On this utterly dismal rainy day, I have decided to cheer myself with a Friday series called "Dead Cat Blogging." The current feline children of the CrazyStable--Lexi the Gorgeous Ragdoll, CocoBop the Grey Jackass, and Raffles (the senior boy, now living apparently contently with renal failure),* have already been profiled here. But their predecessors were so illustrious--alright, so goofy--that we recall and discuss them often. It seems right to start with the most home-grown of cats, Keisha.
Home-grown indeed--Keisha started life as the "Compost-Heap Kitty." Her mom, a slim and elusive black member of the feral gypsy tribe who roamed our backyard, had a single baby (or a single survivor, perhaps) on the warm bed of my compost heap. I looked out the second-floor window and saw a tiny coal-lump moving among the discarded banana peels and canteloupe rinds next to Mama's lounging form. A few weeks later, I heard the metronome-steady BEW! of a kitten-distress call...coming from the yard of the abandoned house behind ours. I hurried around the block and up the driveway. The baby sat shaking with hunger and bawling, as the Mama sat aloof, a few yards away. Mama gave me a level and affectless gaze that seemed to say: You want her, she's yours.
And so she was. I quarantined her up in my small third-floor study with a shoe-box-sized litter pan; my mother and I mixed up formula for her and fed it to her with an eye dropper every few hours. The feisty little blue-eyed scrap thrived, marching around on my desk and scattering my papers (and acquiring her first of many monikers, "Study Pet"). I tried (really, Spouse, I did!) to get her adopted, knowing that our existing clan of three cats was plenty. But nobody offered to take her--particularly after the baby sprung a huge, weeping abscess in her neck that required shaving and debridement. (I nearly passed out during this procedure, experiencing for the first time that condition known as a "flop sweat.") The abscess probably resulted from Mama holding her in a too-tight mouth grip as she hoisted the baby over our stockade fence. Either way, after applying betadine swabs and ointment along with the eyedropper every day, she was mine, all mine.
Keisha's name came from that of a little girl who was abandoned in nearby Caledonian Hospital the same damp spring day that I rescued the kitten. Her mother left her with a note indicating that she was overwhelmed and desperate; when the mom was subsequently found and charged, cooler and kinder heads protested, and the papers reported that the young woman and child were reunited and given the support services they needed to go on. My Keisha's name reminded me from time to time over the years to spare a prayer for the other, human mother-child pair.
Hopefully the little-girl Keisha was as tough a survivor as her feline namesake. Our Keish made a wonderful contrast to the warm-and-fuzzy threesome she joined. Part of her always stayed feral-- and that was what I loved about her. She spurned public displays of affection, except for secretive love-fests if I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and none of the other cats were looking. She'd stroll across the counter scrap-scavenging as we sat at the dinner table; if we yelled at her, she'd natter backtalk at us ("nyah-nyay-nyah," which obviously translated into "screw you" or worse). Although possessed of a fine silky coat, she had a rangy build (even after the addition of a hanging pot-belly in middle age), and a sleek wedge-shaped head that prompted her commonest nickname, Wedgehead (or Wedgie, or just Wedge). (She also got called Zippy the Pinhead or just Zip, and Hairball, and Spawn of Satan.) She took pleasure in smacking the other cats on the head, and instead of their wussy play-wrestling, she would fight dirty with tooth and claw. She loved butter--so much so that she would streak to the kitchen from anywhere in the house at the sound of the butterdish lid clinking--but never betrayed, in 11 years of the good life, a hint of gratitude for the butter or anything else.
Wedge had an edge. She left our lives as she had entered them, with a lot of stink, thanks to some tumor or blockage of the gut, and we interred her with honor--of course--near the compost heap, her cozy cradle. Her distant relatives still skulk down the alley and slink up and over the back fence, just stayin' alive.
* Renovation tip, since this is, after all, a HouseBlog: Did you know that cat pee makes a stupendously effective paint stripper? And can you begin to guess how we found this out?