Restlessness was afoot in the summer of 1990, and that’s never a good thing.
Not restlessness itself, it has led to a great many explorations, discoveries, advancements and so forth. Although to be perfectly fair, it has led to a few disasters as well. Restlessness got the Europeans looking over the horizon a few years ago. Hey, lets throw some wood and canvas together, see if it will float and see what’s just beyond the edge of the world. Good for us. Unless of course you happen to be amassing all the gold in Mexico at which point the arrival of a few tin-hatted foreigners is about as welcome as a Sunday afternoon with Great Aunt Xinoptal watching the maize grow.
For every time restlessness has gotten us to the moon, it has bounced a rocket booster off some unsuspecting Dorado’s head. For every internal combustion engine, there’s a corresponding leaf blower at seven on a Saturday morning. For every Masterpiece Theatre, there’s a Jackass Eight. So for every well mannered tabby, for every cute little kitten, for every curl up on your lap and fall asleep, for every deep purr…
There must come, by design, a little red, long haired hellion with claws we just happened to name Ruby.
He was a male.
Ruby was a fluke name.
In retrospect, Ruby was a fluke cat. He was the cat who never should have entered our four walls, who should have stayed at the shelter until some well meaning farmer would pick him out for a perfect barn cat, named him “Jack” and made him earn his keep.
Instead, Ruby was our cat. Like I said, restlessness was afoot and that’s never a good thing.
We were living in New Jersey at the time. Just outside of New York City. We were my wife and I, newly married, chasing down careers in New York but not catching prey enough to afford to live in town. Add to that we were both suburban kids and the idea of an apartment, no car and being stuck on an island just didn’t set with us. To be fair, she had lived in Brooklyn for a number of years until I dragged her out to the ‘burbs. But she came willingly after the morning when she led with a crowbar in trying to pry the hood of a ’78 Cutlass open and get to the battery that killed the car alarm that had been going off for the last three hours. Enough was enough. After that symphony, even Jersey looked good.
So she moved out and we married and rented a big expensive place in Montclair that we filled with our parent’s hand-me-downs, a few pieces of art and a couple of cats. We had rented an apartment that allowed cats but no dogs so we immediately went down to the pound to pick us up a couple of furrballs. Two tabbies, named Crittur and Mumble. We loved the hell out of them and they provided us with more funny stories than our first driving lesson. There was a little outbuilding behind the apartment. It was a six by twelve shack with windows that the landlord used to store spare parts for the main house. Nobody ever went in there so it was pretty safe for the family of stray cats that eventually moved in. We had a perfect view into the shack from our bedroom window and used to watch as the mother cat would attend to her litter. There were six or eight of them as I recall. Little feral cats that nobody could get close to. They would hide whenever anyone walked by the shack. They were deathly afraid of humans.
So naturally my new bride thought they would make the perfect pets.
From the bedroom window, she picked out a little red kitten. She named it “Ruby” and began to plan to catch her once she was weaned. She and I would watch Ruby out the window and talk about the day that Ruby would join our happy little family, two of whom were re-converting the Danish modern in the living room into its core elements of yarn and raw wood.
Ruby was never to be. For a number of reasons. For starters, those of you who know anything about cats know that red cats, or marmalade or whatever, are all males. Toms, I believe the correct nomenclature is. For another thing, there’s a reason that they call feral cats feral. It distinguishes them from domestics who tend to stick around. We woke up one Saturday and noticed that there were no cats to be seen in the shed. We kept looking all weekend and into the next week only to figure out that Elvis had left the building. Whatever had happened, weaning or otherwise, all the kittens had absconded.
My wife was disappointed but would get over it. After all, we still had two lovely cats of our own. That is, until I got involved and managed to screw that all up.
As I said, there was restlessness. We had been in New York for the better part of eight years. It was getting old. I didn’t like it and kept looking for a way out. My job was in an industry that was pretty much anchored in New York, as was hers. I tried branching out into other businesses but kept getting dragged back into town. Didn’t matter where I went, invariably someone would offer me a spot “ideally fit to you. It’s in our New York office.” Right. Thanks anyway.
So I figured I’d flesh out my background a little. Go back to school. Get a new skill set. After a brush with disaster at the LSAT’s, I settled on B-school. The GMAT was relatively painless, unlike the LSAT where I scored in the bottom ten percent for deviousness and would never make it into law school with those ethics.
Off to a fine New England college for me, a little rented house for us and all would be fine and dandy. Ayuh.
Except for the part about the cats. In a flash of practicality, we packed Mumble and Crittur off to our parent’s houses and asked that they look after them for about three weeks until we could complete our move. They did and we immediately noticed their absence. Like I said, we had a flash of practicality. We wouldn’t have another one until, oh, probably ninety seven or so. We missed the cats so much that one Saturday, after packing most of the house, we headed down to the local animal shelter quote:”Just to look around.”This of course is akin to and as convincing as the addict who’s “just going to take a quick walk.”
And then we found.
A red cat.
Long haired. Male. That wasn’t going to work but we didn’t care. We didn’t care about a lot of things. We didn’t have a house to move into. We had an apartment filled with half filled boxes. We didn’t have jobs. But we did have twenty five dollars and the name of a vet and that’s all it took to get the little red cat home where we could debate naming him. I thought “Jack” would be a fine name for a cat. She was still mourning the ferals and wanted to name him “Ruby.” The cat didn’t much care. He was running around the living room, sniffing in corners and around moving boxes until he found one he liked and jumped atop it. Then he meowed at the top of his little lungs and voided all over it.
Lovely. Re pack that one. But at least the cat had a name. A full name that we both agreed on. She shouted it out first, but it stuck.