Wanna read the latest from Clever Magazine?
Click here and return to the coverpage!

And Then There Were Ten...cats!

by Richard Hartwell

this is Emma

Now let me see if I have this straight. For every life there is a Jekyll and a Hyde personality. Check. Cats have nine lives. Check. I have ten cats. Check. (But shhh, Animal Control doesn’t have proof of this, but they have their suspicions.) Therefore, I’m hanging out with about one-hundred-eighty feline personae at a time. Actually, it’s probably a bit less than that; Lily keeps throwing caution to the wind and must be down three or four lives by now. But then there’s the ghosts . . .

I could lie and tell you that I have no idea how we ended up with ten cats. I won’t. I could also compound that lie and tell you that we have never had so many. I won’t do that either. Let’s see, where to start.

Gabriel, the oldest

Gabriel, the oldest, is the only one left of an ancient group of three dropped off at the office door of our vet years ago.  He has only one fang, meows in a falsetto, has large eyes like a nocturnal rodent, and he drools – at least until he shakes his head vigorously.  We also think he may be gay, or at least bi-. Gabe is a smoky-beige shorthair. 

Next in age is Maggie, Mags, my wife’s current cat-favorite, a black and white and brown calico with a bad attitude and a (Shhh again) bad wait issue.  She just can’t wait for her turn at the bowl. Yeah, I know. It IS a lame pun, but good grief she is so FAT! 

Then comes Job – rhymes with robe, not mob -- a huge longhair we think is a Norweigen Forest Cat, about the closest we’ve ever come to a purebred in this house! Job is the second-biggest cat with the next-to-smallest voice. Perhaps Job was altered too soon as a kitten; it’s a toss-up whether Gabriel was spayed or neutered. These three cats are the last of three different groups we have acquired either as strays or from the Animal Shelter. That’s sort of the issue, we keep getting litters or the remains of litters.

Maggie, with the bad attitude

Job, the Norwegian Forest Cat

The middle group (three supposedly from the same litter, but shhh, I have my doubts about Emma’s parentage) consists of Murphy and Nora, twin brown-and-white tabbies, and Emma, a tortie. Murphy has ballerina feet. He is fast becoming the largest cat, but seems always to be en pointe. There are many conflicts in our house! Nora is a sweetie, but beware her eighteen nails; keep them in sight at all times. Then Emma, whose full legal name of Emma Vera Wang often echoes through the house, bellowed by me, when she gets into trouble such as dodging into the garage when the laundry room door is opened and then only reluctantly being baited out from under one of the cars with a laser light.  Emma is also a biter; however, she only bites me! She has a crush, but in her muddled adolescence she doesn’t know how to show it appropriately. I have a recurring nightmare that I will die in bed and Emma will be found feasting on my corpse in the morning. Bon appétit!

Murphy and Nora

Now seven would be more than enough for any household of cat-lovers and whenever my wife ventures out to PetSmart, I always rant and rave “No more animals! No cats! No way!” But having the great marriage we do after thirty-four years, Sally always ignores me and does what her heart dictates. Most recently she returned with a large box containing five kittens, three boys and two girls. They were very young, perhaps three weeks at most, and very quiet and very sick. They were supposed to have been retrieved from the store by one of their litter-sitters, but that person had failed to return and “Sucker-Sally” showed up at the right time with the double-F emblazoned on her hero’s cape: Feline Fanatic. Sally assured me that after we fed them and cleaned them up and the “real” sitter returned, that she would take them back.

the kittens

 It was a long, touch-and-go process to nurse them to health and we actually lost the smallest male at our vet’s recommendation when we took the group in after a day or two; shots, medicines, and vitamins were required for all.  Those who have done so know the process of bottle-feeding kittens followed by the inevitable diarrhea and then the necessary cleanup, and then the cycle repeats.  Then there is the bonding!  There is no doubt that the four imprinted on us early on and when we were eventually contacted to return the litter, we didn’t.  So, we have ended up with ten cats, (long pause) currently.

