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Fatso

“In the past if someone was famous or notorious, it was for something—as a writer or an actor or a criminal; for some talent or distinction or abomination. Today one is famous for being famous.” — Malcolm Muggeridge

I’m a man who doesn’t like cats. I don’t understand why women and certain men don’t get the simple axiom: “Dogs? Cool. Cats? Not.” It is one of the universal truths that no sane man can deny. And yet the chicks and chestless men persist in promoting this most useless of animals which steadfastly resists domestication, becoming an agreeable amusement, and is next to useless if not downright nauseating when sauteed or roasted, grilled or boiled, or even deep-fried.

There was one cat, however, that I did come to admire; Fatso.

Fatso arrived in my life as most cats arrive in the lives of men — attached to a woman. Indeed, Fatso was one of three cats attached to this woman, and he was the least promising at the outset. The other two cats were: 1) “Spotty” — an utterly coal black cat whose only “spot” was directly under his tail, and 2) “Oswald LeWinter” — a cat who was so utterly gay that he could have been the reincarnation of Liberace. And then there was… “Fatso” — a cat so utterly beaten down and scabrous that on him a sucking chest wound would have looked good. When this particular woman arrived in my life the cats were all firmly established in hers so it was a done deal if I wanted her to stick around which, at the time, I did.

Fatso was not only a fat cat — from eating anything no matter how vile and rotten, — he was a loser cat. He was continually wandering off into the neighborhood and getting into screeching, yowling, spitting, clawing, gnawing fights with every other cat whose food bowl he tried to hoover. And he always, but always, lost and came dragging home with this flap hanging off him, that long slash in his side, and claw marks slanting across his face. His fur would be matted with urine, spit, drool, feces and blood. Fatso was one ugly beaten down fat cat.

The woman who owned him was, obviously, committed to him in the way that women get committed to hurt things, battered things, stupid things, and things that don’t really run on all cylinders. It’s their training for putting up with men, I guess. She’d hold him down and squirt this fine yellow powdered sulfur into his wounds to promote healing or at least hold off gangrene. After a day or so of recuperating around the house, Fatso would haul himself out the window and start catting about the neighborhood looking for food and finding a fight. Then, after a day or so, he’d come limping back with yet more of his body turning into scar tissue.

I put up with Spotty since he was a black cat and I didn’t want to alienate any black cat lest he put some bad juju and mean mojo on me. As for Oswald LeWinter, the gay cat, I said, early on, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” — even though I suspected, with cats at least, there might be. As for Fatso, well, he disgusted me. I had no use for him. I was even starting to measure him for a river diving bag.

And so it went until….. until…. until the hippy girl arrived.

In those years hippy girls were always arriving. It was what they did. They came and then… they went. And they all had…. they all had to have…. a handicraft. Some did tie-dyes. Others did very heavy and clumsy pottery. Some chipped arrowheads out of flint. Some made teepees in the backyard. Still others wove macramé diaphragms.

This particular hippy girl did beaded belts and chokers. And, needless to say, methamphetamine. She had several egg cartons holding a mass of teeny-tiny beads and a kind of wireframe loom. She’d wire up the loom, smoke a lot of dope, pop a little meth, and then crack open the egg cartons and bead up a bunch of stuff she hoped to sell somewhere along the edges of Telegraph Avenue. I once figured she was making about a dime an hour and when I told her this she said, “That much? Groovy.”

She lived in the apartment behind ours and one day, while setting up her loom, Fatso wandered by her and wiped the latest blood from his wounds on her tie-dye skirt. She glanced down and said, “Oh, Fatso. Uncool.” Then she went to work her hippy girl fingers flying lightly over her bead loom as only the young, stoned, female speedfreak can manage.

Within two hours she had finished a large cat-sized collar in beads. She called Fatso over and strapped it on him. He tossed his head a little bit since the collar was over an inch in width and must have pinched a bit on his neck, but then he seemed to accept it. He sauntered over and has he passed me I glanced down. The hippy girl had woven and arranged a collection of bright red beads against a black background to read, in capital letters, “FATSO!” (Exclamation mark included.) You could read it from six feet away. The cat, supremely indifferent to this gift, wandered through my legs, into the back garden and hobbled out of sight. “Good riddance,” I thought and hoped he’d try to kill a large delivery truck with his teeth at thirty miles an hour.

