Writing 101: Day 2
I’m not going to tell you these were the happiest days of my life. I’m not going to tell you this story has a happy ending. I don’t think I’ll tell you much at all about myself. I will tell you one thing: while I attended grad school in Texas, way back in the days before personal computers adorned everyone’s laps and mobile phones adorned everyone’s hands, I lived in a one-car garage that had been nicely renovated into a studio apartment (read: elegant hovel…a one-car garage is a little wider on each side than your car). The front door led into a kitchen designed by a woman: larger than needed in such a small place. A hallway led to the master bedroom/living room/office. A bathroom harboring a shower with exquisitely hot water and powerful spray sat on the other side of the hall.
The living area was large enough for a single bed, a desk, and a small bookcase. A huge window opened to a lush (considering it was a desert) garden with huge saguaros and bougainvillea trees and water fountain bordered by desert willows and shaded by a giant cottonwood tree. Native flowers—Indian paintbrush, desert columbine, red bird of paradise, orange poppy—painted the scene throughout the year with different hues and designs. Perhaps 5 different species of hummingbirds droned in and out of the trees and flowers. Cactus wrens built nests on top of the cactus. The trees were home to woodpeckers and house finches. If you were up early enough, you might spot a wild javelina or a coyote foraging for food (preferably easy pickings, like your dog or cat or infant).
The garage sat on the property of a fairly exquisite estate belonging to a beautiful woman with a trust fund. And look, just so you know right here at the start, this story is not about this beautiful woman (and when I say beautiful here, I mean like drop-dead, ok). Also, just so you can forget about it, no, I never did anything with this woman other than hand her a check every month for three years. And of course, photograph her. Oh, wait, we did drink some fairly expensive and delightful chateauneuf du pape in her Jacuzzi once. Does that count?
Right next to my desk was another door leading out to the garden. One day as I sat at the desk, a large, wild cat appeared at my window. Turns out, “the cat comes with the apartment.” Last thing I needed was to take care of an animal. But that turned out fine, this cat did not need to be taken care of. The window sill was even with the top of my desk. I’m going to have to shorten this part of the story because the story of Bullet the cat is actually another, longer story. Bullet was wild. Not a house cat. Wild. Feral. She wouldn’t let me pet her the way most cats do. She would allow a touch or two, then after she’d stomached enough affection, she’d stretch and slink away. You could almost hear her speaking to herself: “god, I’m prostituting myself for a handful of that dry-assed cat food and that stupid bed.”
Bullet was truly independent, she’d survived years on her own. She could hunt and feed herself, didn’t need the cat food. I think she did like the safe haven, a secure place to sleep at night, safe from predators, especially those pesky coyotes—Native Americans didn’t call them “tricksters” for no good reason, they are skillful hunters. I’d leave the window open, so Bullet could come and go as she pleased. I wasn’t afraid of thieves. I lived on a rich lady’s estate for crying out loud. And I was a grad student living in a one-car garage and driving a Toyota pickup truck: not your average thief’s usual target when prospecting for high-end goods. And if someone was going to get robbed, it would be the big house next door. Imagine me as Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. and living on the estate with Higgins, a much more handsome Higgins wearing a dress and no bra. Did I mention how beautiful she was?
Bullet got pregnant. She had her litter somewhere else, not in my studio. I tried to find out where the kittens were for days, weeks really. She’d visit me to eat and then leave. I’d follow her, until she lost me behind shrubs or neighbors with fences. One day, it’s raining cats and dogs. Turns out, literally. Bullet appears at my window, soaking wet, she looks in, I reach to pet her, she jumps down outside. A second later, she’s back at the window looking in, a tiny kitten dangling from her mouth, all four legs pawing the air. Bullet moves slowly in, shies away from me, hides the little thing under the bed. Goes out the window, comes back with another tiny kitten, under the bed it goes. I’m thinking I need to get a box. Oh, I forgot to tell you: this is the second time Bullet did this. The first time, she had a litter of three. So I put some towels in a box, put the two kittens in there. Bullet comes back with a third kitten, and I’m thinking three kittens again, maybe four. Bullet goes back out, returning with another kitten again and again. Again and again. And finally brings back—get this— the thirteenth kitten.
I’m trying to shorten this story, but succeeding poorly. Some of the kittens allow me to pet them, some of the kittens never quite warm up to the human touch. When I was giving the kittens away a few weeks later, I was holding one of the wilder ones, and it tried to escape and bit me so bad, I had to have stiches. And the doctor at the emergency room was a callous ass of a doctor. Treated me like I was a kid mistreating his animal. I’d like to see him hold that cat. Luckily, someone wanted “mousers” for his barn, so he took three of the wild ones. I’m sure he was happy with those cats. They were as feral as you’d like and trained by Bullet to eat their mice and never just play with their food.
I kept one of Bullet’s kittens, Boomerang. Boomerang was my favorite from the very beginning. Runt of the litter. But as soon as Bullet brought her into the house (tiny-ass garage), Boomerang gravitated toward me. He huddled at my feet. He crawled up my pantleg when I sat at my desk. He laid on his back in my lap as I typed or read at my desk. He was the lovingest cat I’d ever met. I’d put him back in the box. He came back. I’d pick him off my trousers, he’d come right back. So I kept him, and named him…right. And when I took a semester off to write my thesis, Boomerang and I boarded a second-class bus and hied our fine asses off to Puerto Vallarta for six months. That’s another story.
And this story is not the story I meant to tell, and is longer than I expected. Turns out, it’s difficult to tell a piece of a story. But actually, this is the piece of this story that relates to the “room with a view.” But in Mexico, Boomerang and I had two other rooms with exquisite views, and we tell stories about them that include snakes, chickens, giant iguanas, hot salsa and cold beer, and women, beautiful women. Women we would touch. And this is the thing about Boomerang, whenever I let him out to run in the city of Puerto Vallarta or along the beach (read: giant litter box) in Manzanillo and do what cats do when they are out, even in strange lands like Mexico, Boomerang always came back.