Denying Storm

She doesn't exist.

That's what we're going to tell everyone. She doesn't exist. Getting a fourth cat would be insane. We have three, why do we want more? We already have cats that are behind in their shot records, we just finally got around to getting Pookie fixed so she wouldn't howl every month, and I am still ineffectively trying to keep feline claws from tearing up the fronts of my new stereo speakers.

Why has Bastet chosen me? Bastet usually chooses crazy old ladies who are trying to supplement their lonely lives with the warmth, attention, and low maintenance of the feline housemate. But Bastet has always chosen me, pleading with me that I need to have cats and that cats are good. Sometimes I wish I wouldn't listen to her. But she is the Goddess of Cats, and she does what she pleases. And she knows I owe her, and owe her big time for favors that she bestows on me.

Cats like me. Not all cats, but most cannot resist the urge to be near me upon first contact. I reciprocate this act by wanting to be near cats. I attract strays, although some of them will keep their distance. I was once accused by some misguided and self-anointed pagan priestess that I was the Lord of Cats. I am not the Lord of Cats. I don't think cats even have a Lord. I can't imagine some guy sitting somewhere, anywhere, telling cats what to do. I think Bastet is just the representative of cats, like their social worker or something. But I think Bastet relies on me to be a working volunteer for her feline cause, whatever that may be, and people sometimes notice this when I with their cats. Many notice SOMETHING, but it comes off as, "Oh, she doesn't like people, she'll sniff you and that's about-- well, I'll be damned, she never usually goes in stranger's laps…"

I have a special connection with cats. I know I am not alone in this (thank God, or Bastet, or whomever), but it's kind of unnerving because it is rare. But cats and I have a mutual understanding of the world that complements each other. I will say that I understand cats far more than people. Some of this may be attributed to the fact that people confuse me in their day-to-day actions, sub-plots, and reasoning. I can't justify a person's reaction to things a lot of the time. Cats make sense. Their reasoning is simple, I think, because they don't bother to question or find definition to their existence, they just are. They assume they exist without even thinking about it, and base all decisions on basic need. People get bogged down with their own personal struggles, how they size up to others, what people think about them, etc, etc, ad nausea, mix well, bake at 350°…

So back to my problem. It's a hot July day in Keyser. Keyser is a town in West Virginia, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, with a population of about twelve thousand people. My wife grew up there, and fled at her first available opportunity. But her family still lives there, so we go back once in a while to her mother's dwelling, which has changed five times in the ten years I have known Christine. Her current abode is a small apartment on the bottom floor of a small complex of apartments. She lives with a cat and two birds. Mom's cat "Cali" (short for Calico) is a pink (yes, pink), white, and gray Maine-coon who hates people and growls, hisses, and swats at visitors. She was taken from her mother too soon, and suffered a bad de-clawing shortly thereafter. She's nuts in a bad, "Pet Semetery" sort of way, and it's taken years to get her to like me, and then I have to go through the re-acquaintance thing each time I return. But this story is not about her, but one of Cali's neighbors.

Tom, the maintenance guy upstairs, has two small dogs, and one medium dog. They like to bark a lot. For the past few Independence Day celebrations, we have gone to Keyser to see the fireworks. Tom has always been outside with us and his dogs, where we sit in the tiny gravel apartment parking lot and watch the fireworks. Earlier in the day, we noticed a thin, longhaired gray cat wandering about, and being very friendly. This night, she was out, and a bit frazzled by all the noise. See, recently, fireworks were legalized in West Virginia, and from dusk, July 3rd through dawn of July 5th, a minute couldn't go by without hearing something go off. During the day it was firecrackers, bottle rockets, and gunfire. During the night it was everything else. To animals, this is a very stressful time, because standard evolutionary responses to sudden noises is to run. Some animals have learned to accept constant noise, or even constant sudden noise, but fireworks are a different matter. Before the festivities began, rednecks from all over were shooting off their extra fingers with firecrackers, bottle rockets, and firing their guns in the air. Woo-hoo. During the din, I could distinctly hear a sound that was as familiar to my soul as pain.


The sound of fright, pain, confusion, and panic that only a kitten can make. I kept trying to locate the source of this cry in the dark, and as near as I could figure, it was coming from an abandoned house across the street. But it was so noisy out, and cars were going up and down the street, I couldn't quite echolocate the source to be sure, and my night vision is deplorable, so I couldn't see anything. If it was as far away as I thought it was, that kitten was sure loud. When cars went up the road, for a moment I could see the house in the glow of headlights, and I scanned the broken and boarded up windows for signs of life. But the headlights went away too quickly, and all I could see was a dark white shape of the house in the shadows. My wife heard it too, and thought it was the cat we saw earlier in the day, but she showed up, and we knew it wasn't her.

