Early in July, 1991, I was up at Mom & Dad’s house working in their back yard. I can’t remember what I was doing; but, whatever it was, I was up on that little plateau behind the small spare bedroom where Dad use to have his Golf net up and grew, I think, tomatoes. Or something. In a small window box – I have no idea what Dad was using it for – I found a kitten; calico; she fit in the palm of my hand; a wet nose, large eyes and a pair of ears pretty much took up her whole head. I caught her and put her in a cardboard box I’d found in the garage. There was another tiger stripped sibling who hissed and ran when I tried to catch him; I didn’t, and can only guess what happened to him.
So, I brought that calico kitten home – which, at that time was the condominium in Hartford – where the small animal learned to eat solid food earlier than she should have and pooped on the carpet for 2 or 3 days before learning exactly what that box full of granular sand in the bathroom was for. She took to Malloween almost immediately though it took Malloween, a little longer to take to her. In time, they became inseparable.
Malloween had been given to me as a birthday gift the previous year – James had swiped her from a roommate who disappeared a week or so before without making plans to have someone take care of her cat. The roommate appeared again a week or so later rather unconcerned as to the whereabouts of her pet, and, well, that was that.
A couple of weeks and a conversation with James in some bar on the main street that runs through Mystic, Connecticut, I come up with the name Whitney, after a dog I’d enjoyed spending time with owned by Mary Landry, a former rather motherly landlady from Waterbury, Connecticut a few years before. The dog’s name came from the company Pratt and Whitney where Mary’s son had worked. Both Mary, and her Whitney, have long since passed on; God bless them both.
I was 32 then and had just started working for Xerox in Hartford; Jamie was in his mid 20’s and living in Niantic with Molly; Belinda was 30 and her daughter, Maddy, had been born a week or so earlier. Geoffrey would be 3 later that year, though his mother and I wouldn’t meet for another 5 or 6. Derek would appear a few years later and Ethan wouldn’t become part of our lives for another decade.
But for the next 14 years those two cats would travel several thousand miles in 5 states – Hartford, Connecticut; then Rochester New York; Worcester, Massachusetts; Hammond, Louisiana and, finally, Madison, Mississippi. Malloween would usually curl up on the back seat of my old tan Nissan Maxima and pretty much stay there the whole trip. Whitney, would be on top of the back seat, usually sitting upright, watching the traffic out the rear window – meowing at every truck that passed; watching every car. Until Tracey and I met, they were my family; my kids. I wish I’d taken more pictures of them then; but, like anything that has ever meant a lot to me, taking pictures of my cats was not something I thought about until they weren’t around anymore.
Sometime in July of 2000, a Wednesday morning, I was headed down to Biloxi for one of those MASFAA conventions they have a couple times every year. I would be heading back home that Friday. So, before I left, I picked up Malloween and held her against me and gave her a couple of pets. She purred, but after a moment or two, she pushed away and I set her down, and watched as she trotted away. I turned, and headed to the garage.
Malloween disappeared before I came home, and, for weeks, I would stand outside before going to bed and whistle hoping that she would show up on the doorstep looking for dinner. She never did of course; and it took me a long time to finally accept that. Whitney, would wail, off and on, for days.
But, sometime in the summer of 2005, I knew, Whitney was dying. She had lost a considerable amount of weight, the overbearing Mississippi summer heat took a lot more out of her than most and there was nothing the Vets could do for her – except, put her to sleep. I told them I’d bring her by later, but, I never did.
Those last several weeks, she seemed to get a little better; she ate more though she did not really gain any weight. She followed me around whenever I was in the back yard and I spent more time with her. She became a lot more tolerant of 4-year-old Ethan, rubbing up against him – I guess with his leg in a cast he just didn’t seem too much of a threat. To Ethan, Whitney was a teddy bear that moved, meowed and adored anyone who came to pet her.
Ethan and I were out in the back yard, with Whitney, on a Wednesday evening that November. It had been a late night at work for me and it was getting dark. Ethan, held Whitney, for the first time and petted as Whitney rubbed up against him. I scratched Whitney on her back and stomach and she purred – she seemed to be better than she had been though, so light that a good wind would have taken her away. After an hour or so I brought Ethan in and let him play in his room.
That, was the last time we saw her.
The food I left out that night went untouched; the water in her dish, which Whitney always loved playing in remained; well, in her water dish. I wish things had been better for her near the end, though, rather selfishly, I’m glad I had those last few weeks with her. For a long time I will wake up in the morning and think about feeding her; look to the back door and expect her to be staring back, waiting for breakfast.
And every now and then, before I go to sleep, I’ll stand on our back patio and give that two-tone whistle I used to call my two friends to dinner. Whitney bounds out from wherever she was hiding, playing, sleeping; Malloween trots along nonchalantly somewhere behind her. I have to wait there on the patio until Malloween gets to her dish, to stop Whitney from trying to get a couple of bites of her close friends’ dinner before going back to finish her own. But Malloween never finishes her meal anyway allowing the last couple of bites to Whitney who is always hungry and will eat, as long as there is food in front of her. This remains for a moment, but the memory fades, and, I’ll find my way to bed.
Malloween: April 1990 to July 2000
Whitney: June 1991 to November 2005