In my lifetime, I can’t recall ever asking a cat what time it was.
I figured they couldn’t talk, and most don’t wear watches, so what’s the use?
As is my custom, I was wrong.
Let me explain.
When I was in college, during Christmas or spring break, I would often go to my mother’s (then) home in Maryland to work. Mind you, the last thing I wanted to do on my break was work, but she had secured a position for me at a warehouse, working night shift for $10 an hour, which was big money back then for a college student.
So I would work from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. for a couple of weeks and go back to school with a huge wad of cash, which would last approximately 27 minutes after my arrival on campus.
During my work weeks there, I had to reverse my sleep schedule, where I went to bed around 8 a.m. and slept until 3 or 4 p.m. When I woke up, everyone was at work. That was fine with me. I could sleep about as long as I wanted.
But Stanley had other plans.
Stanley was my mother’s cat. If he were a human, he would be the late actor Orson Welles – huge, gray and cuddly.
And like Mr. Welles, Stanley had his share of health problems. At one time, he had what I guess could be called a stroke. The result of this ailment was that he lost most of his balancing skills. By that, I don’t mean that he couldn’t balance plates on his head anymore (he still could), but rather, unlike most cats, he wasn’t perfectly graceful, and walked kind of sideways and bumped his noggin once in a while, leaping to and from furniture.
Anyway, everyday while I was up there, at around 2:45 p.m., Stanley would come into my room and start tapdancing on my stomach. Finally, after numerous attempts to kick him off the bed, I would get up and ask him what he wanted.
Oddly enough, he would never answer, but instead would lead me to the front door, which I would open for him and he would go outside. I would then resume my slumber.
After this occurred, oh, every day, I didn’t go back to sleep on one occasion, and decided to start my day. After letting Stanley out, I watched him. He walked directly to the sidewalk, and parked himself there, looking down the road. He appeared to be waiting on something.
A few minutes later, I happened to walk by the window again, and this time, Stanley was not alone. He was surrounded by about five children, who were petting him and playing with him and talking to him.
I moved closer to the window, and actually heard what the children were saying.
“Look at the pretty Crooked Cat,” one of the children was saying, petting Stanley.
“Come here, Crooked Cat,” another child bellowed.
For about 10 minutes, they played with Stanley, or, as they called him, “Crooked Cat.” And he loved every minute of it, soaking in all their adoration until one of the children hit another with his bookbag, which broke up the petting party.
The next day, like clockwork, Stanley was on my stomach again, doing the Lambada. His friends were waiting. He knew exactly what time each day he had to be outside on the sidewalk so that he could meet with the children as they were getting off the school bus.
Stanley died many years ago – at the age of 11. That’s 77 in cat years. If you want to feel real old, try figuring out what your age is in cat years (age x 7). I’m over 350 years old, which is exactly how old I feel when I bend over to tie my shoes.
Speaking of being old, tune in next week as I try to come up with newspaper’s rare “Triple Clown” – three columns in a row about cats.
• Len Robbins is editor of The Clinch County News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.