Friday, August 1, 2014

Cool Cat

By Bettyann Moore

In this age of instant communication, are we really listening to each other?
The cat showed up on the day that Marsha Lyons was going to commit suicide. It was hard to tell exactly what color it was, so matted and filthy its fur had become. It was big, but skinny, that much Marsha could tell when she went out to feed the birds for the last time. It was hungry, too; it went right for the little pile of bread Marsha had put out, even though several birds flitted nearby.

“Too tired, huh?” Marsha said. “Yeah, I understand, trust me.”

The cat looked up at her with one green eye and one blue eye and meowed pitifully. Marsha started backing away.

“No, no way,” she told it. “I don’t need that kind of heartache.” She made a shooing motion with her hands and kept walking backwards. The cat sat down, but it didn’t run away.

“Good kitty,” Marsha said, “Just not today of all days, fella.” She finally reached the glass sliding patio door and hurried inside. The cat kept staring after her, despite the fact that a starling kept swooping close to its head. Marsha sighed. She’d been doing that a lot for the last six months. Sighing, crying, moaning and outright shouting at times, for all the good it did. She was still pathetically alone, unwanted and unloved.

To prove it to herself, she checked her Twitter account. She still had just five followers, four of which she’d never met in person; one was her hairdresser. She needed the business. No one had ever re-tweeted anything she had to say and probably wouldn’t now.

Marshmallow @marshalyons
The mangiest cat EVR just shwed up in my yrd! #GoAwayCat

DeliaBedelia @deliapooh
@marshalyons Awww, poor kitty! U R so cruel! #BeNice

Oh, that’s great, Marsha thought, now someone I don’t even know thinks I’m a jerk. She’d show her.

Marshmallow @marshalyons
@deliapooh It’s jst 2day I plan 2 kill myself. #NoTimeForCats

Marsha sat back and waited.

DeliaBedelia @deliapooh
@marshalyons Srsly? You have #NoTimeForCats? Love cats!

KatDoodle @katdoodle
@deliapooh @marshalyons Love cats, too! LOLCats 4evr! #CatsAreCool

“What the hell?” Marsha wondered aloud. “I say I’m going to kill myself and everyone goes ape over the cat?”

Marshmallow @marshalyons
@deliapooh @katdoodle U wldnt like this cat. It’s a mess!

As if it knew she was talking about it, the cat had positioned itself just outside the patio door and stared in at Marsha at the computer. She couldn’t hear it, but she could see its mouth opening and closing as it meowed. Another message pinged in.

DeliaBedelia @deliapooh
@marshalyons Call the SPCA! A vet! Did U feed it? #DontBeCruel

Retweeted by DeliaBedelia
RedFred @redfreddie
@deliapooh “Who’s the cat hatr UR following? I M #Contemptuous

Marsha groaned. “Oh, for cripessake!” she said, glaring out at the cat. “Now I’m a cat hater? Fine, I’ll feed the damn thing!” But first, her fingers flew furiously over the keyboard

Marshmallow @marshalyons
@deliapooh @redfreddie @katdoodle Going out to feed it now! #ThereFeelBetter?

Under the cat’s watchful eye, Marsha hurried to the kitchen and rummaged through the cupboards. She hadn’t planned on being around after today, so they were pretty bare. Finally, she came across a dust-covered can of tiny shrimp she’d planned on using for a party that never happened.

“You better appreciate this, cat,” she said, as she wrestled with the old manual can opener. She sniffed the contents; they seemed okay. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” she said, pulling open the sliding door. The cat was up and at the can even before she set it down. It started purring as it gobbled up the shrimp. Marsha took the time to look the creature over. It may or may not be white, she decided. Definitely a long-hair. It would take electric clippers to get through the mass of matted fur. The cat was licking out whatever remained in the can, causing a racket of metal on concrete. Satisfied she’d done her duty, Marsha headed back inside. The cat tried to follow.

“Oh, no you don’t!” Marsha cried, kicking her leg out to shoo it back. She slid open the door quickly and darted inside.

“Hell’s bells, now I’m in for it,” she said, going back to the computer to see what was waiting for her. “That cat will never leave now.”

DeliaBedelia @deliapooh
@marshalyons Good work! Poor thing was prolly strvng! #CatsRock

“Cats rock indeed,” Marsha muttered to herself. “This one’s rocking the patio door right now.” The cat was standing on its hind legs and using its nose and paws trying to slide open the door. It was a good thing the door was heavy.

Marshmallow @marshalyons
@deliapooh @redfreddie @katdoodle The cat’s trying to open the door! #NowWhat?

RedFred @redfreddie
@marshalyons Let it in!

DeliaBedelia @deliapooh
@marshalyons Let it in!
KatDoodle @katdoodle
@marshalyons Let it in!

