Over the years I have enjoyed the company of several black cats. The first was Jinx who mysteriously appeared at our backdoor in Mooringsport. My mom liked cats and Dad tolerated them, outside. He hated the idea of something that buried its poop jumping onto countertops or tables. That’s understandable, but in my dotage I have weakened on that one to the extent that my table is okay but the cooking countertop remains verboten. Dad referred to Jinx as Stinks, and it is remotely possible that he dropped the cat off halfway to Shreveport on his way to work. It is also possible that Jinx left for the company of a gal cat, or figured some other humans needed him more at that moment. He wasn’t hit by a car, or killed by a bad dog: country people only drag road kill off the street if it’s theirs, but none was found. Jinx vanished.
A couple of years later another black cat appeared at our door. That was the story the ‘rents got from me. In truth he followed me home from school (with much encouragement). He looked like Jinx but all black cats look alike: two yellow headlights and a white tail light, almost invisible in darkness. We called him Cat for months, then I renamed him after he learned to harvest fish bait from the live well Dad built to contain his leftovers from Saturday fishing trips. Since the cat had paws, and used them to catch minnows, the ten year old me named him Minnow Paws. Older people in our household began to wonder if — already — the time had come for The Talk, so one of them gently asked about the name. A truthful answer deferred The Talk until there was no reason to bother.
But like Jinx, Minnow Paws disappeared as suddenly as I had brought him home, and again, no corpse. Black cats vanish into thin air without rhyme or reason.
Not too long ago Kat and I came to know another black cat known as Midnight. He was a bad stud cat, and when he wasn’t eating or napping he was at war with his rival Yellow Tom. Midnight was just a shade tougher than Tom. I have seen only one black kitten ever, and this kid was Midnight’s boy, son of Tyga, the toughest p-cat on the planet. I called him Tyrone, and had he lived to maturity, one day Tyrone would have run off Yellow Tom and Midnight. But somebody killed Tyrone: the likely suspects are Tom and Midnight, and Tyrone’s is the only black cat corpse ever I have seen.
Kat is a pet person, and she linked up with a cat rescue organization that encouraged her to capture and neuter the feral cats around us, including Tyga and Midnight. We never caught Tom, but did get Tyga and Midnight fixed. Tyga found it a relief to limit her crop to 40 or so kittens, but Middy didn’t like it at all. Upon his return from the vet he took off for the woods at a full sprint, never to be seen again.
Bugger came to us after Walt’s passing. We were not Walt’s first choice of adoptive parents, but were the ones able to take her in. Bugs had been with us for over a year now and seemed happy. A few days ago I left the screen door open momentarily, and rather than as always before being fearful of the world outside, Bugger embraced it. Quick as a roach she blasted off into the woods of Jedidiah Smith State Park in upper California. We extended our stay two days. We set out sardines and went out in the middle of night to sit and listen. We realized Bugs had left us, and that we must leave on this year’s journey to Washington, S. Dakota, Georgia and Kentucky. This morning with great sadness we packed up to move on up the road.
Ten minutes before hitching up we heard a “Meow?” and Kat spied Bugger. Ten minutes later a crawling Kat captured Bugs in the underbrush. The band is back together once again.
Black cats are spiritual. They come and go. They disappear and return at will. Kat can’t believe she’s back. I don’t believe it. Fifteen minutes more and we would have been gone. Did Bugger sense that we were packing up, and realize she had enjoyed enough adventure? That’s what I think.
Here for your listening pleasure is the serene adagio movement of Mozart’s Gran Partita, the full version with which I celebrated Kat’s capture of Cat.