Sunday, January 29, 2017

Farewell to a Tortie Cat

I don’t usually get too personal here; this is a writing blog after all.  But this week I guess you could say I lost a writing partner of sorts.  My little tortie cat girl, Stinky the Cat, left us on Friday, January 27th, 2017.  She was a month shy of twenty years of age, a hell of an age for a cat, but then she was a hell of a cat. 

I didn’t have Stinky all those twenty years; she came to me an adult cat as part of a package deal that included my wife and two cats.  It was a pretty good deal.  My wife and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary in March, and I had thirteen wonderful years with Stinky the Cat in my life.  (and eleven and a half with Miss Piggy, the other cat) 

Miss Piggy and Stinky - 2007

Stinky and I bonded right away—she was partial to men, and to men with beards particularly—she liked to climb in my lap and rub her head against my unshaven chin all the time.  She has pretty much been by my side for the last decade or so while I’ve been writing, a perfect writer’s familiar if there ever was one.  So if you’ve ever read any of my work, know that Stinky was there when it was created.

There’s so much I could tell you about Stinky, I could go on and on.  That’s what I was going to do when I started this post.  But a little poem I wrote for her last Sunday keeps coming to mind.  I wasn’t going to share it, but it perhaps says what I want to say about her as good as any other writing I could do.  So, here it is, then. 

For Stinky

You're getting ready to go...
All the signs are there
My sweet friend,
You won't eat; you're wont to sleep,
More so than usual
And you're sluggish when you're not

Days like this are trying
And difficult to face
But I find
With the thoughts of the good times
That we have shared
I can get through them. 

I never knew you as a kitten
Though I hear you were a fine one
A palm-sized tortie fur baby
Of epic cute felinity
That pleaded "pick me, pick me"
From the dark depths of the pound
Such were the beginnings of your long
Adventurous life

No, you were a full-grown cat when we met
And a feisty one at that
But we seemed to strike a chord
You and I
And we were soon fast friends
Confidants, co-conspirators
And partners in crime.

You took a place by my side
Or curled at my feet, dreaming your cat dreams
While I worked
My world a great deal better
With your presence
I like to think.

Oh, what times we had
You and I
Good times of sweet and carefree joy
Like watching you stroll the grass of the back yard
In the warm afternoon sun
Or stalk a lizard
Or send wayward cats packing
That dared to breach your territory.

You were always up for a good ear rubbing
Or a nuzzle of your nose against my beard
Or sometimes, just to lie gently in my lap
Your microscopic purr a sign of utter contentment.

I wish I could somehow express to you
How much rich and true happiness
You've brought to my life.
But maybe, just maybe
Through the sound of my voice
And little cat treats
And some catnip here and there
And lots of love...
You've known it all along.

You've walked this world for nigh on
Twenty years
Spreading out your nine lives
With cat-grace and aplomb.
A great and rich life you've had
My sweet friend.

I don't want to say goodbye
Sweet girl
But I guess I'm glad I have the time
To do so.

I can't seem to pet you enough today
Or hold you in my arms time and again
One more time. One more time,
One more stroke of that soft, dark fur.
Not to wax maudlin
You're not that sort of cat
But the unequivocal love you've given me
Will live forever in my soul.

And you'll be with me
My sweet friend, my sweet girl,

                                    --Chris Owen
I’ve always had a fondness for cats.  They are certainly interesting, mysterious yet utterly cute creatures.  I’ve always wanted to write a cat related novel as well, particularly after I came across the following in a book of French paintings. 

It’s called The Apotheosis of Cats, and I was struck by it immediately.  Yes, it is just a bizarre image, but somehow compelling.  What are all those cats doing?  Where are they?  What is that sort of cat-idol thing in the distance?  I don’t know, but I decided I would figure it out.  I would write a novel based on this painting. 

I’ve had that in the back of my head for years, but I’ve never really known what direction to go with it.  I knew I wanted it to be mysterious and magical the way cats are, with some Neil Gaiman/Louis Carroll/Ray Bradbury trappings.  But this project never had really gotten off the ground. 

Then this week happened.  I found I was too distraught to work on my current writing project.  I needed to write something else—something about cats.  And so I started this novel.  Just a page, but it’s begun.  And, I’m glad to think that I got to start this, my cat novel, while Stinky was still around.  And now that she is gone, writing it will certainly help me deal.  I have a feeling she will figure prominently in it—my old writing partner, after all, deserves nothing less.