Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Brief History of Staff (3 of 4)

Shortly after we moved from the apartment into our house in Center Line, Michigan, Boo passed away, an occurrence I discussed an essay in the Collector’s Edition of Ogre Ugly. I’ll not rehash it here. (It’s in the collector’s edition, the version released at Penguicon years ago. In later editions, it has been removed because we decided it was a bit too mature for children.) Even before the move, though, Boo was largely absent during daylight hours, hiding in her lair, and the kittens were gone to their new homes. That left Chaos and I.

I’ll be the first to admit, I taught him a lot of bad habits. Like drinking pop. The old apartment was within walking distance of the local 7-11 and I worked with a perpetual ‘Double Gulp’ at my side. Condensation formed on the sides of the cup and the thirsty kitten would lap at the sides. I thought it was cute and let it go. Soon he moved on to licking the condensation (and diluted soda) that pooled on the lid. I barely noticed.

The first time he popped the lid off and began to fish inside with his paw, I noticed but by then it was too late. In fact, I made it worse. Angry that he had ruined my drink, I rather spitefully poured the remaining contents into his water bowl thinking I would teach him a lesson. I did but not the one I thought. I had, instead, created a soda drinking cat. And nothing is quite as funny to watch as a kitten zipping around the house loaded full of caffeine and sugar.

I probably should have expected something like this, at the least I should have expected the paw fishing in the cup. From the time he was tiny, Chaos delighted in fishing—slapping at pieces of ice floating in his water dish—and he had an odd way of drinking that consisted of dipping his paw into the water and then licking it dry (and shaking it when he was done, spraying the room with droplets of water).

It’s strange to think of the mammoth beast that was the Mighty Kos small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, a tuft of fur, claws, and teeth that would ride inside my jacket when we walked. When he first acquired his toy mouse it was almost as big as he was. It was a block of grey felt billed as ‘indestructible.’ It was tough, but not quite that tough. After years of abuse, when it finally fell to pieces, my wife wrote a letter to the manufacturer, telling them of the years of pleasure Chaos had enjoyed from his toy, thanking them, they, in turn, sent him a box of them. He destroyed or lost them all over the years—always with great enthusiasm.

The mouse was what gave away Chaos’ secret identity. If his mother was a dragon, he was secretly a dog. He was loyal to me in a way quite unnatural for a cat and would stump happily along behind me if I failed to pick him up and carry him but his relationship with the mouse was surreal. He was a cat who would fetch. No kidding. He would pad through the house, mouse stuffed securely into his mouth, until he found me then drop the toy at my feet and begin to cry. Eventually, I’d relent, pick up the mouse, and throw it as far away as I could. (In fact, I often threw it into places I didn’t think he could get into just to watch him puzzle things out. He was amazing in his ability to get up to and into places that you’d never expect an animal, much less a three-legged on, to reach.) Once he reclaimed it, he’d cram it into his mouth with one paw and bring it back to me, beginning the entire process over again. This would go on for hours until I lost patience and hide the mouse. That was the signal to climb into my lap and take a nap, preparing for the next round of fetch.

The mouse situation became painful when Chaos decided that his favorite toy should be regularly dropped into the water dish to be washed and then fished out again. After a few of these treatments, the felt would become rock hard. Apparently this didn’t bother the cat at all but I couldn’t help but wince when I’d throw it and it would hit the floor with a crack or thunk like a rock. He was a weird cat. Great friend but weird cat.

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