A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Friday, January 11, 2008

R.I.P. Catfish

Sometimes it seems that half my day is spent fritzing around with animals. Right now I've got a sick ferret and a spoiled bratty dog. Zuzu is perhaps eight, ancient for a domestic ferret. Although she seems to have had about 39 lives, I think her little body is finally giving out, and she's requiring a lot of care lately. Tazzy is like a two-year-old child, insisting on attention just when you're busiest. Both of these pets were inherited, but the absolute worst pet I ever had was one I picked out all by myself.

It was six or seven years ago. My son was pestering me for a dog, but for some reason I thought that a cat would be cheaper, easier, and more acceptable to the landlord. How little did I know!

I'm not really a cat person at all, but I do (sorry, make that I did) have a slight weakness for marmalade cats. My cousin, who had way too many cats and was trying to give away a couple, had a magnificent orange one. The minute she told me she thought she'd found a home for him, I felt like I had to have him. She cleverly convinced me that two cats would actually be easier than one. Next thing I knew, I was the proud caretaker of Catfish and his brother Yum-Yum.

Catfish I doted on; Yum-Yum I took for granted. Yummy was just as big and beautiful, with just as magnificent a tail, but smoky gray. He was playful, affectionate, and easygoing. Yum-Yum purred, preened, and nuzzled; Catfish slunk around and would never look you in the eye. Worse, he pissed on everything. Cat owners told me he was confused, just trying to get as far away from his food dish as possible, but come on. When a cat pisses in your bed while you're in it, he's trying to teach you a lesson.

I took him to the vet, who pronounced him healthy. I barred him from every room containing bedding or upholstery. One night I got so frustrated with him that I threw him out of the house. During the night it snowed--a lot--and in the morning I couldn't find him. I thought he might have gone under our shed, one of his favorite hideouts, so I started to shovel a path out there. I had made it halfway when I saw a little paw breaking through the snow. Little by little, he dug himself out.

Not long afterward, we moved to this house. He seemed distraught as we packed and moved things around. The morning after we moved, he died. We buried him back in the old yard, not far from his shed.

Rest in peace, Catfish. You were the best-looking, worst-behaved cat I have ever had the bad fortune to meet. Now I know that orange cats are special--in a bad way. It's no accident that Garfield is an orange cat, and Heathcliff, and Morris. If I could make you as famous as them, I would. You deserve the crown.