03 April 2010

Day 7: Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman.  ISBN: 9780380789023.

The Price from pages 51to 58 is a charming story about a feline who makes sacrifices for a family he chooses to fight for. It also has a very remarkable last paragraph in its simplicity and its depth.

"I wonder what we did to deserve the Black Cat.  I wonder who sent him.  And, selfish and scared, I wonder how much more he has to give."

I myself adopted a black cat some ten plus years ago from a pet store that hosted rescue cats in Montgomery, Alabama as a teenager.  Now I find myself back in Alabama, although in a different house and in a completely different situation.  My fiance is asleep in the next room, and I'm diligently typing away on my mother's computer.  Outside there are some neighborhood cats, some who probably belong to other neighbors, but others you can tell are a little ragged, and would probably be more so if my mother wasn't feeding them.  It's interesting to watch how they interact with each other.  Right now a grey tabby seems to be standing guard while a black cat with a white bib and boots eats, and just now they've switched positions.  I know they are not as social as dogs, but they do seem to have their own social order and society.

Meanwhile, my heffalump of a cat Simon is being both hefty and lumpy on the couch in the other room.  Simon was a Christmas cat.  A few months before, my mother kicked my brother out of the house for some very serious problems that were negatively affecting both of our lives and it was the first Christmas without him.  My mom was still recovering from the divorce only a few years prior, and she gave me a choice: Christmas tree or cat.  I never did like Christmas trees and what could be more fitting and in the spirit of the season than taking in a new family member who would otherwise be out in the cold.

We went to the pet store near our apartment building and looked at the few kittens they had from the Humane Society or ASPCA.  They all had fleas and some of them looked downright ill.  My mother wanted a little orange tabby, but he seemed irritable when held and had patches of fur missing.  Today I may have taken the orange kitten knowing that the ones who don't look healthy are harder to adopt.  But I was 14 going on 15 and I wanted a cat that would match my demeanor.  I picked up a little black kitten who was mostly ears and looked vaguely bat-like.  He was playing with the others, but calmly.  When I held him he snuggled in close to me and began purring rather than struggling or trying to climb over me.  My mother picked up a very cute puppy and we introduced the two to see how he would get along with other animals.  He was more curious than anything else and did not seem distraught by the interaction.  He came home with us.

For the first day or two I tried to come up with a better name for him than Simon.  I dislike giving animals human names and I wanted something that would better fit his personality but my mom vetoed anything I suggested, and they weren't very good suggestions anyway.  So Simon it was and Simon it has been ever since.  And he has been for me there through it all, taking care of me and my mother. He was there when I left for college and kept my mother company; he traveled with her to Germany and was there for me when I spent ten months with her on co-op; he was there when my grandmother died and dutifully crawled into my luggage to make me laugh.  He's here now to sleep at the foot of the bed, with my someday-to-be husband sleeping the coolest part of the Alabama morning away.  But I know he won't be there forever, and even though there will be other cats to come and bring joy to our lives, there will be no cat like Simon. He has given everything to us that we could ever ask for, and I only hope we've been able to do the same.

My big Heffalump cat, Simon.  April 2010.

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