It was not to be. Instead, we heard, for over a week, a whole chorus of yelps, screeches, yowls and other indications of a virtual tomcat war breaking out across the backyards of the neighborhoods with nary a sign of Fatso limping home for repair. A few days into the week some neighbors would, walking by, remark, “Hey, I saw your cat Fatso kicking some ass the other day. Slipped him some tuna. Cool cat, man.” Other praise kept coming our way. It would seem that Fatso was becoming, if you were of a feline persuasion, a force to be reckoned with in the neighborhood.

Then late one afternoon a changed Fatso sauntered casually back into our house. It was, of course, just at feeding time and he immediately walked up to Spotty and knocked him away from his bowl. Then he turned to Oswald LeWinter and knocked him away from his bowl. Both cats began to make aggressive gestures and take on puffed up postures, but a single glance from Fatso and both shrank away and went to a far corner of the kitchen where they made faint mewling noises. He ate from each of their bowls and then his own. Then he sauntered back to the door and down the stoop and walked slowly away up the center of the sidewalk.

The woman and I, stunned, followed him at a discrete distance. All along the way as he was being passed by people, they’d glance down and, taking note of his collar, say “Hey, Fatso! What’s happening?” Some would even stop to pet him until he purred. Then Fatso would seem to give a feline shrug then and saunter on.

At his approach, other cats would disappear until he passed. Fatso had, by virtue of his collar, become known by name to the entire neighborhood. He had become famous for being famous. He’d become a celebri-cat, the first I’ve ever known.

All it took was a collar and a name and Fatso was never beaten up again and certainly never went hungry ever again. In time his saunter became a strut. You couldn’t help but like Fatso since liking him was what Fatso was all about.

In a year or so the woman and I decided to move up into the hills above the town. We packed up Spotty and Oswald LeWinter, but when it came time for Fatso he was nowhere to be found. He’d decided to stick to the old neighborhood. With nearly twenty women putting out food for him and with all the other cats living in fear of him there was no motivation to move with us. We were now “little people.” He was…. well, he was “FATSO!”

For all I know he’s still there to this day, kicking fur-butt and flaunting his name; master of his domain, King of Kats. All he needed was what we all need…. a little name recognition.

[Republished because yesterday, in contradiction to all I held sacred about cats, I brought another cat into my life, Olive.]

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • PA Cat October 26, 2018, 10:09 AM

    Well, Gerard, now that you are owned by Olive (there is no such thing as a cat owner, in case you haven’t heard), you have now joined the company of illustrious men who like cats: and I dare you to call Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Tony La Russa, and Benedict XVI “chestless” men. Twain was famous for giving his cats striking names, including Apollinaris, Beelzebub, Blatherskite, Buffalo Bill, Satan, Sin, Sour Mash, Tammany, Zoroaster, Soapy Sal, Pestilence, and Bambino. He said that one reason for his cats’ names was to “exercise the children in the art of pronunciation.” The four Coolidge cats who lived in the White House were Tiger, Blackie, Timmy, and Smokey– less flamboyant than the Twain cats’ names, but appropriate for Silent Cal. Anyway, a heartfelt welcome to Olive from my two Feline Americans, Casey [Stengel] and Mlle. Coco [Chanel].

  • Sam L. October 26, 2018, 10:15 AM

    I trust this too is an annual post. It, and Fatso, deserves it.

  • Anonymous October 26, 2018, 10:18 AM

    My daughter was a cat lover and I am not. With the many cats who owned us through her growing up years there was one really good cat, Tabby. She disappeared; one day she was there and one day she was gone.

    And then there was THE WORST CAT ON THE PLANET. I don’t remember its name but vividly remember the day it “left.” It had recently peed in the middle of my bed, in the middle of my brand new down comforter. I took the comforter to the dry cleaners and for the exorbitant amount of $30 had it cleaned.

    The last day THE WORST CAT ON THE PLANET lived in my home I brought in the newly cleaned comforter wrapped securely in plastic, shook it out of its wrapping and lovingly spread it on the bed. I turned away from the bed, bent down and gathered up the plastic wrap in my arms, and turned back toward the bed to find THE WORST CAT ON THE PLANET squatting and peeing in the middle of my freshly made bed right on top of the newly cleaned comforter.

    That was the day THE WORST CAT ON THE PLANET found a new home.

  • HH October 26, 2018, 10:38 AM

    The story of Fatso is one of my favorites.

  • Snakepit Kansas October 26, 2018, 10:54 AM

    WORST CAT ON THE PLANET would have found a new home in the bottom of my garden.

