Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gray comes to stay

One of you out there owes me, big time. Not to mention what you owe to Gray Cat.

Gray Cat came into my life without an invitation, and somehow, seems to have prospered here despite the fact that I despise the beast.

One of you out there dumped it, in the middle of a hard winter, and hoped it would go off somewhere and die. You know who you are. And there's a dog or cat like this somewhere in every neighborhood, abandoned, dirty and unloved, and living on whatever it can rob from the garbage for as long as it can.

But Gray Cat is made of pretty stern stuff. It didn't die. Skeletal skinny inside its long matted ball of fur, it showed up on our front steps, and kept right on showing up.

Let me tell you right off that this is not an adorable storybook kitty. In fact, it might be the most butt ugly excuse for a feline I've ever seen. It has the general attitude of a teenage punk rock thug, it obeys no commands, it will knock things off the shelf one after another if necessary to wake the entire family when it decides it is time to be fed. There's not an item in our home it has not attempted to eat, scratched, dumped over and broken, shed upon or puked all over at some point in its illustrious career.

I knew it was trouble the first time I locked eyes with the critter standing expectantly in front of my door. Shoo! I wasn't having any of it. But my daughter is softhearted and seems to attract snakes, lizards, goats, horses and anything else that wanders around on God's green earth. If there really are mountain lions in Iowa, there will be one in Kate's room sooner or later. She has come in holding a wild rabbit that came right into her hands - I'm not kidding.

It was a damn cold winter, and that Gray Cat out there is awful thin. "Can I just put out some food for it dad?"

Grumble, grumble. I supposed we can't let the mangry thing die on our lawn.

"It's snowing. Can't I put out a box in the garage for it?"

Grumble, grumble. I guess we don't want it to freeze to death under my Jeep. (Who knew that the box was going to contain dad's own bath towel to cuddle the ratty thing?)

"It's ten below. Can't I bring it into the basement... just for tonight I promise plllllllease?"

You get the idea. It happens one step at a time. And now, at this moment, the fleabag will be either laying on my best shirt in my bed, or sitting in my bathtub which it uses as its own personal day spa, or seated comfortably right in the middle of my kitchen table after removing the curtain rod from the wall because it was blocking her sun.

I on the other hand, now live in a box in the garage, or so it sometimes seems.

I guarantee you I have spent more on the cat's nursing back to health, worming, shots, etc. over the year since it insinuated itself into my household than I have on my own health care in the past 20 years. Doc Stephan sends me Christmas cards.

The kids call the monster "Fluffy." Ha, Pain in the Butt would be a better name. I have refused to admit to myself that it is permanent, so I will only call it The Gray Cat.

As in "Skat #*!@%! Gray Cat!" when I wake up with it standing on my chest, pin-sharp claws flexing in my skin, staring into my eyes with gold pupils from a distance of about one inch away, as if considering how it might steal my very soul through my pupils.

Um, dude - do I know you from a previous life or something?

We certainly didn't need another pet. I have enough beasts already strolling around the split-level that you can't walk without tripping over one, and their cumulative feed bill would probably support half of a small African nation.

Haughty Gray Cat isn't exactly a team player, either. On its best days, it ignores the other more domesticated residents; and if someone is in its way, it gets the snot slapped out of it. Gray Cat isn't above sinking its teeth in, either, if you hassle it.

When you open the refrigerator, it insists on crawling in to have a look around. Leave your milk glass a moment, and its unlovely face is stuck inside. It finds the most comfortable and expensive thing possible to plunk its body upon, and generally behaves as if it owns the whole place. I swear it possesses a cat smile for when it is wheedling a bite of your food, and a cat sneer for when it is perched just out of your reach, refusing all suggestions to move.

I will say for it, that it is rather fearless. I guess you get that way, living on the streets after you have been dumped. Strangely, for an animal that was probably abused earlier in life, had to survive for a long while being chased out of neighbors' garages and fighting off their dogs and probably having things thrown at it and being screamed at for ripping open garbage bags, it is not at all shy of people or animals.

When my daughter went to it, it didn't run, but settled into her arms as if to say "take me home."

And so, it appears that the gray cat has come to stay. It will probably outlive me, and I only hope that they get me buried before it dines on what's left.

It is still ugly, it still has a terrible attitude and the manners to match. And it still hasn't had an invitation to move itself on into my life.

I still don't like that darn cat.

But there are lonely nights when I drag in the door at 4 a.m. and everyone and everything else is long since asleep, that Gray Cat will be sitting there, at the top of the stairs, waiting, as if it can't consider the possibility of going off to bed until every member of its sceptically adoptive family is safely accounted for.

It isn't too much of the purring and rubbing type - it's just a bit too dignified for that.

Instead, it gives me a look. "You OK big guy? Alright, glad you're home. Where you been? You coulda called or left a note, you know. I'm going to get some sleep now, but if you decide on a tuna sandwich sometime during the night, give me a call."

I guess we can co-exist for a while longer, Gray. Now, let's go see about that tuna situation.