The meowing stopped after about half an hour, and then I saw this rabbit-like shape dart across the road. I thought it was a rabbit, but a few minutes later, I heard the meowing again. This time it was closer and on my side of the road. Christine went to investigate, and came back with a small ball of gray fur. It was a kitten, and in seconds I knew it was the one that made the noise. It was purring in Christine's arms, and after a while, I got to hold her. I was petting her when some loud fireworks went off close by. The sounds were far enough away to be out of danger's way, but the sound was loud enough to frighten the kitten, and she began to mew again. In attempt to calm her, I "reached" into her mind, a technique I have had since I was a child with cats and dogs. I don't know if it's a meditative state or something psychic, who cares. It's certainly no great power, and as helpful as it may sound, it's not a tool for control by any means. It's a tool of communication, whereby I can feel and be felt on a tactile and mental level. I felt the panic in her small kitten-like mind, a short-attention span world of movement, sight, sound, and smells. For those who have not experienced communication on this level, it is impossible to describe. Cats see things very differently, and I am not really talking about eyesight, but how they view the world. Humans tend to define themselves and other things. Cats don't. Concepts like time, location, and self-awareness become blurred into another universe of thought and reactions that are completely impossible to describe accurately in human terms.

This kitten's mind was a storm of panic and cat-like emotions that I tried my best to soothe. I wasn't very successful. I had to draw back, and for about half an hour, I was very disoriented and had to ground myself. I was used to my cats, domestic cats that are well fed, and have normal "boring" lives. The mind of a kitten or outdoor cat is slightly different. Kittens, especially. This kitten also was scared silly by sudden changes in sound, pressure, and smell. This is a normal reaction, but I was being stupid by "reaching" into a scared kitten. It turns out this other cat we saw earlier was its mother, and once the two were together, everything was okay. Tonby was the one who told us, and said the owners lived on the second floor of the building next to ours. "They are drug dealers," he said matter-of-factly.

Christine had been talking a lot about wanting another kitten. We could have gotten one free at any time, but we said, "Four cats? Hah! We'd be insane!" The discussion ended there with both of us agreeing we were not getting another cat unless we had a huge house, or went insane. Ever have to change a litterbox of three cats? Yuckky-poo! Our house smells bad enough. But Christine said she wanted this kitten. She fell in love with this raggedy furball as much as I did. But we let her go, and she didn't come back, so it was not meant to be.

The next day, we were packing to go, and we heard the noise again. This time it came from the balcony. There were two kittens, calling out after their mother, who had decided to be petted by me some more. I packed the car, and instead of going in and finishing my goodbyes to mom, I decided to sit on the stoop and pet the mother some more. But she decided to sit under a bush. Then a couple came out with a large brown dog, I think a Lab. "Woof woof!" it went. "Hisssss!" went the mama cat, and ran to me from the bush. The couple laughingly called out the dog, and the cat sat in my lap, and started to go ballistic with hissing and defensive postures, much to the dog's delight. I grabbed the cat to get her off my lap, and despite a voice in my head saying, "You are going to regret this, holding an angry cat, you know," I successfully managed to avoid getting hurt and keep the dog away from the cat before the owners grabbed their dog.

"It's not my cat," I felt compelled to say for some reason.

"Oh, no, that's okay, it's ours!" said the woman. She was a nice, younger woman with a dark complexion and dressed in such a manner that immediately made me think she wasn't from around here. Too trendy and with it, she looked like a DC girl. Her boyfriend then gave a disclaimer, "Not really." He looked like he was from around these parts, but the fact that they were a "mixed" couple was a big tip-off they weren't the normal West VA couple you see in a town of less than twelve thousand. Tony's comment about the drug dealers flashed across my mind, but neither of them "looked the part." Since I don't have any drug-dealing friends, I have no idea what the hell that means. I guess some instinct in the back of my childhood memories expected drug dealers to be tall white men with big mustaches, dark sunglasses, scarves, and a huge floppy hat. Oh, and twangy guitar music in the background like in porn movies. This couple didn't "feel" like drug dealers, but I am probably just naïve.