  • Dr. Jay October 26, 2018, 11:04 AM

    Two confessions: One: Fatso is a wonderful Post & updated-Repost. Wonderful writing. Always. Two: I am not a cat lover, I am a cat hate hater! I’m so allergic to said demons my eyes begin itching by the second paragraph. “Aye, there’s the rub.” – Hamlet

  • AmericusMagnus October 26, 2018, 12:59 PM

    The last two cats to own me belonged to my wife. First, there was Bravo. He was a fat black and white cat who ruled over everything in his kingdom, and graciously allowed us to live in the house with him. Bravo was the King!

    Then there was Tiger Lily. She was an outside cat who refused to ever come inside. Her job was to protect the property at a 3 mile perimeter. She would be gone for days, then show up bloody, bruised, cut up, scraped and scarred. After laying around for a few days licking her wounds she would disappear and do it all over again. No other cats in the neighborhood ever gave us trouble. She moved to the country with us a few years ago and kept the same arrival/departure schedule. One day she left and never returned… no letters or postcards… nothing. I have noticed, however, that the coyotes keep their distance.

  • ghostsniper October 26, 2018, 2:09 PM

    Caramel is our “Big Ol’ Gurl” (BOG). When she achieved adulthood she kept on growing til she got to 23 lbs. I tell her she’s so big she has to have 3 names, Caramel-caramel-caramel. Like her 4 adoptive sisters she too was a throw a way. Seems there’s always more cats than there are people who want them, so we pick up some of the slack but it’s never enough.

    Caramel is a tortie, that is, a variety of dark colors, mostly dark brown, but with a little bit of light orange and white scattered about. And she’s a jumper like none other. We have a variety of gates around the house to keep the cats from places we don’t want them. The gates are like bamboo lattice that sort of folds up and we stretch them out like, across the foyer to the breakfast nook and kitchen beyond. We don’t like them on the counters. Most of the cats do not try to get past it cause it is about 3′ tall, but not Caramel. She jumps over it and lands on a kitchen counter. I’ve seen her do it. She’s a ninja and very delicate about it. And she brags about it. Can’t help it I suppose. I’ll be standing at the sink with my back to the fence and the next thing I know I hear a small “mrrrowww” and turn around and there she is on the counter. I never heard her jump or land. Then I’ll scoop her up and throw her back over. Well, actually, lower back over.

    My wife frequently lives our 5 cats snacks throughout the day and once Caramel did not come running, so she went looking for her. Our house has 10′ ceilings and above the kitchen wall cabinets are tall plants and such. In the corner where there is an abundance of plants touching the ceiling, and back inside them was Caramels hiding mug. Because she is dark it was kind of hard to see here. She just sat there in her amazon jungle chuckling to herself as we went through the house calling for her, wondering if she got out of an open door. I had to climb up on a bar stool to precariously extract her from her lair.

    As most people know, cat’s ain’t dogs and they pretty much do as they please. YOU are secondary to them and their whims. Caramel is the exception, sort of. When she was a baby I treated her like a dog, as I did with all of our cats, and with Caramel it sort of stuck. She comes when I call her. I don’t mean casually neither. She knocks the other cats out of the way to get to me when she hears me come in the house. I feel guilty about this at times. When I need to go in the house to fill my drinking vessel in a hurry and don’t want to take the time to address Caramel, I’ll sneak into the house the back way through the laundry room and then into the kitchen, and then back out the same way, to avoid her. Many times when I have done this, on my way back out to my office/workshop, I’ll see Caramel giving me the evil eye as she is standing up at the window sill in the dining room as I walk by outside. Then I feel guilty for the next 10 minutes. I’ve even set my drink on the railing and went back in the front door and petted on her. I don’t do guilty very well.

    Caramel is about 8 years old now and so is her adopted sister Tawny-Autumn who, from a distance looks almost the same, though Tawny is a little smaller. My wife found out about them somehow at a shelter in Rushville when they were 7 weeks old and we went and got them. Cause she wanted them. Each would barely fill a cupped hand. Now, each will fill both arms. Caramel has a big splotch of golden tan on her neck, like a gob of caramel oozing out the side of a melted Snicker bar. She’s my BOG.

  • Old Surfer October 26, 2018, 3:13 PM

    Dogs have owners, cats have staff.

  • Ten October 27, 2018, 1:08 AM

    That was predictable.

    Instinctive cat-haters are among the more dimensionless of postmodernism’s various categories of lifestyle signalers and maybe the most insecure. Here we have a very old, self-domesticated, self-sufficient species that doesn’t eat shit, maul the neighbors, kiss your ass, or generally behave like a dependent clown and the cat-hater complains that it doesn’t adequately reflect his own ego while he’s using it to divine the other guy’s.

