HAIKU CONTEST NOTICE: The winner of the haiku contest for a year's free blog at Typepad was planned to be announced today. It is being delayed due to vote cheating that will be addressed here on Monday 5 October.
Thirty-three years ago, while on my usual rounds in my Greenwich Village neighborhood, I stopped at the window of a pet shop. There was a pile of sleeping gray kittens and one different-looking kitten who was a bit older bouncing off the window and walls apparently so overjoyed with life that he could not contain himself.
I walked in. The clerk handed me that kitten. He – the kitten - attached himself to my chest as though we were born for each other and, nuzzling my neck as he purred loudly enough to be heard in Hoboken, wouldn't let go. It was love at first sight for him and for me. Then I asked his price.
It broke my heart to unhook his baby claws from my sweater and replace him in the window. But I was unemployed at the time and he was expensive - an Abyssinian back in the days before they had become overbred.
During the month, as I passed the shop (I'll admit, more frequently than before), the pile of gray kittens grew smaller, the Abyssinian grew larger and his joy in life did not diminish an iota. Or – could it be so? - it was his pleasure at seeing me again that had him bounding around the enclosure.
After four weeks of almost daily visits to the pet store window, I said to hell with the checkbook – I would somehow figure out how to feed us. We went home together that day.
Thus began 20 years of a remarkable friendship. He knew he was a beauty and within a day or so, he made it known that his human name was Beau Brummel – because he wore such fancy clothes. In a moment of whimsy, I added “beautiful baby,” “Bennett” and to complete the alliteration, “of Bedford Street,” where we lived.
In those early days, we had some disagreements on the arrangements of daily life. I learned to awaken earlier – dawn was a good time for that according to Beau – and to reinforce his edict, if I tried to sleep in, he soon discovered that grabbing a mouthful of my hair and pulling produced his intended result.
On the other hand, he never objected when I had an overnight guest and shut him out of the bedroom.
After several weeks of what must have seemed an almost futile attempt, Beau taught me to play fetch (humans are hard to train; they learn so slowly). And he was an intrepid stalker of flies; I would return home from work to find several in one little pile where he collected the carcasses for me. But I drew the line when he brought me dead birds and expectantly plopped them on the counter in front of the microwave. That far I would not go.
Beau adapted immediately when I taught him to use the toilet so I could do away with the litter box. It was disconcerting, however, to come rushing home with an immediate need to pee only to find Beau perched on the throne being very serious about what he was doing. When I mentioned this talent to an acquaintance who was a producer at the television show, Those Amazing Animals, she scoffed. “Oh, Ronni, we already featured a cat who uses the toilet and that one flushes when he's finished.”
Beau thought all humans were invented for his enjoyment. He loved them all, including the robbers who broke into our home on several occasions. He was equally happy to see friends, greeting them at the door and curiously inspected their clothes, picking up clues with his nose to where they had come from and what they had been doing.
But he was particular about bedtime. If guests had not left by 11PM, he sat down in the middle of the group and yelled. Repeatedly. Even those who were visiting for the first time understood he was telling them to leave. Now. When they gathered up their belongings, he politely escorted them to the door for a cordial, “Good evening, thank you for coming” and a sigh of relief, when the door was closed, that we were alone, just the two of us, again.
Beau loved books; an open one was irresistible and he pawed at the pages for many long minutes. He came “this close” to being the next Morris the Cat on television when a friend, who was directing a series of pet food commercials, saw Beau with a book and said he could easily edit it took look like Beau was turning the pages.
Unfortunately, the cat food company's advertising people, although they liked the idea, wanted an unrecognizable breed. Too bad; Beau might otherwise have made us rich.
After two decades together, Beau was slowing down, gray fur multiplying on his face and head. The doctor said he was wasn't sick, he was just old.
One day his hind legs stopped working and he didn't want to eat anymore. When I left for work each morning, I placed him on a thickness of towels to soak up urine, with a bowl of water he could reach with just a turn of his head.
On the fourth morning, when I left him on his towel on the bed to go shower, he yelled. I returned and he stopped. I tried again, he yelled. Okay, okay, Beau, I told him. I'll stay home today. And this time, as I left the room to shower, he did not yell.
I arranged Beau on a fresh towel with his water bowl on a low table next to my desk and we were quietly happy together that day. He was weak, but he lifted his head to lick my hand when I petted him. Early that evening, I moved us onto the bed to watch the evening news together, as was our habit.
A few minutes later, a low, guttural moan erupted from Beau. It went on and on and on while his legs stiffened, each pointing in a different direction. The moan got louder. I didn't know what to do. I was crying and holding him and the moan continued, on and on.
Until it stopped. And Beau was dead. That was 13 years ago yesterday.
I was reminded of Beau, our life together and his death this weekend when friends visited and Ollie, my current cat, objected to Rufus the dog and refused to come out from under the bed until they left on Sunday. Even without a dog, other people don't interest Ollie. He would prefer they didn't come 'round at all.
Ollie has other charms, when we are alone together, and we love each other. He makes me laugh and we have long chats back and forth and he has taught me several games. My friend Steve, who was here with Kathy last weekend, said he believes that although all our pets are important to us, many people have had one that is the most special of all.
Beautiful Baby Beau Brummel Bennett of Bedford Street was my bestest best friend for 20 years. I will never stop missing him.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Oldest Blogger - Not