The woman then explained the found the cat with three kittens starving, and they have kept them in the house for the last few weeks. At this time, a warning light went on my head. I knew where this conversation was going to take me, and I recoiled in anticipation for the dreaded crossroads that lie ahead in the conversation.

"And so we took them in until they got their strength back…"

Oh no.

"And we have already given one away…"

Oh, dear God, she is going to say it.



"Would you like one…?"

Her soft, friendly voice echoed in my head like the fireworks from the night before as the diplomatic and polite parts of my brain tried desperately to shut off the memories of last night. The sounds, the darkness, the cry for help, the kitten's thoughts…

"Let me ask my wife, she was thinking about it…" I said.


I went inside to ask Christine. "Hey," I said, my voice tinted with a hint of confused panic, "the lady outside who owns the kittens wants to know if you want one."

"What…?" asked Christine in mid-conversation with her mom.

"If you want one of the kittens, they are giving them away, you better talk to her, I told her you might be interested. They are leaving, on their way out."

Christine and CR left. I began to assess what I had just done, replaying the events in my mind. I knew I couldn't say yes, and I couldn't say no. I am a bad liar. If I said, "No," I would have been lying. Of course I wanted one. I wanted THAT one, the one who needed our help. Hell, I've already bonded with her, and so has Christine. I didn't want to say, "Yes," and then come back with one and have the burden of saying, "I got us another cat, please strike me down like the dog that I am!"

Christine came back with the kitten. It was cute. I have never seen very many ugly kittens, so this was to be expected. She asked what we should do. CR said, "I want a kitten!" The kitten mewed. I told Christine I was 50/50 on this. She was the final weight that will tip the scale. This was true, although to be honest, I was also paralyzed with indecision. A cat is a 10-15 year investment.

Christine went back to talk to the people. I told mom, "If she comes back with the cat, I know it was meant to be, and this way if she screams the kitten got into her stuff, I can say it wasn't entirely my fault." Yeah, that was lame, but true.

I waited, watching the apartment door. I knew if she came in slowly with her arms across her bosom, we had a kitten. If she came in with her arms down, we didn't.


Christine later told me she could bear to say no to people who had to go fetch the kitten. The boyfriend was in a hurry to go somewhere, and he was ticked he had to go back upstairs. So we had the kitten. We found a box in a storage closet, and set up the car. I told the kitten to wave bye-bye to mommy, but mommy didn't care. The kitten purred.

We put the kitten in the box, and started to drive off. "Meww! MEWW!" it screamed. We knew this was going to happen from our numerous trips to the vet with other cats. Then it started to break out of the box. Aurgh! I finally got the box flaps down and told CR to hold onto it and stuff the kitten back in should it try to escape again. After about 20 minutes, it went to sleep.

In my mind, I started going through the routine. Take it home, give it flea bath, comb it for fleas, check for scars, get kitten food… a new cat box. Our cat box was built for two, housed three, and a fourth would just be too much. I went to the pet store near our house and plunked down $35 I needed for other things on a cat box, kitten food, a leash, and a feather toy. I needed the new cat box and leash anyway.

I got the kitten home, and washed her up. She had a few fleas, but not many. I combed the remaining fleas out with a flea comb, and sprayed anything she was near with some real powerful flea spray (we still had a can of the good stuff from an infestation in 1995). We then gave the rest of the cats a bath. We kept the kitten (which we named Storm because of her gray and white coat)

Cat and mouse The next day, we went to the vet. She got her distemper shots, had a checkup, de-wormed, checked for fleas, and had a FeLuke test. She checked out okay. The vet bill was $114, ow! So much for buying stuff at WorldCon. Our cats were wary of Storm at first, but more because when they tried to get close, Storm would growl deeply (for a kitten) and hiss. But a few days later, even this stopped. I am used to huge fights at first, but the transition has been rather smooth. Also, Storm is rather well behaved for an active kitten. You tell her NO and she stops. My other cats, you yell NO, and they flatten their ears and try to get away with whatever they are doing quicker and closer to the floor, like if they are flatter, we'll think it's okay. But like a kitten, she gets trapped and lost a lot. She also meows loudly for no reason, and wants to be everywhere you are if you are up and moving.

By this time, Christine and I had decided to be in denial. We would tell everyone the kitten did not exist because having four cats would be insane, right? My boss at work told me a story of a in her neighborhood with 100 cats. Four cats, how did I end up with that? I couldn't. I can't afford it, and my landlord is going to kill me. I couldn't have a fourth cat, that would be insane. She doesn't exist.

She doesn't exist.



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