The two boys, Bruno and Oreo, are mottled black-and-white, and the two girls, Matilda or Tillie and Lily-Pad, are calicoes. Bruno is now one of the three largest, yet is fearful of even his own shadow, loves to have his tummy scratched, and still has eye problems left over from his poor beginnings. Oreo, who now “owns” our grandson, is a loner and is often the last accounted for when roll call is taken when someone leaves a door open too long. Tillie, Matilda, is the most skittish and like Oreo is also somewhat of a loner. And finally, Lily! Lily is mine; or rather, I am hers! She is currently curled up on my lap, insisting on being scratched under her chin, and occasionally stretching and striking the keyboard to add her own unique touch to whatever I am composing. I am fortunate indeed to be loved passionately by distinctly different cats, Emma Vera Wang and Lily Pad, Gabriel too, but that’s different. By the way, Lily is somewhat of a tomboy, she surfs, or at least that’s what my wife calls it.

Lily runs wherever she goes and when she encounter the dog-leg to the left in the middle of the hallway leading to the bedrooms, she hits the wall about waist-high in order to make the turn without slowing down or skidding on the wood floor.  In the middle of the night I am occasionally awakened, as (Thump!) I hear Lily (Thump!) running back and forth (Thump!) from living room to bedroom (Thump!).  Even if I sleep through Lily’s nocturnal ramblings, I can follow her trail as I re-straighten the pictures in the hallway each morning.  But she is my sweetheart nonetheless.  One easily forgives minor idiosyncrasies in those one loves.  My wife reminds me of this constantly.

 So we own ten cats – pardon me – we areowned by ten cats. Actually, depending on your personal views of an animal hereafter, you could say we are owned by more than ten. There is Jacob, the solid gray from just before Gabriel, gone about a year now but who still butts and burrows in the middle of the night to get under the covers. 

And there are Christopher, with six toes on one paw, and Nicole, his brain-damaged sister from sunstroke, both were pinto-banded peers of Jacob and Gabriel, whose ashes are in mahogany boxes on the living room bookcases. You can hear them moving about after midnight when the wind echoes in the fireplace baffle and the food bowl needs replenishing. And not finally, but just to wind things up, there is Pumkin, my wife’s cat of fifteen years whom we buried under the apricot tree out back about twenty years ago. We still see her dark shadow running across the backyard at dusk, chasing lizards and dreams.

Richard and Lily

This is a life we didn’t choose, but one which chose us.  I am very grateful for the cats in my life, all ten or fourteen or eighty-four or ninety, or one-hundred-eighty (less those Lily has squandered) or however many whichever way you choose to count. True, it IS a bit crowded in a three bedroom tract-home of less than fifteen-hundred square feet; however, it isn’t the cats’ fault, it’s the seven humans who get in the way. I have learned to live with this, the cats not the humans.  I only wish we all could split the mortgage payment. Let’s see, eight-hundred-ten dollars divided by seventeen, or . . .

What the heck, Lily’s entertainment value alone is worth millions. She just hit the delete key – I’m too verbose -- so I guess we’ll stop.

Rick is a retired middle school teacher who lives in Moreno Valley, California, with his wife of almost thirty-five years (poor soul, her, not him), their disabled daughter, one of their sons and his ex-wife (?) and two children, Rick and Sallys grandchildren, and ten cats! Yes, ten. Dont ask. Rick has had articles, stories, poetry, or memoirs published in Educational Leadership, English Journal, California English, Kappa Delta Pi Record, The Voice, Sunspots, Once Upon A Time, and Vietnam Magazine; and, online at The National Gallery of Writing, www.galleryofwriting.org, Raphaels Village, www.raphaelsvillage.com, The Foundling Review, www.foundlingreview.com, and Bibliotheca Alexandrina: Anointed: A Devotional Anthology, http://neosalexandria.wordpress.com.

Find it here!     

Home | Writers' Guidelines | About Clever Magazine | Contact Us
The Editor's Page | Recipes I Humor Archive

© No portion of Clever Magazine may be copied or reprinted without express consent of the editor.