My cat, Taylor, was more than just a cat. To me, he was dearly loved, a companion of sorts. To many others, he was the Devil, Satan, evil incarnate. He was a myth, a legend, the scourge of my neighborhood. I miss him.
He was black, and fat, with a white underbelly that stretched along his back-legs and up to his nose. His front paws, which he used to scratch countless friends and acquaintances of mine, were also white. In retrospect, it’s actually impressive how white he kept them, considering all the blood they drew.
He liked to hunt, people mostly. He’d wait until you were walking away, and then he’d crouch. After you had gone a few steps, far enough so you would think he’d lost interest in you, he would begin following. If you stopped, he’d stop – when you began walking again, so would he. Eventually he quickened his pace, and before you knew it you had cat claws in the back of your leg. He enjoyed the dining room best, where he could hide behind chair-legs and the low-hanging tablecloth.
Only two things could deter him – a careful approach to disarm his desire to hunt you, or a quick spritz from the squirt-bottles we kept close at all times. We usually handed one to new guests to our house. Our closer friends just hid behind us whenever Taylor approached.
Everyone who came to our house invariably saw Taylor’s reign of terror at some point or another. A friend’s little brother got trapped in our basement with him once. My parents heard him yelling for help. When they went down, they found him standing on a chair, Taylor sitting calmly in front of it.
What surprised me is when people who had never been there before asked me about him. One time in elementary school, a group of kids came over. At the door, one of them, who I only partially knew, and who had definitely never been to my house, asked, “wait, isn’t this where the evil cat lives?” Others expressed fear the moment they saw Taylor, even if they had never been attacked by him before. I gotta admit, I was proud.
We had trouble finding people to watch him whenever we went out of town. Whenever one person agreed to do it, we knew that they’d never agree again, and we got excited for new neighbors moving in because it meant one or two more potential house-sitters. It was our next-door neighbor’s son, Ryan, who christened him “Devil-Cat.” The name spread like wildfire among my friends and throughout the neighborhood. If I offered my house as a place to hang-out: “no, I’m not coming near that devil cat.”
He passed away during my senior year of high school. At first I didn’t think much of it. I was sad, but not even enough to really sigh with feeling the way you do when you lose someone or something you care for. But the loss accumulated over the weeks, months, and years afterwards. I still feel funny walking past our dining-room table, my shins instinctively expecting an assault. I carry his memory with me always, in the scar-lines you can still find on my arms.
The funny thing about it all, though, is that I really did love Taylor, that looking at pictures of him makes me miss living in semi-perpetual fear around him. I grew up with Taylor, I knew him in a way I can’t explain. My friends would sometimes watch in a combination of horror and derision when I would get down on the floor near Taylor and put my face right up to his, touching his nose with mine. They didn’t know if they should call me a dork or call an ambulance for my soon-to-be scratched-out eyes. But I could just read it in Taylor, that I’d be alright, that he’d sit still and purr.
A couple of times during middle school, he vomited on my backpack – I don’t know why my backpack was his favorite receptacle for this, or why it had to be in the mornings, before school. I stupidly never kept a spare backpack in the house, so all I could do was wash off as much as I could, then walk through school all day with the worst-smelling backpack known to man. The entire day would be spent apologizing to people, explaining the smell, guiltily trying to tuck it away in some magical stink-free compartment beneath my desk. Yet, despite the vomit, despite driving people away from my house and attacking me, I still loved him. And if that’s not love, then I don’t know what it is. Except maybe stupidity.