Story and art by Jason Tudor
Many pets have owned me or my family over the course of four decades. “Another mouth to feed” never stood in the way of a canine or feline sharing space in our homes.
So goes the story of Rex, a kitten found wedged between a whitewall tire and the quarter-panel of a neighbor’s car in the Azores. Truth be told, I wasn’t looking for a cat, but why let the rain pour on it. I took it in, fed it and eventually, it continued to stay at my place.
Forking out a few bucks to ship him, Rex made the military move with me when I went from the islands to the middle of Georgia. He and I shared space in the house I rented shortly before my wife arrived. As an indoor-outdoor cat, he had run of the grounds and I let him in at night so the place wasn’t pindrop quiet.
One day, he stopped showing up.
Then another. Then, another.
Rex split. I figured he found a larger bowl of food. So, when my wife did arrive and we moved into a new place, my only thought was, “Geez, I hope I don’t find him pancaked in the road." I never did. And for good reason.
A bit less than 11 months later, my wife and I were enjoying a Saturday at home when we heard meowing at the front door. I opened it. There was Rex. Now, keep these three things in mind:
-- The new house we rented was better than five miles from the old place.
-- We had new cats, new scents and a whole different footprint at the new place
-- Rex had gained 417 pounds
Well, not 417, perhaps, but it did look like he swallowed a bowling ball. Like some fat cat plantation owner, Rex rolled into the living room and looked up as if to say in his best Foghorn Leghorn voice, “Feed me boy, I say, I say, feed me before I let go on the carpet here.”
Actual jaw dropped, I did, in fact, feed him and welcome him home. His grey, furry blubbery mass found its way around the new place just fine. Rex didn’t mess with the two new cats; ignored them, in fact, as he wobbled around, going in and out again, doing his business. Three cats wasn’t exactly what we had in mind with a baby due, but six days in, we figured we would tolerate things and see how they went.
Then on the seventh day, Rex disappeared. And never came back.
There’s probably no lesson here. Cats are weird, distorted little bands of reality with jeweled collars and snide looks like the one’s Sarah Jessica Parker makes sneering at a bad pair of Manolo Blahnik’s through the smoke of a Marlboro Light 100. One person’s cat is another person’s sacred idol is another person plate of Szechuan cooking. Or something like that.
Go easy, Rex. And lay off the Mars bars.
Jason Tudor is a writer, illustrator and co-host of the weekly podcast “The Science Fiction Show,” available on iTunes. His short story, “The Lives That Magda Made,” can be found in the anthology “No Rest forthe Wicked” available on Amazon. He lives in Europe with his wife, daughter, two guinea pigs and one cat. More can be found at www.jasontudor.com.