Behind the Scenes
The Story of My Cats as Told by My Cats
Our father is worried that if he lets us tell our story it will come out sounding like The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.
He’s worried if he lets us tell our story it will read as cute and sappy and that the people of the internet will ridicule him for it.
But our father needs to get over himself and you, you ridiculous people, so do you.
We were born under a house next to a Food Lion grocery store in Hertford County, North Carolina.
This is what we are told, we don’t remember this.
We have different colored hair, one is gray and one is black.
We had a brother but he died in the cage with us after we were captured by a man in a truck and driven to a fenced-in facility where there were other people who looked like us, all in cages.
We were given ‘D’ names when we were brought to the facility.
Diesel, Delta, and Dax.
Dax is our brother who died.
We don’t remember our birth parents.
The person in the cage above us was old and alone and no one wanted to adopt her.
The facility smelled bad and there were holes in the floor taped over with duct tape.
Our adoptive parents visited us a couple of times before they chose to take us home.
And they changed our names from Delta and Diesel to Tammy Wynette and Possum because our mother likes country music.
We changed their names from adoptive mother and adoptive father to mother and father.
Our mother has blonde hair and blue eyes.
Our father has brown hair and hazel eyes.
He didn’t want to adopt us.
Our mother wanted us and so she made the decision.
But at first it was only going to be for a few weeks.
Our father picked us up and took us home because our mother was at her insurance-selling job she hated so much.
Our father worked part time at a pharmacy.
He always finds a way to work part time.
He brought us home and played with us and sat us on his belly.
We had dead fleas in our hair and feces on our faces and we were very small.
Our mother came home from work and played with us too.
She didn’t want to leave us alone.
One day she noticed we were sneezing and wheezing when we were breathing.
Our father wasn’t worried about it but our mother was worried and took us to the vet.
We had respiratory infections and were prescribed clavamox which was a pink fluid that they injected down our throats.
Our father said it smelled like bubble gum.
After a few weeks our mother spoke to our father about keeping us longer.
She wanted to completely adopt us.
He was hesitant.
They went to California—where our father grew up—for Thanksgiving, but they didn’t take us with them.
Instead, they drove us down the street to our mother’s mother’s house.
Our grandmother was larger than our mother and our mother was worried she’d give us too much food.
So before she flew away in an airplane, our mother told her mother not to overfeed us because she didn’t want us to get large too.
Our grandmother told our mother to relax and that she would follow all of our mother’s instructions.
Our parents had a big fight when they were in California and when they came home we could tell something was wrong.
They came from different backgrounds, our father grew up near a Whole Foods and our mother didn’t.
So they were mad at each other but then they were mad at our grandmother because when they came to pick us up our bellies were swollen and we couldn’t run or jump the way we like to.
This was because our grandmother fed us as much as we wanted.
She kept our bowls full when she left the house and she liked to give us treats.
Our mother was disappointed in our grandmother.
They took us home and it took a week or two but they resolved whatever problem they’d had with each other in California and our bellies grew smaller and we could jump onto the bed again and onto the kitchen counter.
But then our father didn’t love us.
That’s what he said to our mother one night when they lay in bed.
And that’s the correct usage of ‘lay.’
We know how difficult it can be to get that right, the “lay vs. lie” thing.
But our father cares about things like that, he pays attention to things that don’t matter.
Anyway, as we were saying, one night our father whispered that he didn’t think he loved us or cared about us.
It was after a day when we’d both stepped in our own mess in the litter box and tracked it around the house.
He hated the smell and we did too but we weren’t sure how to not step in our mess yet.
And whenever we stepped in our mess our father immediately undressed and grabbed us by the scruffs of our necks and got in the shower with us and washed our paws with warm water and a soap that smelled like coconuts and he held our butts up to the shower faucet.
So it was after one of those days.
And another problem was he’d read online about a parasite that lives in cat feces called toxoplasma gondii.
Toxoplasma gondii can make a person angry and suicidal and at the time our father was angry and suicidal and so he blamed it on our feces and, in turn, on us.
