I think the thing I love the most about the cover of A Streetcar Named Murder is that the cat looking back over his shoulder with the bitch please look on his face was modeled on Scooter.
I’ve been putting my cat into books for a while now. Our Skittle was Paige’s cat, and I know I gave Taylor a cat in the Scotty books, but I don’t remember if it was Skittle or Scooter (and I need to find that out).
I never thought of myself as a cat person, to be honest. I think this was primarily because I never spent time with cats when I was a kid; I had a dog growing up and most people I knew also had dogs. If they had cats, well, the cats were aloof and uninterested for the most part, but every once in a while I’d be at a friend’s place who had a cat and their cat just fell in love with me for some reason–I’ve always attracted people’s pets, which is cool because by and large I do love animals–but it never occurred to me to get a cat. Paul also had dogs growing up, so he always kind of wanted us to get a dog. Much as I love dogs and much as they love me, though, I don’t have the time or the patience to have one, so I always nixed the idea of a pet. But that first winter we lived in the carriage house we had a mouse–and of course wanted to be rid of it. “It’s an old house in an old neighborhood,” our neighbors and landlady advised, “and the best way to get rid of a mouse is to get a cat.”
But the mouse was freaking out Paul–I wasn’t thrilled to have one, but could manage a cold-war of tolerance with one if need be–and so we decided to go ahead and get a cat. It was Christmas Eve, I remember that, and we headed down to the SPCA in the Bywater. We looked at one, who seemed interesting–orange and big–but when the girl opened his cage he hissed at us all and clawed her hand. (I know now that he was probably terrified, hence the reaction, but what did I know about cats? All I saw was a mean one, and if it would claw the hand of a caretaker, I didn’t know how well he’d adapt to our house and our lives…) But there was a kitten in a nearby cage who kept sticking his paws out and chirping at Paul to get his attention, and once Paul started paying attention to him, he was purring and rubbing against the bars trying to get to us. The girl took him out of the cage and he started purring even louder. He was purring so loudly they couldn’t hear his heartbeat. We decided to take him, named him Nicky, paid the small fee and brought him home. I walked over to Walgreens to buy litter, food, a litter box, and a carrier, and thus we had our first cat. We never called him Nicky–the only person who ever did was our landlady–but he was amazing. Very loving, but at the same time a good hunter who could jump really high to take a bug out of the air, and of course he was beautiful, just beautiful. During the evacuation for Katrina Paul and the cat stayed at his mom’s–and his mom was the one who started calling him Skittle, because he “skittered around playing chasing things.) We had Skittle for almost seven years when he got the cancer, and it spread very quickly. The day we had to put him to rest was one of the hardest days of our lives–Paul was so depressed he barely got out of bed the entire weekend–and the apartment felt empty and lonely without our cat. The illness and the decision had been so hard on both of us to make that I kind of didn’t want to get another pet because I never wanted to go through that pain again, and Paul felt the same.
We lasted less than a week.
I went to the Cat Practice to pick up Skittle’s ashes on a Thursday after work. While I was waiting–I always have to wait whenever I am there–I always go around and look at the cats they have looking for forever homes (while I always hate having to leave without bringing them all home, it’s also kind of sad if there aren’t any there). In a cage behind the front desk was an orange boy, and according to the label on his cage his name was Texas and he was two years old. I walked over, and he was so friendly and loving–purring and rubbing against my hand–that I seriously thought I should bring you home with me, sweet boy,
That evening, we were watching something on television that wasn’t terribly involving–I was scrolling through the iPad and Paul dozed off on the couch. Suddenly Paul sat up with a gasp and said,”Oh my God!” and insisted he’d woken up and seen a mouse sitting on the lip of our garbage can. I saw nothing–and I’d looked over when Paul sat up, but not specifically at the can, so I could have missed it–but I also didn’t hear anything. (I will also confess to not hearing well–I’ve always been hard of hearing, and now that I am getting older it’s getting worse, so me not hearing anything isn’t as conclusive as it might be coming from someone else.) I just assumed he dreamed it, but he was insistent, and equally insistent we had to get another cat. I mentioned seeing Texas that afternoon, suggested Paul go see him in the morning on his way to work, and if he wanted him, to go ahead and get him, and I would swing by to pick him up after I got off work.
Needless to say, not only did I go pick him up after work, Paul went with me. We got him home, he immediately hid under the coffee table, so we decided to let him acclimate. It literally took about fifteen minutes before he came out from under the table, climbed up onto Paul’s chest and started purring. His coat was a little rough, but within two days he was soft as silk. Paul loves nothing more than to cuddle with the cat–Skittle tolerated it for a while before escaping–and we picked the absolute right cat: Scooter loves to cuddle and wants nothing more than a warm lap or body to curl up and sleep on. He will literally come and howl at me while I am working on my computer because he wants me to morph into a cat bed in my chair.
So, of course I gave Valerie a cat, named it Scooter, and made him a sweet orange boy, like ours. When they were designing the cover, I did tell them the cat was actually MY cat, and they asked me for a photo to give to the artist!
I am delighted that Scooter will live forever on the cover of my book.
He’s a sweet boy.