Eugene angrily replied, “That cat kept scratching and meowing at the bedroom door so I just put a dog leash on her collar and tied it to the leg of the table. I couldn’t sleep, I just wanted her to shut the hell up!”

“Why the hell didn’t you just let her into the bedroom with Jeneane? Kitty got herself so wrapped up in that leash, probably trying to get loose, that she was choking to death! If Jeneane had not awakened when she did, that cat would probably have been dead by morning! What the hell is wrong with your head or are you too drunk again to think straight? Never mind, just get the hell out of my house!”

Eugene, now more awake, became even more angry in return. “I live here, she doesn’t and that cat doesn’t! I was not going to listen to that cat squalling all night to be let in and out of the bedroom. If that cat was stupid enough to get herself all tangled up then maybe Jeneane should have left it at home where it belongs!”

My dad then told him in a deadly calm tone of voice, “Jeneane and Kitty were invited by your mother and I to stay the night. They are our guests and are entitled to be treated well as our guests. Your sister is welcome here any time and Kitty is welcome here just as equally. We did not raise you to be deliberately mean to animals so get the hell out of the house and stay someplace else while you think about all of this!”

Eugene got up from the floor, angrily grabbed his coat, and took off in his car. My dad then gently asked me if Kitty was okay and by that time she was breathing better but she was still so scared, she was shaking. We all went back to sleep and the first thing I did when I opened my eyes was to put my hand out and check on Kitty. She was okay, breathing fine, and she sleepily opened up one eye and quietly meowed good morning to me.

I had Kitty for another 18 years after that. She greatly missed my dad after he passed away. She would still go to his recliner that my mom then used but my mom didn’t play the special game that my dad had long played with her. Poor Kitty would dejectedly walk away after being unable to entice my mom into playing with her.

Kitty and I endured countless moves, a couple more relationships, and then the birth of Tara, the love of my life. Kitty wasn’t too keen at first on this little, squirming, crying bundle and she tolerated Tara, even when Tara crawled after her and over her. Kitty shared so many ups and downs with me and would gently lick me if I ever had to cry into her fur.

When I had to put her to sleep after almost reaching the age of 20, my mom suggested that we bury her right behind my dad’s tombstone.

Surprised, I asked her, “Is that legal? Can we do that because that would be the perfect spot.”

My mom, replied, “Legal or not, it’s the right place to bury her. She was a long-time member of our family and I think it would make your dad smile to have her close to him again.”

And through my tears I had to agree and I could imagine my dad welcoming Kitty with open arms as they began to play their special game together, again. Rest in peace, pretty Kitty, I love you and have fun playing keep-away forever with Dad.

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