by Kevin Burton
My cat Mex bought into the new normal quickly after I moved her to Kansas from Ohio in 2005.
She had her own bathroom technically, the one where there could be cat litter on the floor. That part of my life not governed by beep baseball or work was full of exploits with Mex.
Exploits may not be the right word, as she grew less kittenish by the day. She still enjoyed being under an upside-down laundry basket, reaching her paws through the slats to hit my fingers, or grab a string I dragged past.
Mex’s beloved perch served as a vantage point for viewing birds. These huge white birds would sometimes fly onto our balcony. She would watch intently and swish her tail violently back and forth.
She was dreaming up mayhem no doubt, swelled with bravado, imagining hunts and conquests. I almost never used the balcony for anything or went out there. I often wondered what Mex would do if I opened the door so she could get at the birds.
I never gave her the chance because I could imagine her leaping at a bird and sailing over the edge of the third-floor balcony much more than I could see her catching a bird. Besides, she was well fed with Fancy Feast and rarely even had to ask for her dinner.
What a life for a cat from the mean streets of Columbus. But it was the least I could do.
She allowed me the pleasure of being a daddy without having to pay for college, or saddling another being with recessive genes. I was not a father, God gave her instincts so there was no training, but a daddy, who spoils and pampers.
We didn’t have a lot of visitors. So she must have taken note when we began to have one particular repeat visitor.
This visitor, named Jeannette, began to be competition for my attention. So when Mex’s alternating aloof “are you still here?’ phase switched to the “pay attention to me NOW” phase, I didn’t always notice.
But Mex had a long time to warm up to Jeannette. It was five years between first date and wedding vows for me and Jeannette. It was so long that more than one friend who passed by at the church to congratulate us said something flowery to her but to me said “It’s about time!”
I got a bride, Jeannette got a husband and what she called a “stepcat.”
Before the wedding we had begun to move my belongings to her house a car load at a time. On one or two of those trips we brought Mex to the house for a visit.
She went sniffing around quite literally. Jeannette watched her complete a circuit of the upstairs, then the downstairs. She had her head on a swivel, just in case. There may have been the faint whiff of dog, since Jeannette had only recently sent her dog to her aunt and uncle’s house in western Kansas.
It wasn’t long before she made herself at home. Mex could often be found on the back of the couch upstairs, sleeping on a green blanket.
Mex was hunting age when she got to Wichita but going on 12, approaching retirement age, when she left for Jeannette’s house.
When Mex got tired of playing she would often let me know by spitting at me. I would then ask her “Are you mad? Mex, Mexy, are you mad?”
This of course made her madder, until I would relent and leave her alone.
Jeannette saw us interacting this way and would tell people “they have an understanding.”
When I had the Christmas tree up in the apartment, Mex would sometimes knock off one or two of the lower ornaments.
After I got married and we had the tree up at the house, I got the idea to put a Seattle mariners blanket at the foot of the tree. Mex considered that blanket to be hers. I used it so she would have some ownership in the tree and not tear it down. For some reason this worked. Maybe that was part of the understanding too.
Many days Jeannette would say she hadn’t seen Mex all day, but just a few minutes before it was time for me to come home, Mex would be there by the front door.
So most weeknights I had a greeting party from both my green-eyed girls. Being careful to greet Jeannette first, I got the good welcome.