On the second of July, two furry critters came to our house to foster. I've been referring to them as "Bruce's cats" because that's who they were. Jenna the Yarn Pimp just smiles at me and reminds me that they aren't Bruce's cats anymore.
Patty, Bruce's sister, has not yet made a final decision. But the boys have been here for more than 100 days. For the first month, they hid in the basement. From Brûlée's clever choice of hiding spots, I could tell he was the criminal mastermind. Vincent just looks good on the wanted posters. Brûlée tended to hide on the bottom shelf of the holiday decorations or on a three-quarter-filled shelf of books. He would lurk behind the Star Wars novels, and then come out to have his nose and forehead rubbed if he deemed it safe enough. Vincent would cower in the corner, figuring that with his dark fur, he would just blend in and become invisible. He doesn't so much blend in as resemble a cat-shaped quantum singularity -- a vaguely cat-shaped darkness. I referred to him as the special-ops ninja. And when he ran from cover to cover, he slinked across the floor with his tail low in very good imitation of an alien face hugger.
After the Wisconsin trip, a dear friend gave me a Feliway diffuser. I set that up in the kitchen. I moved the food bowl up the stairs every couple days until the cats had to go through the pet door and into the kitchen if they wanted to eat. Brûlée started coming upstairs and tentatively exploring. Vincent continued to hide. But Vincent is a very food-oriented animal, particularly when it comes to tuna fish. Every couple days, I would leave a plate of tuna somewhere on the kitchen floor. It would mysteriously clean itself!
Brûlée and I hit it off pretty well. He isn't Copernicus, but he could be a first or second cousin. His coloring is similar but not identical. He is just a little more stocky and his eyes are just a little more widely-spaced, but it is easy to mistake him for The Dude. He has the athleticism, intelligence, and curiosity that I loved about Copernicus, although he is not interested in acquiring minions or developing his own cult. And he has a beautiful, soft, thick, scrumptious coat. As Brûlée becomes more and more comfortable with us, he is less and less worried about getting in trouble. He freely explores. He freely demonstrates his skills both in athletics and in the deadly arts. And he freely attacks the plant in the living room. I don't know what that plant said or did to Brûlée, but it had better make amends soon. Brûlée also hates avian miscreants, and is very good at tearing feathers out of the cat toys. And he loves dangly cat toys. I may need to make something with fringe just so he can attack it.
By September, Brûlée was no longer living in the basement. He was hanging out upstairs and even sleeping in the bedroom. He was waking us up in the morning and sometimes sleeping in bed with us at night. And he was doing this adorable bit where he walks over and then rolls sideways on the floor as an invitation to have his cheeks, nose, and forehead scratched. (In airplane terms, he loses roll control.) Vincent was wondering about his buddy's absence, and began to appear upstairs more and more, always with a very tentative posture and always disappearing down the cat door at the first unfamiliar sound. While he was living in the basement, I had put a fleece blanket in his favorite corner. I didn't want him sleeping on the cold floor all the time. When the flooding occurred, we got a little bit of water in our basement. The blanket got wet, so I ran it through the washer and dryer, then folded it and left it on top of the washer along with some dirty laundry that was waiting for a full load. I discovered Vincent a few days later, sleeping on as much of the blanket as he could uncover. Poor thing! And neither cat claimed either Sophia's pet bed or Copernicus' hidey-hole. So I moved the pet bed to the studio, where it affords a nice view of the bird feeder. And I put the fleece blanket over the pet bed. Vincent quickly figured out this was a special place meant for him.
So between the fleece blanket and the tuna fish, Vincent decided that maybe he wasn't in a prisoner of war camp after all. Neither cat reminds me of Sophia, with her what's-in-it-for-me attitude. Vincent reminds me of Figgy, a Himalayan cat that belonged to my mother for seventeen years. Figgy was a delicate little sweet fluff ball, but not very bright. Like the song from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, all she was was lovely. Vincent has a higher intelligence than Figgy, but he is basically just a big sweet lovely fluff ball. He will come up and press his rather pointy nose against your hand in an attempt to get you to pet him. And then he looks up with his sweet pointy face and bright little eyes like a Muppet. I believe Bruce acquired him on the vet trip when Brûlée was still a kitten. I'm sure that Vincent was little more than a puffball of a tribble. But Vincent is also pretty good about commands and gestures. He knows "come" as a gesture, as well as "hop down" and "hop up." But he does not seem to understand the commands as well if they are only verbal -- he needs the gesture to complete the cue.
Vincent has become "The Big Vince," "da Vincy," "Mr. Black Velvet," "The Big Black Love Machine," or simply "The Blob." Brûlée is the "Sweet Boy" or "Mr. Chaos" or "the Red Paws of Trouble."
And so, over the course of three months, our home is reaching a new normal that in some important ways resembles the old. I still miss Copernicus and Sophia. But now I find that Brûlée and Vincent seem to be where I am. If I sit on the couch to knit, I am quickly greeted. Vincent has taken to sleeping on my end of the couch. One night he was almost in my lap before I had finished getting comfortable, he was so eager to cuddle. Brûlée seems a little jealous at times, so I need to keep reminding him that he's a fine fellow. Sometimes he'll be next to me on the couch, but other times he is in gargoyle position on the bar, which affords him a predator's-eye view of the living room. And in the past week, Vincent has finally started joining us upstairs at bedtime. So just as the chilly autumn weather begins, our bed is warm and crowded again.