I didn't want a cat. I liked cats, but I was a single newspaper reporter working odd hours, and I figured I didn't need to be responsible for another life at that time.
"That's OK," the cat-man said. "Here, why don't you hold one for a minute?"
So I took two of them home with me that night. (Like that's never happened to you before...quit laughing.)
To me, the most important decision to make with these kittens was in the naming. They must have cool names. In fact, I have made that a priority with regard to all subsequent pets. I think cats respect you more if you give them a cool name.
The previous weekend, I had watched the Blues Brothers movie (again), and so, after briefly considering the names Sam and Dave, I dubbed the kittens Jake and Elwood.
I understood that it was also important to take them to the vet, for shots and whatnot, so we made that trip two days later.
"Son," the vet began, as he held Jake and peered at his underside, "these are girl-cats, not boy-cats."
Oh. I hadn't looked at their junk before I named them.
"You want to change their names?"
"No, I think I'll leave 'em Jake and Elwood. A name change might confuse them."
And so the adventures of Jake and Elwood began.
Strong-willed. Charismatic. Innovative. They ran out of superlatives for Jake. He was the brains of the two-cat team. (You'll notice that I refer to Jake and Elwood as male throughout. Sue me.)
Jake was the alpha-cat, and while he made sure Elwood knew his place, he was fiercely protective of his brother.
I used to keep a small squirt bottle handy, and I would squirt the cats if they were doing something gross or evil.
One day that squirt bottle disappeared, and I never found it. Pretty sure Jake laughed about this behind my back.
Jake later served two terms in the Oklahoma Legislature, earning accolades for his common sense approach to government. He abandoned a bid for Governor when he found out that cats were not allowed in the Governor's mansion.
Blessed with the heart of a champion, Jake was let down by sub-standard kidneys. He died at age 7.
I knew Elwood was special the first night I brought him home. Elwood stood in the corner of my living room and meowed at the wall for about an hour before turning around and noticing the rest of the room. He'd been in that box a long time, I guess.
There are many stories like this about Elwood. The time he got lost under the bed. The time he got lost in the bathroom. The (many) times he couldn't find the litterbox. The time he caught a mouse but didn't know what to do with it (the mouse escaped, laughing hysterically).
Elwood followed Jake everywhere, no matter what the scheme. They ate a credit card I left on the counter. They chewed through the ground wire on my stereo turntable (yes, this is an old story).
I used to wake up in the middle of the night to find the two cats sitting on the bed, side by side, staring at me. Try to go back to sleep after that...
Blessed with none of the superlatives bestowed on Jake, Elwood nevertheless had good kidneys. He lived to be 10, and found his true purpose in life when William was born.
Postscript: In my constant search for front-page "art" for the El Reno Daily Tribune, I took the above black-and-white photos of Jake and Elwood. They both appeared on the front page of separate editions. This angered the publisher enough that she banned future use of staff members' pets as "art."
Next time: The Case of the Missing Lips