POTTER, THE CAT ARISTOCRAT
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By Monika Lange
The day Aunt Imelda came to stay with us, I was doomed.
We had waited for her arrival since morning and when the doorbell chimed, everyone ran to the hallway. Imelda barged in as if she owned the place, a skinny witch with a hooked nose and long red fingernails. Her eyes met mine for a second; mine beautiful green-gold and hers murky, dishwater color. Before I realized what was happening, Aunt Imelda dropped her bag and scooped me off the parquet, her claws digging into my flesh.
“Oh, no!” My family’s united gasp reverberated in the hallway.
“That’s Potter!” cried my lovely friend, six-year-old Melly, as she tried to grab me back from the lady.
Melly and her brother, Peter, had named me after the famous human, Harry Potter.
“So that’s this ugly creature’s name.” Holding me by the scruff of my neck, Aunt Imelda shook all 15 pounds of me in the air. My stomach roiled. What a strong woman! The thought crossed my mind while the contents of my intestines sped to find a relief.
How dare she call me ugly? I’m the king of the neighborhood, an orange Main Coon with white socks and “ruff” on my chest similar to the mane of a lion. Doesn’t she know that I, the Maine Coon cat, am great with children, dogs, and older persons? I AM AN IDEAL PET!
Shocked by Aunt Imelda’s ignorance, I gave a loud angry meow and vomited on her hand.
You should always be proud of who you are and where you come from, my momma had purred when I was just a two-bit kitten. I prided myself on my lineage dating to the pet cats of Marie Antoinette, the ill-fated French queen, or perhaps even to longhairs brought to America by the Vikings. I demanded respect for my species revered in ancient Egypt.
“Now see what you’ve done, hideous creature? Out and away with you. Tomorrow it’s the pound with you,” Aunt Imelda shrieked. My body propelled in the air. I oriented myself instantly, spread out like a parachute, earth came back in view, and after a squirrel-like glide, I landed on my four feet—outside. The front door slammed shut in my nose, as Aunt Imelda’s screamed loud and clear, “Don’t you know I’m allergic to cats?”
Mell’s muffled sobs broke my heart. Mom’s comforting words didn’t stop my Melanie from crying.
“I’m sorry, Aunt Im,” Dad said. “We didn’t know, otherwise…”
Otherwise what, Dad? The pound?” I was having a terrible day, indeed.
Would Imelda make her threat real? Visions of the pound horrified me. Through The Kitty Network, I heard everyone there stayed locked in cages. The lucky ones were adopted. The unfortunate ones… I was too sensitive to even think about it without shaking from fear.
“Peter, take Fluffy to your room and lock him there, in case Aunt Im is allergic to dogs, too,” Dad said.
Justice at last! I thought, but then I felt the cold and wet ground outside and I recalled Peter’s cozy bed. It wasn’t fair. I was banished outdoors while Fluffy, an annoying, sucking-up-to-humans mongrel enjoyed the life of an emperor. However, I had no other choice but to curl up on the front step and take a catnap. So I did.
I dreamed of warm milk I had trained Mom to give me each morning. And of a fish snacks for lunch. And of a chicken or turkey dinners, served by my darling Melly, or by Peter.
Peter was an okay kid, although sometimes a pain in the neck, not like his gentle sister. Melly brushed my long hair to make me the handsomest cat if not in the whole neighborhood then at least at 30 Oak Road, where we lived. During my evening meals, Dad came in handy and walked Fluffy so I could enjoy my food in peace. I dreamed on, purring my heart out. I treasured afternoons of playing my favorite game of fetch when the kids threw my toy for me to sprint after and bring it back to them. I had so much fun. It was better than chasing mice. I always won.
What a wonderful, pampered life I had lived; trained humans and canines, roamed streets and backyards to catch a glimpse of Princess, my graceful calico love, and I hunted field mice to drop them at Princess’s dainty paws.
The chirp of a robin woke me up. Cold, my bones stiff from my very uncomfortable nap on the concrete, my tummy rumbling from hunger, I longed for Melly’s loving arms to carry me inside, scolding me all the way, “Where have you been, you naughty kitty?” Alas! In sight was no Melly and NO DINNER!
I walked to the back of the house, marked my territory by scratching, then jumped on the windowsill. The family sat around the dining table, Aunt Imelda presiding at the head. Mom ran back and forth, bringing platters of food from the kitchen and serving everyone while Imelda just sat there like a queen. Fluffy barked and whined from his prison upstairs. My Melly picked on at her food and every now and then stole a look at me. Whenever her blue eyes saw me, they moistened with grief and her lips quivered.
Aunt Imelda leaned over to Melanie and looked into her teary eyes.
“Why aren’t you eating, Dear?” Her voice seeped rat poison.
Melly pushed her plate away. “I’m not hungry.”
“You aren’t still being silly because of that awful creature, are you?” Aunt Imelda scrutinized Melly. I spiked the hair on my neck at being insulted so, tore at the windowsill in frustration, and hissed, twitching my tail.
