But seven years ago was different. After sending so many pets to the pound, I decided the time was right to step up to the plate and do the right thing. I aimed to take one of these poor thingsinto my home and give it the best life I could. The missus thought it was a fine idea, said she’d always wanted a cat. This was news to me, but I decided not to make an issue. She then went on to tell me that if they happened to have a white cat, that would be just ‘bout perfect.
I had a working relationship with several employees of our local pound by this time, as I said, so I get on the phone and started the process. Lawd, was they glad to hear from me! Seems they had about all the strays they could handle. All I had to do was pay for shots and neutering—which they said they’d attend to right away—and I would be the proud owner of an animal that needed a home.
“Do you happen to have a white cat? I ask ‘cause my wife fancies a white cat more than the rest.”
Belle Mathis, the kind woman I was talking to on the phone, said they had two white cats, both in good health.
“Well! Would you be so kind as to pick out one you think I’ll like and set it aside for me? It’ll be tomorrow before I can get down there.”
“Sure thing, Ralph. We’re here till five, every day.”
I decided this would make for a fine holiday! Come Christmas eve, we’d cozy up on the couch with a hot toddy and a thick blanket a white cat in our lap and watch A Wonderful Life for the hundredth time. Lawd! I was feelin’ better ‘bout myself, just thinkin’ bout it.
The next day was the 23rd of December, which would work out nice. It’d give us a whole day to get accustomed to our new trailer-mate, and vice versa. By the next day, I figured, we’d be thick as thieves. Soon we’d be fightin’ over whose lap the cat would sleep in.
After lunch, the following day, I drove down to the south end of town, where the pound is, and presented myself to the aforementioned Belle.
“Hey, Ralph. Merry Christmas!”
“Thank you, Belle. Merry Christmas to you, too. Have you got somebody for me to meet?”
“I do. Come with me.”
We walked into the next room, then through another door that led to a small porch. On the porch, sittin’ on a box of paper towels, was the whitest cat I’d ever seen. The darn thing almost glowed. I was expecting a smaller cat, since this one had been abandoned, but the durn thing was huge, easily ten pounds if an ounce.
Belle said, “We don’t know his name, but we’ve been calling him Snowball. He doesn’t seem to mind it.”
“Snowball, huh? It sure suits him. Is he friendly?”
There was a slight pause before Belle answered, but I thought she was just lookin’ for the right words. “Umm, he’s a character, alright. He’s kind of a loner, though. The other cats don’t bother with him too much.”
Friends, hindsight is 20/20. In that one sentence she gave me all I needed to know about the proud and noble Snowball, but I wasn’t listenin’. All I could hear was the cooing my wife was gonna be doin’ not long after she laid eyes on this fine specimen of cathood.
I felt even better when I signed on the dotted line, after partin’ with a lot less money than I’d feared. I had to promise there’d be regular visits to the veterinarian on another piece of paper, and that was that.
To my surprise, Belle insisted that Snowball make the three mile ride to Shady Acres in a crate. When I asked why, she said a lot of cats don’t like ridin’ in cars.
“You know best,” I said.
“You can return the crate the first chance you get. No rush.”
She spoke kindly to the giant cat, then left the room. I thought this would be an ideal time to get a head start on the missus, as far as winnin’ the affections of Snowball was concerned. I spoke in similar tones to what I’d heard Belle use, squattin’ down as best I could. Sadly, squattin’ is no longer somethin’ I can do as easy as I once did, so I decided the best course would be to sit on the floor. (If worse came to worse, Belle could help me up.)
I plopped down on the floor with a thud, then slid on my hindside, gettin’ close enough to reach Snowball. I had enough sense to talk first, as opposed to just stickin’ out my paws and scratchin’ an ear.
“Hey there. What do you say to comin’ to our house? We’ll keep you warm and fed, you can count on it.”
I watched Snowball’s eyes closely, lookin’ for signs he was takin’ to me. He just stared, still as a statue, givin’ no clue whatsoever as to his ideas on livin’ with me.
“You’ll love my missus. Lawd, you will! She cooks from dawn t’ dark. Makes me do the dishes but that’s okay. You’d do ‘em too if it meant gettin’ to eat her pot roast.”
I thought for a second I’d got through to him with my talk of how fat he’d be in a year. He cocked his head a little. Seemed like a good sign to me, so I decided to offer my hand to his coat, to let him know that I was nothin’ but a friend.
The onliest warning I got was a low rumblin’ sound that I wasn’t even sure I’d heard. Then came the Feline Apocalypse.
My hand had almost completed its journey to Snowball’s back when he revealed his true nature. He slapped at my unsuspectin’ digits with three incredibly effective claws, and with a speed I had no defense for. The pain was instant and the blood followed, slow at first, then, ten seconds later, in drips.
Snowball, after deliverin’ his verdict on my character, stood with his left front leg in the air, ready to strike again. I cursed a blue streak (I’m not proud of the things I said, truly) before grabbin’ my handkerchief from my back pocket and wrappin’ my hand with it. In my addled state, I thought the fault was mine. I’d been too eager to make friends, and I tol’ Snowball as much.
He didn’t preshate my diplomatic skills.
For reasons I cain’t name, Snowball took great exception to my kind words. He let loose another growl, one that I had no trouble hearin’. Then, to my utter amazement, he decided a frontal assault was the only path available. He jumped straight for my face, and since my face was only a couple feet away, he had no trouble landin’ on it.
It was kinda like a hug, in the strictest sense. His claws found an ear and a cheek bone, and clamped on tight. With my face as leverage, he used his back paws to rake my throat and chest with a series of ingenious blows, delivered faster than I can tell it. I think the demon-cat may have bit me, too, but I was too worried about my carotid arteries to be certain.
The attack was over as quick as it started. I’d fallen backwards in my desire to remove myself from Snowballs embrace and was layin’ on my side when Belle came back. I cain’t say with total assurance, but I think Snowball made a break for it as soon as Belle opened the door. I never saw the beast again, thank God.
My face musta been a scary sight. Belle all but screamed when she saw me sprawled out. She sounded like a mad cat herself for a minute, but she didn’t lose her bearings. She ran out of the room and back in nothin’ flat. She brought a first-aid kit, and with a skill of a seasoned pro she tended to my wounds. Not a one was as bad as it looked, I’m glad to report, and, thanks to Belle’s advice, none of ‘em got infected.
My troubles didn’t end there, since I had to break the news to the missus that her dream of pet-ownership would have to wait, at least till I got the nerve for another attempt.
The wait has been seven years and countin’.