Twenty Minutes

08/28/2008 By Shawn Burns

We have a stained wooden chest with a hole cut in one end. Inside the chest is the litter box for our one and only remaining cat, Puck.

I’m pretty sure that I named Puck after Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and faerie lore. Emily is pretty sure that I named Puck after the hockey pucks that were shooting through Patrick Roy during the 1997 playoff series between the Avalanche and the eventual Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. In either case, it’s a good name.

Puck had a brother, Hector. Emily and I brought Hector home one day from a pet store where he was languishing in kitty jail with Puck, only a couple of weeks old and too young for the store to sell, but they had been found in an alleyway and were fed hamburger for a couple of days before being given to the owner of the store. Hector was adorable: a little black cat mewling for someone to take him home. So we did, paying a voluntary “adoption” fee (essentially buying him, but not according to the books the store kept). We didn’t bring Puck home at the time because we had housemates, and three cats in the house already (only one of them Emily’s) and we thought we could get away with one cute black kitten but probably not two. I named him Hector after Hector of Troy. A good name for a cat.

When our roommates met Hector, and then heard that there was another one who had been left behind they asked how we could do that. I was out the door before they had finished the question, and I snagged Puck from his wiry cage where he had been sitting all alone for twenty minutes, without his brother, already abandoned by his mother, and by the person who had been feeding him hamburger. I brought him home, and set him down next to his nearly identical brother, two black furballs mewling and confused.

Then we tied a red string around Hector’s neck to distinguish him from his brother, and nicknamed him Frenchie.

Puck never really figured out how to meow or how to cover his own crap. We nicknamed him Squeaker.

Hector died of renal failure last November, shortly after our other cat, Madison, also died.

Puck is alone again.

Hector was always the kitty-slut, jumping up into everyone’s lap, following us from room to room. He stayed slim and sleek his whole life.

Puck was always the terrified one. He would spend his time hiding under the bed when anyone came over. He used to flinch when we’d lean down to pet him, as though we’d been beating him. He had his affectionate moments, but he’s always seemed a little sad and put upon. He ballooned up to 22 lbs, outeating the other two by a wide margin and then not moving. I think that 20 minutes alone at the beginning of his life really affected him, and he’s never quite gotten over it.

Erin loves him.

He has no time at all for her. He is terrified of her and just wants to be left alone. From the moment she wakes up in the morning he hides under a bed. I usually keep the bedroom door closed so he can at least come out from under the bed at his leisure without Erin busting in on him.

I wish he weren’t so afraid of her. I wish she weren’t quite so exuberant. I also wish she were more subtle. When she began crawling she would try to sneak up on him, but get so excited when she got close that she’d shout “keeeee!!!” as she tried to snag his tail, and he’d bolt. She’s no more subtle now that she is walking.

Puck came out from under the bed a little while ago to use his litter box.

Erin espied him, snuck up to the hole in the end of the chest and announced “ki-eeeeee!!!”

And for the past twenty minutes she’s been running back and forth between me and the litter box, screaming for Puck to come out and love her. Puck hasn’t moved a muscle, except to hiss once.

I finally took pity on him and removed her from that side of the room. I’ve been coaxing him out of the box, but so far he’s content to hide.

Poor Squeaker.

Someday he will let Erin pet him. But not this day.