Evans “Buddy” King
I have a wonderful, terrible, bodacious, loquacious cat named Scarlett.
A year ago in April, I was taking my normal lunchtime walk around the office park where I work.
I was minding my own business, turning back into the drive way to return to my office when an adorable solid gray kitten came out from underneath one of the shrubs on the grounds and ran up to me.
She was soon followed by what was obviously her mother, a scrawny, somewhat emaciated looking creature who immediately ran to me, nudged the kitten aside, and began the “cat rub” which non-cat lovers detest. My sister-in-law, your classic “non-cat lover,” used to end up in hissing matches with our late great Moby when he tried to welcome her into our home with this style of greeting.
Eventually Moby would not even approach when Karen walked in. He would just sit and stare her down, and, eventually, hiss, turn his back, elevate his tail and walk away, showing her where he wanted her to kiss him.
But I digress. Back to April of 2016: after the young mother approached, three more typically adorable kittens followed. From the mom’s attitude, I could tell they were not feral, and my plan was to pick them up and head into the office or put them in my car and take them to the humane society, which is only about three miles down the road.
But then I encountered the apocryphal problem with “herding cats.” The mom and one or two kittens were doable, but not mother cat (who was already exhibiting kitty-like characteristics herself) and four kittens. So I pulled out my trusty cell phone and sent a help wanted email to “CL-Everyone,” an email group of all 210 or so people who work in our building.
Within 30 seconds. it seems there was a swarming gaggle of folks surrounding me, all with empty Xerox paper boxes or other containers. It took the Wisdom of Solomon on my part to keep the kittens from being torn asunder by battling females fighting over the limited supply.
Eventually a plan was formulated, which led to foster care by a couple of ladies in the office and then transfer to the humane society for placement after the weaning process was over.
I was feeling good about my rescue efforts, since the family had obviously been dumped off next to the road that runs through our park, and their long-term prospects there would not have been good. Then the topic came up as to “which one” I wanted. This was a little over a year after my wife and life mate had to move into a nursing home because of her battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Our tuxedoed companion Moby, housemate for almost 19 years, had died a couple of years earlier, so I was living alone for the first time in my life, having never had a residence that I did not share with at least one other human being (assuming you consider a couple of my fraternity brothers human) and usually an animal or two.
I had already been thinking about picking up a feline roommate, so I thought maybe it was time to bite the bullet. Or let it bite me, as the case might be.
I toyed with the idea of taking a kitty or two and making mom the “office cat,” but our labor and employment guys seemed unenthusiastic. I always try to avoid them when making important decisions, as they not only rain on your parade; they take away your umbrella. All my lawyer jokes involve these guys.
The abandoned group included two beautiful blue-gray kittens of the kind I had always admired, so I said I would take them both. But one of my co-workers, with years of Humane Society experience, told me that kittens were easy to adopt out, but that the mothers were harder to place, probably a reflection of the American obsession with all things new and shiny.
So I took the mom, who seemed to have no remorse leaving her brood behind and moving on to a new life.
The first task, after moving her onto Stanley Avenue and getting her acquainted with her new space, was of course, naming her. The folks at the Humane Society had called her “Turtle” since she was a tortoiseshell.
This seemed rather pedestrian to me, and I rejected it out of hand. Given my obsession with sports, I was leaning towards “Brogdon” (after Malcolm, of recent UVA basketball fame) or “Cutch” (star center fielder of the Pittsburgh Pirates) or “Fenway” (after the wonderful old ballpark and one of my favorite places to be). But I then turned to my daughters and their mates for help.
Not unexpectedly, my daughter Laura the vet told me that I simply could not name a female feline and recent mother after a male athlete. I told her I did have a history of this practice, having named the first cat in my life “Wally” after Wally Walker, another Wahoo basketball star, and then finding out when we took Wally to be neutered that a spay job was in order. I reluctantly agreed with Laura, however, and moved on to more feminine possibilities.
I listened to both branches of the family tree and the only name that was tossed out from both sides was “Scarlett.” Laura and I had a brief flirtation with “Ivy,” the beautiful community just outside Charlottesville, but it lacked the pizazz of “Scarlett” with two “t’s” as both sides insisted.
Since there is rarely consensus between the two factions, Scarlett it had to be. Plus the cat formerly known as Turtle was already starting to develop the breathless charm and cunning nature of Vivian Leigh in “Gone with the Wind,” so “Scarlett” fit.
There had been times in my younger life when I would have found Scarlett O’Hara to be a lovely housemate. Sure she had a few personality disorders, but wouldn’t you if a bunch of damn Yankees burned down your house?
Had I waited a few months, an even more perfect name would have come to me. Since taking residence, Scarlett has systematically removed the grass cloth wallpaper from our hallways, climbing up the 10-foot high walls, apparently for surveillance purposes.
She has honed her climbing skills on the formerly beautiful gold curtains in the dining room, and she has (repeatedly) knocked over every small object that catches her attention. She has also taken up the practice of getting on mantles or high cabinets in different rooms, waiting for me to enter so she can pounce.
She walks a tightrope on the railings along the stairs. Her true love is chasing the laser, which she will mew for incessantly, leading to her favorite workout, racing up and down the stairs for as long as you want her to. Batteries give out before she does.
So, given the aid of hindsight, this cat should have been named “Cato” from the old “Pink Panther” movies starring Peter Sellers. Cato was Inspector Clouseau’s butler who was constantly making surprise attacks on the good Inspector from bizarre places, per Clouseau’s desire to train himself for surprise attacks.
The Inspector was the comical antithesis of James Bond in the secret agent/detective movie genre of the 60s. Cato was his hand-to-hand combat trainer. If you have never seen a “Pink Panther” movie, you should.
You probably have concluded that I did NOT have Scarlett de-clawed. You are correct. Daughter Laura the vet does not prefer the practice, and I was reluctant myself.
Plus, by the time I was thinking clearly, the wallpaper in the halls was beyond repair. With some degree of irony, when Laura came in last Christmas and saw the devastation, she said “you really should have had that cat declawed.” “Really?” I said, or words to that effect.
In all seriousness, Scarlett has been a welcome housemate — not the one I would prefer— but nonetheless a warm and loving one. She follows me around the house and loves affection and attention, on her terms of course.
Many of my friends say Scarlett was a gift from heaven. But sometimes I have to think that she came from the other direction.
Evans “Buddy” King grew up in Christiansburg and graduated from CHS in 1971. He lives in Clarksburg, West Virginia, where he practices law with the firm of Steptoe and Johnson PLLC.