A shiver runs through me when I think back to the time when Tammy, my wife of five years, came to the conclusion that the gray tabby who’d lived contentedly with us since we bought her on our honeymoon, was lonely. Tammy convinced me that Sausalito, “Saucy” needed another feline to keep her company. On Halloween of ’79 we decided to purchase a kitten.
We soon discovered it wasn’t the right season for kittens. We were about to give up our search when we spotted a Siamese kitten for sale in the classifieds. We called the number and were invited over.
The breeder’s residence was a normal looking house, at least I remember it that way. The silver-haired husband and wife selling the kitten appeared normal as they ushered us into plush chairs in the living room. As we made ourselves comfortable two stunning Siamese cats pranced across the room in perfect unison, reminding me of the reason ancient Egyptians worshiped felines. They settled on the hearth and glared at us as if we were the ones about to be bartered away.
Are those the parents of the kitten we’re here to see?” I asked.
“Yes,” answered the woman. “Do you know much about Siamese cats?”
“No,” Tammy replied. “We have an adult cat but she’s a plain gray tabby. We’re looking for a companion to keep her company.”
The woman exchanged a furtive look with her husband. He frowned at her until she said, “George, go and get the kitten so these nice folks can get acquainted with her. I’ll pour everyone some iced tea.”
After a few minutes our hosts returned, she with the drinks and he with what looked like a squirming turd covered in sooty fur. The turd opened its eyes and I could see that it was a cat. Missing were the fathomless blue eyes so characteristic of Siamese cats; instead, there were unusual flecks of orange that looked like glowing embers. Too bad I hadn’t foreseen in those eyes the orange of a prison jumpsuit. Rather than an ermine body with mink-colored accents, this kitten’s fur was dirty brown. It had enormous ears like those of a bat.
We should have bolted for the door but Tammy, to my surprise, started making cooing sounds. “It’s soooo cute,” she said, practically purring herself.
The two regal cats near the hearth looked at me critically when I said, “This cat doesn’t look like its parents. It doesn’t have white fur, or blue eyes.”
“It will lighten up as it reaches adulthood,” the woman said hastily. “That’s when the eyes turn blue.”
“What about those ears? She can probably pick up Radio Free Europe with those things.” I’d expected a smile. Was Radio Free Europe still operating?
“She’ll grow into them,” the man said. I noticed fresh scratches on his arms.
“How much is she?” Tammy asked.
The husband and wife glanced at each other. “Fifty dollars,” they said in unison.
“May we have a moment to discuss this?” I asked.
They placed the kitten between its parents on the hearth, and left the room. The parent cats stared at their offspring for a moment, rose and dashed from the room. The kitten made no effort to follow them. I tried to pet it but the kitten shook as if trying to shed its skin. My brain was crowded with all the red flags popping up.
Tammy was undeterred. “Isn’t it adorable!” she exclaimed.
I didn’t think it was adorable; it had a face only a mother could love, and from what I could see its mother didn’t love it.
“And what a bargain. Only fifty dollars. Let’s go for it.”
I could tell from the steely glint in my wife’s eyes that nothing I could say or do would change her mind. When the owners reappeared I handed over fifty bucks and we left with the kitten.
We named her Tas because she was like a Tasmanian devil, always racing about in a whirl of agitated motion. I’d never actually seen a Tasmanian devil, other than the cartoon, but the name seemed appropriate because I’d never seen a cat like this before.
Saucy, whose supposed loneliness was the reason we’d purchased Tas, stared at the new arrival like a surfer eying a fin in the water. Saucy wanted nothing to do with her. As time passed, Tas did not grow into those ears but her fur remained dark as a coal mine. Her eyes never changed to blue but continued to glow like embers recently pulled from a furnace.
No matter how nice we were to her, Tas would not purr. She refused to accommodate the rhythm of our household. She clawed the furniture, jumped on us while we slept and seemed to smile while throwing up food during the dinner hour. When she wasn’t a blur of motion she was laying on top of our fridge with her head dangling over the edge, looking at the world upside down. This was where she was situated one Saturday when I decided to make myself a sandwich. Not wanting to bonk her head when I opened the fridge door, I nudged her out of the way. Tas bit me. Not a nip but a bite, her fangs sinking deeply into my flesh.
I yelped and exploded with a barrage of obscenities. A kitchen cleaver was nearby on the counter and I considered sinking it into the cat’s skinny neck, but at that moment Tammy, who’d been gardening in the backyard, burst into the kitchen to see what the fuss was about. She failed to close the door leading to the backyard. Tas leapt off the fridge, sailing through the air like she’d been born to it and landed on the floor. She dashed out to the backyard and vanished in a flash.
“We’ve got to find her!” Tammy screamed. “She’s so small. Big cats will beat her up.”
Not likely, I thought as I finished rinsing my hand in cold water and wrapped a paper towel around it. Blood bloomed through the paper. “She’ll come back on her own,” I said, half-heartedly, glad to see her go.
Tammy dashed up and down the street but finally returned, alone. She sank onto a kitchen chair and began to cry. I patted her shoulder. “It’s for the best,” I said. “Tas wasn’t happy with us.”
Our house returned to the tranquility we’d enjoyed before bringing Tas home that Halloween. Months later it was hard to remember we’d ever lived with such a disruption. But an incident brought Tas vividly to mind one hot July evening shortly after her departure. I’d cracked open a window in our bedroom to let a slight breeze into the stifling room and something flew in the window. I didn’t recognize it at first, but Tammy rose up on the mattress, pulled a pillow close to her face for protection and began screaming, “Bat! It’s a bat!”
I grabbed the golf putter she’d given me for my birthday and tried to clobber the bat but it proved as illusive as a hole in one. I finally made contact and the bat fell onto the bed, where it lay without moving.
“Get it out of here,” Tammy shrieked. “Get that filthy thing out of my bedroom.”
Thinking it dead—and with no thought for the diseases they undoubtedly carry—I grabbed the bat by a wing and tried to fling it out the window. Instead of being dead it sank its rat-like teeth into my hand, the same spot where Tas had bitten me months earlier. I reached for the alarm clock on a nearby nightstand and beat the bat until its head crushed and it released its bite on me. Taking no chances, I wrapped the broken animal in an old t-shirt and carried it down to the garbage can beside our house. The sanitation truck emptied the can later that morning, just as the sun came up.
My sleep was disturbed the next few evenings by the rustling of wings. But when I explored with a flashlight I could find nothing. Tammy once woke to find me sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at her. Moonlight poured in through the window painting her with a pearl-like glow. She was more beautiful than ever and a sensation swelled in me that I’d never felt before. I wanted her desperately, more than I’d wanted her that first night on our honeymoon five years ago. But this was different. This passion originated in a different place. I had a nearly uncontrollable urge to sink my teeth into her neck, but I resisted.
Futile. It was only a matter of time.
"Blind Cat" painted in 1999 by Stephen Hayes