    If there’s one thing the feline can do it’s expose a human.

    Who makes a display of his relationship with beauty but can’t detach how impressed he is with his own opinion?

  • ghostsniper October 27, 2018, 4:46 AM

    Can’t disagree with much that Ten wrote except the comparison to dogs.
    Cats are no more like dogs than they are any other animal. All are unique and carry their value in that aspect. I enjoy and appreciate all animals.

  • Ten October 27, 2018, 8:21 AM

    The dog thing was a caricature – although no less than the usual one about cats – to make a point, ghost. I’ve had animals all my life and while the German Shepherd is a fearless thing and the English Setter the most amiable and touching, the cats were – each of them – the most civil creatures. Twelve pounds of fragile, utterly guileless housemate whose personality reacts with an almost linear precision to simple affection and respect right up to the minute of their death. Can’t really say that about dogs, floppy and endearing and dimwitted as they are.

    Of course, we can’t have that when we’re being rock-ribbed. Horses are for work, so a million go into WWI to be shot to hell. Slaughterhouses are proof God loves us (you filthy vegans). And six dogs rampaging through the marsh for all my shotgunned birds signal back soy urbanists and other communists like nobody’s business.

    Cats don’t fit. The problem with cats is they’re not about you, which is a pretty impressive trick for the smallest of the bunch, and the ones who therefore trusted you the most while you abused the ones you’d domesticated. In that regard they share more in common with elephants and work horses and their gentleness.

    At any rate, animals are better people than people. Man’s inhumanity to man has nothing on his savagery to animals.

  • ghostsniper October 27, 2018, 9:37 AM

    “…animals are better people than people.”

    There it is.
    It’s the rare animal I don’t get along with, and the rarer person that I do.

  • jwm October 27, 2018, 10:07 AM

    A few days ago I pitched a little gall stone. Painful as hell, and scary while it lasts. As soon as I started feeling it Ol’ Buddy the Cat was right at my feet meowling for all he was worth. He wouldn’t leave me until the pain went away. He seems to sense my mood. When I’m stressed and angry, he’s in my lap, and in my face. When I’m on the computer he’s sitting in front of the monitor, or helping me type.
    And my little tortoise shell, Littlecat, former feral at the school, has become Buddy’s comic sidekick. Wherever he goes, she’s right behind. The Littlecat is practicing sitting in my lap, and joining me for naps on the couch. She’s getting good at it.

    JWM

  • CC October 27, 2018, 10:16 AM

    We must have unusual cats.
    I take them on supervised outings into the front yard daily, and most of the time, unless there are some REALLY interesting smells around, they go back inside on command.
    Keep their clawing nonsense to the post, too.

  • Jack October 27, 2018, 10:30 AM

    When I was growing up on a farm I bird hunted all of the time and I killed a few feral cats over the years, but I didn’t treat them any worse than coons or possums, ‘yotes, or feral dogs. I just shot them and went on about my hunting.

    Years later, someone gave me a kitten and I took that thing home, thinking I’d try a cat instead of a dog and it worked out well enough until it could leap up onto my stove, kitchen counter and table, acts which doomed its relationship and that of all other cats with me as an inside animal.

    I went pet less for years and since that time I’ve settled on dogs, my favorite being my old pal Buzzy, a golden doodle that cost me a fortune as a designer mutt but which I found to be the best dollar I ever spent. I like him better than some members of my family and he never leaves my side. We’s buds.

  • Ten October 27, 2018, 12:15 PM

    ” It’s the rare animal I don’t get along with, and the rarer person that I do.”

    Mega dittos. Within the complex contradictions of Darwinist neocreationism – the popular modern take on the Genesis narrative where six days becomes six billion years and man’s ascent was divinely guided to arise from the evolutionary ape’s – maybe man is a mistake and the experimental perfectibility of sentient life ended when guile and deception began…around Adam and convincingly at his son.

    Even with his salvation cure man’s conscious descent accelerates, peaking specifically with his dishonor of that life itself, and so you certainly couldn’t argue against that notion easily.

  • CBDenver October 27, 2018, 3:19 PM

    When cats fight they tend to go for each other’s throats. I suspect Fatso’s new necklace protected his throat and thwarted the other cats’ attempts to kill him. Probably what made him more brave and confident. Kind of how I would be walking in a bad neighborhood with full body armor on.