MustangGrl @mustangGrl
@marshalyons Let it in!

“Who the heck is MustangGrl?” Marsha wondered aloud. She checked her followers list. Sure enough, she was a new follower. So was RedFreddie. This was a first.

Marshmallow @marshalyons
@deliapooh @redfreddie @katdoodle @mustangGrl I’m sure it’s full of fleas! #MattedMess

MustangGrl @mustangGrl
@marshalyons Take a pic. We want to see!

“You want a picture?” Marsha said to the computer. “Fine, I’ll give you a picture.” She grabbed her cell phone and went to the patio door. The cat had given up trying to open it, but it was still sitting just inches away. Rather than go outside, Marsha took the picture through the glass. One could easily see what a disaster the cat was.

Perturbed that the day wasn’t turning out like she’d planned, Marsha figured she might as well reinstate her Facebook account; it never really went away anyway. Her friend list was just as spotty as her Twitter followers – a few old high school acquaintances, a couple of Farmville players and Ms. Sherman, her college biology professor. Marsha felt sorry for the old gal. During her junior year Marsha had stood up for the professor at a university tribunal that accused her of drinking on the job. It was well-known that the woman had a problem, but she was the only academic who was actually kind to Marsha, who actually seemed to like her. Coming to her defense – lying through her teeth, more like – was the easily the best thing Marsha had ever done.

She uploaded the picture of the decrepit cat to both accounts.

As Marsha knew she would be, Ms. Sherman was the first to say something.

June Sherman commented on this
Oh, dear, Marsha! What’s the story on this poor creature? You have such a big heart to take in the little thing.

Marsha Lyons Um, haven’t exactly taken it in. It’s outside on the patio. I did feed it, though!

June Sherman Good for you! Will you be taking it to the vet? Looks like it could use it.

Marsha Lyons Gosh, I don’t know Ms. Sherman, vets cost a lot of money. And I’m not sure I really want a cat …

At that point, Ms. Sherman sent a private message.

June Sherman
My dear, please don’t worry about the expense! I would be ever so glad to take care of it for you. The poor dear can be taken to my vet; she’s wonderful and so gentle with cats. My little furballs just love her! My grandson is staying with me this week – I think you met him at a mixer, Bradley? – I’ll send him right over with a carrier to pick up the cat. Oh, I’m so glad I can do this for you!

“Crap!” Marsha cried. “Why don’t people listen to me?” Fine, she thought, this’ll even the score and make the old lady happy. Once she realizes that I’m not around to get the damn cat from the vet, she and nerdy Bradley can deal with it.

Marsha Lyons
That’s so sweet of you, Ms. Sherman! Tell Bradley to come around the back, would you? That’s where the cat hangs out.

June Sherman
Wonderful! I called my vet and she’s only too happy to accommodate me. Bradley’s on his way!

“Great,” Marsha muttered. She quickly checked Twitter – there was a slew of messages, more than she’d ever had before – then went to the patio door. The cat was still there, but lying on its side on the concrete.

“What’d you do, go and die on me? That wasn’t exactly how it was supposed to work,” Marsha said, rapping sharply on the glass. The cat, who’d only been resting in the sun, snapped to attention and started rubbing up against the door. Marsha pressed her forehead against the glass and rolled her head back and forth. She had to admit that the darkness that usually overtook her by now had been kept at bay with all the activity and attention. If only every day was that way …

Just then the cat arched its back and hissed. Though surprised, Marsha had to laugh; it looked just like a Halloween cut-out. Then she saw the cause; here came Bradley with a large cat carrier. He didn’t look any too happy to be hissed at. He looked different, more grown up. Marsha eased the door open and stepped outside.

“Hey, Bradley,” she said. “I guess this won’t be very easy, huh?”

“Hi, Marsha,” Bradley said. “No worries. Cats and I get along pretty well. This one’s a real mess, huh?” The cat had relaxed somewhat once Marsha came outside, but kept a wary eye on the young man.

“I brought a secret weapon,” Bradley said, setting the carrier down and opening it.

Marsha peered inside and saw a bowl filled with wet cat food. “Good idea,” she said. “This one seems to be starving.”

The cat put its nose in the air and sniffed. Slowly, it crept toward the carrier, then crouched down with its nose just inches from the open door. It looked up at Marsha, almost sadly, she thought, then dashed into the box. Bradley closed the door right behind it.

“Nice work,” Marsha said.

“Thanks,” Bradley said, looking proud and shy at the same time. “Oh, here, I almost forgot.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a card and handed it to her. “My grandma’s vet,” he said. “She said you should call her – the vet that is – later this afternoon. She should know something by then.”

