My former boss called me on a wet April afternoon, to tell me that a friend of a friend had found a kitten in the middle of the road, soaked and shivering, and couldn't keep it because her daughters were deathly allergic. She couldn't take it, she said, because she had eight cats already (this being a not-so-subtle allusion to my having thrust one upon her not that long ago), and it was my turn.
We had just lost our beloved Heidi, who used to walk up and down the bed purring and yowling when Grant got home from work, demanding that he lie down so she could nuzzle his chin, and we didn't feel ready for another cat. Besides, we might be moving soon. Still, I said, we could at least take this poor critter until we could find someone who really wanted it.
The kitten was tiny, orange and fuzzy, with weird bare patches on his back, but, after all, he'd had a hard life so far. I walked into our kitchen cupping him in one hand at waist level, and Grant greeted us with "What the hell is that?"
"It's a kitten," I said, "what does it look like?"
"You're not keeping it."
"No, no, I had to take it for now, but we'll find it a good home."
We went into the living room to watch TV, and the kitten followed us and scaled the sofa kitten-fashion, using his claws as crampons. "Sir Edmund Fuzzball," said Grant.
That, of course, was the beginning of the end. Next thing I knew Grant suggested taking him to the vet; we couldn't foist a kitten on someone else without making sure he had a clean bill of health, after all. The bald spots turned out to be ringworm, nicely complemented by fleas and ear mites. The vet told us the parasites should be easy to get rid of: all we needed to do was bathe him and apply ointment daily for a month. To add insult to injury, our other cat, Calcutta, already being endlessly chased around our apartment by this miniature yellow demon, would need weekly bathing as a precaution.
I can't remember how many baths it took for us to realize that Ed had wormed himself (as it were) into the household on a permanent basis, but it wasn't too many. He moved with us to our first house that summer, and he grew big and handsome, regaining the fur lost to ringworm and then some.
He was the sweetest cat we ever knew, snuggly and purry and drapey.
His patience was legendary (unless you happened to be a dog or Fluffy, the one cat he could never abide). With humans of all shapes and sizes, he would tolerate more than we had any right to expect of a cat.
Grant called him the world's oldest kitten. He remained game for kitty toys, including the ones he commandeered himself from the Christmas tree, right up until his sight failed.
And, of course, he discharged all his feline rights and responsibilities, such as providing knitting assistance whenever possible.
Now and then he displayed a talent for camouflage.
He died in his sleep not long before Christmas, some three months before he would have turned 21. Ave atque vale
, Ed. May the sun always be warm and the catnip sweet, wherever you may roam.