by Kevin Burton
(This is part two of a five-part series remembering a great friend, my cat Mex.)
My little girl kitten was named “Mex” in honor of my time in Mexico.
My Mexican interlude was a triumphant time when through the working of God I got a teaching job in somebody else’s country, with no teaching experience, no connections and no real clue.
I couldn’t speak Mex’s name without evoking a time in my life when I was a swashbuckler, a guy with ideas who made them work, against all odds and reasoned advice. I’m convinced that swagger came through vocally to her and sounded like love.
It was love. So when she took an unscheduled bath one day, I was laughing with her not at her.
All her life Mex was fascinated with water. One time my tub was stopped up and I didn’t jump right on the task of clearing out the clog.
That gave Mex the chance to walk along the edge of the tub and explore her fascination. I’m not viewing this, I’m in the next room. She got a little too close for comfort and suddenly I hear this big splash. I hear the tic, tic, tic of claws on porcelain and another huge splash!
Now I go to the rescue and I hear the thump of her hitting the bathroom floor. I turn the corner to see her shaking water all over everything. She’s sniffing, still shaking, head held high though, walks right past me.
This is not a discussion she wanted to have, so we didn’t. And as I already explained, I was laughing with her, not at her.
I fixed the clog.
For a time I maintained two places, the apartment and the house I inherited from my father. This gave Mex a huge new area to explore and it represented the only time she was an indoor-outdoor kitty.
At the house there was a bar downstairs with a sink. The drain was at the level of the rest of the sink. In other words the stopper was flat.
One day I left some water in that sink with the flat stopper in place. So here’s water fascination, part two.
When I wasn’t watching, Mex jumped up on the counter and saw that water in the sink. She reached her paw into the water and not only moved the stopper, but took it out of the sink and away from the bar altogether. She put that stopper half way across the room next to a weight bench I had set up.
This was hard for me to believe. It was more plausible that I absent-mindedly left the stopper over there, intending to do one thing but being distracted by another.
But I periodically put water in that sink and Mex did her stopper trick every time.
I’m not sure what Mex got up to as a part-time outdoor cat but I do recall one time physically standing between her and a dog which was not on a leash. She was in some bushes, but not hidden from the dog. In that moment, Mex temporarily suspended her big talking.
Mex’s trash talking came in the form of spitting. Being part Siamese, she had a temper, but she must have had some theatre training too. When she was really mad about something she would rare back her head emit this long teeth-baring hissing sound.
She did not use her claws on me though because we had had a little bonding time at the apartment.
The Beechwold post office in north Columbus for some reason sent all my mail back to the senders because I hadn’t emptied the box in a long time. This meant I had to deal with creditors just to find my bills and pay them.
I don’t see why they did that. But when I got home I was so furious, I yelled something pleasant, and flung whatever I had in my hands with such force I would find out later that a coin I had thrown made a perfect little hole in the plastic blinds.
Mex saw that turned over on her back with a thump, exposing her stomach in that universal surrender sign that cats give. If you knew Mex, you’d know there is usually no surrender in her.
Years later after I was married, my wife Jeannette witnessed this spitting but not clawing interaction between Mex and me. Thereafter she would explain to people that “they have an understanding.”
If so, it had its genesis the day that post office made me so mad.