September 21, 2006

About a Cat

Thank you. You know who you are. We will talk more about your letters tomorrow. Today, I am going to tell you about Walleycat.

WalleyCat was the cat before Schubert, and in his old age, he became obscenely fat. He was toffee colored with delicate white feet, lady feet, so that his haunches looked like enormous chunks of mutton as they dwindled down to feet as small as the point on a stenographer’s pencil.

WalleyCat was the most awful cat who ever lived. He did terrible, irascible, backwards things whenever he could rouse himself from his busy sleeping schedule. SAMPLE BEHAVIOR: I had not yet forever ruined my already-damaged-by-falling-off-horses spine via pregnancy, so I used to like to lie down on my stomach and bend my legs at the knee and wave my feet around while I read books.

Walley would walk right up to me and lie down across my book, inserting his enormous middle section between my eyes and the words, so that tufts of toffee colored hair went up my nose. Then he’d crane his head back and jerk his face across my chin to mark me as his own with the scent gland in his cheek. Most times, he’d leave a silvery string of fishy cat drool on my face, but about every fifth time, he’d slice my chin open with the Fang of Doom he kept hidden in his left jowl.

He stole coins and hid under furniture so he could leap out and bite ankles and he growled at strangers and he engineered escapes and pooped in ANYTHING RECTANGULAR, including cardboard boxes, ANY cardboard boxes, regardless of whether or not they already had books or shoes in them, and GOD HELP ME if I forgot to shut my underwear drawer. He feted me with alive lizards and dead lizards and parts of lizards, and whenever he brought me the PARTS of lizards I could rest easy, knowing he would soon throw up the missing pieces. Onto my pillow.

Needless to say, I adored him.

I had Walley for a very long time, and he had me right back. As he got older, he got grumpier and fatter and more horrible and devious. He moved from stealing change to stealing ANYTHING shiny and his voice got high and shrill and his meows changed to a squeaky disgusted SPIT of sound. “MEH!” he would say (exclamation point his). “MEH! MEH!”

When I was very pregnant with Maisy, I came to him one day and said, “Oh Walley, you are a terrible cat, but I love you. I have a baby coming soon, and I can’t be sad, not with a baby coming, so even though you are a monstrous and terrible cat who has the black heart of a pirate and a piece of soul so small the electron microscope can’t find it, please don’t die. Hear me? I SAID DO NOT DIE, oh my most wretched and disgusting Walley. Stay with me and be my cat.”

“MEH!” he said and stabbed the floor with his poinky feet as he marched away from me, tail lifted to show me his butt.

That night, THAT VERY NIGHT, while I was sleeping, he marched downstairs and lay down in the center of the floor and died.
No foul play, no sudden or lingering illness.
He died of NOTHING.
He died of WILLFUL DESIRE to do the one thing I had expressly forbidden.
Hand to God, if I had kept my mouth shut, he would be upstairs this very second, probably crapping in my bathtub.

Posted by joshilyn at September 21, 2006 7:52 AM

I'm sorry, I just laughed until I cried, at work.
You are absolutely the best.

Posted by: Michelle at September 21, 2006 8:45 AM

Point of interest... laundry baskets are also rectangular. I can't tell you how many clothes went directly into the trash can. There is nothing in the world that can completely remove the smell of cat pee from clothes. Nothing.

Posted by: Mr. Husband at September 21, 2006 9:09 AM

ha! my cat does the MEH! thing and spits, too. he is 16 and I reckon I'll refrain from forbidding him to die from now on.

Posted by: Janet Mc at September 21, 2006 9:25 AM

Your description of what Walley looked like reminds me of some cartoon cat, but I can't think which one and it's driving me nuts. Isn't there a cat in some cartoon that looks JUST like that?

I can see why you loved him so much and I'm not being sarcastic when I say that. My nickname for my current cat is EvilDemonKittySky. So. Yeah.

Posted by: DebR at September 21, 2006 9:41 AM

Why is it that the more wretched the feline, the more love they engender? As a boy my husband had a cat named Henry who was jet black and huge and should have been named Lucifer. Henry tolerated my husband but no one else. And 20 years hence my hubby still speaks of that Beelzebub cat with longing and nostalgia.

Posted by: Roxanne at September 21, 2006 9:45 AM

Heh. We have a cat who has already perfected the "Meh!" and she's only one. I TREMBLE to think what she'll be like when she's ten or fifteen. Good lord.

Posted by: Aimee at September 21, 2006 10:23 AM

This is awesome! Long live Wally!

Posted by: Katie at September 21, 2006 11:16 AM

I wanted to read more, more, more!! I hope Walley is having a pearl of a jam, in kitty-heaven somewhere....

Posted by: North at September 21, 2006 11:21 AM

Damn, you and Walley just made me cry.

My Walley cat was named Gatsby. He actually bit a couple babies. And I still adored him.

Posted by: Edgy Mama at September 21, 2006 11:30 AM

Such a sad story, but I have to admit I giggled a bit. He sounds like a horribly awful yet wonderful cat.

Posted by: Jessie at September 21, 2006 12:24 PM

Oh, and by the way? "Poinky feet" is my new favorite thing. Poinky, poinky, poinky feet. Tra la.

Posted by: Aimee at September 21, 2006 1:12 PM

We have had many, many beloved cats, but the one that sticks out in my mind is the cat who WOULD NOT die.

