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It was the year 1993 when I was born. Like I said before my family was poor. Momma was at the wrong place at the wrong time when my father came along, wooed her, had his way with her and then took off with the neighborhood tramp for parts unknown. Momma did her best to care for us and with the help of that nice old lady she was able to keep us fed. But, like I said before, the lady’s husband discovered our hiding place and planned to drown us. Ooohh, how I shudder at the thought.

I grew into a very handsome specimen of male felineness and became master of Gonsar Place in short order. Larry worked away from the house during the day and it was my duty to guard and protect our home from intruders, ferocious wild animals and creepy, crawly bugs. Initially I was terrified of the attic and cellar spaces remembering the stories Larry told of the two six-foot black snakes he had to evict during the renovation. I had never seen a snake and knew I would die of a heart attack if I ever saw a snake that large……or a snake of any size. Feline intuition told me that snakes were not a good thing in my world. But, as I was saying, with the passing of time we knew there were no more of their species in the house.

Unfortunately, with the absence of snakes, rodents became a problem. I spent many hours patiently waiting at the mouse hole for an opportunity to prove my innate ability. They were fun to play with but I never acquired a taste for mouse meat and I usually allowed them to escape. Larry finally gave up on me and bought mouse traps. It was so sad. With a quick, sudden snap and a final shriek another of my playmates lay stretched out motionless on that vile contraption. Then, one day, I lost the first of my nine lives.

On my daily patrol of the house I was startled by what looked like a mouse in the pantry. But, this critter was ten times larger than any mouse I had played with. The horrible smelling creature from hell bared its teeth at me and chattered the most hideous vitriol. Its hair was coarse and greasy, not soft and fluffy like the other mice I knew. Then, like I was saying, it lunged toward me. I quickly realized this could be a matter of life or death considering my foe was as big as I and much more violent. Its bared fangs were larger than mine and seemed sharper.

We tussled there on the pantry floor, first me on top then it on top, nipping and grabbing, going for jugulars, biting tails, scratching and clawing, screaming at each other, then backing away from each other and surveying the situation at hand. I knew it was not about to surrender, nor turn tail and run back to the smelly depths from which it came. My short life flashed before me. Only one of us was going to survive.

Then, as if the savior himself stepped into the room, a human voice bellowed, “Rocky, get away.” Not one to disagree with the master, I leaped for the doorway and bee-lined to the safety of the top shelf of the antique cupboard in the kitchen. I had no sooner achieved the perch of salvation when I heard a shot from Larry’s .22 caliber rifle. Shattering glass, then another shot, a human voice swearing and then another shot. With profanity I cannot repeat, Larry appeared in the doorway holding the lifeless, bloodied critter by its tail and proceeded to take it out the back door.

I growled my indignation at the ugly creature as it passed by my safe haven. Then, for some unknown, godless reason, Larry held it up just inches away from my nose. Were I not the fearless feline I imagined myself to be I probably could have fainted. Smiling victoriously, Larry murmured, “Now you know what a rat is”.

Yeah, well, I knew it was a rat and I was just having fun with it before I snuffed out its stinky little heartbeat. I had it on its back, ready to lunge with my death bite when Larry appeared. If I had just a second or two more that rat would have been dead and not because of my physical savagery. No, it would have died of heart failure because of my ferocity and feline fearlessness.

Larry and I were content living at Gonsar Place. We walked outside, I explored what remained of a massive, old barn, I learned about squirrels and ground hogs, field mice and moles and swooping, pecking blackbirds. I loved the house with its numerous rooms and closets. I could nap in a different room every day of the week. The windowsills were a foot wide and I fit comfortably on the sill while sunning in the window.

Then, one night Larry got a phone call from his friend, Jim. He had a delivery in New York and wanted to stop by for a weekend visit. I had never met Jim and wasn’t sure I wanted to extend myself to yet another human. Being a pet was, by this time, okay, but, being a sociable pet was out of my comfort zone. But, I knew by this time who kept my food bowl full and my litter box cleaned, so, I didn’t fuss too much.

Jim turned out to be a funny guy. Full of stories, always jabbering that human lingo, he was quick with hair-raising pranks. I remember napping at the foot of the stairway leading to his bedroom. Of course we felines always nap with one eye open just a slit and an ear pricked for the sound of tiny mice feet scampering across the floor. Well, as I was saying, I was just lying there at the foot of the stairway when this giant creature came hurling down the stairs at me. It was about to attack me and surely would have devoured me if I had not raised vertically into mid-air, like Jesus himself did, and then shifted into fast forward, heart-racing and feet pumping to the safety of a nearby closet. You’ve heard about treading water, well, as I was saying, this scared cat was treading air.

One thing I learned that night about humans was that collectively they have an oddly perverted sense of humor. For years after, Jim delighted in telling the story of the orange ball of fur propelling itself through mid-air after he had thrown a bundle of dirty laundry down the stairway. Many years later at a rest area in Idaho I repaid him in full when I was sitting on a mound of lava rocks……oh, I’ll tell that story later.

That visit from Jim turned our lives around forever. Larry sold our dream in bucolic central Pennsylvania so that he and his buddy could buy a rig and live life in the fast lane on the interstates.

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