One afternoon, back in the Early Jurassic Period, Mom took my four-year-old brother and went to the next door neighbor’s house for coffee and conversation. She left nine-year-old me and my seven-year-old brother at home. Although leaving us alone today would probably result in a visit from a CPS employee, it wasn’t a big deal then. And Mom was probably gone for only thirty minutes.
I was sitting on the couch in the breezeway, doing nothing, when I spotted a familiar yellow tabby cat slinking across the meadow in search of a snack. A year ago, Taffy and our cat had been litter mates, two cute little fuzz balls cuddling together in a cardboard box under the cellar stairs.
They must really miss each other, I thought. I went to the basement where my brother was playing with the model train set up. “We’re going to reunite Tippy with his brother,” I told him. “Taffy’s out back. Go get him.”
I snatched Tippy from his snooze on top of the washing machine. I managed to haul him up to the breezeway before he clawed my arm, wiggled free, and jumped on the couch. Several minutes later, my brother returned, dangling the equally reluctant Taffy. Brother dumped Taffy on the couch.
I guess I was waiting for the cats to rub noses in a friendly greeting, like I’d seen dogs do. Instead, the cats arched their backs, fluffed their fur, and hissed at each other. Tippy lunged at Taffy. Taffy clawed Tippy’s nose. Tippy leaped off the couch. Taffy made a break for the back door, bounced off the glass, and crash landed on top of Tippy. Uh, oh, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, I thought as Tippy backed his sibling into a corner.
At nine, I was too young to understand the nature of cats. All I understood was that the cats were siblings. And siblings were supposed to love and be nice to each other. They weren’t supposed to growl and hiss at each other. Or beat up each other.
My brother assessed the situation and disappeared.
I scrambled onto the couch as the snarling ball of fur careened from one end of the breezeway to the other. I knew I had to get those cats out of there before Mom came home. I hopped off the couch, grabbed a broom, and jabbed the nearest cat. Taffy clawed the broom. Tippy jumped onto the window sill. I inched around to the back door, yanked it open, and swept Taffy onto the patio. Before I could slam the door, Tippy raced after him.
I watched the two cats disappear into the tall grass and decided that, unlike people, cats had no family loyalty.
[The original version of this essay was published in the Great Barrington, MA, The Women's Times in December 1996. About 14 years ago, I posted that version on the Themestream site with permission from the publisher of The Women's Times.]