Pumpkin The Halloween Cat

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By Michael LaRocca

The neighbor's car pulled into my driveway. She got out holding a stranger in her arms.

"I found this cat in my yard. Is he yours?"

"No."

"Oh. I thought he was."

"Well, he's not."

"Well, can you hold him until I drive away so he doesn't follow me home?"

Oh yes, we all know how this story ends.

He was a beautiful little fuzzy ball of orange. Quite an affectionate, purring fellow too. And yes, I fed him. Knowing full well where that always leads.

I already had two cats. Witchie and Taz, both Siamese. It had taken quite a bit of time and effort for Witchie to accept Taz. Plus, Taz had been the sole male cat for several years. Another male? Not possible. But, I thought, why not have an indoor male and an outdoor male?

Since the new guy arrived in late October, and since he was orange, we dubbed him Pumpkin. He knew the indoors cats didn't like him, and he was fine with that. Their turf, not his. Besides, he loved it when my dogs, Daisy and Bebe, came outside to visit him, even when they chased him up a tree, which was always. They were just playing. My dogs love all cats, and they licked him when he came down.

One Saturday afternoon, I went outside to play with my chainsaw. On the porch, I found eight dead mice, beside the front door in a very neat row. They were all on their backs, with their heads pointing the same way and their tails neatly aligned. This was obviously a gift from young Pumpkin, a show of his gratitude.

I worked with my chainsaw for a while, then went back to the house for a drink. Now there were only five mice. No doubt my young son had decided that he'd done his part. He'd offered them to me first. If I didn't want them, well, it was a shame to let a good meal go to waste.

Still later, I returned to the house to see only two mice remaining. Still later, half a mouse. Still later, no mice at all. No blood or fur, either. He cleaned up quite thoroughly.

It's obvious how Pumpkin survived before I began feeding him. It's also obvious why he didn't eat very much.

One night, I was typing on the computer when I heard a strange squeaking noise coming from the porch. I finally went outside to see what it was. Pumpkin was standing there, looking every bit the wild-eyed feral hunter, with a live mouse in his mouth. I just muttered "Good boy" and went back inside. Eventually, the noise stopped.

When the weather turned cold, I let Pumpkin come inside. Yes, it pissed off the Siamese coalition, but I decided I didn't care.

I paused to look at life through the eyes of Witchie and Taz, and here is what I saw:

Every species has its own identifying colors. For example, all dogs are black with brown eyes. All horses are brown with dark brown manes. All people are white-skinned, with brownish hair and blue eyes. And all cats, quite naturally, are blue-eyed shorthaired sealpoint Siamese.

Now they see this longhaired, fuzzy, orange thing with yellow-green eyes. It smells like the woods, and it's protected by dogs. Surely it's a tool of the devil and an abomination in the eyes of the cat gods, something that must be destroyed.

In Taz's case, it also happened to be a male thing. That was even worse. I resigned myself to the fact that they would always hate Pumpkin, hissing and threatening whenever they saw him. It didn't seem to bother Pumpkin, so it didn't bother me.

Really, it was the only evidence Taz has ever given that he's an adult. He still looks and acts and vocalizes like a kitten, no doubt because his "mother" was a dog.

But Pumpkin never threatened back. He ignored the hissing and moved away from the attacks. Given his lack of aggression, I decided to just let him stay inside, Siamese be damned.

A month or so later, something strange happened. Taz started lying beside Pumpkin instead of lying beside Witchie. Oh, Witchie's face showed her outrage. Taz showed nothing but guilt. After a time, Taz started playing with Pumpkin. They became best buddies.

I don't believe Taz was ever forgiven for that. Witchie can hold a grudge for years. She still hasn't forgiven me for bringing home uncivilized Bebe. (Half dachshund, half doberman, all moron.)

Once or twice, Taz and Pumpkin slept side by side on my chest between the two dogs. My sons were the same size, as Taz was the runt of the litter and Pumpkin was probably underfed as a baby. Before learning to hunt, of course.

Daddy had a problem with rats in his barn, so I told him he could borrow Pumpkin as long as he didn't shoot him. (Daddy doesn't like cats.) Nobody fed Pumpkin while he lived in the barn, but every time I went to visit, he was lying on the floor with a swollen belly. I took him home a week later, as he was going stir-crazy without human contact. Meanwhile, Daddy had no more rats.

Before I left the barn, I held Pumpkin up to to my horse's face. He sniffed and sniffed, quite fascinated. Then the head moved, and he realized that big thing was alive. It scared the hell out of him. I rushed him home. He always loved riding in the truck. A day with Taz and the dogs, and he was restored to his good old Pumpkin self.

I think I had Pumpkin for a year. In a manner of speaking, as no one truly owns a cat, especially not an independent fellow like Pumpkin.

I didn't show him the litter box, by the way. He found it himself. If he clawed something he wasn't supposed to, I scolded him once, verbally, and he never did it again. Again, the gratitude thing. "Show me the rules and I'll follow them; I'm just happy to be here."

But anyway, Pumpkin's time with me was too short. He vanished for a few days, then came home looking skinny and with a stomach swollen as if he'd swallowed a tennis ball. A trip to the vet confirmed the worst -- intestinal blockage -- and I made the hard decision. I borrowed Daddy's rifle and ended his pain myself. It was a sad day.

For several weeks after that, Taz kept looking at the door, waiting for his best friend Pumpkin to come inside. Finally I adopted another male from the Humane Society, but that's another story.

© Copyright 2004 Michael LaRocca

Like almost all my pet stories, this is an excerpt from AN AMERICAN REDNECK IN HONG KONG. http://freereads.topcities.com/rednecksample.html contains three free chapters.
Mad About Books ( http://freereads.topcities.com/archive.html ) is a free weekly newsletter to help you publish your writing. It'll also tell you about my experiences teaching in China.

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