06 August 2004

The Fire Cat

I remember the terror I felt when I adopted Pickles. Our first night alone together, even though (or perhaps because) I loved her so desperately and knew we wanted to be together, I wondered if I could care for her. My plants, at that time, were another thing entirely. I didn't worry about Sigfried. I'd managed not to kill him so far (I wonder if he is alive today, the victim of an unfortunate plant-napping by an unscrupulous Gonzaga law student named Tom) but he was a plant. This was a living animal, which somehow to me was more important at that point. I imagine, in a lot of ways, it still is, which makes me neither a good Wiccan nor a good Buddhist. Nor, come to think of it, a good Christian, since I am concerned so much about nonhuman life forms. I am a good steward in a nontraditional sense, I spose.

But anyway Dave Dubuque went to the Third and Maple Safeway and bought her two tupperware dishes (which I still have, I use one of them for watercolours) and some kitty litter, which I put in the bottom bit of a paper bag overnight until I bought a proper litter pan. She seemed to know what one was, as cats instinctively do, but furthermore she seemed anxious to wait until the litter arrived, anxious somehow to please me. Those were her first round-eyed minutes, before she slitted her eyes in the attitude that was Pickles to all who knew her.

Pickles outside was a scared creature, worried and hollow-voiced, afraid of abandonment, which is I suppose why our bond was immediately so strong. And there she was, loped blackly up to my apartment ahead of me, knowing instinctively which door was mine, and investigating in her saucy way. Talking the whole time. And I thought, "My god. I'm in charge of the well-being of another life." This of course lasted about the length of the night. By morning she was hungry again, demanding food and petting and more nickels and wadded-up scraps of paper to chase across the vast hardwood floors of that Riverside Avenue apartment, the one with the french doors and the bay window that looked into an alleyway. The one I never fully moved into, thinking always I'd get a bed and stop sleeping on the futon couch. (The most comfortable bed I've ever had, to this day, living now on its last legs at Erik's in Seattle.) In that quirky Pickles way she had, scooping the food out of the dish kibble by kibble with her paw, so her whiskers wouldn't hit the side of the dish. I'd wake up every morning to find she'd pulled the dish all the way across the kitchen, and every morning I'd carry it back across to live next to the water bowl. It never occurred to me to get a different dish, until I moved back in with mom and dad and mom simply brought down the earthenware dishes I still use for Jonas and the girls, announcing she was tired of stepping on it. That's what you get for waking at five when it's still dark, even in June.

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