Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Brief History of Staff (1 of 4)

Cats? I’ve known a few. Very few of them that acted like cats though; I suppose that’s why I put up with them.

The entire cat situation began years ago shortly after I was married. My Good Lady Wife was working in a greenhouse where a stray cat had taken up residence and deposited a litter of mewling kittens. The owner was insistent in his stance that the creatures be caught, stuffed in a bag, and tossed into the nearest body of water. And so it came to pass that my soft-hearted wife convinced her equally soft-headed husband that the poor wastrels must come to abide with us, but only for the short period of time it would take for them to find new homes. In the case of one, that period of time was nigh-on seventeen years.

First home was the slowest runner, the three-legged magician we have all come to know and love as Chaos. His mother and siblings soon followed. Of them, I’ll discuss only the one who stayed: Boo, mother of all, black cat extraordinaire of black cats. In truth, she was not a cat; she was a dragon. The first clue was her eyes, an attribute shared by Chaos. They were a deep gold laced with green as if her eyes were topographical maps of a sprawling, gemstone world.

A survivor par excellence, she spent the first few months of her life with us hiding safely in her ‘cave’ under the bed and, by the time she began to emerge in the daylight, the remainder of her kittens were safely crammed into our little apartment. Over time, she proved to be an excellent mother and taught her offspring many useful skills like team-hunting.

This was back about the time that cheese flavored potato chips, specifically cheddar cheese and sour cream flavor, had first began to appear in our local markets. I liked them; the cats loved them. Strange as it may seem, Chaos especially loved chips and bread (the additional attraction of cheese was a given) and the other cats weren’t far behind. Occasionally I would share chips with him; more often I would fend him off or hide from him in order to snack in peace. And then came the day I saw his mother’s training pay off. Chaos diligently watched me eat then began to pull at my pant’s leg, eventually climbing onto my lap. Lifting my chip safely away from him, over my shoulder, I heard a satisfied crunch as his mother took the largest bite of the chip she possibly could and sprint away. Pack hunting, out-smarting the human, and Boo took the first cut. It was a harbinger of things to come and indicative of the cat’s uncanny intelligence.

After seeing the eyes and the mind of a dragon in the body of a cat, I shouldn’t have been surprised at her love of metallic baubles and her hording instinct. The hording, I attributed to her years as a scavenger. It became apparent early on that she had once been someone’s beloved pet only to be dumped later to survive by her wits alone—and she didn’t just survive, she prospered.

I first saw the hording in regard to food. I had prepared a cookie sheet of chicken nuggets and left them on the stove-top to cool. Minutes later, I spied a black cat shooting toward the bedroom, nugget in her mouth. I was amused and let her go. Once again, the cat had taken advantage of a human lapse and who was I to deprive her of her rightful gain? I returned to my book and, a short while later, entered the kitchen to prepare my plate. The tray of nuggets was half empty. I hadn’t been robbed of one piece but a dozen. Boo had been diligently toting food as fast as she could from kitchen to lair, storing up against future famine.

Small object disappeared with regularity. Earrings, coins, pewter miniatures, screws from a disassembled vacuum cleaner, small pieces of blown glass—nothing seemed safe. By now I had my suspicions and I followed them into the dragon’s den. Sure enough, laying on my stomach under the bed, under the baleful gaze of a very displeased cat, I found the missing objects—and more. To this day, I’ve no idea how she managed to wrestle object almost as big as she was into her lair but they were there. It was a respectable horde for a raccoon—or a dragon.

A final story on Boo’s love of loot and glitter. I was sorting coins into stacks so that I could then, in turn put them in wrappers, and had the table covered in stacks of dimes. Just as I finished, Boo leapt onto the table, took a look at the situation, and, with a contemptuous paw, slapped the neat stacks into a more comfortable mound. She then sprawled across the top of it and began to purr contentedly. I kid you not. It was in that rather surreal moment that I realized I could no longer deny the obvious. She might look like a cat but this creature that shared my home was, in fact, a dragon.


Rick said...

As the Master of Dragons and a true cat lover, I have to congratulate you on a wonderful post!

Looking forward to seeing you at Conclave this year and to us both having stories in "Tales Out of Miskatonic University."

Ferrel (Rick) Moore

Starbuck O'Shea said...

Dragons lair, cats lair... and speaking of which, Gamble pinged my finger with a single claw yesterday when I tried to pat him one-fingered in HIS lair. His Secret Lair is the bay window. Curtain-shrouded, of course.

Like Harkos, Gamble is a cat who understands exactly how much minimal force is needed to prove a point. A professional. :>

Your cats, and your telling of them, are excellent, MK.