Some things are perfect. Certainly the cat was. It seemed to appear one day, like magic, as if something out of a fairy tale. There, in front of the old video store, then transformed into the combination antique shop and realty office, was a giant statue of a tabby cat with one paw raised as in benevolent benediction. It seemed to be eight feet tall and took your breath away. Im sure as people passed, driving by, they must have turned to each other in astonishment and said, Did you see that?
Of course I coveted it. And although it would be the last thing we really needed, the dear Beleaguered Husband, hoping to please me, had stopped to inquire as to the price of the extraordinary feline. I think at that time it must have been at least five hundred dollars and out of our price range. Even so, I kept a sharp lookout when driving by, though its actually a dangerous spot to take your eye from the road and, if in that one brief moment while turning my head I saw the cat, Id feel relief, thinking, Oh good, no one has bought it yet. Theres still a chance it could be mine.
On rainy days I worried about it for cats do not like water.
Butterscotch Tailwind Muldoon is shedding. That beautiful long, orange Maine Coon catlike fur is floating through the air, landing on every surface throughout our home. Woe be to anyone wearing black. There is a constant search for the lint brush. I try to groom him, but he does not really tolerate my ministrations for more than a few minutes. Ive found I do better without the brush and resort to long strokes, just grabbing what loose fur I can in my hands and then disposing of it. I dont mind his shedding. I have looked at Muldoon as a gift: one of those things given by the Gods, for pure happenstance could not have brought so miraculous and wise a creature to my weary, worldly realm. Ah, a cat in Topanga.
There are some who do well, indeed a clever Tuxedo Manx who lived up the hill seemed to thrive, roaming freely outside for years and I have witnessed the Bengal, Boy Boy, from Bonnell actually look both ways before crossing the perilous street. Alas, my own kitties did not fare well. In both cases it took but one night when a door or window was left ajar, resulting in the terrible fate visited upon our small pets in the sly, stealing, stealthy shape of a coyote. Twice, though some 15 years apart, I roamed our neighborhood calling vainly for my pet, crying a bit as I went, knowing it to be hopeless. Both were dark, sad days as something bright had gone from the house, and I actually feared for my sanity when my Hazelnut, dear autumn kitty, went missing. My son forbade me to get another cat. Look at yourself, he commanded. Youre a wreck and you cant go through this again!
Of course he was right but now and then I haunted shelters and would stop at pet adoption sites looking longingly because something felt empty and missing.
Would you consider fostering a kitty? asked the nice lady at Voice For the Animals Pet Adoptions in the Palisades.
I was just walking by. How did she know? We were waiting for a table at a nearby café for breakfast, and Id just sort of wandered over to the adoption area. When I rejoined the family I had a photo of an adorable orange kitten in my purse and details about fostering the animal, just until he got used to being around a family, as the paperwork said. Of course, I had no intention of a temporary situation. I would be offering a forever home. But he would have to be an indoor cat. All through that Thanksgiving weekend I carried around the kitty photo and smiled to myself as if I had a happy secret. We all agreed to try it out.
He was reported to be a wild, hissing sort of cat, afraid of people, and might even bite or scratch. When we finally picked him up he was huddled in a little cat carrier, and on the way home in the car, though cautious, I reached in to pet him. I was not met with biting or scratching. He purred. He was mine and I was his.
The Muldoon seemed to understand what was needed of him: that he be contented to stay indoors, not running to the wilds or dashing through any open door. Once, when he did get out, he sat patiently outside and meowed to be let back in. I was astounded by his wise behavior and so very grateful that a tragedy had been averted. He grew into a beautiful cat, full and round with noble bearing and stately plumed tail. The face is of that delicate feline, Egyptian fashion, set with clear, quick, bright green eyes, set off by a handsome white ruff round his neck. There is a royal bearing about him and the only physical fault is the notched ear, designating that he was a feral cat who had been fixed, for he came from humble beginnings. But majesty will always tell.
Some days it gets hard. Great sums of money are owed and it is difficult to find our way with a new business. There are ants in the bathroom. The Little Girl wants a new swimming suit and needs to go to the dentist. The Boy must have books for school. The Beleaguered Husband is missing a shoe or cant find a shirt or balance his checkbook and I wake to hearing him swear. Again. A panic grips me, rolling over like a wave. If I look too far down the road, I see us sitting there, homeless with a guitar and tambourine to sing for our supper, but we cant sing. My heart goes out to those who have already arrived at that place, on the edge of America.
Of course, I call on God, not just for customers and enough money to pay the bills, for who am I to know what is really best, but I call, desperately and pleadingly, to stay balanced in the middle of shifting sands, to stand upright as worlds crash, to remain somehow ever faithful and to make the right choices with hope in my heart.
It is the cat that answers. He hops up next to me and settles on my heart as I lie unsettled and uncertain. He begins to purr and the fur is so soft as I wrap my arms around him that it is like being covered with a living blanket of love, what matter if he sheds a bit? I am comforted and peace enters my soul. This is a pretty good cat.
When the real-estate-office-antique-store was closing, everything went on sale. This included the wondrous cat statue that I saw sitting there in all its glory among more mundane wares. Id drive by wondering what its price might be now? Maybe a few hundred? But what matter, I could not buy it were it but fifty bucks. Nonetheless, I kept my eye on it and then one day it was gone. It felt a bit like losing a cat, like a spark gone from the day, like a cloud passing over the sun.
Oh, Mommy, said The Little Girl, reporting important news. The big cat statue is in front of a house on Old Canyon. Someone there must have bought it.
The next time we drive up Old Canyon Road she shows me. And there it is, mounted beautifully, looking as if it were always meant to be there, serene in its surroundings, magical and marvelous for all of us to see and share. And in its upraised paw now rests a spinning blue pinwheel making the whole thing, though seemingly impossible, even more enchanting. No, it is not in my yard, but it is close and I can see it every day. I do not need to own it to appreciate it, to be reminded that there are always perfect surprises.
I like to imagine the Grand Cat sits like a goddess in honor of all the cats of Topanga, blessing them, the ones that have gone before, kitties to come, and those we are lucky enough to have here now.