It had been a long time coming, and I finally acquired the kitten of my dreams. FlickerPiss, the cream cheese brownie cat I had been dreaming about and searching for for years, finally came from the North Shore animal shelter on Long Island to live with me in my brownstone basement apartment in Greenwich Village. A dream come true, FlickerPiss was the apple of my eye, the pomegranate of my heart.
Until it happened.
A three month old kitten, full of unbridled energy and unfailing curiosity, FlickerPiss one day happened upon the box of ashes containing the remains of my father, who had been an eminent art historian and prolific teacher of considerable renown. I had decided to have a box custom made for his ashes several years ago, after seeing the perfect one in Rizzoli’s Bookstore in SoHo. In a glass case, the store had on display a small 8”x 4” box covered with neo-Renaissance patterns and configurations, and not wanting to divide my father into three distinct parts, I contacted the makers of these boxes through Rizzoli’s wholesale outlet, and they happily agreed to custom make me a permanent, appropriate sized home for my Dad.
The box arrived Fed Ex several weeks later, and everything was fine – until FlickerPiss decided to investigate, as cats are wont to do, the new addition sitting atop the low book shelf. Why FlickerPiss never chose to check out the other objects on the shelf – a wooden statuette of St. Luke, a vase containing 30-year-old dusty peacock feathers, and a miniature troll with a pug nose and magenta hair – I’ll never know. What I do know is that she immediately beelined toward the box – after which there was no turning back.
FlickerPiss was housebroken. Minus the occasional “accident” all kittens are prone to now and then, FlickerPiss had no problem remembering where the kitty pan was and what it was for.
I’m still not sure how it happened, exactly. FlickerPiss’ body weight was too light to do any serious damage when it came to knocking things off shelf tops and flat surfaces.
Or so I thought.
My back must have been turned for a mere moment at most, when suddenly there was a loud crash. I hurriedly ran over to the site of the sound and began examining the wreck. I stood horrified. Not because a prized antique had perished with the swoop of a kitten’s paw, but precisely because the thing that lay in a glassy, cracked heap was my Dad. And his house.
I didn’t know whether to kill the cat or kill myself for allowing this disaster to happen. I hadn’t imagined in a million years that such a thing would occur, or have even been a possibility.
As I stood amongst the wreckage, in shock, dazed and experiencing wave upon wave of tumultuous baffling emotion, FlickerPiss timidly emerged from wherever she had been hiding. She began sniffing around the ashes and broken glass that were still sitting on the floor (in my rage and confusion I hadn’t begun to decide what the best thing to do with the remains of both house and Dad would be).
Then the unthinkable began happening.
The cat began to swipe gingerly at the ashes, preparing for its daily evacuation. I was appalled. I fiercely picked FlickerPiss up with one hand, and all but hurled the cat head-on into the wall. Coming to my senses, I stopped myself. She was only a kitten, after all. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And I remembered one thing. My father always loved animals.