There are some cats born so lovable they melt the hearts of even the most faithful dog lovers. Others are so beautiful and graceful, everyday humans simply stare at them in admiration and respect. And some felines wear an aura of inscrutable mystery that inspires poets.
But Sunday the Cat was just born tough and grouchy. If she were born human, you could easily imagine her as an overripe teenage girl talking too loudly with a half-lit cigarette hanging out of her mouth.
Sunday was a survivor. Within weeks of her birth, most of her brothers, sisters, and
Mother were wiped out by Feline Leukemia. As the vet took her from me in the waiting room of his office, he was very grave.
“If she was the largest kitten in the litter, she got most of her Mother’s milk.” he said. “If her Mom died of the disease, chances are almost 100% she has it too. It’s a horrible, hopeless disease. If she tests positive, shall I just put her to sleep?” I sadly nodded my head. Although I had known this marmalade kitten with the lioness head and the bad mood for only a day or two, she was already knocking on the door to my heart. I sat down and stared at the floor. After a short time, I heard the vet’s excited voice. When Iturned around, he was walking towards me with Sunday in his hands!
“You won’t believe this: she tested negative for leukemia! I even gave her a second test at my own expense to make sure. She’s negative!”
Sunday quickly thanked the cat doctor by hissing loudly and taking a swipe at his face with her little paw. I also noticed a fresh scratch on one of his hands. The glare he gave the kitten was a visual definition of ambivalence.
Four months later on a hot summer night, Sunday must have seen a moth or bug outside my bathroom window. She dove after it and hurtled down four stories breaking her pelvis upon landing. This did not improve her disposition one little bit. She stayed two days at the emergency vet’s. She was supposed to stay three but the staff couldn’t stand her.
“She bites and scratches everyone who comes near her!” whined the vet’s aid. “We think it would be OK if she went home now.” I rushed to the hospital. When I saw this awful “aid” carrying my cat into the lobby, I stared in disbelief. Sunday was in a straightjacket - a goddamn cat straightjacket! (Who even knew they had such things?) It was made of thick lamb’s wool surrounded by heavy leather and buckled with wide straps. The only visible part of Sunday was her head which was wildly darting around trying to bite anyone she could reach.
“Get her out of that thing!” I growled.
“Sir, we have to protect our staff from ...... “
“GET HER OUT OF THAT THING NOW!” The tinny-voiced drone who made a lousy
career choice probably realized I was now more of a threat than a 9-pound cat. She
gently laid the bundle on the reception desk. I started unbuckling the straps.
“Sir, be careful! She’s in pain and heavily-medicated. She may not even recognize you.”
“I tenderly picked up Sunday and held her in my arms. She hid her face in my elbow.”
“Well,” Tin-voice said, “I guess she knows her Daddy.”
Before she’d even finished her sentence, Sunday turned her head, bared her teeth, and hissed at her. And although I often wish I could act more maturely in situations like this, I must admit, I did the exact same thing.
Over the next few years, Sunday became an overly-loved, spoiled cat who instinctively knew when she hit my patience limit with her constant demands for attention, games, and treats. When I rushed to grab the small water-squirter bottle with which I constantly threat-ened to discipline her, she rarely ran. She just bowed her head, dropped her tail, and waited for the extremely-rare, soft stream of water. Who could squirt a cat like that? And when it was time to spray our plants, Sunday froze in wide-eyed amazement. You just knew her cat brain was saying, “But what in the world did THEY do?”
Sunday was the moodiest cat anyone had ever seen. Sometimes she could be the most gentle, loving companion imaginable. She’d tilt her head, stare at you with baby-love eyes as you lied on the floor softly talking with her - and then she’d run across your forehead at mad speed, full claws extended for no discernible reason. She terrorized Betty, the poor cleaning woman who was afraid of cats and followed her every minute she was in the apartment.
Sunday tried to teach Monday, the cat we got for her, to crouch and “hunt” the birds who landed safely on the other side of the terrace window. But she always seemed to shake her head and slowly walk away in heart-wrenching disappointment, tail completely down, when Monday turned out to be a student with serious Attention Deficit Disorder. She’d turn her back on all of us and just face a wall with her own despondent thoughts until we all begged her to cheer up and come play.
Attention was something for which Sunday lived! Once, when I was talking to a friend who stopped paying attention to her, Sunday jumped into the trash basket next to his legs and hung her big, raccoon tail over the side! Needless to say, all attention was again focused on her. Have you ever seen a cat who climbed on the television after you’ve seated gueststo watch a video and who then patiently waited for the opening credits to roll before dropping her bushy tail directly in front of the screen? Or a pushy fur-face who would eat cigarette butts out of ashtrays and dental floss or anything plastic from the floor and then watch in delight as “her people” scrambled around loudly arguing if the emergency vet should be called - again? With Sunday the cat, incidents like these happened at least once or twice a week!
When my wife and I separated, she took Monday and Sunday and I became even closer.
Perhaps Sunday’s strangest and possibly most annoying eccentricity was her demand
for me to watch her eat. Fortunately, this only happened three or four times a month. After preparing her dinner and fresh water on a tray and setting it down, I usually walked over to the computer or the television. Occasionally, for no apparent reason, Sunday would look at her tray and then stare at me. It was a routine through which we went countless times.
