One O’Cat

Written By: Garry Buff

Good old house. Sealed up with everything that made last weekend fun and life palatable for another week. Love-hate is the best you can hope for from Manhattan. Like the dry-oily skin that they say everyone has.
I envision the drive from Lower Fifth to Sag Harbor like a trip to the moon. Mornings in a junior high classroom watching a flickering black and white set. Apollo. We slowly build power and momentum up Third Avenue. Delay in the countdown-fuel cells not registering, then back on. It helps if I can do the trip in chunks. Otherwise, I run out of curse words before I hit Exit 70. Maybe a bobble head doll in my rear window with the middle finger extended. This would save time and effort for me.
We launch through the Tunnel and work very hard to reach escape velocity (or in this case, at least to get through Queens in a reasonable time). I am surrounded by the remnants of past vehicles crashed and burned. Crossing the Nassau border is leaving the confines of Earth. We take the HOV to go translunar. Speed becomes more stable and my grip on the wheel loses its death mask. Once I reach the 60’s exits, I’m close to lunar orbit. At one time the drive was stressful-an extension of all the aggravation and aggression that made up the week. I have come to embrace the drive since then-a rite of passage. I can now measure my worth based on the time it takes me to hit the Tunnel or stop for gas in Manorville. Great.
I hit the Sunrise and can feel the retro rockets firing. Southampton and the one lane orbit. Once I head north, I could really breathe. This night was in late April-windows open after the Sunrise and fresh ocean air. Do I really smell the ocean from here or is it just non city air? Brights go on as I engage the landing lights on the LEM. I’m sailing through the unlit backroads but I am happy. City smell is replaced by plant life and mist. It’s dark but we’re engulfed by the weekend.
Anyway, good old house. We love that musty musky smell. The house is clean-we come out every weekend and clean the house on a regular basis. No, it’s a good musty, musky smell-it’s my old friend and we’re here in Sag Harbor
But why was this Friday different from all other Fridays. Wait, Passover was just a few weeks ago. As we sat by the sliders in the dining room and feel the darkness in the backyard, we heard a very small sound. A mewling. A small black cat that was no doubt a neighbor’s. We had no pets. No pets, no children-a relationship built for speed and movement. I had always loved cats and dogs but came from enough dysfunction that I never had one. Merle was a dog person if anything. The cat was cute and insistent but it was late and we knew it would probably just go back home.
But that really little and cute black cat was at the slider on Saturday morning. A hungry poor thing? Certainly a saucer of milk is in order. Years of watching Catnip, Sylvester and Top Cat have taught me well. Except, cats are lactose intolerant like middle aged Jewish men. Still hungry and meowing to me, albeit with a slightly bloated stomach, this small black cat refused to go away. We next provided the kitty with BumbleBee Brand White Albacore Tuna in Water-certainly a survivalist’s staple and the result of a recent Costco run. That was quickly devoured. Now believing this creature was truly homeless, I called ARF which promptly educated me as to the number of feral and homeless cats on the East End. No one was coming and this cat was ours.
It wasn’t long before we discovered that this poor baby was a mommy and therefore a female. Does anyone know that it’s very difficult to tell a cat’s gender? Something about a question mark or some such. Anyway, after such fine dining, we followed this feline to a spot under the gazebo on our property. Three little squirming kittens mewling for food from their mommy. A tuxedo, a calico and a tiger striped tabby. “Show us your babies” we said to the mommy. If on cue, she tucked her head under the gazebo and brought out each one for display. “Claude, Delphine and Isabelle,” I said. “Why?” “Because that’s their names.” The mommy of course was Chloe.
Weeks went by with calls to rescue places followed by humane trappings with all the “fixins.” We took custody of these little beauties and set them up with sturdy little houses, heated mats and water bowls and food. These babies were there whenever we drove up on Friday night and the good old house seemed more good and less old. They were afraid to come inside so it all took place in the yard. Through spring and rain and the summer never coming to summer and the hot tar smell in the parking lot to the humid storms and the Tumbleweed Tuesday. We drove up and these kittens filled our lives and tamped out any anger and made us never think about being built for speed and travel.
One rain-filled evening as the winter approached and the fall was kicking our collective asses, we heard a tapping on the window. A tapping and mewing like that spring night so many months ago. It was Isabelle, the tiger tabby. The most aloof and the quietest. She wanted in and she was willing to make the leap. Relativity and quantum physics advanced through leaps of faith. Certainly any cat of mine can do the same.
Merle, with more courage and foresight that I’ll ever have, opened the door. Isabelle slept with us that night and has been our light and life for thirteen years. Trips to the moon, escape velocity and general relativity. Ha. Really, there’s nothing to it. Just a simple sweet feline. That fun game of one o’cat that had been missing from the lives of two self-absorbed New Yorkers. Played on a warm spring night. Through moves and lost jobs and illness and George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump, we became and stayed a family.