I need not have worried. Pascal made it through the night, and the next morning, relieved but bleary-eyed from all those feedings, I put him in his shoe box, packed milk and the trusty washcloth into my briefcase, and took him to the office, where he spent the day sleeping contentedly under my desk. Every couple of hours I would feed him, sneak him and the washcloth into the bathroom, and then put him back in his box.
Several days later, a slit appeared between his eyelids, revealing bright blue pupils, and Pascal suddenly turned from a mostly passive embryo into a real kitten. He started eating solid food, and could go for longer periods between meals, which was good, as he refused to be contained in his shoe box and I had to leave him at home. He also outgrew the wet washcloth. I thought he was too young to be litter-box trained, and worried about what the interim period between washcloth and litter box would bring. I went out and bought a litter box and some litter anyway, and the minute I set the litter box on the floor, before I\’d removed the cardboard band that held top and bottom together, before I\’d put any litter in it, Pascal jumped in and made a tiny poop.
At that time we had a young Irish Setter, Jeremy, whose purpose in life was to please. Pascal, at age six weeks, made him his personal slave. He would ride around the house on Jeremy\’s back, clinging to the wavy red coat with his tiny claws. He would cuddle up to the dog if he was cold. If Jeremy was sleeping, the kitten would squeeze himself along the points of contact of Jeremy and the floor, pushing with all his might until the dog turned on his back. Then he would crawl onto Jeremy\’s belly and root among the forest of red and gold hair until he located a vestigial nipple, latch on, and purr and knead to his heart\’s content.
As was the custom in those days, we had Pascal neutered early. As a result, he never developed a tomcat\’s characteristic blocky head, but his body and legs grew long and rangy, and he ran and jumped so fast that he really seemed to fly. As a result of being handled early by humans, he was so completely without fear that it was all but impossible to correct him. If we caught him walking around on the kitchen counter we would hiss at him, we would clap loudly, in desperation we would hurl the car keys at his feet. Nothing worked. If we wanted him off the counter we had to pick him up, at which point he would purr happily and nuzzle our necks, and we would lose the battle for good.
One night we were awakened by a strange crackling noise in the kitchen. It grew louder, and seemed to be coming towards the bedroom. We opened the door and saw Pascal propelling a large, full–but fortunately closed–trash bag along the hallway. In our sleep-befuddled state we were too slow for him, and he and the trash bag disappeared into the darkness of the living room. It was about that time that I came across mention of a Babylonian demon named Pazuzu, and appended that to the cat\’s original name.
I forgot to mention that Pascal was born and lived the first year of his life in North Carolina. Eventually we moved back to Maryland. It was arranged that my husband and the moving truck would go first, and I would drive up a day later in the station wagon with all the stuff the movers had failed to move, one of our daughters, and the dog and Pascal in their respective crates.
It was a hot, bright July morning. We were driving north on the interstate when the timing belt broke. I pulled over onto the shoulder, put the emergency blinkers on, and tried to think what to do (this was in that bygone era before cell phones). Since the temperature was in the nineties, I opened the windows and the cargo door so the animals could have some air. Traffic was whizzing by, and I was wondering what I would do if nobody stopped, and what I would do if someone did. That was when Pascal-Pazuzu worked open the door of his crate, bolted out of the car, and headed towards the road.
(To be continued.)