“Oh, yeah, thanks.” Marsha tucked the card into her own back pocket as Bradley watched its progress. “So, uh, good to see you,” she said. “I guess maybe you should get this one to the vet, huh?” The cat had finished its snack and was starting to yowl.

“Right. Hey, this is really nice of you, taking in this cat. A lot of people would just let it starve or get eaten by coyotes – shoot it, even.”

Marsha blushed. “Just doing my civic duty,” she said, then thought, civic duty? What kind of BS is that? “Be sure to thank your grandmother again for me,” she added.

Bradley pulled on a long, thick glove and picked up the carrier. “Just in case it manages to get a claw out of a hole,” he said, glancing down at the glove.

“Another great idea,” Marsha said. “Well, see ya.”

Marsha – probably the whole neighborhood – could hear the animal caterwauling all the way to Bradley’s car. Once the door slammed, all was blessedly quiet again. Marsha ran back to her computer.

The day flew by as Marsha answered tons of tweets on Twitter and messages on Facebook. The picture of the cat and her good deed had been retweeted all over the place. Her friends and followers grew. She was happily exhausted by the time she pulled the card out of her pocket and called the vet.

“Oh, Ms. Lyons,” Dr. Hunter said, “I just did a final check on your cat and he’s doing just fine.”


“Yes, he’s a tom, I’d say about two years old. He’s a real sweetie.”

“Is he okay?”

“Oh, nothing major. Worms, of course, that goes with the stray cat territory, but those should be cleared up pretty quickly.”

Marsha shuddered. She hated worms of all types.

“My groomer had to sedate him to get him cleaned up,” the vet went on. “He really only had to shave the haunches and trim up some of the fur around the ears. Your boy has had a nice bath and looks very handsome.”

“This is going to sound strange,” Marsha said, “but what color is he?”

The vet laughed. “That’s not strange at all,” she said. “He was pretty dirty. He’s a beautiful, fluffy white.”

“Could you, you know, take a picture of him and email it to me?” Marsha asked. “Some, um, friends want to see him.”
“I can do that,” Dr. Hunter said, “but, actually, you can pick him up before 5 o’clock if you’d like.”

“Five o’clock today?” Marsha was surprised. “I don’t have food or a cat box ...”

“Oh, I fully understand,” the vet said. “Tomorrow morning would be fine, too. I just like to get my charges back into their homes as soon as possible. Less trauma that way.”

Not that he’s ever been in this home, Marsha thought. She’d hoped that the vet would keep the cat for at least a couple of days.

“I’ll send you a picture,” Dr. Hunter said. “Just give me your email address, and we’ll see you tomorrow morning!”

To say Marsha was surprised by the image that came into her mailbox would be an understatement. It didn’t look like the same cat at all. But, no, it was him; there were those funky eyes, one blue and one green. But they stared out of a big, white fluffball. He’s a bit skinny, Marsha thought, but what a difference a day can make. No one will believe this is the same cat.

On a whim, she opened her photo editing program and called in the two images. Side by side, the difference was even more amazing. She lined the two photos up in a single image and then decided to have a little fun by putting them into a frame and adding the words: FROM UNREFINED … TO FELINE SUBLIME. She saved the new image and tweeted it to her followers and posted it on Facebook. She added: It’s a boy! And he’s lookin’ fine.

The response was instantaneous and overwhelming. Tweets, retweets and messages poured in. It got to the point where she didn’t even bother responding to them all, except for one.

MustangGrl @mustangGrl
@marshalyons What’s his name?

Marsha only had to think for a second. The cat virtually named itself … himself.

Marshmallow @marshalyons
.@mustangrl Marshmallow Cat, of course! #MarshmallowCatRules!

She was mindful to put the period before the ampersand so that all of MustangGrl’s followers would see it as well. Before she’d quit her job, Marsha had worked in marketing.

She’d done it. Within an hour, #MarshmallowCatRules was actually trending nationwide. She didn’t dare hope for worldwide, but it felt so darn good. Her little feline – and she was now thinking of the cat as hers – was a celebrity.

“Duh!” Marsha said, hitting herself upside the head. She hurriedly checked to see if was taken. It was for sale, but to the tune of $2,100. She tried It was available for just $11.50 a year. She quickly calculated how much it would be to buy all of the domains: tv, com, net, etc. then entered her credit card information. Then she tried MyMarshmallowCat. It was also available. The credit card was almost maxed, but Marsha took a chance anyway. The cat was golden.

“Crap!” Marsha said, falling back into her chair. “The cat!” She checked the time. She didn’t need to get to the vet’s that night, but she was eager to lay claim to the white fluffball. It was 4 pm.; there was enough time to hit the store and get essentials, then go pick up the cat. She shifted into high gear. Today’s LOLCat could quickly become tomorrow’s MySpace.