“Sunday,” I’d say aloud, “I don’t care if you eat your dinner. It’s no big deal to watch you eat - I’ve watched you eat dozens of times. Who cares if you eat?” I’d then make a grand effort to turn around and go back to my computer or TV. And then my blood pressure began to rise because I knew - I just knew - she wasn’t eating! Then I’d slightly turn my head and find her out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough - there she was - not eating - staring at me - just waiting for me before beginning her dinner.
Then, with a clenched jaw and a stratospheric blood pressure, I’d say to myself, “Well really, what’s the fuss here? If so little makes her happy, why not?” I’d then walk over to her dinner tray, lie next to her, and watch her eat her smelly, expensive cat food.
“This is the last time though, Sunday!”, I’d say aloud, “It’s no big deal to watch you eat. Who cares if you eat?”
When I said those words, she never even looked up.
Hannah was a dancer; an erotic dancer. All right, Hannah was a stripper.
“Dancer?” as one old drunk at her club once said, “These girls aren’t exactly Ginger Rogers. Hell, most of ‘em can’t even dance as well as Roy Rogers!”
I’m sure Hannah had no idea who Ginger Roger was. I asked her once - she didn’t - she never heard of Roy Rogers either. “Does he come in here?” she asked.
Anyway, Hannah was a beautiful, tall, lithe woman in her early twenties. She grew up on a farm in a small town and quickly decided “dancing” was a better career choice than raising goats - at least it paid a lot more.
She told me at first it was hard to keep from laughing when she pretended the cold, brass pole against which she leaned her bare back was really turning her on. But the men bought the fantasy and tipped her accordingly. Actually, after just a few minutes of conversation, Hannah completely destroyed the “dumb stripper” stereotype. “I don’t talk like this to every guy,”she once told me, “you’re special.” I believed it the first few times. Hey! - I was young and she was a lot smarter than strippers are supposed to be, OK?
Anyway, Hannah and I went out on a few dates and enjoyed each other’s company. It wasn’t too long afterwards that I asked her to my apartment. I invited her to sit on the couch as I went to the kitchen to make some drinks. She smiled, crossed her incredibly long legs, and elegantly lit a cigarette. After a few minutes I heard,
“What is it with this cat? Why is it staring at me?”
“Damn!” I thought as I rushed back to the living room only to see Sunday sitting on the coffee table, immediately in front of the dancer, intensively eyeing this possible rival. Now you must remember, Hannah grew up on a farm. Cats lived in her family’s barn only to keep down the mice and rat population. Having one as an indoor pet was roughly equivalent to making a pet of a chicken.
“Oh.” I lied, “That means she likes you.” Hannah looked at me skeptically through her cigarette smoke. It seemed men may have lied to her before.
“Really.” I quickly said. “Sunday is my pal and she’s anxious to meet you. Watch this. Put your hand out like you’re going to shake her paw.” Hannah did as she was told. For once it was an advantage to have an ex-wife who was a psychology major. T. taught Sunday to ‘shake’ on command when she was a kitten; it was the only trick she ever learned.
“Sunday, shake!” Fortunately, my beautiful cat extended her paw and shook “hands” with Hannah.
“I can’t believe it!” shrieked Hannah a little too loudly, :”A cat who can shake like a dog! She quickly extended her hand again, “Sunday, SHAKE!”
Before I could say anything, Sunday loudly hissed and made an impressive leap to the top of the couch millimeters from Hannah’s head. Hannah, of course, screamed and threw herself to the side of the couch. Of course if Sunday had really wanted to harm the lady, she easily could have. This was just a dramatic warning.
“Sunday!” I yelled, “Bad cat! Go to your chair! BAD!” Sunday slowly walked off the couch and skulked into her chair across the room. The glare she gave me reminded me of how she looked when I was dumb enough to buy cheap cat food on sale .
After a time, things settled down and Hannah and I became even more friendly. When it got warmer, she began to remove her clothes. When I complimented her on how smoothly she did that, she said, “It’s my job - remember?”
When it was time, we walked into my bedroom; Hannah, me.........and Sunday. Hannah and I laid down on the bed......and so did Sunday.
“Get rid of the cat, OK?”
“It’s only a cat Hannah, forget about it,” I said as I tried to start kissing her again.
“Well if you won’t get rid her, “ she said pulling away, “I will!” Then she gracefully hopped off the bed, picked up a squawking Sunday, tossed her out, and closed the door.
After a few pleasant hours, Hannah had to leave. As we walked into the living room, we both expressed our desire to see each other again. I quickly noticed Sunday was not around but I didn’t say anything.
I watched as the beautiful dancer began to pick up her clothes and was surprised when she looked puzzled.
“How did my clothes get wet?” she said as she brought them up to her unforgettable face. “And they smell. THEY SMELL! Your goddamn cat peed all over my clothes! Goddamnit! That bitch pissed on my clothes!”
I can’t remember exactly what I said next. I’m sure I babbled a collection of apologies, offers of dry cleaning, and pleas of forgiveness. But it really didn’t matter - Hannah was in a rage. I gave her a pullover but she had to wear her wet, nose-insulting jeans. I offered a plastic bag for her other wet clothes. She snatched it from my hands. Somehow I knew we’d never date again; somehow, I was right. It was a long, silent elevator ride and walk to her car.
When I returned to our apartment, my furry roommate was eating her top-shelf dry food from a bowl on her Chinese red tray.
“You little bitch........”, I snarled.
Sunday continued to eat and never even looked up.