From my earliest memories I always had a passion for cats. When I was six, living on a farm that had a barn full of cats whose duty was to keep the rodent population down, I picked for my favorite a kitten one I named Lady Gray. Through the years I learned that my favorites were the short hair alley cats that looked like Russian Blues. When my children were young I adopted a little sensuous gray lady that had the same lithe movements as the seductive singer/dancer Eartha Kitt, and Eartha Kitt became her name.
Much later, when Bob and I moved to a little beach bungalow in Venice, CA, I wanted a cat to complete our family. So I advertised in the local paper for a gray kitten. I got many calls from people begging me to take their unwanted feline, no matter what kind or color. I refused them all until I got a call about a tiny alley kitten that apparently had no home, but was joining all their family cats at food time, and they didn’t want to adopt him.
I drove over, and they pointed out this little critter that was a gray short hair, filthy dirty, and skinny, and festered with fleas and ear mites. I picked him up and he was about zero pounds, nine ounces. He was happy to nestle in my hand. I put him in a basket in the front seat of my car, and drove him home. When I parked in front of my house, I held him in my right hand to carry him inside, but the two mastiffs next door saw us and started barking at him full power. All nine ounces of him rose into an arched spine, ears laid back, hissing and spitting. The neighbor quieted her dogs and the kitten and I entered his new home.
I had just returned from a wonderful summer in Greece, and in honor of that trip I named him Socrates.
After a few weeks of bathing, deflea-ing, and other feline groomings, Soc developed into an important member of our household. He had his likes and dislikes, but on the whole adapted himself into our family. When Holly and I were doing our morning exercises with the television, he would place himself in line and follow the routine. When company came he would greet the people he liked, and strop their ankles with purring. Tuesday nights when friends came for our recorder lesson he would place himself beside one of us and help turn the pages in the music book.
Thursday nights were his favorite dinners. I would have stopped at the local meat market, picked up fresh chicken livers, and while I cooked myself liver and scallions to serve with corn-rye toast, he would be under my feet telling me how joyful the smell was, and was ready to scarf down his dish full of the raw fresh livers. He grew into a big burley Tom, and although he had been neutered, nobody had told him. He had a lady friend across the street, and when she appeared he would run to greet her and let her know how passionate he was about her.
One Thanksgiving Holly was staying with me and we both slept late. About ten in the morning I got up and looked out the kitchen window into our back yard. I was astounded at the sight that greeted my eyes. There was Socrates, gnawing on a huge, raw half-turkey, bigger than he was.
In those days the butchers would freeze the dressed turkey, then saw it in half lengthwise. Soc was in ecstasy. My mind was barraged with questions. Where did he get it? How did he get it there? Whose was it? What should I do? Should I take it away from him? As I analyzed the situation from behind the kitchen window these answers came.
Some neighbor had probably put out the half-of-frozen-turkey on their windowsill to thaw. Soc had found it and saw no reason it should not be his. He must have pulled it into their yard, and then dragged it home along the alley, and how he got it over our fence was a mystery, and then got himself and his prize in a safe place.
As I looked around he was completely hidden from outsiders’ view. Our six foot wooden gate was closed and locked. There were no windows from the neighbors that looked into our yard. Which neighbor? I had no way to know.
I certainly was not going to go from neighbor to neighbor and ask whether they were missing a half-of-turkey. Besides, what could I do to compensate? Give them back a half chewed half-turkey? No. No stores would be open nearby. They would just have to suffer that they left their half-turkey where a cat could drag it away. There were lots of cats in the neighborhood.
I talked it over with Holly. We decided that the turkey would not hurt him. We saw no benefit in taking it away from him. We let him chew to his heart’s content.
After noon-time and another hour or more he had enough. He was stuffed with food. He was drunk with tryptophan. He staggered up the five stairs into the back porch, lurched through the kitchen and living room, and then over to the white sofa, which we all knew was forbidden to him. He threw himself on it with all four legs dangling over the edge, and was immediately asleep.
All afternoon he slept there, with his paws draped over the edge, jiggling in his dream state. Holly and I howled with laughter and decided it was a holiday. We would let him stay on the couch. There he slept into the night, with us laughing every time we looked at him.
Dear Soc. I do miss him.