My mother was a rescuer of animals, specifically cats, though she also saved dogs, birds, anything but rats. The word was, is important because she, my mother left this world back in 1988 at the age of 49. One of the things I remember throughout the years I shared with her was that she would rescue stray cats from the harsh realities of the outside world. Mom always looked at Cats as though they were Cats. They weren’t her babies or her Cat People. I guess it could be said that she had respect for the inner catness. As a child in this household I spent my first years surrounded by cats that were older than I was which at the time and in retrospect left a peculiar feeling with in me. Now cats live in our world, at least the domesticated ones and they seem to have an ability to relate to the big goofy humans in their environment. For my own sake as a growing child I realized that though cats were terrestrial they were also alien. I spent some considerable time watching them for in the simplest sense cats are more entertaining than television.
One of the cats Mom had adopted (Rescued from the street) was a small dirty white and brown female the She had named Ms. Fist or Fisty. Regardless of what common popular culture may believe this name implies, it is actually a play on one of the many names for the Devil. Scratch, Hobbs, Old Hobbs, Mr. Fist are all names for roughly the same place in time, back when there was still a culture in the western world. Ms. Fist’s first litter, (surprise surprise), came very late that following winter or early spring. There was one male and five females, brother and sisters if you will. Now my brothers and I thought the Darth Vader would be a good name for the male and that should give you a good idea about when this all took place. Mom on the other hand didn’t feel that Darth suited this particular cat and being that Mom had the only veto power in the house at that time, she chose the name, Twerp. Twerp or Twerpy seemed an all around poor name and I looked at the unsuspecting cat feeling what only a boy could feel about such naming misfortune. But it would become obvious by that summer that my mother was something of a prophet.
As early Spring became late spring Ms. Fist or Fisty, Being the representative of Satan in the neighborhood left her kittens, not yet weened, with the old family mutt Pooch or Poochie. Pooch was a grey muzzled mostly Bull Terrier, Dashund and god only knows what else mix, who spent most of his time escaping from the backyard. This may seem strange but Pooch, as far as I can tell, liked baby sitting six Kittens whose legs were strong enough to wander though they never went far from the old dog. Ms. Fist would show up now and again to make sure that babies got feed but like any mother of six, she preferred to be elsewhere. I’ll come back to this later.
The Kittens, under Pooch’s watchful eye and with Mom’s help pretty much weened themselves and my mid summer were pretty much grown and free range cats. Now I can’t say when this first happened, I can only relate the first time I saw it happen. It was after my birthday so it would have been later in July. I was sitting in the living room one summer day watching television, before cable, sort of in my own thoughts. I was in my father’s chair with my feet up on the ottoman when for some reason I looked to my left down the long hall to the front door. It was a warm bright day so the door had been left open. The bright outside could be seen through the lower glass pane in the storm door. That pane was always hard to keep clean between the mud of winter and the buggy grit of summer and in no way would I describe it as like crystal. In the hall a few feet from the door sat Twerp looking out studying the outside. There is this thing with cats that under general circumstances you can never really tell what it is thinking or planning. To me it just appeared that Twerp was looking outside then sort of drifting off looking at the floor and wasn’t planning anything in particular.
The cat, Twerp, Jumped, much to my surprise, head first into the window, hard. Glass and skull, cat skull to be specific, make a strange tinny sound when they collide. The Cat fell back to the floor and ran up the front stairs and out of sight. I figured that Twerp had encountered the mystery of glass and learned the same lesson that many of us do and that should be that. He had his first class in the school of hard knocks and I was sure he had passed. I was wrong. With in a fortnight, I was in the Kitchen and it was again a bright warm day so that the door was open leaving only the storm between us and the outside and again the bottom pane of the storm was glass. The screen was in the top pane to let the fresh air in. I was siting at the kitchen table secretly snacking on Dad’s treats that he took for his lunch break at work and there again was Twerp. He was again studying the outside through the glass pane. What’s to think, I was just looking at the cat then SMACK!
