Cat Tales first story

The Witch

I have had cats most of my adult life, starting about three years after graduating from college. There was Morgan le Fey; Phoebe the Sunshine Kitty; Agatha, who wasn’t really ours, but who lived with us for two years; Gentleman Luke; and Onyx, Crystal, and Ruby. That’s seven.

That’s enough.

I am a dog person, but there has never been room in my life for the responsibility of taking care of a dog. And I never really wanted a cat. But it was not my choice.

I was living at the time in a house which was rented by graduate students, who lived on the first floor. I shared the second floor with Geoffrey, Susan, Doug, and Steven, who were either students or ex-students. I had a little two-room apartment.

Geoffrey had two cats — a big all black named Chrysostomou, and a smaller marmalade named Andrew. Susan had a young calico named Dierdre. Chrysostomou was, by a long stretch, the dominant cat. Deirdre was a lady. Andrew was a post, and about as smart — he knew his place, fourth in a list of three.

Time passed, and in the nature of things, Deirdre grew up and discovered an intense interest in young gentlemen. This feeling was amply reciprocated by Chrysostomou, who discovered that he was a young gentleman, by catly standards. What Andrew felt, nobody knew or cared. Time passed, and in the nature of things …

~

Everybody’s room had doors. My room had a curtain. My bed was beside the doorway, the closet was on the right at the foot of the bed, and through another curtain opposite the closet there was the kitchenette.

I was awakened one morning by becoming aware that there was someone in the room. I opened my eyes, and there was Susan, at the foot of my bed, stooping over and peering into my closet. “There’s kittens in here,” she said. “Come see.”

“What are they doing in my closet?” I said. “Can I put on some pants first?”

She didn’t answer, she just kept looking at the kittens and making little happy sounds. After a while she left, and I got dressed.

There were indeed kittens in the closet. Deirdre had pulled down a couple of my shirts, and had made a nest in my sheepskin coat. Three of the kittens were black like their father, two were calico like their mother, and one was marmalade. Andrew, apparently, had been able to get his own in, despite Chrysostomou’s dominance.

Susan made a place for them in her room, and took them in. A couple weeks later she told me, “They were born in your closet, you get one.” Geoffrey, proud grandfather as it were, agreed. Doug, just to be perverse, also agreed. Steven had moved out. So I found myself with an all black kitten, whom I named Morgan le Fey, after King Arthur’s half sister, the witch.

She lived up to her name.

~

I moved out of that little apartment when I found a tiny one-bedroom house I could afford, and Morgan and I lived there by ourselves. I went to work every day at the college library. Morgan stayed home alone.

Cats are not truly solitary animals. They need company, as much as dogs and people do, just in a different way. Sometimes sleeping in the same room with you is enough. A cat who spends too much time alone becomes emotionally disturbed. Morgan, all alone for nine hours a day, slowly went crazy.

She was antisocial with everyone but me. When people she did not know came to the house, she would hide behind the curtains on the window sill in the bathroom. If they needed the bathroom, she would race for the kitchen and hide behind the curtains on the window sill in the little back-door vestibule. She didn’t hide if someone she knew came over, but nobody could pick her up, or even touch her. She would ride on my shoulder, but she would not sit on my lap. She would not sit on anyone’s lap, with one exception.

He was a college friend whom we called the Beast, in part because he looked like one. He called himself an agricultural representative, and traveled up and down the west coast, arranging for the sale and shipment of the agricultural products he represented. Amazing what a college education can do for you. He would pass through Claremont every now and then, and would stop at my house for a visit. I was not one of his customers, we were just friends. And when he came, Morgan would jump up and sit in his lap. Maybe it was the way he smelled …

When she went into heat for the first time, I thought maybe, if she had a litter of kittens, it would help her grow up. I didn’t want any more cats, but the kittens would be company for her while I was at work. It was too late to do anything about it that first time, but I had a friend who had a tom, named Charley Brown, who was all black, like Morgan and Chrysostomou.

Charley was big. He was buff. He was ready. When Morgan was ready again, I brought Charley home for a long weekend.

There’s something you have to understand about feline dating practices. The young lady sees an interesting tom, sidles up, rubs against him, screams in his face, and says, in effect, “Hi, there, are you man enough to make me?” And when he tries, she beats him up. If a tom is, in fact, not powerful enough to force his attentions on the lady cat, then he’s not man enough to be the father of her kittens. It can be quite discouraging.

Morgan was not big. Charley was very big. I more or less stayed out of their way for the weekend. One would yowl, or the other would scream, sometimes both in chorus. I was very glad when the weekend was over and I could give Charley back.

In the course of time — nothing happened. Charley must have been very frustrated. And, according to his family, he had taken some damage during his visit.

I brought Charley home again the next time Morgan went in heat. This time I didn’t send him back until they both stopped yelling. And this time he went home happy, if wounded, and Morgan seemed rather pleased with herself.

~

The shirts Deirdre had pulled down for a nest, when Morgan had been born, had protected the sheepskin which I was able to wear again. The shirts, however, had to be thrown out. I didn’t want Morgan to pull down and ruin any of my shirts this time, I didn’t have any to spare. But by now I knew a little something about cat psychology.

Morgan began to get rather large. I got some small cardboard boxes, a roll of duct tape, a sharp knife, and some old towels. Then I sat down in the middle of the living room and set to work.

Morgan came over to see what was up, and I sent her away. I made a big deal of measuring, cutting, taping, and making this great nesting box. Whenever Morgan waddled over to see what I was doing, I sent her away. I laid out the towels, folded them up, tried their fit in the box, took them out and tried again. Morgan was intensely interested, but I kept pushing her away. When it was done to my satisfaction, I picked up the box, carried it into the bedroom, put it down just where I wanted it, pushed Morgan away, and left.

I needn’t tell you that when I came back some hours later, Morgan was sitting in the box, looking out at me with this smug expression, saying, “Ha, ha, ha, it’s mine now.” And that, of course, was where the kittens were born.

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