Felix’s Eighth Life

by

12/31/2006

105th St. & West End Ave, NY, NY 10025

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

I never shared my life with any pets – unless you count a legion of uninvited cockroaches. Until I got married, that is, and my wife brought a black cat home from the gym.

“This cat has been rescued, my instructor was offering him up,” she said.

“Cat’s poop inside,” I said.

“You’ll love him.”

“What’ll we call him?”

“Felix,” our three year old son Noah said. At which Felix ran straight into the closet and hid himself in its nether reaches for nearly two weeks.

“Sociable,” I said.

But eventually Felix came out. To meow like a rhinoceros every morning at five a.m., to get tangled up under our feet and make us spill hot coffee all over ourselves, and to poop. To say we expressed a tough love for our new housemate would be kind.

Oh, and Felix was, how shall I put it, dim. Thick. Stupid.

One time, a water bug scampered across the floor and disappeared under the radiator. Felix stared, pawed, and clawed at the peeling white paint of the grate for the better part of three months. “The bug’s gone,” we’d tell the cat, but no, Felix was convinced it would reappear any moment. You can’t really blame the poor guy, after all, his entire universe was enclosed by the four walls of our rented apartment. Excitement is excitement.

Not long after giving up on the bug, Felix started to slither through the child guard bars on our windows and perch on top of our air conditioners. He’d look at birds, smacking his little feline lips, occasionally flailing at the sky with a paw. This scared me, but Alex, my wife, joked that it was his “terrace,” and that it had increased the value of our apartment – outdoor space and all. But I couldn’t help thinking it was just plain dumb. Even though we only lived on the third floor, I’d shudder to think what would happen to me if I fell that far. But, despite my fears, after a while the cat always came back in, flattening himself through the bars like a pancake.

Until the night we came home from the diner and Noah called out from the kitchen, “Felix hasn’t touched his food.” The search began.

“Felix, Felix,” we all yelled. His old closet perch was searched. Empty. Under beds, in the file cabinet. Zero. All of a sudden pity was replaced by panic. We ran up and down the stairwells of the building, rattling food. Nothing. Due to an unusually balmy autumn day, our bedroom window had, in fact, been left open. I craned my head out through the child bars and peered down, fearing the worst. I fully expected to see a flat black furry lump directly below. But all I saw was a couple of bald pates passing underneath.

I started dialing for dollars. I asked directory assistance if was there a division of the department of sanitation for collecting dead animals.

“How large of an animal – cow, horse, elephant?”

“Cat.”

There was. Endless hold times. Perfunctory, unenlightening responses. My wife finally talked me down from my own psychic precipice, “we’ll put up flyers and search tomorrow. There’s nothing more we can do tonight.”

Thus began three of the longest days of my life. We papered light posts from 66th Street to 134th Street.

Then, just as we were about to give up, my wife asked the doorman if he might have any idea where the cat might be. He opened up the rusty hinges to the forbidden airshaft. Alex went out, poked around, and sure enough, came up with Felix. The cat was shivering, skinny, limping and scared. But alive. A quick search showed that there was, in fact, a tiny window in the bathroom over the airshaft and Felix, in a super-feline leap, must have flung himself after a bird, right out the window, down the three stories, into near oblivion. But he was found. We rejoiced. We forgave all his transgressions. We let the limping Felix eat and poop and meow to his little heart’s content.

Three floors he fell. Three days he lived without food. And here he was. We wanted to pet Felix. To apologize for all the bad things we’d said to him, and about him, over the years.

But just as soon as he was able, before you could say “black fur covered maroon,” our Felix was back up on his air-conditioner perch, teetering on the edge, and clawing at the sky.

What, I ask, was wrong with cockroaches as pets?

******EPILOGUE******

Since his tumble, Felix, possibly realizing he’s on his ultimate life, has chilled things out considerably. He sleeps all day, most of the night, and really, only rouses himself to occupy the piano bench when the piano teacher comes over on Tuesday afternoons. My son claims Felix recently picked out the first few notes of the Star Wars theme, but my wife insists it was something by Eric Satie.

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