Booney was a young cat that I gave a job. Little did I know how well she would take to it. She didn’t ask for it, but she stepped into it magnificently. My Daddy had begun to eliminate things from his life; his and my mom’s. He was saying things like “These are the last pair of shoes I expect to need to buy.” Don’t say things like that to your kids, unless you want them to give you a cat.
One day, when I was talking to Daddy on the phone, I asked how OJ was doing. Orange Julius was a cat who had presented himself to my parents. He was all bedraggled, with a half gone, abscessed ear. They tried ignoring him, hoping he would go away, but they were cat-less, and he needed them. And they needed him. That’s how OJ came to sit on Daddy’s ottoman every night at 9:00, year after year, to tell him that it was time for ice cream. “We had to have him put to sleep.” “What?” “Why?” “He had AIDS,” Daddy said. He hadn’t told me because he didn’t want to talk about it. I asked him what they were going to do about finding another cat. “NO MORE CATS!” He said, “We’re not having any more cats.” And he meant it. He even bought a water cannon, to run off any cats that came around looking for a home.
I wanted to scream! And cry. Not just because OJ was gone and I didn’t even know about it, but because my Daddy was telling me that he was done. Checking out.
I was scared too. I called my sister and we talked about what a terrible idea it was for our mom and dad to live without a cat. Seriously, it was a terrifying idea! She said, “I don’t know what to do about it!” I said, “I think we have to give them a cat!” She said, “I think you’re the only one who can do that.” Okay. Okay, I’ll find them a cat…
I started plotting how to give my Dad a cat. Oh, I forgot to mention; he explicitly told me that I was not to give him a cat! Had to keep telling my self to ignore that order. His birthday was coming up and I’d already planned to visit him then. My brother and sister would be there too. I decided, completely disregarding his edict, with much trepidation, to give him a cat for his birthday. And blame it on my sister. And name her Booney, after him. His name is William Boone, so I figured it would be harder for him to reject her if she was named after him. I think I decided all that before I actually found “Booney.” I wanted a young cat, not a baby that could keep him up at night crying for her momma, or get lost in the house. Female and shorthaired. Finding her turned out to be a piece of cake. Friends had kittens, juvenile cats, just the age and type I was looking for. (for which I was looking. Sorry Daddy, it just sounds weird that way.)
Booney was a sleek black and white kitty. Perfect.
Now, how was I going to get her to Daddy’s house, and successfully present her to him? I didn’t have a cat carrier. What I had was a deluxe chicken “carrier” that my son made for an exhibit in the county fair. It was big, in the shape of a barn; a work of art. I fixed it with bedding, a small pan of litter, and attached a sign that read, “Happy Birthday! My name is Booney. Love, Barbara” My sister’s name. Blaming it on my sister had become an integral part of my plan. I put Booney in, lashed the barn doors together, and we hit the road, for the seven hour drive to mom and dad’s house. It was immediately clear that Booney wasn’t at all happy with the arrangement. She told me so in no uncertain terms. As I drove down the freeway, I tried to assure her that she wasn’t going to die; that everything was alright. After about thirty minutes, she became quiet and I breathed a sigh of relief. In the next breath, I heard a sweet little “meow” at my right elbow! Alarm ran through me like and electric shock. The little Houdini had escaped and was loose in the car! Now what am I going to do? That’s when she decided to explore, of course. She climbed over the top of my seat, down the side of the door, under my feet, and up onto the dash. I shooed her off the dash, while trying to get out of the left lane, where I was doing seventy miles an hour, telling her as calmly as possible “You can’t go there!” By the time I was able to pull over; she had curled up on the seat next to me. I decided to leave well enough alone. There didn’t seem to be much point in trying to stuff her back into the chicken palace. Instead I spent the rest of the trip working on presenting the cat I’d been forbidden to give.
It was dark when we arrived, so I scooped Booney up and knocked on the front door. I never went in by the front door, and I never knocked, so it was kind of a diversionary tactic. Daddy opened the door and I thrust Booney into his hands saying, “Here, hold this! Fine thing, I drive seven hours for your birthday and you don’t even have the porch light on for me!” Nothing like any of the scenarios I’d been rehearsing. He laughed and that was that! I’d given him a cat!
Booney sealed the deal the next day, with a paper bag. My mom was sitting on the couch and the bag lay open, on its side, in front of her. It was facing away from Mom, an irresistible invitation to Booney. Mom watched as Booney snuck up on the bag. As she started to go in, my mom tapped the other end of the bag with her shoe. Booney jumped straight up in the air, backwards, about four feet! My mother, who had lost most of her ability to speak, laughed out loud. Daddy looked at me and said “You did the right thing.”
It was meant to be, of course. It would never have worked out so well if it hadn’t been. I gave Daddy the cat, and I gave Booney the job of taking care of him, and my mom too. She did her job to perfection.