Fatty was a smallish, yellow, tabby, and patriarch of a vast clan of barn cats on the ranch where I grew up. He was a hard-living cat, and it showed. At some point in my childhood, he had frozen off most of his ears, and about half of his tail. He had a broad, flat, scarred face, and wicked fangs that poked ominously out over his jaw.

Despite his fearsomely rugged appearance, he was the sweetest cat you could ever know, as long as you weren't a young tom cat. Once, he even let my brother and I "wash" him in the yard with cold hydrant water and the remnants of shampoo from bottles that we scrounged out of the trash can.

He also had what my veterinarian grandfather suspected was a fearsome case of asthma, and possibly allergies, based on the fact that he was disgustingly snotty. We lived in fear of his cat sneezes. Most days, we wondered how he managed to breath.

Later, as he got older, he became very deaf, and ended up getting hit by my dad's pickup. Which still didn't kill him. In fact, he lived another 5 years or so after that, before disappearing to parts unknown. For all I know, he's still alive!

Oh, and I have to agree with Aimee...poinky feet is about the funniest thing I've heard all day.

Posted by: Jessica at September 21, 2006 1:38 PM

Joss you should immortilize Walley Cat in your next book. Wouldn't it be nice to have a protagonist run in to the cat that got his canary?

Thank you for the memories :)

Posted by: Cele at September 21, 2006 2:18 PM

I read the story of Walleycat to my girls. I really don't know what you're talking about when you say that you can't tell stories. This one had all 4 of my best beloveds hanging on every last word, right down to the crap in the bathtub!
Oh Josh, you CAN spin a yarn... even when it's for real.

Posted by: dee at September 21, 2006 3:00 PM

Your stories return. I tried to tell you one, but it was BORING.

My mother died on May 29, 2005. I told Fitch, aged , "You can't die this year." He got sick on May 30, 2006. After spending lots of money on meds and tests and getting a home visiting vet on hold in case Fitch needed the needle, he got well. Now I can look forward to still being awakened at 4 in the morning with a claw in my face. I love him DESPERATLY.

Fitch's voice changed a couple of years ago, too. "Meh" describes it pretty well. He is deaf also. When he decides to go, I hope that it will be just like Walley.

Then I will have to get another cat right away, because Chips (age ) is a social cat and will not put up with being left alone.

Posted by: hollygee at September 21, 2006 3:22 PM

I thought he died in the yard, why don't you tell THAT story??? You know, where, you didn't want child to see corpse in the yard from the school bus? So we contemplated covering him with a large pair of pants?

Posted by: Lydia at September 21, 2006 4:48 PM

New Genre: Salty Chowder for the Cat-Reviler's Soul.

Walley was vile. But he *was* pretty. Rather spectacular looking cat. But so FAT.

Posted by: Lydia at September 21, 2006 4:50 PM

"Salty Chowder for the Cat-Reviler's Soul"

I'd buy it!

Posted by: Aimee at September 21, 2006 5:26 PM

That is a hilarious story! Reminds me of the siamese mix cat I had when we got married... we called her Snag because she had one of those hidden teeth that were great for shredding. My husband is avowedly not a cat person, but he tolerated her because we got so much entertainment out of her. She would do that same thing when we were trying to read, lay down right over your book and force you to get a noseful of brown fluff... or if you were watching TV and didn't really want company, she'd get up on your chest and put her paws up by your throat. I swear she wanted to eviscerate us but she was declawed. She finally had to go to a new home because my little boy was allergic to her almost from birth... I was kind of sad, but not too sad because she had that same habit as Walley of going to the bathroom in anything rectangular, which often included laundry baskets. (We forgot to mention this to her new owners... hopefully she behaves herself better at their house.)

Posted by: jenn (from park road books with the cute little boy) at September 21, 2006 7:04 PM

Note to DebR: Maybe you are thinking about Peekaboo, the cat in Rose is Rose. Definite quadrapedal-poinkiness there.

Posted by: Jan in Norman, OK at September 21, 2006 7:42 PM

*Wonderful* story. It's the quirky personalities that make us love 'em matter where they poop 'n puke. (With Samcat, the 'where' is usually lined up precisely where my first-out-of-bed foot lands in the morning. Argh. And meh!)

Posted by: Ostara at September 21, 2006 9:19 PM

Sounds like our Simba... evildevilcat. Our friends call him Devil Cat too...

He's such a sweet baby though and we love him to bits.

Posted by: Autumn at September 22, 2006 1:26 AM

Welcome back. Hugs

Posted by: Gabi at September 22, 2006 7:30 AM

My WalleyCat was a calico named Calypso. I had her 18 years, and she died holding one of my socks in her front paws. She hated everyone and groused constantly, and I adored her.

I love the fact that cats have variable gravity. Don't you love that about them? They can tippy-toe on cloud-filled, soundless little paws right behind you and scare the snot out of you, but when they want, even the tiny ones can weigh literal TONS, especially when they're standing on their poinky-paws (brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!) on your abdomen. Or bladder. Or on the covers between your legs when you want to roll over.

Posted by: Fran at September 23, 2006 12:59 AM

Sophie weighs maybe 3 pounds, but when she climbs up on me with her little poinky feet I swear it feels as if she is 20 pounds!! Those little poinky feet HURT! And I also have a huge cat named Max, who does the "sneak up chest while not looking" thing--as IF I could ignore almost 15 pounds of fluff cutting off my breathing!! Mine pee on the couch--don't know why, or why just this particular couch, but we have discovered that anything is washable--ANYTHING!

Posted by: Sheri at September 24, 2006 3:47 PM