Long ago in a land far away, we had a Siamese cat. Mao — “cat” in Chinese. I don’t know if that’s Mandarin, Cantonese or some other dialect, but it was a good name.
We got Mao as a tiny kitten. From day 1, he was a feisty, chatty cat. Our first cat, which his name reflected. Mao Ee (Cat 1). There were, of course, many others over the decades in all the places and houses in I’ve called home, but there’s never been another cat anything like Mao.
When we traveled, friends took care of our house. I was a great grower of plants back then. Feeding the cats was one part of the job … but watering the 200 plus plants was — or should have been — the bigger task. Frank — best friend’s husband — was often tasked with house care in our absence. Mao was a thinking cat. A logical cat. He decided we were gone because Frank had driven us away. Thus if Mao could drive Frank away, we would come home.
Thus, when Frank came to the house to feed and water cats and plants, Mao attacked him. I don’t mean a little pounce, a playful swat. It was all out warfare. Mao crouched in shadows and attacked, all 20 claws outstretched, going for gore. Poor Frank loved cats and he and Mao had always gotten along fine. He had no idea why Mao was out to get him.
The moment we came back, Mao was back to normal, friend to the world. He had obviously been right because we were back … ergo, it must have been because he drove The Invader (Frank) away. Logical, yes? After that, Mao attacked everyone who took care of the house in our absence. He was the terror of Our Crowd. It got increasingly difficult to get someone to take care of things while we were gone.
The years moved on and Mao moved with us. There were children, jobs, bigger houses, dogs. Life. We held celebrations … big Thanksgiving dinners. One memorable occasion, we had a full house including a dozen and half people and featuring a huge turkey. When the turkey was roasted, I put it out on the counter to set while I moved food in the dining room and greeted arriving guests.
I wasn’t gone 10 minutes. When I got back to the kitchen, Mao was on the counter, finishing off a drumstick. Its remains were still attached to the turkey — a ragged, conspicuously gnawed hole. Not the presentation I had in mind.
The husband and I consulted. We agreed and served the bird as it was.
“What happened to the turkey,” asked the friends and family.
“Mao got to it,” I said.
“Oh,” they said. “Pass the bird.”
It was a good Thanksgiving. Mao was some cat.