“I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.” – Jules Verne
For a man who shook poetry from the trees and made profit with the value of extraordinary journeys, it’s obvious that old Jules grasped the divinity of felinity when he uttered those words. He understood that cats possess mystical abilities which transcend our mundane existence. The fact that they haven’t let us in on their slinky secrets by now is proof that when humankind is done crunching this cosmic taco, cats are going to own the the title on some primo real estate.
My history with cats didn’t get started until I was a young adult, in keeping with my scattershot family tradition of going pet-less for great stretches of time. I was fourteen when we adopted our first dog: Penny was a Vizsla who was delightfully unapologetic about her disdain for strangers. It was no wonder I took to this wondrous hybrid, seeing as how she possessed the soul of a cat who happened to play a mean game of frisbee for good measure.
The next family additions came when I was eighteen. Ralph and Norton were a couple of hooligans my mother and sister found. The former was scared of his own shadow and the latter, well, he was that shadow. These miscreants were a rebellion unto themselves with their abhorrent lack of manners when it came to dining, as well as their disdain for upturned noses. They were cats in name only . . . which counts for much. Lady Chestnut was a tortoiseshell beauty who went from rags to royalty, and she kept the boys in line.
I became a cat daddy by proxy when I was in my late twenties and married. I’d rented a refurbished barn to sell antiques out of and that’s when I met Sheba. Imagine Uma Thurman from Kill Bill in a jet black fur suit. She was a feral cat who had little use for life on the inside. I built her a little abode out back so she could keep me company when she felt like it. She was a huntress of biblical proportions and the first time she jumped up into my lap, I knew I’d achieved street cred in perpetuity.
Joe was next. He was yet another feral black cat who was a CIA agent in a past life. I got his name from the Jimi Hendrix song. Joe was a fascinating specimen in that he possessed the most extraordinarily placid demeanor until something fucked with his Zen, after which he went all Bruce Lee. His human inner circle consisted of me and my daughter. As with Sheba, we lost him to the streets.
Storm was our first inside cat. She was a gray and white longhair whose equanimous nature belied the struggles in her brain. As with Sheba and Joe, she was the product of an Amish ‘upbringing’, and that is a dubious trait to be toting between your tail. We brought Storm and Sweeps inside, but her brother- the coolest black cat in the history of ever- died during his orchidectomy. Storm suffered from a cognitive decline at a young age. She was our Crazy Queen, the lone heiress to the throne in what would become a bittersweet reign.
I hadn’t stopped to consider the royal lineage of cats I had lived under until the reign of Mister Jack Speaker. He became the coolest black cat in the second book of the history of ever. He was a polarizing figure, fiercely loyal to his round table of peeps and unforgivingly savage to everyone else. As a King, he was imposing and uncompromising. It was purr meeting fection, damn straight.
After Mister Speaker’s passing in 2020, I knew the next cat to hold the throne would have an extraordinarily large set of pawprints to fill. That’s why I adopted two.
Jack- named after his predecessor- is a marmalade tabby who happens to be one of the buffest cats I’ve ever known. If he was a professional athlete, he would be getting drug tested on the regular. He was a dog in another life because he greets me when I come home, sleeps at the foot of my bed every night and is always there to wish me a good morning.
Wednesday- a tortoiseshell with white patches that pop- possesses a Picasso-like half mustache that speaks to you in languages that haven’t even been borne yet. She observes all the etiquette of a proper young lady and as with Lady Chestnut, keeps her reckless brother in check. She’s a cat in the most magical sense of the word and so her gaze is the only currency she is ever going to need.
The Empire is strong.