My parents owned some weird cats in the early years of their marriage. I don't know what that says about them, but I guess after one strange feline, a person, or a family in our case, can be marked. The first cat Mom remembers after they married took them awhile to figure out. Dad pulled out the vacuum cleaner and went to town cleaning the carpet, where the kitty was curled up napping. He vacuumed all around the cat and it didn't flinch, didn't even crack open an eyelid. But if the cat awoke while he was vacuuming elsewhere and came face to face with the machine, it freaked out, as normal cats do. Filled with curiosity one day, Dad knelt beside the cat while its attention was fixed in another direction and clapped his hands hard. Nothing happened. Mom didn't say how long it took for them to discover this cat was deaf.
Then there was the cat whose mom died when the kitty was just a wee thing. She never recovered from this early loss and sucked her tail constantly, until Mom said it looked like a wet rat. The time came for Mom and Dad to move across the country and they didn't want to bring the cat with them. In a desperate attempt to find a home for the cat, they washed her tail and fluffed it pretty with a blow dryer. When the prospective owners showed up to see the cat, Mom clutched the tail lightly in her hands and held her breath. It worked and Mom and Dad said goodbye to the cat, locking the door, closing the blinds and turning off the lights behind them.
As a kid, the first cats I remember are Patches and Prissy. Patches was a black and white fluff ball, really adorable, and Prissy was, well, as annoying as her name sounds. Whiny as they come. These two were quite the dynamic duo. They'd steal the waffle right off our breakfast plates if we weren't guarding closely. We couldn't even leave a bowl of cereal on the table at breakfast for a quick trip to the bathroom, because when we returned, one of them would be hunched over the bowl lapping milk and eating soggy cheerios. Mom said one time she was sitting at the kitchen table with a friend talking after the meal, a plate of barbecued chicken piled beside her. From the corner of her eye she saw Patches jump on the table and approach the plate stealthily. Her reflexes were a little more catlike than his that day and before she knew it, her arm reached out and whacked him from the table, where he soared through the air, hit the wall, slid to the ground and delicately scurried out of the room.
In that same house in Arizona where we had Patches and Prissy, Mom said a wild cat lived in the backyard. This cat made valiant efforts to streak inside whenever an opportunity presented itself. When it succeeded, it made a beeline for one of our beds, where it fluffed up the covers, squatted and pooped. Mom found this out by accident one day when in her bedroom she caught a strong whiff of poo. Their bedspread was brown and she knelt beside the bed to peek beneath it, putting her hand in a squishy pile of Wild Cat's doo-doo in the process. One day, Wild Cat made it past Dad into the house and headed straight for our bedroom. They followed right behind him, and there he was, fluffing the covers on my sister's lower bunk, in the squatting position. Mom yelled for Dad to do something and Dad responded by cupping his hands underneath Wild Cat's tail right as his poo fell into his hands.
All these stories, Mom recounted to me during breakfast recently, our Sunday morning ritual at Java Bean down the street. I just sat at the table cracking up and wiping the tears from my eyes. I hadn't laughed like that in awhile, and I relished the rare moment of hearing old tales from Mom that are filled with such humor. Sometimes we can be so serious together, we forget to laugh like this.