“Mama, do you like cats?” Cole asked one day. This was shortly after I had brought the latest puppy home a few weeks ago.
“I love cats,” I answered.
“Then why don’t we have one?” he inquired.
“Well, we’ve got the dogs and Roubaix is not exactly cat-friendly.”
Plus, where would we put the litter box? I wondered.
“When’s the last time you had a cat?” Cole asked.
“Years ago. It was Callahan.”
This was an animal I had in my pre-Cole days and he wanted to know all about it.
“Callahan was this little alley cat that I found one day, sitting on the steps outside of the building I worked in. He was the scraggliest cat ever,” I began.
To be honest, there was nothing cute about this scrawny stray tiger-striped kitten. He wasn’t even cuddly. Feral would probably be a closer description.
I had scooped him up and taken him into to where I worked, and was promptly told I couldn’t bring that critter in there. So the ratty looking kitten was taken to a friend of mine’s store a few blocks over to be cat-sat until I got off.
“What is it?” she asked when I handed her the kitten.
“It’s a kitten,” I had replied.
My friend held the creature up and inspected it. “Are you sure? I think this is some kind of alley rat.”
She frowned and found a box for him as she put him in her bathroom, closing the door to keep him secluded.
The ex was not happy when he saw the cat either. Not that I blame him. The reason I had not brought any of my cats from home when we married was because he was supposedly allergic. I had already decided if it came down to this scraggly alley kitten and the then present husband, I was choosing the kitten.
“Why did you bring this god-forsaken thing home?” he asked.
“It needed a home.”
“That thing is not staying in this house and you should not have brought it home without asking. It can go in the shed.” I think he muttered something about how the both of us would be in need of a new residence as he went down the hall. He must have momentarily forgot who buttered his toast each morning.
The kitten spent the night in the shed, which was insulated and air conditioned and actually would have been a perfect little sub-let for the ex to live in. When I checked on him the next morning, he seemed less skittish about being held.
“Don’t let that cat in the house,” I was ordered.
And since being told to do or not do something yields an almost feline-like response from me, I brought the cat inside with me.
“I’m allergic,” the ex reminded me.
“Oh, take an allergy pill and get over it,” I said. “How could this tiny little cat possibly bother anything?” How wrong I would be.
“What are you naming that thing?” he asked, eyeing him with arrogant disdain.
“Callahan,” I announced, sticking my chin out in defiant victory that the snob I was married to acknowledged the addition of the cat. “Dirty Harry Callahan or just Callahan for short.”
The tiger-striped stray lived up to his name, and held a mutual dislike for the ex.
Daily, that cat sought out ways to torment that man.
First, it was simple annoyances, like knocking things off his dresser.
“He gets on your antique sideboard when you’re not here,” the ex told me one day.
“He doesn’t knock anything off.”
“No, he won’t,” I said. “He likes me.”
Truth was, I don’t think the cat liked anyone, but he lived to make the ex’s life miserable.
He knocked one of the ex’s collectible coffee mugs off one night, shattering it to pieces. That thing was never going to be worth more than the $12.99 he paid for it anyway, but you would have thought the cat just broke the Holy Grail.
Callahan loved to sneak into the bedroom where he would climb under the cover and make biscuits on the ex’s posterior.
Callahan was even sneaky enough to plot his attacks for when the ex was in the shower, pulling his litter box over to the very spot where he would step out, head shrouded by a towel. Screams and bad words followed.
I had no sympathy for him.
After the first week of this happening you would think he would have caught on. But the ex didn’t. Nor did he learn to put his toothbrush in the medicine cabinet, which Callahan liked to mark as his territory.
The ex brought Pepper home to me one day, as a compromise, hoping I would concede the cat in order to have the dog. I kept both until Pepper decided Callahan was her personal chew toy and the cat, sneaky and mean as he was, didn’t have the smarts to not get on Pep’s crate with appendages within biting range.
Callahan went to live at a neighbor’s farm where he had a slew of animals and new people to torment as proved by attacking the neighbor’s son when he came to get him.
“So Callahan hated your first husband?” Cole asked.
I shrugged. “The cat didn’t like anyone, baby.”
“Pepper didn’t like him either,” he continued. “And Jackie, you got Jackie while you were married to him too, right?”
Jackie was my grey-pied cockatiel. She loved to use his head for target practice.
“Why didn’t any of your animals like him?” Cole asked.
“Cole, you will find animals and children are usually pretty good judges of character,” was my reply.