When we buried Jellyroll in the grass lawn across from our tiny home—the Baptist church’s lawn—the tears did flow. The sadness was so deep only gasps could be heard between us, neither me nor Lil-e could talk. We placed a stone over his body —a nice stone I had found which Lil-e put an epitaph on. A few days later Lil-e left for a trip, to get away, to get her mind off of why Jellyroll had so slowly succumbed—dying a slow, insipid death.
I stayed in town because of my job at the paper mill. One evening, while I was chasing cheap whisky with Pabst Blue Ribbon, there came a knock upon my door. I went and opened it. “Ah shit,” I thought. It was the cranky old groundskeeper from the Baptist church. I thought he was going to give me the “what for,” because we’d dug up his nice lawn over there and plunked Jellyroll in it —set that stone on top of him. Jellyroll’s marker.
But no. It wasn’t like that at all. He said, “I seen you burying that cat. I seen the tears. I seen all that sorrow.” He paused then, finally he said, “You want a cat? I got a dinky one out there on my farm. It’s the runt of the litter. It ain’t gonna make it if nobody takes it.”
I knew Lil-e would kill me for taking a cat right away, after the Jellyroll struggle, but she was far away—not coming back for 3 months, and fuck her! This was going to be my cat! “Sure I’ll take it!” I nearly shouted. “Good,” the old boy said. “I’ll bring it over in a few days.”
When the groundskeeper came back carrying a cat carrier, I was ready to receive a sickly little runt, feeble and scared, mewing cowardly mews, gasping for little breaths of air.
But uh huh! No! What came out of that cat carrier was the tiniest kitten I’d ever seen. He was a spit-fire! Zing! Out he flew. Ran straight up the curtains to the top rod! Paboop! Down he came! Three fast swirling spins around the living room! Floop-wing-zing! Over the cigarette burned, spotted couch—flung-wung swew! Over the chair by the table with the horsehead lamp and into the giant closet. Things were flying out! Like he was digging to the bottom of the world. I looked at the old caretaker, he looked at me, we went to peak in the closet—zing! Out flew the kitten. Flying like a rocket ship to mars! Bat-a-bafloo! Up he went. The curtains again. “Wow!” I said. Maybe I’m being a bit sexist here, I never even considered it being a girl kitten. That much rambunctious energy is the stuff of boys! I named him Pip, mostly after Ahab’s cabin boy (my favorite character in Moby Dick), and slightly after Charles Dickens’ lad. Though the name is more an homage to Dickens than his protagonist, because Pip could be a real doodle-dip—certainly not Dickens’ best character.
It came time to take Pip for his first vet visit, checkup and shots. I just put Pip on my shoulder and drove on in. Pip was fearless! When I got inside the vet’s waiting room it was empty, so I put Pip down and he started to explore. He was bopping around when the door opened and a huge black dog came in followed by an old lady. I dived for Pip! Literally flew to swoop my little baby up. The old lady said, “Calm down now young man; my Charles is as sweet as jam. And he adores cats.” I’d heard the “sweet as . . .” googalug before, usually just about when the dog took my leg up for a little chew . . . I wasn’t feeling mightily reassured by the old windbag. But I let Pip be. He kept playing, and Charlie (an old boy) slowly walked over to him. “Is this it for Pip?” I wondered, “Is it over before it even begins?” No! Charlie took that big ol’ tongue out of his gob and started giving Pip a wash. When the vet called for me and Pip, Pip was sitting under the relaxing Charlie’s chin. Pip’s fur was so wet it spooted all to the one side, and he had a wonky look on his face. Life was such an adventure for my kitten.
The vet was getting Pip all ready to face the world. She asked me, “Pip. That’s a cute name. But, Mr. Fishspit, do you know what your cat’s sex is?” “Hadn’t even occurred to me miss,” I answered. “He’s such a hell-cat, I just know he’s a boy. Besides, I’m a total prude. I ain’t gonna go check my cat’s sex!” She responded, “Well, your he is a her. Pip is a little girl.”
I was doogled to the floor. I was so surprised. “Wow!” I thought, “I have me a wild little girl!” But when I was a boy my grandma called orange seeds “pips.” And little girl Pip was light orange and white. She kind of had the colors of an orange seed. So Pip she was going to be. “Yes, she’s just a pip of a cat, my vet said.”
