Be careful what you wish for…

* The following is an excerpt from Tennessee Tails:Pets and Their People.

The Mixed Metaphor

As I slogged through school, life continued to happen, with all its joys and challenges. There were days of loneliness when I longed for a companion, days of sorrow when I needed a cuddle. No one could doubt that I needed help. Be careful what you wish for, they say. Well, sometimes it’s probably good advice. On the other hand, even the occasional nightmare can be fun.

I had always wanted a Siamese kitten, exotic and beautiful, with its comical yowl and oversized personality. It was a wish deferred as I went from dorm room to pet-restricted apartment. When I finally became my own landlord, in a tiny mobile home with no roommate, everyone who knew me understood that the time had finally come for that cat.

As Christmas approached in my first year of vet school, my dear, sweet boyfriend (today my dearer, sweeter husband) longed to make my dream come true. He knew I had little time to search for fantasy kittens. At that time in my professional evolution, my life was in the classroom, absorbing the foundations of veterinary knowledge. Classes were like run-on sentences punctuated by laboratory time, in a process that (whether deliberately or just as a bonus) weeds out students who lack commitment or maybe just grit. It claimed all our attention and all our energy.

While my mind was reeling with images of embryos at all stages of development and with diagrams of anatomical structures in various species, my boyfriend in ordinary college slipped away on a kitten hunt. He knew he wanted a kitten that would be around weaning age at Christmas time. What he didn’t know was that cats tend to stop cycling in the winter, making Christmas kittens few and far between. In rural Mississippi, Siamese kittens are darned near impossible to find at any season.

As we all know, life is about compromise…

In my darling boyfriend’s single-minded determination to see me smile, he compromised “perfect seal point Siamese kitten from knowledgeable breeder” to “black farm kitten that may have some Siamese in him.” (When the kindhearted farmer told Shane that the kitten’s father might have been a Siamese, perhaps he was just trying to be helpful. After all, poor Shane did tell him he was on a desperate quest for a Siamese.)

The little creature he presented to me on Christmas Eve in a cardboard box was not exotic and beautiful, but he sure did have the yowl! He had a few other unique qualities that only made him all the more lovable to me.

He was long in body with big ears, a thick middle, and skinny legs. He was solid black with a few stray white hairs randomly scattered along his sides. You didn’t notice them until he was very close, but then he appeared to be frosted.

I thought he was the most perfect kitten I had ever seen, despite (or maybe because of) his “differences.”

He was not the ball of fluff that most kittens are; he looked a little like a bat. Kittens usually elicit coos and hugs; this kitten had a face that only a mother could love. My friends maintained a running joke that he was obviously somewhat inbred; they teased that he could be his own uncle.

Despite his questionable lineage, I loved him then with all my heart and today I miss him still.

As I clawed my way through vet school, the tiny black kitten became a cat. He lay across the pages of my textbooks while I studied. He scampered across my keyboard as I worked at my computer.

The more I tried to concentrate, the more absurd his antics seemed to become. He was a comic delight.

He would lie in wait under my couch, peering out around the skirt that hid its legs until one of my friends or study buddies would walk down the narrow hallway to the tiny bathroom, then he would dart out and attack their feet.

One classmate in particular, Angie, would sneak warily toward the hallway, look anxiously around, and only then make a break for the potty. She would squeal in surprise every time that black streak shot out like a spring-loaded weapon and wrapped his skinny paws around her ankles, pretending with gusto to gnaw at her leg. The room would dissolve into giggles at her predictable dismay and someone would go peel the cat from her leg.

The silly little comedian loved it when we laughed or giggled or did anything at all beyond our sedentary studying. He (rightfully) found vet student life quite dull and generously tried to enliven things for us at every opportunity. He was never going to let boredom deplete the energy and creativity he needed to keep us on our toes. He understood our need for levity and nobly rewarded it with the Crazy Cat Comedy Show.

If you want to know all that happened to Merlin, check out Tennessee Tails. (Don’t you hate it when authors do that???) It is available on Amazon  , paperback and Kindle and B& Trust me, it’s a good story!

I could insert my bio here, but you are already miffed with me that I did not tell all of Merlin’s story here. 🙂 So I am just going to say to check out my web site at Meow.


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