Billie Silvey
The Story of
January 2007
The actual trip was accompanied by the most mournful of wails and
cries, from the time you started the engine until you turned it off again.

As Marlowe grew older, he’d spend the evenings on Frank’s
lap or mine.  Our favorite excuse for not getting up to get a glass or
water or a cup of coffee became, “I’ve got a cat.�
Early Easter morning in 1988, a stray cat had a litter of kittens on
our driveway.  Our neighbor wanted them, and we were eager to
oblige.  She put a box on her front porch with shredded newspaper
in it, and one by one, she carried the kittens to the box.  One by
one, the mother cat carried them back to our porch.  That
happened a couple of times before the neighbor gave up and put
the box on our porch.

The cats had adopted us.  That’s the way it is with cats.  You
can have an idea, but they make the final decision.  There were six
of them, cute little furballs with coats ranging from yellow tiger to
gray tiger to gray with white bib and socks.
We found good homes for five of the kittens.  
One went to our eager neighbor, one to the
woman painting her house, one to the
postman, and one to a close friend of ours.  
The runt of the litter, by far the most
inquisitive and adventuresome, stayed with
us--for 18 years.  We named him Marlowe
for the detective Philip Marlowe.

Marlowe always was a little strange.  One
morning, we heard a strange noise from the
living room.  â€œThump, mew, thump, mew.â
€�  We hurried in and found Marlowe.  He
was standing under the coffee table and
jumping straight up, bumping himself on the
underside.  We moved him out from under,
but before long, the sound started again.  Heâ
€™d moved back.
Thinking the sunlight would be good for him, I started taking him out in
the backyard while I was hanging clothes.  Our neighbor over the
back fence had a German shepherd with the unlikely name of Gigi.  
One day, I heard Gigi bark and glanced over into the yard to see
Marlowe--not as long as the space from my thumb to my little finger
with my hand spread--tiny back arched and spitting valiantly at Gigi
from the top of the tall fence.  I grabbed her up quickly.  She wouldnâ
€™t have made one bite for that German shepherd!

About that time, I discovered large welts all over Marlowe’s little
body.  The vet said he was allergic to fleas, and we’d have to
keep him inside.  Marlowe became a house cat.
As he grew to be a juvenile, the house
was almost too small to contain him.  
He’d walk around the room on
top of the drapery rods, haunt the front
screen and challenge all the
neighborhood cats that came by, and
disappear into every box and grocery
sack we’d bring home.

We bought him several commercial
toys, but his favorite was always the
pull tab from a milk bottle or the big
rubber band from bunches of broccoli.  
Grocery day was always playday for
Marlowe, and when we’d move
furniture to clean, we’d discover
all his “toys.�
When guests would come to visit--especially those guests who just
loved cats--Marlowe would disappear under the bed.  But let
someone who didn’t like cats or who was allergic inside the door,
and Marlowe would make a beeline for them--rubbing against their
legs, climbing into their laps, snuggling against them and purring.

All the cat-lovers who came thought we had the must unsociable cat in
the world, but other guests thought he was the friendliest.
Marlowe loved it when we moved to
our Culver City house.  It had a lot
more doors and windows, a lot more
possibilities to find that elusive spot of
sunlight.  There was a natural racetrack
through the house, which he took full
advantage of whenever we tried to
catch him.

He hated to go anywhere in the car,
and he’d object from the time weâ
€™d get the cat carrier out until we
opened it again and let him jump free
safe at home.  A trip to the vet meant
catching Marlowe, trying to position
him over the open carrier while he
stood splay-legged like a spider holding
on to all four sides.
He spent most of his last year in
his favorite spot of sunshine just
inside the French doors onto our
front porch.  There he’d visit
with various neighborhood cats
who would drop by.

We spent a couple of weeks
rehydrating him by injecting fluid
just under his skin.  It helped at
first, but eventually, nothing did
much good.  Finally, we loaded up
sadly for that last trip to the vet.  
Frank and I were brokenhearted
as we stood over him, stroking
him until we felt his body stiffen--
and he was gone.
For months, neighborhood cats would call from our front porch for him,
cards and emails came from friends, and I’d be unduly cautious
when I’d get up in the middle of the night, forgetting for a while that
he wouldn’t be underfoot.
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