Those of you who think John’s “Dahka” was a mean little kitty obviously never met Twiggy the Terrifying. Dahka was a scrawny, screechy little thing, but Twiggy was a hellcat. If Vlad the Impaler had a pussycat pet, it would have been a cat like T the T. (I will refrain from calling T’s name a third time, for fear of summoning him from the depths where he surely resides now, stoking fires and impaling sinners on his claws.)
T the T arrived at our house very young, very skinny and very amorphous, gender-wise. Initially and to outward appearances a sweet little thing and probably female, he was named Twiggy, the reference being to the actress-model of the time, an impossibly skinny but popular Brit who more or less heralded the British Pop Invasion.
T did grow and eventually filled out a little, and at some point along the way it became obvious that “she” was really a “he,” probably about the time “he” realized he was named after a skinny little “girl,” and “he” developed his ornery character in response. (“Boy Named ‘Sue’ Syndrome.”) Like other cats, he liked to ensconce himself in dark, hidden places, but where most other cats do so merely for privacy and for the purpose of napping between meals, T did so for the purpose of ambushing any unsuspecting ankle that happened by.
T also did that cat thing where he lay on his back under the sofa and using his claws on the underliner he would drag himself around upside-down from one end to the other. I imagine that felt good in a number of ways, not the least of which was that his back got a good, invigorating rub from the carpet and his legs got a good deal of exercise. There were times, however, when, if you took notice of his expression while he did this, you wondered if that insane look on his face was the result of his just being upside-down or if he really was stark raving mad.
Savagely biting ankles was the least of his terrifying behaviors, though. He frequently chased dogs out of our backyard (no leash laws then) and on one occasion he nearly took down a toddler who happened to be passing by on the sidewalk (no fears for eight-year-olds to be walking alone in those days, either.)
T the T and I were standing at the top of our driveway when this unsuspecting waif dared to try walking by our house. I watched in horror as T, rearing up on his hind legs, began a frightening, growling war cry, and lunging forward, waving his forepaws wildly over his head, he ran down the driveway, upright, on his back legs. I’m not sure who was more frightened: the poor child (who screeched, ran off and who was undoubtedly never seen again) or I.
Still, that was not the height of T’s scourge on us. He came home one day badly scraped from an encounter with some critter or other, most likely something bigger than he, (we speculated it might have been a rhinoceros or a T-Rex, although there weren’t many of those in suburban Newton, Massachusetts) and he needed medical attention.
I’m not sure how it came to be that my dear brother-in-law Dan got to be the lucky one to take T to the vet, but so it was, and Dan, brave as ever, managed somehow to get T into a cardboard box (the safest and likely the only way to transport T safely) and into the trunk of his car, and they headed off to the Angell Animal Medical Center to get T’s wounds attended to.
Wanting to avoid any unfortunate, unsuspecting encounters by strangers who might open the enclosed box (carrying the now even more enraged than usual T) Dan took a magic marker and wrote clear warnings on each side of the box. “DANGEROUS ANIMAL” and “DO NOT OPEN – ANGRY ANIMAL ENCLOSED” and, simply, “DANGER!” and the like.
When they arrived at the vet, Dan opened the trunk of his car and, as he stooped down to pick up the carton, his pants split down the rear seam; he was wide open to the world.
Now what? How to get the carton (which only now seemed to be much larger than it needed to be, the result being it was really unwieldy, especially for someone who also needed to camouflage or shield his exposed parts) into the waiting room.
A youngster hanging about nearby offered a possible solution, and quick-thinking Dan called him over. Offering him five dollars, he asked the kid if he would carry the carton into the hospital. Wise for his young age and appropriately suspicious, the kid surveyed the carton, his eyes widening more with each reading of the various warnings plastered on the sides, and he eventually asked warily “What’s in there!?”
Dan could only answer, in truth, but meekly nevertheless, “A cat.”
Incredulity finally led to belief: with the explanation of why his help was being enlisted, the youngster, whose eyes had returned to normal size, agreed to carry the carton and made away happily with the $5 after completing his task.
T the T has long since met his maker (to his maker’s chagrin, no doubt) but his legacy lived on in our household for a long time. Note: We did have to sell that sofa and move away to rid ourselves of the Twiggy stigma, but we finally regained our peace of mind.
There have been many cats along the way, from our first, Gardenias the Gentle, another gender-bent cat (another male who was also mistakenly given a girl’s name because of a “sexing error.”) Gardenias was a gem who opened our world — mine, my sister’s and brother’s — to the care and feeding of a live pet. Unlike T, Gardenias never seemed to mind his name.
And many years later we’re graced with the presence of Ketzl the King, who cares for us deeply now, and who proves it by walking all over us while we try to sleep.
T the T gave us a lot of grief while he was alive. In death, he provides a reason for me to behave, to be good: to be worthy and to do good deeds. Hell wasn’t all that much of a threat to me before T arrived. Now, however, I strive for upright holiness, as there’s no way in … well, hell … I would take the chance of having to spend eternity with him there.