He jumped, his head hit the glass and he dropped to the floor though this time he landed on his feet. He must have been practicing. To say I was surprised would be an understatement, I was stunned, my attention riveted on the cat. Twerp’s ears fluttered between flat and fully upright as he circled looking outside, eyes narrow. If I were to guess what he was thinking or feeling I would put it somewhere between mad and confused as if he were the victim of a truly sick joke. He circled, walked away, walked back to the door, looked out side, smelled the fresh air, eyes narrow and ears fluttering the whole time. Now I was figuring that he was beginning to figure out that there was something between him and the outside, a thing we human’s refer to as glass. I mean really, isn’t twice enough? It seemed to me that he was stuck in some weird holding pattern circling, approaching, backing away and I felt that this could go on all day. I was about to return to my snack when Twerp, from halfway across the floor, took off at a run and took a truly magnificent leap. The form and energy expended displayed his conclusion. obviously he hadn’t jumped hard enough or high enough and thump. Really it was more of a bang, I guess Twerp was truly an American Cat. Again he landed on his feet and after looking around, you know to see if any other cats might have seen, he sulked of, head held low and tail dragging.
At this writing I am forty seven years old and this story has stuck with me through all that time. The thing is so odd that I just can’t shake it. I wonder about Twerp today. Remember their babysitter Pooch? I remember one early afternoon that spring, stepping out to check on the animals which we did in order to keep a head of Pooch’s escape attempts when I noticed the old dog chewing on something. Five kittens were visible and whatever the Dog was chewing on was a dark tiger strip. Dogs aren supposed to hate Cats, Right, I mean that’s what everybody says. Five kittens in sight, pooch chewing on something tiger stripped. Oh my God he’s eating Twerpy. I took of like a shot, Mom would never stand for this kind of behavior. If Twerp was half digested then I’d have to hide the rest. But what if Twerp weren’t ate yet, What then? I rushed to the rescue and as I got close the dog let go of the cat, looking a me panting wagging his tail, he was happy. I leaned down to see Twerp, the fur of his head pasted down and slimy with dog slobber, eyes closed, purring loud enough that he could be heard from some few feet. I should have known then there was something different about that cat.
By mid August the local downtown Gun Store whose name I can’t remember closed and auctioned of everything. The Gun store had been there for a long time and in its possession were two large solid Cherry Gun Cabinets that each stood about thirteen or fourteen feet in height and fifteen or so feet in width. The top, the largest of the two parts, had glass sliding doors and glass side panels while the bottom held sixteen drawers. The unit broke into two pieces plus the sliding glass door for transport, thank the almighty, and my mother wanted, really wanted one of those cabinets, they were solid cherry after all, for the kitchen. Now if the project was crazy and required a disregard for personal safety or rational spending habits then Dad was good to go. Mom got her cabinet and that night, Dad and I hauled the bottom half into the kitchen and put it in place. But it would be awhile for the top to find its way there as it was as tall as the door frame. So it sat in the living room and the cats would wander around it and occasionally play around it.
Twerp had a sister that went by the name Booger due to a black spot on its nose. My brothers and I, when seeing the Black spot saw a mustache and wanted to name the cat Hitler but mom would have none of it. In hind sight Hitler might have been a better name. Booger would literal antagonize Twerp. Swat him, bite him, chase him around, push stuff on him til Twerp would get mad and come after Booger. Booger took off like the wind running for her life through the house. Now Booger was a longer leaner Jack rabbit looking cat and she could really get moving and she would eventually start to pull out ahead of her brother Twerp. In variably Booger would run into the living room towards the gun cabinet with the glass side panels and as she approached the glass with Twerp just being able to see her,she would jaunt around the glass and into the cabinet where she would slow to a walk. You can imagine Twerp’s excitement at seeing his tormentor slow and as he began to gain ground. Twerp doubled his pace and ran right into the glass. Booger would jog off while Twerp stood there, ears flat, low on his hind haunches shaking his head. His tail would thrash from side to side as he studied the mystery through narrow eyes and careful sniffs. This happened repeatedly, always provoked by Booger, until the cabinet was moved into the kitchen and assembled. Maybe Twerp possessed some strange learning disability.
I would never learn if he ever solved the mystery as Twerp stopped coming home one late september day. We never saw him again. I don’t spend as much time wondering what happen to Twerp, that was over thirty years ago. I do spend time remember Twerp’s struggle with the mystery of glass for my own entertainment. Some day it will teach me something if it hasn’t already.