In A Manner Of Speaking, I Suppose I DoI’m a dog person by nature, and always have been. Despite that (or maybe because of it), felines apparently have a strange attraction to me and there always seems to be one around. I’ve never actually “owned” a cat; never gone and picked one out and brought it home. No, the cats in my life have always appeared unbidden. Some stayed for just a day or two while others lingered for years, but they have all been odd in their own way.
The current feline phantom that haunts my home is no exception. As I sit here this morning, sipping my coffee, sorting through the morning news, and trying to get some work done, he sits on his bookshelf, pretending to sleep while actually watching me with one slightly malignant eye. I call him Cletus (not that I think he cares) due to his rather interesting appearance. Cletus is missing two teeth in the front, part of one ear, and about a quarter of his tail. When he bares his teeth, which happens frequently, he resembles a grizzled, inbred redneck protecting his stash of moonshine. I really should buy him a miniature banjo to complete the look.
Like his predecessors, Cletus just appeared one day. It was during early spring of last year, and I was sitting on the back porch working when I heard a sound that mere words cannot do justice, although "unsettling" and "disturbing" come to mind. It was something more than a simple “meow” but less than an anguished shriek. It was Cletus, standing in the yard, staring at me, demanding what I correctly assumed to be food.
Over the next several days, we reached an uneasy agreement: I provided food and limited shelter on the back porch and in exchange, Cletus agreed to shut the hell up and stop peeing all over the screens and the back door. This lasted for nearly two weeks, until a leftover blast of cold weather swept through.
Though I can’t vouch for the contents of Cletus's scarred chest, I do have a heart. When dusk came on that cold, blustery day, Cletus was doing his best to look sympathetic and agreeable as he sat on the top step, an almost forlorn look in his slightly crossed eyes. When I cracked the door to the house and stepped aside, I think I saw a shrewd, knowing look cross his face as he sauntered in without hesitation. He stopped in the middle of the den, sat comfortably on his haunches, and looked up at me, apparently waiting to see if I would argue. I simply told him that the first time he peed or crapped in the house he would find himself back out in the cold. He bl
Our arrangement continues to survive, though tenuously. He watches me carefully even when he’s sleeping, and I pretend he doesn’t stink. He hasn’t broken the one rule I gave him, and I continue to provide food and shelter. He shrieks like a banshee loosed from the depths of Hell when he wants to go in or out, and I quickly respond. I never try to pet him, and he agrees not to kill me in my sleep. I decided very early not to ask where he goes when he leaves; I prefer to imagine that a tiny black carriage pulled by equally tiny black horses, each with flaming hooves and soot-spewing nostrils, picks him up and whisks him off to visit his true Master. Thus he remains as a malevolent, if currently benign, presence in my home.
I suppose that, like the felines that preceded him, Cletus will one day move on; perhaps deciding that he no longer likes the food I serve or maybe he'll simply grow tired of me mumbling and pacing when I’m writing.
Regardless of his reasons, I have no doubt that he will pee on my couch and crap on my desk before he goes.