Because I am not the only person living in my house, we have a cat. The other people living in my house (a woman and two small children) love the cat, but they very quickly broke their promise to feed and water it and to clean out the kitty litter. They leave that to me, the only person in the house who is indifferent to the cat. And so the cat loves me most.
This is not the first time I have been the object of feline infatuation. The other people living in my house have developed insidious ploys to bend and break my resolve to keep my home free of quadrupeds (and any other peds, for that matter). Their strategy usually involves several bottles of fine red wine, a foot massage, and copious batting of eyelashes. Sometimes tears are shed and plaintive wails are heard. And so they wear me down until I relent, just to get them out of my face. Usually, my furry punishment has already soiled the living-room carpet by the time I wake up the next morning.
And so Dr. Obsequious and Mr. Raving Psycho Loon secreted themselves into my life. Apparently, the sweet, young lady at the animal shelter claimed they were both 10 years old. On seeing them, I swiftly concluded that they must have spent those ten years working in a coal mine hauling trolleys all day and partying with Keith Richard all night. They were physically buggered and mentally deranged.
Dr. Obsequious was incapable of being in the same room with a human being without seeking constant physical contact. Which was, at once, very sad and terribly annoying.
And then there was Mr. Raving Psycho Loon, who had clearly been an axe murderer in a previous life. When he surfaced from his lair behind the dishwasher after three weeks, we discovered that his idea of contact entailed little more than sitting on the armrest staring at me as I watched TV or read the paper. There was no mistaking the look in his eye. It said: “Die, you bastard, so that I may eat your innards.”
To add an eerie touch to his already evil demeanour, Mr. Raving Psycho Loon ate with his paw, tapping up a chunk with his claw and popping it into his mouth. Like a large, furry wrestler eating chips. And of course it was Mr. Raving Psycho Loon who needed frail care during the last weeks of his life. Picture this: a deranged paranoid psychopath suffering from kidney failure starts to go blind. The slightest noise sends him bouncing off the walls like a stray balloon at a children’s party. It was all quite distressing and so we carefully captured him and my wife took him off to the vet. The kids said their farewells and I patiently informed them that Mr. Manson (lovingly renamed) was going to a better place.
But I was wrong, because the kitty carrier was full when my wife returned, and she was carrying a week’s salary worth of pills. “The vet said he’d be fine once he’s had these,” said my wife cheerfully. And then added: “I’m off to New York tomorrow, remember?”
Yes, I remember it vividly, my dear. Mr. Manson did not want to take the pills. He did not want to sit on my lap with a towel wrapped around his body. He did not want to be anywhere near me. He wanted to be in a better place. I wanted him to be in a better place. But instead, the poor bugger was having pills shoved down his throat by his mortal enemy. Needless to say, he fought fiercely for the right to ascend to the big kitty litter in the sky. Eventually, I had no choice but to let him go.
Little did I know that Mr. Manson would be back to haunt me from beyond the grave.
How, you may well ask. After several years of cat-less bliss, we recently got a new free-loader from the shelter. At the time, I was promoting the Dutch edition of my novel. Everyone in the publishing business knows that a TV appearance is gold. After several successful radio interviews, it looked like my TV appearance was in the making. I brushed my teeth ten times a day, tried on all my shirts in front of the mirror, and practiced my smile and jaunty ironical eyebrow. I even compiled lists of possible questions and answers. I was as ready as a cub scout at a dessert buffet.
Because my wife was heading off to some distant clime again, it was my privilege to pick up our new, old cat from the shelter. As I was standing at the desk, filling in the release forms, I was approached by a young man who looked vaguely familiar, trailing in his wake a camera team and a very nervous director. The young man asked if they could film me as I went to pick up the cat. He also wanted to ask a few questions. How could I refuse? And so I briefly appeared on national television, in Holland’s most popular children’s show.
With Mr. Manson still fresh in my memory, I was wearing the oldest sweater and jeans I could find. It goes without saying that the Dutch edition of my book was nowhere to be seen. And when the program was broadcast, it featured only one of the interviewer’s many questions: “Why did you choose this particular cat?” And my reply: “He looks a lot more relaxed and friendly than our last cat.”
It was a bitter pill to swallow, Mr. Manson.
(This story was first posted as a blog in 2009 and later appeared in the anthology Stray.)