Guest post by Phoebe Banks
My original people – I don’t like to talk about them much – dumped me on a farm when they discovered I was pregnant, and I had my kittens in the barn. As soon as I was able to, I went out foraging for food so that I’d have enough milk for them. There was an antiques shop right next to the shop, and they hired me on the spot as their official greeter, paying me in snacks. Still, there was the daycare issue: when my kittens were old enough, I brought them with me. They trotted around after me as I showed the customers around. I think we were very good for business.
I tried very hard to keep my kittens safe, but, one by one, they disappeared – cars, coyotes, distemper. That was a very sad time for me. The women at the shop were kind to me, but it wasn’t as though I belonged to them. Or to anyone.
Then the Older Human stopped by the shop and was very taken with me. (I was, I have to admit, looking very pretty and fluffy that day, even though I had a bad case of worms.) She brought me home with her, and suddenly, I did belong to someone. I was warm, well-fed, worm-less – and spayed. The Older and Younger Humans looked after me. And I had friends. There were cats here, too, same as at the barn; but they were all fixed and didn’t have the gaunt faces or bloated bellies that the barn cats had had.
Circe, the Blue Aby, became my first friend: she was very young and really needed someone to play with. I was only a year older – I’d had my kittens very young – so this suited me perfectly. I felt as though I was getting my kittenhood back. We climbed cat trees together and chased each other around the house. Once, I got so into one of our chases, I actually reared up on my hind legs and walked on them. Just like a human. And, speaking of which, you should’ve seen the Older Human’s face. It was, as they say, enough to make a cat laugh. Well, at least this one.
I settled in pretty quickly. The other cats more or less followed Circe’s suit, and Keisha, the Chief Cat, gave me her seal of approval. I eventually adopted three abandoned kittens — Derv Jr. (Keisha had told me about the first Derv, a fine upstanding cat who had lived to be almost 20-years-old), Cheshire, and Magwitch – and got the chance to really enjoy raising them that I had never really had with my own babies. And – this touched me to the quick – the Younger Human even ran a “Phoebe for President” campaign in 2008, complete with t-shirts. Of course, I didn’t win, but I did receive a lot of the popular vote.
Then Keisha died. It was very unexpected, and she hadn’t had time to groom a successor. I was worried. Strong leadership is, you know, very important in a multi-cat household. Then I thought, wait a sec – I could do it. Not only did I have a certain amount of political know-how (I had, after all, run a very perky campaign), but I also had had a lot of Life Experience that the others hadn’t. So I took up where Keisha had left off – keeping the Siamese in line and monitoring the rivalries between various cats. It hasn’t been easy, but I feel I’m doing a pretty good job on the whole.
And one morning, while I was eating breakfast, Keisha shimmered into the room. Her eyes were free from the pain of her brief illness, and she let me know how pleased she was with the job I’d done. She was only there for a moment…a gentle, fleeting moment…but I know that the Older Human saw her, too.
Phoebe’s human is T. J. Banks, the author of A Time for Shadows, Catsong, Souleiado, and Houdini, a novel for young adults which the late writer and activist Cleveland Amory enthusiastically branded “a winner.” Catsong, a collection of her best cat stories, was the winner of the 2007 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award. A Contributing Editor to laJoie, she has received writing awards from the Cat Writers’ Association (CWA), ByLine, and The Writing Self. Her writing has been widely anthologized, and she has worked as a columnist, a stringer for the Associated Press, and an instructor for the Writer’s Digest School. She is currently writing a blog called “Sketch People,” a series of interviews with people who have stories worth telling. You can learn more about T.J. Banks on her blog, and through this interview.
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