It’s every twelve-year-old girl’s dream that The Boy will liken her to his favorite celebrity.
I lived the dream…but it took a short-whiskered cat, twenty years later, to make me see just how downright dweamy it all was.
Our setting is after-school Bible Club at a rural NY middle school, c. 1993. Dustin was the boy for whom I wore my brightest neon Benetton sweatshirts. Dustin was the boy I wanted to dance with by the light of the silvery moon (or at least the cafeteria florescence). Dustin was The Boy.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was nattering on, 800 words per minute, about something important like shoes. No sooner had the word espadrilles come out of my mouth, than Dustin jabbed his finger in the air and cut me off.
“Oh my gosh! The way you said that, espadrilles – do you know who you remind me of? I was just watching TV and you sound exactly like her! Oh my gosh!” (Bible Club kids say “gosh” a lot. Even when we’re on the cusp of 32. But I digress.)
“Who?” Every fiber of my being prepared to illuminate. Would he say Cindy Crawford? Winona Ryder? Maybe at least a pretty girl from a shampoo commercial?
The Boy grinned widely as he announced my clone: “EEK THE CAT!”
The cartoon cat.
The cartoon cat who was not even female.
The purplish male cartoon cat shaped like a potato, with crinkly short whiskers.
May the romancing skills of 12-year-old boys never be overestimated again.
If I was less than flattered, I just didn’t know what a compliment this would become a couple of decades later.
It turns out Eek the cat is not the only Eek the cat to:
a) Have crinkly short whiskers
b) Share a body type with large tubers
c) Radiate unadulterated awesomeness
d) Be an individual with whom any one of us should be proud to be compared.
The non-purple Eek resides at Tabby’s Place, and came to us from the same shelter as Chrissy and Harvest. Like Chrissy, Eek makes her scene in Suite A. This is a realm that has come to share copious qualities with your average middle school: shy advances. Angst. Social awkwardness. Strange odors.
By no conscious decision, Eek’s Suite A has become the central hub for most of our people-shy cats. You’ve already met Dobro and his horde. Even the more human-interested members of the suite, like Pansy and Petunia, take a bit longer than your average Suite B maniac to throw themselves at you.
Isn’t that just like a middle schooler.
Eek would seem no different – at least, initially. Approach that round, crinkly-whiskered face too quickly and you’ll get a frightened flash of dilated eyes, then a whoosh of enormous black fur as she runs for cover. (Our Eek is female – which is all the proof I need to know that this is the Eek to whom The Boy meant to compare me.) You don’t overwhelm a tween with over-eager advances. You don’t invite misunderstanding by rushing in. You don’t rip open a new bud.
You let the short-whiskered wonder bloom…and she does.
Squish on down to Eek’s level (the floor-level cubbies are her favorites), down where a potato might grow, and wait, hand outstretched with no expectations. Next thing you know, a comically-short, bristly whisker will brush your fingers. Sit just long enough, talk in just sweet-enough tones, and you’ll get a nice big potato of a head rubbing into you with gusto and a gentle purr.
At twelve years old, Eek would be the right age for middle school if she were a human – but the truth is that she’s no teenybopper. As usual, Eek’s pre-Tabby’s Place story is a closed book to us. We know that she was declawed, on all four paws (why??!). We know that her whiskers are short and (fabulously) funny, though we don’t know why. We know that she made it to a shelter. And we know that the shelter’s human beans loved her enough to grant her one of their three goin’-to-Tabby’s-Place slots.
Beyond that, all we know is her love – hesitant, then whole-hearted.
Whatever she knew before, Eek has forgiven humanity its indignities. Her initial caution isn’t unfounded, but she clearly believes the love of people is still a worthy cause.
And she’ll keep believing and bravely loving right up to the day when she meets The Adopter. The one for whom she’ll let out her silliest rub-my-belly glee. The one she’ll snuggle with by the light of The Big Bang Theory. The Adopter.
I’m proud of any way I share your spirit, Eek – even if it’s only when I say “espadrilles.”
Photo credits, from top: Unknown PWhIM (Person Who Isn’t Me, reveal yourself! Fanielle? Jess? DUSTIN?); unknown; Jess and then some more Jess.