5.31.2006

My Life in Cats, Part II: Mookie & Mugsy


Let me set the scene: 1992. Just moved to Fresno for school. First time away from home for an extended period of time (sure home was 40 minutes away, but I had 16 units and was working 40 hours). Girlfriend lived in Hanford (also 40 miles away) and had her own thing going on. I'm living in some shady apartment on Bulldog Lane. I know nobody, except my married landlady who keeps hitting on me (don't ask). I missed Kirby, even though I'm sure Kirby was more than happy to be rid of my pestering. Cut to the chase: I'm lonely and homesick. Kind of like now, come to think of it.

ANYWAYS (I'm borrowing that affectation from Chuck Klosterman), there's a ton of strays in the complex, but none of them will accept my offers of food, shelter, and belly rubs (hey, that can be my new pick-up line). Then one day, I noticed all the strays gathered around a particular kitty, who looked like she wanted to be anywhere but there. She was cleaner than the other cats, a beautiful white and gray tabby, and looked desperately out of place. I shooed the other cats away, assuming she'd run away, too, but at least she'd postpone being feline gang raped a little bit longer. Long story short, she likes me, she really, really likes me and becomes my new cat.

I name her Mookie. Yes, a female cat named Mookie. Why? Well, although at the time I was much more Soundgarden than Pearl Jam, I liked the fact that Pearl Jam was originally called Mookie Blaylock, after the basketball player. So, yeah, I stole that idea. Guilty. Plus I had to keep the whole sports theme I started with Kirby. Instead of being a plagiarist, I just say she was named after Mookie Wilson. Shhh. It's our little secret.

Okay, so Mookie brings me companionship. I learn the joys of cleaning a litterbox. Mookie starts getting fat. I'm too dumb to realize what's going on. I just assume, like me, she's putting on the college twenty. Mookie picks a nice spot in my closet, on some dirty clothes, and proceded to pop out some kitties. I try to balance my wonder at the miracle of birth all with the fact that some mangy cat (or 2, or 15) has defiled my snookums. I can no longer look at her as a pure virginal gift from heaven.

I decide I will keep one kitten, but with all of the cuteness clouding up my living room, I cannot imagine deciding which one to keep. It would be a feline Sophie's Choice. But I typically root for the underdog, so I decide to keep whichever kitty no one else wants. The last one standing was, well, I hadn't named him/her yet, I didn't know which one would be left. Derr.

As you might expect, the one kitty left was the most “normal” looking one. Your garden variety male gray tabby. Keeping up with the sports theme, I named him Mugsy, after 5'3” NBA guard Mugsy Bogues.Don't laugh, the other option was Manute.

Mookie and Mugsy formed a pretty strong bond, even after Mugsy grew up, as evidenced by the above picture. They also formed a strong bond with me, and vice versa. When I took a long trip to Vegas, I called home to check on the, First words out of my roommate's mouth: “Dude, the cats miss you.” I was oddly touched.

The odd thing about the two was that Mookie was a stray, yet had the kindest disposition a cat could possibly have. Mugsy, on the other hand, born in my closet, coddled and spoiled his whole life, was a mean son of a bitch. Mugsy loved nothing more than going outside to look for a fight. The scars on my arms are testaments to his ferocity.

ANYWAYS, grad school came around and it was time to move to San Diego. Let's just say you should never, ever, ever try and drive six hours with two unsedated cats who hate cars. Kitty life in San Diego was fine, until one day I came home and found Mugsy, the badass, cowering in the closet. I went to pick him up, and his underside was extremely mushy. I freaked out, and headed to the emergency room.

The vet did some tests and x-rays on Mugsy, and determined he had some sort of major trauma which resulted in a major hernia; Mugsy's body cavity had been ruptured. I never found out how, but the vet assumed he got hit by a car.

The vet said that they could fix Mugsy up, but it would cost over $2,000. I was barely getting by on student loans at the time. Easy decsion, right? Wrong. I whipped out the plastic and they went to work. Within a week, Mugsy was home, battered and bruised, but still itching for a fight.

So, I ended up getting a three bedroom house, and the beginning of my series of insane roommates began (that will be the subject of another blog series). One of them , Mike, was fucking weird. Mookie would bolt whenever Mike came around. I truly believe cats can sense something about a person's nature, and I should have taken that as a sign. Why? Because one day Mookie just up and disappeared. Mugsy, who loved to roam, I could understand. But not Mookie. Mookie liked to get some fresh air, but wasn't a big wanderer. I still get a little emotional when I think of my trips to the animal shelter looking for her. I was heartbroken, Mugsy was heartbroken. My other roommate Marco told me that Mike had talked about wanting to shoot a cat. I can't imagine he would have done it in a residential area, but that dude was weeeeeeiiiiiiiird. Anyways, whatever happened to Mookie, she didn't deserve it. She was a really sweet cat and was a good friend for six years.

Now is about the time when my father's Parkinson's took a turn for the worse. I was just about to start work on my Master's thesis, but it became unavoidable that I would have to move home. My girlfriend helped pack me and Mugsy in the U-Haul in one of the more emotional nights of my life. Me moving was the beginning of the end for a lot of things; my relationship, my dad's health, my thesis and all the work I had put into school, and, you guessed it, Mugsy.

Mugsy, the cat Fresno and San Diego couldn't kill, somehow managed to succomb to Lemoore. Within a month, Mugsy went out one night, never to return. I like to think she got a whiff of Lemoore's cow manure aroma and said “Fuck this, I'm heading back to Daygo, see ya!”

So, within a short period of time after moving to Lemoore I lost my two closest friends (well, Mookie was before the move) of the past six years, my girlfriend was six hours away, I was unemployed, school was shot to hell, I couldn't stand up for more than 15 minutes at a time because of sciatica, my nephew had stolen and totaled my car, and my dad's health was much worse than I previously thought. It would only get worse before it would get better, but I knew I wouldn't be able to keep my sanity without another friend, so off to the pound I went.

Up Next: Bogey and Sasquatch.
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