When I moved out of the dorm in college, one of the first things my roommate and I did was to get a cat. She was a tiny, fiesty black-and-white shorthair who quickly captured our hearts. Not too long after that, we ended up with her non-twin Toby, another black-and-white who was otherwise the opposite in personality, brains and size, despite having bookend-matching looks with Pooka. Pooka was tidy, finicky and neat. Toby was sleek and stupid. She graced guests with her presence. He ran and hid and then walked by just out of reach, thwacking his big tail against legs and skittering away if hands reached for him. Pooka and Toby were my fur-babies for over 11 years. They left huge holes in my heart and in our lives when they passed on.
We bought 2 maniac tiger-striped kittens when we first moved to Sweden, who stayed up all night playing don't-touch-the-floor and ripping new patterns in the wallpaper. But when Anders' asthma suddenly took a turn for the worse, we were forced to adopt them away to friends. I think about them now and then, and hope they are having a good life on the farm where they live up north, chasing mice and being loved.
Since we can't have cats any longer, all this is by way of explaining that I'll take any opportunity available to get myself a kitty fix. Well, almost any.
This weekend, we stopped to visit Tracey and Tobey. Tracey and I met online, but our friendship has jumped the screen. We caught them a bit unprepared, changing plans on them mid-track, but they came through with flying colors and gave us a lovely afternoon and evening "down on the farm." Tracey has a cat, Toby's doppelgänger, named Ozzie. We only caught a glimpse of him, up in the hayloft of the barn, refusing to come down where the kids were, but flicking by the ladder to briefly flirt with the idea before scampering off again.
We left the barn, after meeting the sheep and the lamb, and headed out to walk to the beach. The house Tracey and Tobey live in is where Tobey's father was born, and is right next door to his farmor and farfar (paternal grandparents). As we passed their yellow house and stopped for a moment while Tracey pointed things out, I suddenly realized that the lump of grey fur I was staring at was, in fact, alive. It opened its eyes and looked at me and then opened wide a triangular mouth and yawned a huge yawn. Then it stood up and the full splendor its state of being was made apparent. Tracey laughed and warned us off from petting the cat, and then introduced us to Sixten, the ancient, battered, mangy, matted, flea-ridden, much-loved cat who belongs to Tobey's grandfather.
He sure looked like he needed a good petting...and a good bath, and not necessarily in that order. But he knew how to work an audience. He jumped down from his perch and sauntered toward us, while we all goggled at him and his tufty multi-colored mat of a pelt. "Hello Sixten," I said, bending down, with my hands behind my back, mindful of Tracey's flea alert. "You look like a real character."
He looked up at me, miaowed some disgraceful language in my general direction and then quite suddenly, as we were all gathered around in a sort of so-ugly-he's-cute trance, began horking up a huge hairball, whereupon we all staggered back in shock and began laughing. Comedy and pathos: it's all in the timing.
photo credit: Tracey Marshall