The cat was a clear-cut blackmail job. And Evil Granny had a hand in it big time.
As pretty much every only child I’ve been begging my parents for a brother or a sister ever since I started talking. I kinda wanted an older brother or a sister, but would have settled for a younger one as well… At some point the parents sat me down, and appealed to my senses (I’ve always been a very reasonable child). They took up the strategy that even the hard-core EU negotiators of today would be proud of, and demonstrated the value of having a young sibling to me first-hand. They put an orange in front of me – at that point in time any piece of fruit, regardless of ripeness, taste or the nutritional value thereof, was a priceless object of desire for me – and asked if I wanted it. No shit, Sherlock – like any malnourished Soviet child from the North I was ready to swallow said orange together with peel and seeds right there and then! I was then patiently explained, that if I were to have it right now, the whole fucking orange would be mine for the taking. If, however, I happened to have a sibling, and a younger one at that, I would be expected to share said orange with the little brother or sister I so much desired, thus having only half of it.
This was clear and simple enough and I quickly changed my story. I no longer wanted a little brother or a sister (orange stealers!), and started asking for a dog instead. I learned to read really early, and read in books about dogs being a man’s best friend. I was also smart enough to realize that as carnivores they shouldn’t be much into fruit and my oranges would be safe with them. Upon further contemplation, my 6-year old mind decided that I might possibly compromise on a cat, but would not budge any further.
Considering our limited accommodation situation (see the description of our communal digs in Part 1 – Uncle Sasha), my parents weren’t overly enthused about having anything or anyone else invade our living space and my demands for a cuddly pet were falling on deaf ears.
Being a quick-thinking and industrious child, I realize that if things were to move forward, I would have to take matters into my own hands.
The opportunity presented itself soon enough.
One day, we went with Evil Granny to the dairy shop to buy some milk, and there it was – my golden opportunity! In a shape of a very white, very fluffy and very big cat. Bingo!!! It did not take me too long to convince Evil Granny that the cat had to go with us. She was well aware of my parents’ opposition to pets, and must have been already gloating at their indignation, when she nonchalantly said “Sure”, and allowed me to grab the huge and suspiciously obliging cat into my arms and drag it home.
I was thrilled – not only did my dream finally come true, but it came true in the shape and form of a beauty that I could not have even imagined. The cat was magnificent – spotlessly white, blue-eyed, fluffy and very, very pregnant. Obviously, the latter moment completely escaped my 6-year old attention.
When my Mom came home from work, and I ran to hear screaming happily “Look who I got here!!!!!” this was the first thing she noticed – her daughter dragging along the corridor a gigantic animal, that was at risk of giving birth right there and then. She nearly had a heart attack, and this was the first time when I heard her swearing at Evil Granny, who pretended to be deaf and quickly hid in the toilet.
When my Dad came home, and was subjected to the demonstration of the pregnant cat by his daughter absolutely beaming with joy, the family council was called in. My parents locked themselves in the kitchen, and started devising strategic plans on getting rid of the white beauty before it produced 8 or 10 more. Evil Granny continued to hide in the bathroom, and Uncle Sasha was busy drinking, so they had to come up with the plan all by themselves.
I was oblivious to the conspiracy, and was busy trying to play with the cat, running back and forth along the corridor with a piece of newspaper tied to the end of a rope. The cat was sitting in the corner, panting, ignoring all my attempts at socializing and probably praying to feline Gods to let this little monster leave her alone. I was not easily disappointed, and spent the first evening in joyous oblivion, happily running along the corridor all by myself. I finally had company, and this was enough! The cat was just shy and needed time to get used to its’ new digs and the new friend.
My parents must have been good at psychology, or just happened to know their daughter really well. The plan devised behind the closed kitchen doors was as ingenious as it was cunning. Starting from the next morning, I started getting almost hourly updates from the dairy shop. They came through Mom and Dad, and even through Uncle Sasha, who was probably bribed to cooperate with potatoes and vodka. Evil Granny kept full neutrality on the subject, and did not get involved.
“I stopped by the dairy shop today to get milk, and the cat is being very much missed there!”, my Mom would say first thing as she came back home from work.
“Actually, the sales lady from the shop called earlier today,” my Dad would echo, “and asked if the cat was OK.”
“They really miss her so much, they keep crying that you took her away!” My Mom was trying to appeal to my sense of compassion. “Crying! ALL the time!...”
I was not really listening. I was busy trying to engage the cat in the games that I invented by the dozen. The cat was still sitting in the corner, looking docile and un-impressed.
“Uhm…. Yeah, they do miss the cat,” Uncle Sasha would put in his 5 cents through the cigarette smoke billowing from under his door to the approval glances from my parents.
My sense of compassion was still unresponsive, but after a couple of days I was starting to get annoyed with the cat. It just would not play with me!..
My parents did not attempt to explain the concepts of the late stages of feline pregnancy to a 6-year old, and stuck to their story – the cat was being very much missed in the dairy shop.
“And the cat must miss them too, this is why it does not want to play with you. It is sad, it misses home and its old friends!…”
They intentionally did not give the cat a name, fearing that this might be a potential first step to its settling in with us. Personally, I could not care less whether the ladies in the dairy shop were crying or not, but the cat not joining me in mad races along the corridor was a huge blow. My parents noticed my disappointment, and worked it like pros.
“Five more calls today from a dairy shop….” my Dad would say solemnly. “They said they could not work without the cat. They are too sad. And I think the cat feels it. It looks so sad, almost ready to cry.”
Blatant lie, but after a couple of days it started to sink in.
“Don’t you think we should take the cat back home, to the dairy shop, and make everybody happy?...”
When the key question was popped, I was ready to part with the cat. Not with my dream, though.
I put up a show of deep thinking (I would have thrown a tantrum, had I known how), cried a little, pretended to be deeply emotionally upset, and finally threw in my negotiation card on the table.
“If we bring the kitty back, what do I get in return?...”
My parents must have rehearsed this scenario as well, for I was very quickly promised a little kitten in replacement – a friend of friends’ cat just had kittens.
“A little kitten would play with you,” my parents assured. “It will be your real friend, and the cat will be happy to be back home.”
And so it was. The cat was escorted back to the dairy shop, where it spent the last days of pregnancy being pampered with cream, milk and cottage cheese, gave birth to a 10-kitten litter of fluffy white balls, which were almost immediately adopted by the shop staff and patrons, and continued living happily ever after without little monsters chasing it along the corridor.
A month later, my parents brought home a little fur-ball, that I unimaginatively called Tishka. He played with me all right, and developed an amazing ability to jump on the walls to an almost shoulder height, and slide along the wallpapers on his claws. I swear I did not train him to do this!
He grew to be a magnificent, long-haired and bushy-tailed cat, and lived to the ripe old age of 21. Throughout all these years we had shredded wallpapers and cat hair on our clothes and in our food and loved the cat dearly.