It didn’t take long for MarshmallowCatRules to become a hit. When she wasn’t working on the Web site and creating new Marshmallow Cat memes (Marshmallow Cat’s Rules for Life practically wrote itself), Marsha tried to stay on top of Marshmallow’s fan mail. He even had his own Facebook page and Twitter handle. Marsha kept his 500,000+ followers up to date at least once a day. She did it with an odd blend of triumph mixed with jealousy. It would have helped if she even liked the cat, but she didn’t.

It was a battle from the beginning. Marshmallow yowled all the way home from the vet, setting Marsha’s nerves jangling. Once inside and freed from his carrier, the cat scooted across the floor and wedged itself behind the couch. He stayed there for two days. Marsha cajoled and pleaded, put food in a bowl nearby and talked softly, but to no avail. Finally, she gave up and decided to ignore him.

He eventually did come out, of course, and Marsha was ready with her camera. She became a cat stalker. She snapped pictures of him during the day – eating, sleeping, pooping, playing with string – then worked long into the night using the pictures to create catchy and often sarcastic sayings for the Web site. Other than feeding him, photographing him and changing Marshmallow’s cat box, Marsha didn’t have much to do with the cat. He didn’t seem to like her much, either.

His favorite game was to dart out of wherever he was hiding, dash between her ankles, then run like mad to hide. She’d taken a few tumbles and imagined the cat snickering as she dusted herself off. She took to walking slowly and gingerly like an old lady. The worst was when Marsha was sleeping. The cat would sneak up, leap high in the air and come down, hard, on Marsha’s stomach. She tried shutting him out of the bedroom, but he cried and scratched at the door all night. She took to keeping a squirt gun on her bedside table, but the cat had a knack for knowing when she was in her deepest sleep.

But, hey, she reasoned, the little demon was beginning to bring in money, real money. Companies clamored to advertise on the Web sites. Random people sent in donations. Marsha could barely keep the line of coffee mugs, t-shirts and posters stocked. She entertained the idea of hiring a publicist. After a late night talk show host called a particularly pasty-white politician to “Marshmallow Cat in a Brooks’ Brothers suit,” every cat food, cat litter and cat toy manufacturer started courting her. Marsha started a publicist hunt in earnest. Marshmallow Cat had become a brand. And to think, she actually had plans to kill herself before all this.

The interview on a national TV morning show would just be the icing on the cake.

MarshmallowCat @MarshmallowCatRules
Hey, peeps, watch @MorningView, 8 am EST Fri. & C urs trly! #MarshmallowCatHitsTheBigTime

Judging from the Twitter response, there was no doubt in Marsha’s mind that Morning View would see a huge uptick in viewers that day. Publicists would be seeking her out.

Still, there was the interview to get through. The producer insisted on doing a live remote from Marshmallow’s home. (Hey, it’s my home, too, Marsha thought.) It was just a three-minute segment, but how was she going to get the damn cat to like her for even that long? The producer had said something about how eager people would be to see Marshmallow curled up contentedly on Marsha’s lap. The closest the cat had ever come to Marsha’s lap was to use it as a springboard to get to the top of a bookcase. She wondered whether the producer expected Marshmallow to say pithy things during the segment as well. Maybe she could get the vet to give him a cat tranquilizer.

MarshmallowCat @MarshmallowCatRules
Just 5 hrs. til U get 2C me LIVE on @MorningView!

Marsha had to drag herself out of bed to post the early tweet. Marshmallow had succeeded in jumping on her soft middle twice the night before. She glared at the cat, who was peacefully lying curled up in a corner of the couch on one of her black sweaters.

“You should be typing this crap,” Marsha told him. “Oh, that’s right you don’t have opposable thumbs, thank the Lord.” She cackled, feeling especially spiteful and mean.

She fortified herself with a few cups of thick, black coffee, then scurried around to prep the house; the camera crew would be there by 6. Bradley, bless his heart, would be there for moral support. Thankfully, the cat kept sleeping, or she could never move that fast.

Although her hair was carefully coiffed and her makeup just right, by 5:45 Marsha was a frazzled jangle of nerves. Still, the cat slept on. At 5:59, however, that changed.

The doorbell rang and Marsha ran to the door. It was Bradley; she could see him through the door window. As if poked by Satan’s own searing pitchfork, Marshmallow shot awake, claws bared. He leapt off the couch and flew across the room. Just as Marsha reached the door, he ran between her feet, sending her through the window and slicing open her jugular.

MorningviewProducer @morningview
MMCat owner dies. BF will cont. MMCat. #FreakAccident

DeliaBedelia @deliapooh
Sry abt @marshalyons, but @marshmallowcat will go on!

RedFred @redfreddie
@deliahpooh Seen his latest? Hilarious!

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