“Nev-ey!” cries Marsha from the kitchen, “Where are you?”
Chow time at Sea World for Whale Boy, aka Orca, both my terms. The object of my derision, an immense black-and-white cat, sprawls nearby in our living room like an odious odalisque. Feline aficionados refer to his markings as “tuxedo,” for the way his black coat nearly meets in the middle of his white belly. But it’s doubtful The Black Tux would have his size.
Marsha pops the Fancy Feast can lid, and Neville elevates to his feet. Upright, he resembles William Luker’s nineteenth- century painting of a shorthorn bull, all trunk and no legs. As he approaches, I pretend-shake in my chair in the breakfast nook, as though a giant were afoot. Marsha scowls at me, to no avail. Neville and I have a history.
Orca swam into our lives a while back in a codependent wifey kind of way. “My” cat, Cookie, escaped from his carrier outside our vet’s office, turning up the following week at a nearby humane society. To console me in the meantime, Marsha’s internal Jewish grandmother brought home Neville from
another shelter. His returning alpha sibling welcomed him as a roach-ridden restaurant might a health inspector. They tussled for months. When Cookie began spraying, we were forced to adopt him out. A chunk of me went with him.
In my eyes, therefore, Neville bears the mark of Cain, and not just because of Cookie. There’s also his skittishness; his stinking-out the joint by not covering when he dumps (usually when we’re eating); his being too fat to groom his tush, which Marsha wet-wipes. Alexander, our recent exchange student, calls him “damaged” and trades barbed comments about him with me on Facebook. I recently posted that we were having Neville for Thanksgiving dinner. “You will definitely have leftovers!” he responded.
“That is so unfair!” pouts Marsha, who thinks Orca is, uh, the cat’s pajamas. It’s true that his mates, tabbies Popeye and Jasper, also have quirks. I suspect they were goats in a previous life. Popeye head-butts things more than an English soccer hooligan, opening doors that don’t latch, awakening us when we’re asleep. Jasper eats foreign objects, once consuming so many hair ties that he stomach-banded himself and needed them surgically removed (to the tune of thirteen hundred dollars)… after which he returned to eating them as though nothing had happened. Maybe he was a sadhu, not a goat--- they’ve been known to consume rope.
Neville may have been a cow, not a bull. As cows sometimes eat themselves to death, Orca may one day explode like Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote, especially if I give him an after-dinner mint.
Whale Boy might be easier to “stomach” if he were less anxious. Unlike his departed sibling, who hung out near windows watching birds abstractedly like a crocodile on a riverbank, Neville gets wide-eyed at everything, even us. There are demons that only he can see. Many’s the time, while burning the midnight lamp, that my train of thought’s been derailed by groaning somewhere in the house reminiscent of Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter. Soon afterward Neville emerges from the shadows, seemingly unaware of me as he pads through some private purgatory.
I suppose I should exercise tolerance, especially as we have issues in common. Though I am able to wipe myself, I, too, have known “the dangling hour,” not to mention excess girth. As Cookie’s presence grows more distant, I may eventually learn to regard his successor as more than a reminder of unfairness and frailty.
Just don’t expect me to feed him from a platform.