Crystal D. Reynolds
© Copyright 2018 by Crystal D. Reynolds
to my precious sister, Carla D. Price and her precious little friend,
Aaahhhh, the home. It’s a haven away from the outside world, be it 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. (The White House) for four years or a country cottage for a lifetime. Home is “where the heart is,” our “sanctuary,” where we can lock ourselves in and everyone else out. Where else can we lounge in pajamas, watch TV, and eat cold pizza for breakfast? Where else but home, that special place that reminds us of Mom’s home-cooking in winter and catching fireflies on summer nights. Yes, “a man’s home is his castle.”
Unless of course, he lives with Cricket.
Then, “home” takes on another dimension, starting on a cold October evening. Arriving at choir rehearsal, I saw a pretty (but scrawny) four-legged creature approaching me, tail upright and greeting me like an old friend. “MEOW! MEOOOOW!” she exclaimed. It sounded like, “Nice to see you!” 90 minutes later, there she was (again) but this time with company. Their “quartet” sounded pretty good and “Mademoiselle Meow” rubbed against me. I have two cats at home that I’m sure she detected, but she acted unconcerned.
“Well, hello again you pretty little girl!” I exclaimed. “MEOOOOOOOOOOW!” she responded, volume increasing. “Will she let me pet her?” I wondered. I reached down and this cute, scrawny bundle reached up. That did it. I quickly scooped her up, putting her in my car. She started purring-I started the engine (ironically, I owned a Cougar!) and that’s when my heart melted - fast.
Now, falling for this fur-ball and taking her home were different. I wanted to keep her, but I already had two cats. Then I remembered – my sister Carla wanted a cat. But she’d mentioned a silver tabby, and my “carpooler” was white with a large black mask, a white nose and chin, pretty pink nostrils, with black circles and a black tail - nothing like a silver tabby. She resembled an outlaw so I named her “Bandit.” “We can’t pass you off as a silver tabby Bandit,’’ I said, “but it’ll be ok.” One thing was certain; if Carla didn’t want her, I’d just have to talk my husband Vic (and yes, Ebony and Cotton Candy) into it. Either way, this would take some convincing.
Bandit “meat-loafed” herself on the back seat. I stopped for gasoline, rolling the window down just a little. The attendant asked, “Lady, does your cat always sleep in the car like that?” I glanced back and there was Bandit resting peacefully. She slept all the way to Carla’s house, only giving me a soft “meow” when I lifted her out of my car.
It was freezing and I should have been home. But there I stood, shivering. Carla opened her front door to two visitors: one furry, one not. I conjured up the sweetest “little sister” voice (yes, even at 42) possible. “Carla, I know you wanted a silver tabby but”… Just then, out popped a semi-large white head with a black mask, white whiskers, and a pink nose from under my coat.
Carla stared at my furry companion and said, “Where’d you find her?” “In the parking lot at Crossroads,” I replied. “Mr. Eugene’s been feeding her so she’s used to people. He hoped she’d find a home. She’s the prettiest little thing with the sweetest disposition. I was afraid she’d get too cold and…” I continued. In between, a very soft “meow” sounded like, “sounds good so far.” “I don’t know Cris,” Carla said. “She’s been outside for months. Who’s to say we can domesticate her?” Carla’s so pragmatic. (Usually she’s right but) This time, I hoped she’d be wrong.
“We can try; Maybe with a warm home, good food, and lots of love, she’ll adjust” I replied. “Well….okay” Carla replied, “we can try, but I don’t have cat food, a litter box…” and Carla continued talking, but I was heading to the nearest Walgreen’s, Wal-Mart, “Wal-somebody” for Bandit’s supplies so I didn’t hear the rest. I returned with the “kitty starter kit,” pet Bandit, and promised Carla I’d help get her new roommate situated.
Most promises are attainable when everyone cooperates. When one party is a cat, it’s even better. “Bandit” seemed to know: this was her chance for the good life. But first, Carla outlined some rules. “I’d planned to name my next kitty ‘Cricket,’ so her name is Cricket, not Bandit.” I thought, “The cat looks more like a bandit (and what’s the correlation between cats and crickets anyway?) but OKOKOK, I don’t care what you call her, so long as you’re happy.” Rule #2: “I’m giving her two weeks. If she doesn’t work out, you must take her.” “Cricket, Bandit, ‘whatever your name will be,’ there’s a silver tabby in the pound awaiting a home and I already have two kitties so if I were you, I’d ‘work out’” I whispered in her ear. Cricket’s response-a loud purr so I left somewhat confident (but with trepidation. As Carla’s a “night owl,” anything was possible before daybreak.)
