When a tom cat sprays a mating scent upon a sofa, the only option is to throw away the couch. Fortunately there were three sofas in my house, and losing one means nothing, even though there was a pull-out bed inside the Jennifer Convertible that was pissed upon here, just last week.
The weather has been bitterly cold in Brooklyn this winter. Only a cold-hearted New Yorker would turn his back to the cuddly, stray felines that must fend for themselves in this urban tundra. Left-over table scraps, barely picked-over chicken legs, and tossed-out mounds of Bed-Stuy soul food freeze into hard clumps inside of black plastic garbage bags this time of year. The poor critters have nothing to sustain them when the temperature drops like this. The food that the homeless animals on warmer days easily scratch their way into, turn to cubes of mush that not even vampire-like fangs are able to penetrate.
Their sustenance, like tv dinners, remain frozen solid inside of black, draw-string plastic garbage bags. In a heartless town, there are those who cannot sleep when cats scream from near starvation outside. Fortunately for the cats, I was up late one night in January, feeling sorry for one such hungry feline.
When yet another cat came to my window, screaming from outside in the terrible cold, there was no choice but to open the bedroom window and let him inside. Wild and untouched by humans, the grey and white tabby darted from under my oak writing desk to the living room where he, along with a puffed-out, skunk-like tail hid in a ball under that white sofa that I had to throw away just last Friday.
The tomcat, after several days of careful contemplation, gathered enough courage to come out of hiding and eat from the bowl of dry cat food that I had left for him under the kitchen table. Within a month, all his wildness had vanished and I had him eating out of my hands. Within the cusp of a single winter, the wild tomcat named “Narf” had adopted my lover and I. The unusual breed had taken over the place, including the litter box formerly the property of our cat Link. Link, a tabby with an obsession for bathing himself, has lived here for more than six years. Never once, have we had to deal with toxic pee upon our nice white love seat.
It was no surprise to me to smell that a smell that only a tomcat can produce upon that sofa that I’ve been intending to toss out for years, anyway. It was his space inside here– under that old couch– and why should he not mark it when he is not yet fixed? Animals must do what animals must do. The little thing didn’t know any better.
Fortunately for the poor with big hearts who live in the ghetto– those who learn the hard way why cats are often abandoned– there are inexpensive options available to tend to the veterinarian needs of those stray kittens that seem to take over even the neighborhood and the very air we breathe here in New York.
The ASPCA has a mobile bus that comes to the Brooklyn Public Library in Bed-Stuy to offer those on public assistance the option of spaying and neutering their animals for free. Although I am no longer eligible for public assistance– (having been cut off by the city for ‘failure to comply’ with ‘back-to-work’ assignments involving janitorial services inside of city courthouses), I still had my welfare card, and took the bitch with me to the library and inside that animal bus that comes this way every other weekend. Sure enough, our new cat was clipped and even got all his shots– thanks to this magical white card that saved me more than $400! I have saved enough to buy a new couch.
My lover Bradley (who knows lots of people in Brooklyn who know how to work the system) learned of the free ASPCA services. Remembering my food stamp/ Medicaid card, he demanded that I “Get that damned cat fixed!”.
“It’s first come, first served,” Bradley explained. “We are getting up at Five on Saturday, and going. Otherwise, Narf cannot stay in here. The ASPCA will only accept the first twenty-five pets in line. My brother told me. We gotta get there early.”
At Four am sharply, Bradley turned on the bedroom light and shouted like a cat in heat until I got out of bed. While I was fixing a cup of Café Bustello coffee for each of us inside our new fancy espresso maker, Bradley shoved eleven pound Narf inside the cat carrying cage that formerly belonged to our cat Link and off we headed into the heart of Bed-Stuy where white people are as rare as the calico kittens that frequent these parts.
The number of stray cats in Bed-Stuy has grown out of control. On our way to the library and the ASPCA bus, we spotted at least six cats without homes, running under the glow of orange street lamps, through abandoned lots where brownstone buildings once stood, and beneath abandoned orange shopping carts from the Home Depot that homeless people who gather recyclable cans within, had left behind to rust in this most battered part of town.
Another stray cat near a fire hydrant cried loudly at my lover Bradley as we walked briskly under the silver glow of a half-full Saturday morning moon. Quickly we stepped through the bitter cold air, avoiding an occasional crack-head, carrying an animal in briefcase of sorts, as if we were on our way to conduct some sort of shady cat trade. To neighbors up at this hour, looking out of high above apartments that are not at risk for luring in stray kittens, it must have seemed we were up to no good.
Narf cried loudly, returning the mating call of the stray standing with tail-up near the fire hydrant. My lover looked at me in awe, as creeped-out as I was, that the animals seemed to know that the meaning of life was ending for that poor soul that found himself on a January night, safe and warm under my nice white couch, but now inside an inescapable cage.
A cat lady beat us to the library. The black woman, who we later learned had bald spots along the side of her head just like her cat, decided to start a list so that there would be no confusion as to who was first in line, when the ASPCA fix-a-bus came rolling down Lewis Avenue.
“Aww– he’s one of those fancy cats,” the lady said, peering into the cage at Narf who seemed intrigued by a female cat in another cage, that was just as balled- up and nervous as he was. The bald spots of the female feline were not noticeable at that hour, and Narf sure as hell didn’t seem to mind if the cat were losing its fur like its new master.
“We think he is a Burmese Cat,” my lover explained to the sister. “I was watching Cats 101 on the animal channel and he looks just like one.”
“Hells yes,” the black lady said. “We could make some cash off him!”
“Perhaps we should just get out of here,” I suggested, “and let the cats have one more opportunity to be fruitful and multiply.”
“Not after having to throw away that good couch,” Bradley remarked.
“Oh, ya coulda got that smell out with vinegar. I do it all the time,” the cat lady said. “Vinegar will take out the smell of just about anything– even a Tom cat,” she shared, sticking her finger inside of Narf’s cage.
Into the ASPCA bus I went to drop of Narf and to show my food stamp card to the lesbian with braids who served not only as the driver, but as assistant animal handler.
“What’s his age?” She asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Where did you get him?”
“I found him in my back yard.”
“What’s his name?”
“You can return at 2:30 to pick up Narf,” she said as she slammed the gate to one of twenty-five cages aligning the walls inside the make-shift animal hospital.
As I crossed Quincey Street, on my way with my lover towards, Troop Avenue, I glanced inside one of the many empty crack houses and could have sworn that I spotted another stray cat that looked just like Narf. Before responding with a purr to my faint “here kitty kitty cry”, the animal, obviously, one of my new cat’s many, many off-spring, ran towards Lafayette Avenue, knowing from instinct perhaps, that falling in love with a human is not as cozy as it may seem from outside on a cold night.
“Do you think it was one of his?” Bradley asked.
“With balls the size of the ones he had under that big tail, I wouldn’t doubt it,” I remarked.
“It’s going to be nice to have him in the bed with us,” my lover shared, giving me a look as if to imply I have forgotten the art of snuggling on cold winter nights.
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