by Brian Clarey
We knew something was up with Tony.
Tony’s our fattest cat, one of four born underneath my daughter’s bed a few years ago, one of three that survived the first 24 hours of life and one of two, along with his brother Axl, that we kept. A sister, Ming-Sha, lives with Jordan Green and his family. Their mother, Marci, lives with us in the house. Their father, an enormous striped gray tom that we took to calling Paul when he started slinking around the backyard, has not been seen on our property since the act of procreation that gave us all of these cats.
Tony’s always been the lap cat, the nuzzling cat, the guy who sleeps by your feet and wakes you up with his nose. But he stopped doing that a few months ago, preferring to spend his nights outside, right around the same time he started becoming… well, fat. Heavy like a suitcase full of comic books, big around like a tree trunk. It looked like his tail was getting shorter.
I suppose we were in denial right up until the moment, after one of his overnight absences, he ran up to us in the backyard wearing a new collar. Tony hated collars, always tore them off within an hour or so of putting it on. But here he was, in a bright yellow collar. With a bell on it, no less.
Tony doesn’t wear bells. Tony kills birds.
After a little detective work, we traced Tony to his second family at a brick ranch house a few blocks away, where lived a woman who told us that she’d been feeding him twice a day, which is twice as much feeding as he gets at home.
It explained why he spent so much time over there, why he put up with the collar and why he grew as big as a raccoon.
Meanwhile his brother Axl dragged a baby chipmunk into the house this morning, then tortured, murdered and disemboweled it in front of all of as we drank our morning coffee.
And there’s been a new stray creeping around the yard, a petite orange tabby with ear scars and dirty fur who ventures a little closer to our backdoor every day. He may be family — he’s got the thick, ringed tail that my cats share, and tufts near his ears and leg joints. I can tell just by looking at him who his father is.
Paul the cat really gets around.