Cutchogue Capers

Yes . . . the cat’s out of the bag. I am seeing someone, someone with a cat. I’m not sure which of these truths has shocked my family more. “Incredible,” they’re probably thinking, or maybe, unmoved by my recent antics, have dismissed this latest announcement as “Just another of her lunatic moves.” You see, of late I’ve sprung more than a few surprises on them: I’m retiring! (At 57?) I’m moving to Southold! (As in the North Fork?) I’m on Match.com (You’re dating again?) Yes, yes, and yes. All in the same year, I stopped working, bought a house on Goose Creek, and decided to give online romance a go. But here’s the thing–for 20 plus years I had not dated any one man more than twice, and for all of my life I have been highly allergic to cats. And here I was keeping company with a man—and his Cutchogue cat.

Creamsicle, a grand old dame, whose orange and white barcode stripes are thankfully graying, reigns supreme at her royal residence on Horseshoe Cove, where she smugly enjoys the proverbial life of a fat cat. All last winter, this pampered puss rested in front of the fire, lazed regally on her white-leather ottoman, or lounged sphinx-like on her over-sized, cane-framed throne, all cozy and snuggly under her very own cashmere coverlet. (Yes, monogrammed). And, when her royal meowjesty sensed even the slightest chill, say because I had just arrived and, forgive me, had to walk in through the front door, she would simply slither behind the free-standing stove, tuck herself tightly in the corner, and purr until his fire was freshly stoked.

Yes, Missy (as I’ve secretly come to call her), is a smart little kitty-cat–a very smart kitty-cat, one who knows exactly how to get what she wants; one who knows how to me-oow him out of bed at five, sometimes four, in the morning to feed her; how to me-oow herself generous second helpings of gourmet meals (none of that canned kibble stuff for her); how to me-oow herself a flutter of eskimo kisses just by sidling up to him, jumping into his lap, and, often, with great glee, into his bed. Even on a hot tin roof, Maggie has nothing on this foxy feline.

Call me crazy, but I know that Missy knows that I don’t particularly like her, and she knows that I know that she definitely does not like me. But, we pretend, tolerating each other’s presence when we must, except, of course, when we can’t, and we don’t. Like, whenever she senses that he’s leaving her alone, whether it be for a couple of days, or even for just a few hours, she gets incredibly spiteful. No . . . actually, as corny as this may sound, she gets really catty. If she could, I’m sure, Missy would scratch my eyes out so that she could keep her sticky little paws on him 24/7. But as I said, she is one smart, and did I mention manipulative, tabby.

When pussy is pissed, she pees or spits up on the oriental rug, makes mad dashes from one end of the house to the other, jumps on and off the couch as if she were possessed, and, in short, has a cat version of a hissy-fit. If any or all of these capers don’t get his attention, she works the eyelashes, pulls one of her pitiful, “Leaving me again?” looks, a favorite guilt-trip tactic that never fails to delay our departure. At times like that, I’ve learned to keep my distance and my cool. I mean, how silly is it to be jealous of a cat; so what, I tell myself, if she is settled comfortably in the Thurber seat? After all, I reason, she has been his pet way longer than I have.

But sometimes, like when she plants herself at the door and puffs up her bottle brush tail to flaunt her latest victory, it’s all I can do not to stoop to her level, stick my tongue out and whisper as close up into her ear as I can bear, “Toot-a-loo, Missy; I’m the one who’s riding shotgun, now!” I wave, without looking back, worried that she’s already cooking something up for our return. Believe me, there have been times when. . . Oh, never mind.

If our absence is brief, say dinner at the local pub or a flight at a nearby vineyard, she greets my return with an upturned nose and that “Oh no, not you again?” attitude. Believe you me, Missy, the feeling’s mutual. If we’re gone for several days, either to catch a show in the city or visit friends upstate, before the door is even fully open, I am darted with looks of derision and disgust, while he receives a hero’s welcome. Me-oow, me-oow. Oh, I’ve missed you so. Purr, purr. Please pick me up. Me-oow, me-oow. Hold me, feed me, kiss me. Yuk, really, there’s just no end to her wicked wiles.

Most of the time, I head straight upstairs, figuring there’s more than one way to outsmart a smarty-cat. I close the bedroom door, and, just in case Missy’s been up to her dirty tricks, I change the sheets before slipping into my kitten pj’s–a leopard-print nightie, short, sheer, and, let’s just say, guaranteed to get his tongue. Smiling my widest Cheshire grin, I wait, knowing that at least until daybreak, puss is going to get the boot. Me-oow!