There are dog people. There are cat people. There are tomato people. There are tomahto people. I like dogs. I only sort of like cats. Dogs are eager to please. They want your company. There is the faithful dog in the movie Up, that to me, epitomizes dogs perfectly.
“You will throw the ball! And I will chase the ball! And I will bring it back to you! Because I am your dog and you are my master. And I love you!!!”
Throw a ball for a cat and he’ll look at you like you’re not just crazy but stupid.
Cats are self involved. They want what they want when they want it and it never occurs to them say thank you. All right, yes, if you pet them they purr. But they only let you pet them when it suits them and they will stop purring at a moment’s notice.
Having said that, cats are interesting. Even memorable. In retrospect, the dogs in my life, aside from a few quirks and sillies, seem wonderfully the same.
“You will throw the ball! And I will chase the ball! And then we will lick our balls together!”
The cats in my life have been distinctive, each one so unique they might be of different species. Two in particular.
Bullet was a snow white cat that appeared out of the woods when I was in my late teens. I have no idea who gave this truly elegant cat the ludicrous name of Bullet – perhaps my step-father who was prone to doing things like giving my mother snow tires for Christmas.
At first Bullet came no closer than the edge of the yard. If you even looked at him, he was gone. He began to come closer. He was obviously a stray and my mother put out food for him. He ignored it. He would always ignore it. But he came closer still and we could see now that he had crystal blue eyes. Someone ventured – again, probably my step father, who was a mad scientist - that snow white, blue eyed cats were congenitally deaf.
Like a scout in hostile territory, Bullet finally crept into the house one day. And ran right back out. And came in again. Went a little further. And ran out again. And came in again. Out. In. A little further each time.
Because my grandmother was there. She was in a first floor bedroom, very ill, very frail, bed ridden with an unknown virus that would eventually lead to the cancer that would kill her. She and Bullet actually looked alike. Illness had turned my grandmother’s hair snow white, had made her blue eyes incredibly bright.
One day Bullet went into her room. He stared at her a moment. He ran out. He came back in. He jumped up on the bed. My grandmother reached out a hand. He sniffed. He lay down. He allowed himself to be petted. He purred.
Bullet became my grandmother’s cat. They communed on a daily basis for at least a year. He would spend the day, leave at night. Where he went no one knew. If you tried to even approach him, he was gone.
On the day my grandmother finally went to the hospital, Bullet ran from the house. He never returned.
I was in my early 20’s and had lucked into the best communal apartment on the upper west side of
. Four bedrooms, big kitchen, bigger living room. Great roommates. New York
Barbara. A social worker.
Art. A financial wizard in the making.
Larry. An aspiring comedian.
Pete. The lone knucklehead of the group. Prone to waking up in the morning and screaming profanity because he couldn’t get his underwear on. Prone to throwing a frozen hamburger in a frying pan, turning the flame on high and then going to take a shower. Prone to walking up to strange girls in bars, being ignored and then walking back to tell you – “ah, they were playing hard to get”.
(I pitched the TV idea for Friends fifteen to twenty years before it happened.)
And Kilroy was there. He belonged to Barb.
He was vicious. He was insane. He was prone to feline epileptic fits. He’d be standing in one place and for no apparent reason would suddenly leap three feet in the air, yowl like a banshee, bounce off a wall or two and then run into another room.
He liked to piss in your shoes.
He had never gotten out of an oral phase. He would climb on female guests who would mistakenly think he was cute. He would proceed from their laps to their chests where he would start sucking at the cloth over their breasts, while copping free feels with his paws. The female guest would finally realize what he was doing and pushed him away in disgust and alarm.
Of course, this happened to all the men in the apartment.
Barb, usually a sensible woman, adored Kilroy. Art, her husband to be, detested him.
One spring day when Art come home from work. Kilroy was sunning on the window sill. Art and I chatted a moment and then, turning, Art saw his hated rival.
Hah!, said Art.
Where upon Kilroy hissed and leapt backwards –-- out the open window.
Art and I looked at one another. We were five floors up. Neither of us gave a shit about the cat but we both loved Barb.
Oh, fuck, said Art.
We went running out the door. We went running down five flights of stairs. Expecting to see a cat turned to flattened dog food, we ran out the front door and down the brownstone’s steps. To find Kilroy....
Standing there. His legs were shaky his eyes were crossed. You could almost see the cartoon stars and birdies circling his head. He looked as if he was ready to regurgitate a huge hair ball or was working his way up to a particularly violent fit. But this wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
He was seemingly unharmed.
We waited a while to make sure he wasn’t to explode. When he didn’t, we got him upstairs where he retreated to Barb’s closet.
Later that evening Barb asked us – Is Kilroy acting a little strange to you?
No, Art said. Why?
As opposed to what, I said.
Mmm, said Barb.
We distracted her by sending out for Hagen Daz.
She fed some to Kilroy who lived an incredibly long time.