THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
When Baggy the World’s Fattest Cat died last summer, Gwen the Beautiful and I despaired.
Not so much for Baggy, who had lived a long and lazy life filled with tasty dry food, delicious wet food, and yummy snacks from the genus rodenta, but for her buddy Bob, who we didn’t refer to as “the Very Careful Cat” for nothing.
During Baggy’s lifetime Bob was as antisocial as a living being could be and still survive. The only living creature he interacted with on a regular basis was his big friend Baggy. For the rest of us he was nothing but a small black streak with a white underside zapping out of sight like lightning if we saw him in the open. “Open” being the stairway or the middle of downstairs hallway in the dark of night.
Gwen was the only person ever privileged to touch this hinky little guy (who she’d rescued as a kitten from a box on the side of the 101 Freeway in L.A.), and you’ll notice that I said “touch,” not “stroke,” or “pet.” Because stroking and petting imply a sustained activity, and with Bob the only sustained activity was the hunt for some sign of his existence.
No one but Gwen, Youngest Daughter Amber, and I ever even saw him.
When Baggy’s spirit left these parts for the Land of Immobile Mice Who Walk Right Into Her Mouth All Day Gwen and I feared the worst.
“He’ll kill himself,” Gwen said. “He’ll hide so well that not only won’t we be able to find the way to him, he won’t be able to find his way out. He’ll starve!”
The good news, though, is that without Baggy, Bob has actually come to realize that being alone isn’t all he thought it would be. His socialization started out slowly. Instead of running off when he saw me he would stay where he was and stare until I beat it instead.
And when he saw Gwen—ah, the sight of Gwen seemed to trigger a genuine cat love instinct, because he would meow and whine—
And stay where he was until she came over to pet him.
That’s right. This time I said “pet.” Because after a few weeks of mourning, Bob realized he needed someone to snuggle up to, as he had Baggy. Someone to nestle with.
Someone to be loved by.
And who better than the most loving individual of any genus or species I’ve ever known.
Who better than Gwen?
It started with him calling out to her and then staying where he was while she scratched his ears. And it progressed to Bob creeping onto her lap as she sat and read, or curling up against her as she lay in bed.
And moved on to the point we’re at now, which is Bob yowling and screeching whenever he’s alone, searching for Gwen wherever she may be, and leaping up onto her.
Bob’s become so attached—literally—that I can barely recognize my wife without her furry black-and-white lover in her arms or on her shoulder, his tail rhythmically sweeping across her face.
And it’s never just the two of us in bed anymore because Bob always is there too, so that when I reach out unthinkingly it’s his flank my hand brushes instead of Gwen’s.
And does he screech and leap up into the air and vanish into the dawn when this happens, as he would have not that long ago?
Noooo, not this New Improved Bob. He just lies there and takes whatever attention he gets, like an ancient idol accepting an offering from its worshippers.
Gwen’s been reading over my shoulder as I write this. Now she’s speaking:
“Wait a minute,” Gwen is saying, her voice muffled by the furriness pressing against her lips. “Aren’t you the guy who was complaining because the cats had no impact on our life? Listen to you now. Is this a case of ‘careful what you wish for?’ because you really never wanted the situation to change?”
“Hmm, sweetie,” I’m saying as I type, “give me a minute to think about this, okay?”
But I already know the answer. What bothers me about Bob is what I hear his liberated self saying to me, all day long, from his loving perch:
“Go away, vile human! Away! You’ve forfeited this woman. Gwen isn’t yours anymore. She’s mine!”
Wouldn’t you call that a declaration of war?