  • Haxo Angmark October 27, 2018, 3:42 PM

    right now, Orange Cat (a recent arrival who has yet to tell me his name) is sprawled on top of the printer, sleeping off this morning’s yard patrol. Max (short for “Prince Maximillian of Wuerttemburg”, an 18-year-old black-and-white Tom, another foundling) is in the kitchen, sleeping on the warm stove.
    That is all.

  • ghostsniper October 27, 2018, 6:22 PM

    A piece of the California Caravan pulled into the ville earlier this year and within a couple weeks some of the neighbors cats were coming up missing. There are several neighbors around here that have no regard for their neighbors and even less for their pets – they let them run loose much of the time. Well the husband in the Cali couple doesn’t like cats and told me so. He also told me he has grabbed up a couple of them and “found them new homes”. Say what?

    Ever try to get rid of cats? When you are new to the neighborhood? It ain’t happening. Around here, a mostly woodsy-or-farming community, everybody already has ample cats and don’t want no more.

    I asked the Cali dood where he found these new homes for the cats and he told me he took them to a farm somewhere. Right. He just pulled up to the first farm he came to and they took all these stray cats.

    Well, one of the “lost” cats came home and there was something wrong with it so the wife took it to the vet. The vet said it had been poisoned and it was too advanced so they put little Hooper to sleep. She was a pretty gurl and I knew her well. It was sad.

    So the Cali dood lied to me, that’s his first and last mistake, and I can see both sides of the story. I don’t like other cats around our house cause our cats are usually on the back porch and when a cat comes around they start fighting amongst themselves until someone goes out there and chases it off. Then if comes back 2 hours later. But I’m not going to harm them. They are doing what cats do when left to their own devices. I blame the owners and if I find out who they are we have words. I’ve had words several times with one neighbor in particular. Their cats haven’t been around here in years now.

    In his first coupla months here Cali dood has managed to piss off a bunch of the naturals here and that’s not the best way to start off the rest of your life in a new community. He may need us one day, and we don’t forget who our friends are, or those that are not.

  • H October 28, 2018, 4:28 AM

    Kid I grew up around was owned by an enormous yaller tom named Sam, who had the knack of whupping any sized dog’s ass by jumping on its back and riding it around, biting and scratching til it (Sam) got tired of it, and gaining entry into the house by banging on the door BAM-BAM-BAM like a SWAT team demanding entry. Legendary doesn’t even begin to describe this cat. He was a typical big yaller tomcat, in that he would disappear for a few days, returning beat up and hungry and would stick around for a while before departing again for his next search and destroy mission.

    One day one of the neighbor kids told my associate that they found an enormous yaller tom dead on the railroad tracks, and thought it might be Sam. Kinda hard to tell from the damage but it was an enormous yaller tom so who else could it be but Sam, and a funeral was held in my associate’s back yard. The band kid played Taps on his trumpet and Bible verses were read and the girls all cried and the boys fired a 21-BB gun salute over the grave and the Moms served cookies and milk. R.I.P., Sam, “and that ended it. No more to build on there. And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.”

    Three days later, there was a banging on the door BAM-BAM-BAM like a SWAT team demanding entry. My associate opened the door and there was Sam, a little beat up and demanding food. They never did find out who was buried in the back yard.

  • ghostsniper October 28, 2018, 1:35 PM

    Sam’s doppleganger.

  • waltj October 28, 2018, 7:19 PM

    I’ve had cats since I was a little kid. I tried having dogs once, in my 30s, but with my travel schedule, it just didn’t work. I always found dogs too needy, too maintenance-intensive, and too dependent for me to really appreciate their good qualities. Yes, dogs can be useful servants, but I don’t like being gushed over, and I’ve never met a dog that knew when to go away and leave me be. I know they’re pack animals, and always look to the pack leader for their cues, but I have no particular interest in being a pack leader, and I’m damned sure not going to let the dog lead. With cats, though, that’s never a problem. Cats, as solitary predators, come and go as they see fit, and that independence has always been one of their attractions for me. The four I have now have totally different personalities from each other, all show their affection for me in different ways, and have their own likes and dislikes, but provide me with endless hours of entertainment and enjoyment. They sometimes fight with each other, but it never lasts for long, and they’re all back to being good roommates in short order. I guess I just appreciate cats more than I do dogs, and always will.

  • Charles October 29, 2018, 7:33 AM

    Thanks Gerard! Cats are the outlaw of the animal kingdom. No one owns a cat, it he likes you, he will live with you.