You know it’s autumn when you suddenly see galumphing hordes of gourds.
Gourds at roadside stands. Gourds in the supermarket. Gourds in disturbingly-perfect centerpieces on Pinterest.
Gourds in Suite FIV.
I do not, of course, mean this literally. Suite FIV contains cats, not funny little vegetables. But our FIV+ cats have more than a few things in common with those blobular orange, yellow and green squashes that look like pumpkins’ cousins from outer space.
As a wee little girl, I delighted in gourds. Pumpkins were all well and good in their perfectly orange, perfectly rounded pleasantries. But gourds were exquisitely imperfect, inscrutable and odd. They had warts. They had bits and bobs that seemed to serve no purpose. They came in strange colors and didn’t even match themselves. No two were even remotely alike, and each fall I’d spend hours picking through the local farm’s gourd hoard for the ones whose oddness was just right.
Just-right oddness is nowhere on bolder display than in Suite FIV at Tabby’s Place. And, this gourd season, the FIV+ boys are in rare form.
There’s Hobbes, approximately 170 years old, serene as a Thomas Kinkade painting despite coming to us amidst a perfect storm. As one of Tabby’s Place’s Hurricane Sandy cats, Hobbes has been tempest-tossed by weather, FIV, diabetes and multiple bouts of ringworm. Yet still the old man smiles — literally smiles — 100% of the time.
All this smiling is just fine by Edward, the suite’s longest-time resident. Since Hobbes has no dreams of power and domination, and no problem smiling through Edward’s strutting, the old man suits Edward just fine.
In fact, Edward — generally no fan of “the great unwashed” that is other cats — has repeatedly been seen sharing a bed with Hobbes recently. It seems the king and the old man commiserate in their avoidance of the new power-broker in Suite FIV: Dre.
The sunshine-orange tabby with the rapping moniker is an angel with people, but if you’re feline, you’ll need a doctor after tangling with Dre. (Case in point: Buddy actually needed eye medication after Dre scratched his cornea.)
Being completely under the red boy’s spell, I cannot speak ill of Dre and will only blame his bad-boy behavior on the fact that he’s a teenager in a room full of aging men.* (Plus Mona and JuJu, but being wise women, they stay away from all this buffoonery.) You’ve gotta feel for Dre. Imagine being 14 years old and having to live with seven Archie Bunkers who just want to eat pork rinds and watch reruns of Charles in Charge all day. You might want to bust some heads, too, under those circumstances.
Or you might just want to say Arrrrrrrrrrrrrr. That’s the response of choice for Jean Valjean. Our panther-like tabby is a class act who abhors fighting, but he’s found a way to make his displeasure known. Stretching his long body across all the toys in his suite, Valjean will let out a breathless low-grade growl in all directions. I will not lower myself to your foolery, Dre, he growls, but neither will I let you believe it’s okay. It’s NOT OKAY. And, while we’re at it, ALL THESE TOYS ARE BELONG TO ME.
Someone has to keep these crazy beans in line, and Valjean has clearly taken it as his solemn duty. So we let him believe he’s the Wyatt Earp of the suite, even if he is more like Deputy Dawg.
Yet, growls and scratched corneas and sauciness and all, these gourdy guys somehow make it work. Yes, sometimes their lumps and bumps rub each other the wrong way. Sometimes they take swings — metaphorical and otherwise — at perceived slights and imperfections.
But usually — amazingly — their crazy, clashing colors come together as beautifully as a bowl of gourds in a Martha Stewart display. They are all so different, all so exquisitely imperfect, inscrutable and odd. And, make no mistake: they are all loving life every single day.
Once a human enters the room, Dre drops all pretenses of being a bruiser. He is the first and only cat I’ve met who can successfully climb into your lap while you are standing up straight and walking. (I am not making this up.)
If you sit down, Hobbes will join Dre in your lap, and they’ll both be so happy they’ll ignore one another to rejoice in your love.
Talk to him about his feelings and pet his majestic head, and Jean Valjean will turn off the growl for a happier kind of rumble.
And, if you catch the lads in an unguarded moment, you just might see some miracles: Buddy cuddling Newman. Edward grooming Hobbes. Dre allowing everyone to live.
There are no faint lights in Suite FIV. But they somehow refract one another’s colors in a blaze of autumn glory, lumps and bumps and all.
*Yes, yes, technically Buddy is also not old. But Buddy is a mature one-year-old. Dre is…not.
Photo credits from de top to de bottom: The Splendid Jess, The Magnificent Heather x2, the highly peculiar Angela x3.