Every time he slammed a kitchen cabinet shut he thought it was because of a parasite in his brain and every time he felt like life was too much he thought it was because of a parasite in his brain.
And he didn’t love us or care about us.
But then that turned out to not be true.
And we stuck around.
He got over his fear of cat feces and we learned how to not step in our mess.
And we had a good run for a while.
We lived in an old white falling apart house that was periodically infested with wasps and looked like it was haunted.
People broke into houses all the time in our neighborhood but they never broke into ours because of the way it looked on the outside.
And our parents trusted us.
They let us out into the yard when they came home from their jobs.
And we rolled around in the dirt and ate dragonflies and chased birds and one of us spent a lot of time in a shed while the other lay in the dirt.
Our father joked that one of us was holding conferences in the shed with all of the animals in the neighborhood.
Our mother bought us specialized collars from South Korea with our names and our mother’s cell phone number embroidered around them.
They tried to take us for a walk but we didn’t understand why there was something around our necks and one of us stood absolutely still and then fell over while the other squatted like a baseball catcher and dug her claws into the earth, our mother gently tugging on the leash.
Yes, we know about baseball catchers because this was the period of time when our father regressed and watched baseball every night the way he did when he was a boy.
This was probably because he didn’t have any friends other than our mother and two people can’t be expected to spend every second of every day with each other.
So he had to find a way to occupy himself and he chose baseball.
Probably because he missed home and when he watched San Francisco baseball games it reminded him of his home.
To tell you the truth, our father is an immature, sad, fearful sort of person.
He still celebrates his birthday.
We’re getting off track.
We liked living in North Carolina.
It’s nice to have a yard.
It’s nice when your father forgoes the leash and picks you up and puts you in his jacket and zips you up and walks you around the neighborhood.
It’s nice when your grandmother lives down the street and sometimes your parents go away for a while and leave you with her and she feeds you as much as you want.
It’s nice when your father comes home wearing a long white coat with coffee and spaghetti stains all over it and he tells your mother about the man with no legs who calls the phone everyday and has a high pitched voice and who, if he isn’t careful, is going to lose his arms too because he doesn’t take care of himself.
It’s nice to hear your mother tell your father about her Christian coworkers, especially Miss Linda who brings McDonald’s salads to work and pronounces the word like “sal-itt” and her boss who thinks it’s funny to tell our mother that one day he’s gonna have her wash his car.
You get the point.
We are country people and we liked living in the country.
I mean, we were born under a house next to a Food Lion grocery store, come on.
But our father was scheming.
We could tell by the look in his eyes.
He was claustrophobic in the country.
How does that happen?
How could someone be claustrophobic in a vast, sprawling, open, spacious landscape like northeastern North Carolina?
Look, we still don’t understand this about our father.
Maybe he wasn’t scheming.
But what it came down to was two things.
Our mother won thousands of dollars for writing stories.
And our father became obsessed with an old man writer.
And yes, we watched him go to the mailbox every week and come inside the house with a new book by the old man writer and then he’d go upstairs and we’d follow him and he’d go to his desk where he hardly wrote and we’d watch him reach above his desk to the bookshelf where he put all the old man writer’s books.
And what happened was he discovered that the old man was alive.
He’d found the old man writer’s phone number on the internet when he was at work not doing his job and he called the old man writer on his lunch break and the old man answered and our father hung up.
He was scared.
But he’d figured out where the old man lived.
And he wrote the old man a letter.
And the old man replied.
And the old man writer and the young man writer, our father, became acquaintances.
And one day when our father was at work not doing his job he emailed the old man writer and asked if he could visit him and interview him.
And the old man said yes, but it’d be the last time he’d let anyone interview him.
Okay, why are we telling this story?
This has nothing to do with us.
Our father loves this story but it has nothing to do with us and so we’re done with this part.
The point is, our parents visited the city where the old man writer lived so our father could interview the old man writer and they liked the city and it was a cheap place to live compared to other cities because for some reason everyone thought that if you moved to this city your life would be in danger.
