I was telling how my daughter and I were marooned by the side of the interstate with a broken timing belt when Pascal-Pazuzu somehow opened his crate and ran out of the car towards the traffic. I shrieked. My daughter executed a perfect flying tackle and managed to catch the cat before he could be flattened by the wheels of a Carolina commuter.
In Maryland, since my husband and I both had long drives to work, we had to install a dog door so the dog could get to the yard when he needed to. For the first time in his life, Pascal-Pazuzu had access to the great outdoors, and he became a hunter. According to cat authorities, kittens learn to hunt by watching their mother and playing with the mice she brings to the nest. But you\’ll recall that when he came to live with us, Pascal had never seen his mother, let alone a mouse, because his eyes hadn\’t opened. Needless to say, as he grew older, I didn\’t bring him mice to play with.
As a hunter, he was as passionate as a member of the British aristocracy, and generous about sharing his bag. One summer evening, as we sat on the deck watching the sun set pinkly through the air pollution, P-P emerged from the hedge with a mole in his mouth, dropped it at my feet, then disappeared again. A couple of minutes later he was back with another mole, then another, and so on until darkness and the mosquitoes drove us indoors. Before leaving we counted nine moles, laid out in a straight line next to my chair.
One day after work I went down to the basement to dispense cat food and found on the floor next to his dishes a dead yellow-bellied sapsucker (a very large and colorful woodpecker). While P-P wasn\’t looking, I took the bird outside and flung it with all my might across a creek that ran along the edge of our yard. It landed on a bank overgrown with ivy, and sank into the greenery. The next day I went to fill the cat dishes and there, slightly the worse for wear, was the sapsucker.
If Pazuzu was a great hunter, Pascal was an insistent lover. He never saw a lap onto which he didn\’t leap, and I never took a nap without him curling up on the crest of my hip. Like all overly affectionate people, he could be annoying sometimes. He was addicted to sweaters, knitted afghans, good wool skirts. He would plop down his 20lbs of pure muscle and spread out his front toes, unsheath his claws, and knead away at the material and the person underneath. At these times he would purr like a Daimler, while strings of drool dripped from his mouth. He would also (squeamish readers, stop right here!) become sexually aroused.
Ah, Pascal-Pazuzu, you were a silver lining trailing shreds of cloud. You went through life shedding white hairs on our black garments, black hairs on our white, and died in your prime from that scourge of outdoor kitties, a drop of sweet-tasting antifreeze on someone\’s driveway. Not for you the slowly stiffening joints and iffy stomachs of long-lived indoor cats. To the end your fur was bright, your body supple, your breath sweet.
I think of you often, but never so much as at this season, when the field mice feel the coming winter and rush in droves into the hen house, the tractor shed, the garage, the basement. You would have loved Vermont.