Monday, May 29, 2006

Winston’s Story (Or “The Amazing and Miraculous Thing that Truly Happened to Us”) (PART 1)

Our cat, Winston Churchill: The Infinitely Bad Kitty, (a.k.a. The Kitty, a.k.a. Stupes McGee, a.k.a. Kitty Little, a.k.a. Kitty Pie, a.k.a. Kitlin, a.k.a. Goat Kitty, a.k.a. The Kittage, a.k.a. Poor Little Dead Kitty, a.k.a. Hey Cat!) is mostly finitely bad these days. That’s probably to be expected considering that she just turned 14 this past April.

Like some kind of sprawling family saga, my cat’s family history and my family history have been entwined for the better part of 25 years. Winston’s great grandparents—a crazy orange Tom and a very sociable fluffy calico—belonged to my grandmother. They had a litter of kittens, two of which came home with my sister and me—junior high and senior in high school-aged, respectively. My sister’s cat—Winston’s mother—was a beautiful short haired calico called Sam. My cat—Winston’s uncle—was a gray tabby called Al. (Yes, we were Quantum Leap fanatics. Shut up.)

They were pretty good cats, as far as cats went, but were only with us for a couple of years before they disappeared. Early in my college days, Al vanished without a trace, never to be seen again. Sam also disappeared soon after, but reappeared a few months down the line looking well-fed, healthy and quite clearly pregnant. We surmised that she had been adopted by another family, gotten knocked up and had decided to return to her real home to have her first litter of kittens. She stayed with us through the birth of that litter and hung around afterward until her kittens had been weaned. Then she vanished and we didn’t see her again until she turned up pregnant, several months later.

Among Sam’s first litter of kittens, in April of 1992, was a little kitty that was missing a tail and had something of a deformed pelvis that caused her to walk a little sideways, resembling a tiny bear. Her disability didn't slow her down much, though, and since Sam was unreliable at best, my sister adopted this runt kitty and named it Cleo. Another was a tiny orange kitten that, like most newborns, closely resembled the former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. I was quite taken with her and, being as how my cat had long since disappeared, adopted her as my own.

Years passed, during which I moved out of the house, taking Winston with me to a four bedroom pad that I shared with several roommates, called Da Crib. This is where Winston gained her reputation for being infinitely bad, and began accumulating nicknames. We called her Goat Kitty because when she was irritated with us she would mew in a fashion that sounded like a little goat braying, "Myayayayayat!"

Once, Winston climbed up onto the kitchen counter and began sniffing amongst the dirty dishes in the sink. We were watching TV and wouldn't have known she was there at all until she accidentally knocked spoon into the sink. We heard, *DINK*"Myayayaayayayayat!" for she knew she had been caught. We still laugh about that.

We also dubbed her the Poor Little Dead Kitty, because we felt that one day she would prove herself so bad that we would have no choice but to kill her. (My roommate, Joe, even composed a story for his sign-language class about the Poor Little Dead Kitty and how we were eventually going to have to kill her.) How bad was she? Well, she was full of the usual harmless kitty mischief, and was forever knocking over things that we didn't want knocked over, such as trashcans, in which she enjoyed digging for corn-cobs, that she would then strew throughout the house. (Once found a cob behind the downstairs toilet, yes we did.) However, she was also fond of excretory indiscretions, such as taking a whiz on my roommates’ freshly cleaned laundry. This prompted them to stop leaving baskets of it lying around and to keep the doors to their rooms firmly closed at all times.

When she had done something wrong, we would usually yell, “Hey, cat!” at which point she would run and try to hide by sticking her head under the edge of the sofa. She did this on the grounds that if she couldn't see us we shouldn't be able to see her, and is therefore suspected of being the reincarnation of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.

After that grand experiment in collegiate cohabitation flamed out, two years later, I moved back in with my dad, step-mother Myra, sister and Cleo (not to mention Myra’s cat Lucien, who was the half-brother of Winston & Cleo). After college graduation, I moved to Tupelo to begin my career in radio and Winston came with me. She was there when I met Ashley and there when Ashley moved away. Winston was there through our courtship and came with me when I moved to North Carolina to be closer to Ash. Though she didn’t attend the wedding, she did accompany us to Charlotte to move into our new apartment, following the honeymoon. And two years later, she survived yet another move, this time to West Virginia.

Fourteen is pretty old for a cat. Thinking realistically, we’ve been curious as to just how much longer she’s going to be around. Not that we’re eager for her passing, or anything, but we know that her days—as is the case with all of our days—are numbered. The only cat I've had for nearly as long as Winston was our other family cat, Bay, who we had from my 4th grade year through early college. He wound up testing each and every one of his nine lives, surviving car fan-blades, and innumerable fights with other cats that resulted in broken, punctured tails, torn ears and gashes upon gashes. He also had a tragic encounter with a group of backwoods Mississippi Satanists, who stabbed him in the chest with a bone and threw him into a fire. He came limping back home, weeks later, missing all of his hair and most of one ear and was recognizable only by a gray dot on his nose. That was a heartbreaking experience, but he survived it. Our vet then, Dr. Anthony, patched him up and he eventually re-grew everything but the ear. Though the wound in his chest never fully healed, he lived on for a couple more years.

Winston, by comparison, has had a very easy life. No major hassles in the realm of catfights or trauma and no major health problems other than a penchant for hairballs. We don’t worry much about her because she’s an infernal wuss that runs from the least little thing and starts at every sound, so the chances of her getting into danger are pretty slim. She goes outside almost only at night, where she’ll have cover of darkness in which to lurk. And we know she never strays far from the house because Winston never mastered the art of using the bathroom outside and has, on many occasions, pounded on the door to get in only to run to the litterbox and then return to the door to be let out again. Beyond the hairballs, the closest we’ve come to any problems with her have been occasional screaming skirmishes with other cats.

Herein lies our story.


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