But our mother had her new money and our father had his new old man writer friend.
Oh and our aunt Megan lived in the city too.
She was a young woman writer, like our mother but different.
So it was the new money and the old man writer and our aunt Megan and the cheapness of the city.
And when our parents returned to North Carolina and picked us up from our grandmother’s, they’d already decided in their heads that they were going to take us away from the only place we’d ever known.
They were going to take us away from the country.
And that’s what they did.
They took us away from the country and brought us to the city.
No more backyard shed conferences and dragonfly suppers.
No more grandmother down the street.
No more old falling apart house that looked like it was haunted.
They found a place to live in the new city.
They signed a lease with a nice landlord who owned a gun shop just outside of town and who believed everyone should own a machine gun.
They packed up the old house and put it in a truck.
And our mother drove the truck and our father drove his mother’s car.
Our father is a bad driver.
He sat down in the moving truck for less than a minute and knew he couldn’t do it.
When he drives he’s always nervous he’s going to kill someone or himself.
It’s no way to drive.
But we got in the car with him because there was no room for us in the moving truck with our mother.
We only had one crate and our father contemplated locking us away in there for the whole drive but at the last minute he decided he trusted us.
He let us sit in the car just like anyone else.
We never forgot that, that meant a lot to us.
And then we were off.
Our mother led the way in the big truck and our father followed close behind.
And when we reached the city where the president lives we decided that we wanted to sit on the brake pedal or the gas pedal–we weren’t sure which–but we wanted to be where our father’s feet were.
We tried and we tried and finally he picked us both up and threw us as hard as he could across the car and then he reached into a bag of snacks and threw the snacks at us to distract us and it worked for a while.
Our father kept telling us we were going to get us all killed.
We don’t know.
We were nervous.
And then we reached the old man writer’s city and the new house and our parents and aunt Megan and the guy from New Jersey who visited us once in North Carolina and another guy we’d never met moved all of our stuff into the apartment and all we had to do was stay out of the way.
Well, they put us in the bathroom.
And when they let us out of the bathroom we saw that our house was now crammed into a smaller house and that from now on we couldn’t call it a house.
We had to call it an apartment.
And what else?
The old man writer died not long after we moved to his city and it made our father cry because he’d hoped to spend more time talking with him.
And we learned that the old man writer liked people like us and that he actually lived with a person like us named Louis.
We felt sorry for Louis and our father reached out to the old man writer’s family to see if they needed someone to take care of Louis.
But the old man writer’s family embraced Louis.
Which was probably better for Louis and for us.
Our father makes rash decisions like that sometimes without thinking about us.
It would have been strange for us to have an older brother all of a sudden out of nowhere.
And then, it took awhile, but our parents found new jobs.
Our father got a job working at a bookstore which is what he did before he sold opiates.
And our mother got a job selling eyeglasses and clothes and wine and then she quit the eyeglasses and clothes jobs.
She sells wine now.
She wants to get a job teaching writing at a college and our father wants her to get that job too so that he can freeload off her because he thinks he can work part time at a bookstore for his entire life and it’ll be okay.
But what do we do?
Our mother bought us a jungle gym with her new money.
So we sit on our jungle gym and look out the windows at the people in the street.
We watch our parents waste their lives looking at computer screens and books.
We sleep on the couches and in the armchair and on the floor and under the bed in the back room.
At night they put us away in the bathroom so we don’t wake them up.
One of us has bladder stones so he eats a special pâté while the other eats Rachael Ray wet food cups and kibble.
We still use a box when we go to the bathroom and our parents still scoop all of the stuff out and put it in a bag and throw it away and that will probably never change.
We scratch each other in the face and chase each other down the hall and back.
We sit in the sink and lick the peanut butter off the knives and drink the watery milk from the cereal bowls and clean the polenta from the plates.
Our father holds us in his lap and clips our claws.
We cry and we purr.
We live in an apartment.
In the city of the old man writer.