The three boys

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I have a cat story to tell you if you’re of a mind to listen. It’s a simple story because cats are, at heart, simple creatures. We exist to serve them, which pretty much puts an end to any issue of complexity.

Many, many years ago, I was living in Tempe Arizona with my soon to be husband who became my ex-husband and is now my best friend who just recently became my platonic room-mate….

Years and years ago I was living in Tempe Arizona with Rob.

At the time, I was working for a real estate company as an office manager, which is really nothing more than a glorified secretary and general do things person. However, my status was somewhat elevated because I had two part time people working direcly for me: a weekend secretary, and Maude.

Maude was at least 103 years old, tiny, hunched, and usually dressed in bright fluorescent polyester pantsuits. She was a chain smoker, and spent the day with a cigarette permanently dangling from her lip. To complete the look, she would change into slippers, nice flip flops, once she got to work. They’re for my bunions, she would tell me as she slipped them on. Since she sat at a desk all day, this wasn’t a problem, but she had to get to the desk first. Watching her walk cross the room was, always, a fascinating experience:

Shuffle, puff. Shuffle, puff. Shuffle…HACK! Hack! Gack! Cough, cough. Weeze. WEEZE! A moment of silence … and then a wry smile and a subtle wink, movement knocking an inch of ash to the ground.

Shuffle, puff. Shuffle, puff.

One day one of the realtors came in talking about a friend of hers having to find a new home for her cat. It would seem, said the realtor, that this friend wasn’t having the easiest time of it; though the cat was a lovely full grown calico female, she was also a few weeks shy of having kittens. If the friend couldn’t find a home soon, the realtor sighed, she would have to take the cat down to the Humane Society.

We called her Mama Kitty, since we weren’t planning on keeping her after the kittens were born and weaned. The plan was to find homes for all the cats as soon as possible because Rob and I just weren’t into having pets at that time. However, Mama Kitty was a wonderful cat. Gentle, quiet, intelligent, affectionate. She was no trouble at all, and we were feeling pretty smug about our humanitarian rescue.

A couple of weeks after she moved in, Mama Kitty came into the bedroom one night meowing at us, trying to get us to follow her into the hallway. We had set up a birthing area in the hallway closet and Mama Kitty was amenable to the location, but, contrary to many of the feline family, she wanted someone there to hold her paw while she gave birth.

We sat in the hall next to the open closet door, murmuring gentle reassurances as she gave birth, one right after the other, to three tiny, ugly little kittens. Really, they were wet, their eyes were closed, and they were all nose. They looked like seals.

The first born was Bootsie, so named because he was a gray tabby with white paws.

The second born was Blackie, so named because he was a solid black.

Finally the third was born, a gray tabby with no distinguishing features. Since we and Mama Kitty were tired, we decided to worry about a name for the third kitten the next day.

We went back to bed and soon to sleep until we were woken by the most awful racket — it sounded like something was killing one of the kittens. We ran out into the hallway and peered into the box containing the cats. Mama Kitty was on her side, eyes half squinted as if the sound of the kitten was hurting her ears. Blackie and Bootsie were each attached to a nipple, contented. However, the little nameless kitten was off to the side, hollering its fool head off because it couldn’t find its way to a nipple.

“Why you stupid little twerp”, I said with some exasperation, and nudged the little guy over until it was next to its mama, his cries soon stilled in favor of happy sucking.

Bootsie, Blackie, and Twerp were quite willing to stay in their box while their eyes were closed. However, once their eyes opened, it was a constant struggle to keep the kittens out of trouble. Bootsie was always getting himself into places he couldn’t get out of, Twerp had a knack for planting himself underneath a foot, and Blackie, well, Blackie was just plain weird.

Blackie didn’t walk, he ran, everywhere. He had small beedy yellow eyes, rusty matted semi-long, semi-short black fur, and looked just like a demented owl. When he wasn’t sleeping or eating, he was constantly engaged in furious, and exhaustion provoking, activity.

To help channel some of that excess energy, we hung a cat toy that came with an elastic band underneath the dining room table, and Blackie would play with the thing for hours. One day, though, Blackie played with the toy too hard and the thing bounced up and wrapped itself around his neck, literally strangling him. He screeched, clawing frantially at the band, bobbing up and down like a Halloween apple. I grabbed him to try and prevent further strangulation, while Rob went running to find a knife to cut the elastic.

Luckily, no lasting harm was done. Or at least, none that we could tell with Blackie.

The kittens grew, rapidly, and were soon ready for their first cat food, of which they seemed to need and want vast amounts frequently throughout the day. I had the evening feeding shift and Rob had the morning, and he would stumble out to the kitchen before the sun rose, opening cans and hastily shoving food on to plates and under the voracious maws.

One day, though, Rob was just a little too slow, and Bootsie, who had become quite strong and agile, took a flying leap and sunk his tiny kitten claws into Rob’s butt. Rob let out a yell and I came running into the kitchen just in time to see him trying to angle his hands around behind himself to grab at this kitten, claws hooked securely into the seat of his pants. To make matters worse, Blackie thought this was great fun so he started climbing Rob’s leg, kitten pitons making short work of the journey, each movement bringing fresh curses to the morning air.

I ran forward to help, prying one kitten paw off then another. However, each time I would free one paw, another would become attached. By now, Blackie had finished his ascent and had joined his brother, claws firmly into the jeans bottoms, and the flesh underneath, having the time of its short kitten life.

Twerp just sat on the floor by the food dishes. And cried.

It was then that we knew we would keep “The Boys”. There’s a special bond that forms when you have a cat hanging from your butt.

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