Thursday, July 23, 2015

Live And Let Die

Live And Let Die

I don't have a cat. I did have one once, when I was about 19 years old. I called it Ttiki. That's not a typo. The double "t" at the beginning of the name is there on purpose, because it was an anagram or word scramble of Kitti. I wanted to name my cat Ssupy, but my lesbian friend, Lacy Anderson, who wore long paisley stockings up to the nexus of her thighs, said that would be disagreeable to some. So I settled on Ttiki, and that was that.

Ttiki was no fancy-pants cat. He was grey with a few fringes of some other grey and plain steel-grey eyes. I found him when he was just weeks old. He had been abandoned by his mother amongst the bales of hay in the barn of my friend, Rod Allen, who lived with his folks on one of those just-outside-the-city stables that boarded horses for rich folks. He warned me that Ttiki was a wild cat by birth and that I shouldn't expect it to be something to snuggle up to on cold winter nights. I told him that was fine. I wasn't planning any murders at the time.

Ttiki never really settled into my place or into my life. Somewhere in the back of his imagination, he was a lion or a tiger or, at the very least, a cheetah displaced by a twist of fate into the body of a dull grey barn cat. He longed to walk on the wilder side of life. Maybe that explains why he would constantly climb the living room drapes and attempt a high wire act along the curtain rod high above the foggy picture windows that looked out into the backyard where Dave Dawson had dumped his green '32 Chevy modified pickup on the lawn. Dave had rebuilt that jalopy from the chassis up, but when that truck broke down on Portage Avenue one night and Dave called to ask if he could haul it to my place, I said OK, and there it stayed for as long as I can remember. Someone tried growing marijuana in the rear bed of that truck one summer, but the neighbourhood kids caught on real quick and the stuff disappeared one night in August -- roots and all. I'm not sure how that truck relates to my memory of Ttiki, but it does somehow, or I guess I wouldn't have mentioned it. Dreams bust up sometimes.

Ttiki got fairly good at climbing those drapes, despite a few falls that brought him down hard on the top of the new colour television that my father had bought me. The TV was one of those large console jobs with sharp corners. I'd be brewing coffee in the kitchen or reading TIME magazine in the bathroom when, all of a sudden, I'd just hear this dull thud. Then I'd know that Ttiki had tried a ridiculous pirouette and lost his footing. Over time, he learnt how to snag those curtains on the way down, and it wasn't that unusual to find him hanging there by one claw like he was rethinking the physics of his distress. Soon enough, the curtains started to look a little more than tattered. I didn't mind too much. I always wanted sheers to let a little more light in during the day.

At Christmas that year, Bonnie Martin, a girlfriend of a friend, bought Ttiki a black collar with a line of hideous rhinestones embedded in it. Hanging from the collar was a small oddly shaped charm of sorts that had Ttiki's name and my phone number engraved on it. Bonnie was hooked in to some odd religion at the time, something Egyptian in origin, I think, and she explained how the charm would protect Ttiki from harm as she twisted and locked it tightly around the cat's neck. Oddly enough, the poor grey whisper of a cat stopped climbing the drapes from that day forward. Instead, he seemed almost domesticated and mopped around the house without his usual flair for flying leaps and bounds and pretending, I guess, that he was Rocky to my Bullwinkle. Mind you, he did take on the chimney one early morning, and I guess he got half way up the black masonry before falling back down in a crash of soot that billowed out the fireplace into the room and over all the furniture. Someone cleaned it up, but I'm pretty sure that it wasn't me.

Ttiki hung around for a few more months after that. He used to sit on my shoulder for hours and watch me hunt and peck as I typed a story about life and death on an old manual typewriter that I picked up at Goodwill for eight bucks. I was always amazed that he never got bored sitting up there on my right shoulder and watching my fingers fumble around the keyboard. Or maybe he did, eventually. Long before I finished that story, he let himself out somehow and lit out for the territories like Huck Finn or Holden Caulfield -- same character, after all, just in different books. I began to worry about him after a couple of days until, one morning, some old guy called to say he'd run over Ttiki in his driveway. He sounded pretty shook up about it, but I knew right away that it was a clear case of suicide by tire. When the guy asked me if I wanted to collect the body, all I remember saying is, "What for?" and we left it at that.

Looking back now, I guess that sounds pretty insensitive and all. To be honest, I sometimes wondered if that cat might have been better off left alone to live in Rod Allen's hayloft, but when I mentioned that notion to Rod at my mother's funeral in the summer, Rod simply said, in a kind of off-handed way, that his dad would have just drowned that kitten in a barrel and tossed him in the garbage if I hadn't come along and taken Ttiki home that day. So, I guess some life is better than no life, unless maybe, the some life you live is really no life at all.



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