I was a social butterfly after Lil-e left. She had been my gal. Now we were friends and roommates. I ran with a group of punk rockers and skinheads and rude boys. I had people coming over all the time—lots of cute little punk chicks that I was always falling in love with. But Pip was the main attraction. She brought a lot of the gals over. She was the cutest kitten that had ever been.
I’ve seen thousands of kittens. I’ve volunteered at countless cat rescue shelters—so you know I’ve seen cats in my life. I grew up on a farm where at any given time there were 17-23 cats, catchin’ the rats! I have seen cats! I guarantee you Pip was the cutest kitten that ever existed. Don’t you even try to tell me your kitten is cuter. The gods will laugh you under the table. You’ll be the fool of the Elysian Fields, a laughingstock. And there those cute little punk gals would be! With Pip on their lap! Oh God! That’s where I wanted to be!
I’ll tell one more Pip kitten story, and then I’ll move on. I have always collected records. I have a huge collection. One time, in a tiny town, in a trash and treasures shop, I found the Small Faces’ record, “Ogden Nutgone Flake”—the original—in the giant tobacco tin. A record worth hundreds of dollars. I got it for peanuts at the trash and treasure. I’d scored! This was the greatest record buy of my life.
I took that thing home. I put it on my player, opened a bottle of whiskey, kicked back and closed my eyes. Good golly Miss Molly it was an awesome album. Then came the most godawful sound that maybe has ever been heard. I opened my eyes to see. Pip was flying through the air, she’d been spun off the turntable. “Oh my god no!” I creeped to the record player. Pip had leaped from a speaker on to the record. When it flung her off she pulled out the claws. The first side of the biggest score in record collection history has the gouges of Pip’s claws straight across it. She’d tried to hold on. I’m cheesy I know, but now it’s sort of a memento to those times. I do pull out the record and look at them scratches. I do play it—well, the other side.
I’d never swatted Pip. But I was gonna swat her now. So many times that her little orange and white butt would be red forever! But when I grabbed her up, I could not swat anything. I basked in her cuteness—it made the world so fine! She was the cutest thing that had ever lived.
It’s 19 years later. Pip’s here. She’s snoozing in her little bed. She’s still, at 19, the cutest cat that ever be. She never got big. She weighs four and a half pounds. She’s never lost her kittenish ways. I live a quiet, secluded life now, and no women come around to ogle and oodle Pip. But anyone that does come by is entranced. Pip is that cute! They forget they even have a cat at their home! Just an old throw rug.
She’s deaf. I blame the vets. With their shots! Pip had never gone back to the vet after her visit as a kitten. For 18 years she never got sick! Last year she did, and to the vet I rushed my precious. I said to the vet, “NO shots! Do not give her a shot!” The vet said they had to—laws or something. I said, “Then I’m going to be a lawbreaker. NO shots!” They said they’d discuss it with me later.
They didn’t. They gave Pip the shots! She came home deaf, completely deaf. Urinary tract infections don’t cause deafness (that’s what was wrong with her). It was their fucking shots! Those things are evil! They kill cats! And when I went back in a rage—know what they said? You wanna know? They said they could fix her up with a set of hearing aids for 2000 dollars. I just left the place. That was insanity. But I hope that vet dies a horrific death! I hope bunghole cancer is creeping up her intestine! I hate that woman.
Pip has some dementia. She talks to things that aren’t there, sees things I cannot see, loves to talk to the water in her water bowl. I think that too is because of the shot. But fortunately Pip seems to just play in her insanity. Maybe that’s a lesson to us somehow. She purrs away and plays away and really enjoys life! She’s 19 and I’ve never seen a cat play so much. Oh my Pip!
So the two of us grow old together. Both nuts, both cute! I’m a cute rockabilly boy with silver hair and a record player to spin my 45 r.p.m. records on. Pip is the cutest cat in the world—and when she ain’t fighting the inside of a paper bag, she’s beside me, in her little bed, listening to rockabilly records with me, deaf though she be, the cutest cat that ever was.