And “work out” she did. Within a week, Cricket had mastered Carla’s rules and added her own. Once fed, Carla made a bed for her new “roommate” in the hallway. However, Cricket saw and liked Carla’s body pillow more so that night, she claimed it. Carla’s sleeps in one bedroom, but within Carla’s home is “Cricket’s chateau,” containing “quatré chambers à coucher” (four bedrooms) and Cricket sleeps in all four. Carla and I love matzo ball and chicken noodle soups; so does Cricket, along with eggplant parmesan. When Carla underwent surgery, Cricket (who now acts like I’m yesterday’s news) wouldn’t drink water. “Oh, I meant to tell you” Carla said, “Cricket only drinks l’eau mis en bouteille (bottled water). It’s on the refrigerator door.” I couldn’t wait to get back to Carla’s house. Sure enough, I opened the refrigerator and saw a bottle labeled “Cricket’s water,” personalized Poland Spring. When I visit, Carla gives me water out of the tap. Figure it out.
We went on vacation, boarding all three cats. Our cats have standard carriers. Cricket travels in a customized “porteur de chat” (cat carrier) complete with sheepskin lining, especially when seeing the “vétérinaire” (veterinarian). We scheduled “play times” for Ebony and Cotton Candy, but Carla also scheduled grooming and claw clipping for Cricket. Cricket loves chasing flashlight beams, but the pet resort didn’t play “flashlight.” Vic and I brought about 2 toys for each cat. Carla had at least six for Cricket. By the way, Cricket never picks up her toys; that’s Carla’s job, along with “chauffeur de dame” (lady chauffeur).
Carla’s pragmatic side does factor into part of Cricket’s disposition (with Cricket’s approval of course). Although Carla has a burglar alarm, Cricket’s toys serve two purposes, for stepping into Carla’s house is occasionally like walking in a “champ de mine” (minefield). The “champ de mine’s” disguised as a pièce de récréation de chat” (“kitty recreation area”) complete with busy balls, squeaky toys, catnip-laced-stuffed-fish toys, and a “giraffe bourrée” (stuffed giraffe). Without warning, stepping on a kitty-saliva-slobbered busy ball can easily hurl someone through the living room, dining room, kitchen, down the alcove steps, and out the back door. Thus, “Crickets chateau” is Carla’s back-up security system. Best part: it’s free.
Carla’s favorite color/favorite kitty = a yellow collier (collar) for her kitty. Yet although the “chateau” includes a “gymnase de chat” (kitty gymnasium), this fuzz ball outgrew her collar and now weighs 12 pounds. Cricket watched Animal Planet (her favorite channel) in the den while Carla was hospitalized again. I combed Cricket every day. She loved it and I didn’t want her missing Carla too much. Then I learned – “Cricket’s chateau” includes a “salon de beauté” (beauty parlor) where she’s groomed once a week with customized combs, brushes, etc. Other than a “Marilyn Monroe-like” meow, apparently Cricket adopted the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy; I never asked, and Cricket has never told me anything different.
In French, the word “home” translates to “chateau.” Ironically, the first syllable is almost identical to the French word for “cat.” I contend that’s more than a coincidence; a cat probably influenced that-centuries ago. Since 2002, I’ve seen my sister’s heart open up and embrace Cricket. In return, Cricket loves and trusts Carla implicitly. Carla loves, but after our parents passed away and I developed breast cancer in 2001, I knew she didn’t want to lose again.
Yet, Carla’s eyes light up, reflecting renewed hope around Cricket. They are breakfast buddies, “sit in the gazebo/read the paper together” buddies, singing (Carla) and meowing (Cricket) buddies, and I’ve concluded that they probably could have lived apart, but they’re definitely having more fun living together. They’re true friends, keep each other’s secrets, respect each other’s space (well with Cricket: some of the time) and can cheer each other up. At times, it’s like a private, never-ending slumber party. Carla’s current house has 9 ½ rooms but if she relocates, I’m sure she’ll have another “Cricket’s chateau.” Aaahhhh, the home.
Crystal D. (Price) Reynolds graduated with a B.A. (after completing a double major in English and Political Science) from Rutgers College, Rutgers University. A former Assistant Contract Analyst and Contract Consultant for two major insurance carriers, she has been disabled for over 10 years but is now a free-lance writer, singer, and (two-time) Stage II breast cancer survivor. She makes her home in Central New Jersey with her husband, Victor Reynolds, their son Carrington, feline Tuxedo Jake (“TJ”), and Carrington’s Beta fish “Go-Boy.”