Dinner passed and Dad allowed the children to leave the table. Soon I heard Mell’s velvet voice, “Potter, Potter, where are you?” I jumped down and ran to her. My sweet friend had brought me a plate with chicken, scraps of ham, and a dish with water. I pawed the water, made sure it was safe and took a lick. Then, starved, I gobbled up my chow.
Aristocrat or not, when I see food, I wolf it down, not like my finicky Princess who scoops the food out to eat with her paw.
“The ham is from Peter,” Mel said, petting me. “He sneaked it off his plate when no one was looking.”
Good, old Peter. Sorry if I ever scratched you. My heart filled with love as I savored my dinner.
It was getting dark.
“Melanie, come inside,” Mom called.
“Gotta run, Potter.” Melly kissed me and hugged me. ”Take care of yourself and don’t get into any cat fights. See ya!”
Melanie was just about to dash back when Pete appeared with Fluffy on a leash. He looked around to make sure no one was listening then whispered in Melly’s ear, “I think that awful woman is staying with us for good.”
“Oh, no. Don’t say that. She can’t stay.”
“I’m afraid she will. I overheard her tell Dad how she could help Mom run the house and take care of us. Dad seemed to think it was a great idea!”
“Melanie, where are you?” Dad’s voice invaded their conversation.
“Coming! Coming!” Melly shouted and kissed me goodnight. I rubbed against her ankle and purred. After that she raced inside.
Peter petted me. “Sorry about that, Sport.” Then he walked away, silly dog Fluffy jumping and drooling.
Darkness descended and I was left under the stars to contemplate my fate.
They say cats are night creatures, but let me tell you, not this cat! I needed my beauty sleep on Melly or Pete’s bed. Instead, I toured the neighborhood, visited Princess who didn’t come out, and searched a dumpster but found no tasty morsels to cheer me up.
I yawned and returned to our yard. The lights were still on but the children had gone upstairs already. I peeked inside. Aunt Imelda was in the kitchen doing dishes and making herself indispensable! So that was it. It was the end of my comfortable, cozy life. No doubt about it. What choice did I have? I loved my humans but I loved myself more. I had to find a new family, I thought with regret. I’ll leave in the morning, I curled up on our kitchen’s windowsill for a nap.
I woke in dark. A street lamp was an only source of dim light. A strange odor hung in the air. I sniffed in alarm. Something’s burning in our kitchen! I widened my pupils to penetrate the dark. A bright speck of fire came in my view. A burning match!
“Help!” I meowed and scratched at the kitchen window. But no one heard me. They were all asleep. “Fluffy, you good for nothing canine, bark, yap, wake them up.”
The fire flared as it reached a box of matches on the counter.
“Meow! Meow!” I screamed on top of my voice. I watched helplessly as the fire next devoured a roll of paper towels. Soon it would get to the curtains. The alarm didn’t go of! Dad forgot to change the battery again!
Getting nowhere with meowing and scraping the window, I ran to the chestnut tree. It grew close enough to the house for me to climb to the second floor level. I ran up that tree as if hundreds of hounds were after me. The bedroom lights were off. I jumped onto the nearest windowsill. I scratched at the glass with all my force.
“What’s this racket?” I heard Mom’s sleepy voice.
“Meow! Meow!” I squealed. At last Fluffy barked.
“Can somebody get rid of the damn cat and dog? It’s a mad house!” Aunt Imelda cried out. “I’ll leave in the morning.”
Unperturbed, I continued the uproar. Dad opened the window. I ran inside still screaming and raced downstairs, the short-legged Fluffy in my wake.
“Stop it, Potter!” Dad ran after me. After a few steps he smelled the smoke.
“Imelda, get the children out! Mary, call 911! The house is on fire!” Dad grabbed a small fire extinguisher off the wall and followed me.
I’m a hero now. My pictures appeared in the town newspaper. The local TV station broadcast the story how I saved my family from certain death in the house fire. Dad
gave a televised interview in which I, freshly washed and brushed by the groomer, sat on Melly’s lap, purred, ate treats, and looked adorable. As expected, the TV audience fell in love with me and my bushy plumed tail I curled, stretched, and swayed for the camera. I receive fan mail all the time. My family worships me.
As for Aunt Imelda, she stays with us but she no longer chases me out of the house and my old privileges are restored. She is never mentions “the pound,” and she even saves my favorite tidbits to include in my meal. After the fire, she went to see a doctor who put her on allergy meds. Sometimes I can’t resist and play a trick on her. I hide in a closet or atop a bookshelf then pounce at her. “You scared the wits out of me, Potter!” she gasps pretending to be mad. I purr and roll over onto my back to show her my irresistible white belly. Aunt Imelda, clearly glad to have my company, enjoys my attention and my innocent pranks and laughs, “Oh, what a clown you are, Pot.”
I try to stay away from her not to make her sick. It turns out there’s a remedy for everything. We only need to have a little understanding and want to compromise. As said my French ancestors, Noblesse oblige! which means our dignity requires that we behave in proper ways. I think by now Aunt Imelda also gained this knowledge. Incidentally, I like it when she calls me Pot, her new pet name for the gorgeous Main Coon, me. Doesn’t it fit me purrfectly?