What you have to understand is that he chose me. I didn’t pick him out from a bunch of others. I wasn’t sure I was the right choice for him either. I tried to push him away, hoping he’d go to where he belonged, but in the end I couldn’t resist. I took him in and we made a home together. He had some serious quirks and was never shy about making his preferences known. He thought he was big and strong, but really he was kind of a chicken. But he had a deep rumbly voice, a love of snuggling, a comic sense of timing, and the most beautiful face.
Eleven or twelve years ago, I can’t quite remember now, I left the house to go to work. It was March. We’d had snow in Asheville just a few days before. It was so cold and windy outside. And there, on the front porch sat the tiniest grey and white kitten. Right by the front door. I had two dogs. I’ve always had dogs. I had to get to work. I pet the kitten and made sure he wasn’t hurt. He didn’t look sick. I had no choice but to leave him there and hope he lived nearby and that his family found him or his mama.
I thought about him all day though. Then, just before I left work to come home, my housemate called. The kitten had crawled under the fence to the backyard and was eating the dogs’ food. Our Aussie Shephard and Rhodesian Ridgeback mix were just watching him. So, he brought the kitten in and was giving him a bath in the kitchen sink because he had motor oil all over him. Apparently, the little guy had been on his own long enough to spend time under cars and figure out who fed their dogs outside. I was given a list of things to buy…litter box, kitty litter, small bowls, kitten food, nail trimmers. An appointment was made at the vet. I never gave it a second thought. I never posted notices of a lost cat (I never saw any either) because this tiny little kitten, who fit in one hand, should never have been out on his own in the cold.
He was a little tuxedoed kitty with silver fur, a white tummy, white gloves and socks, and a pink nose. Years later, after pouring through breed books, I was convinced he was mostly British Blue. He had a hard time at first with my wooden floors and I spent hours laughing until my sides hurt as he tore down the hallway and skidded into the door at the end.
He loved Holly, my Rhodesian. He slept on her bed and sometimes would curl up with her. When I wasn’t home, he spent his day in the bathroom until he was big enough that I didn’t have to worry about him.
The first time I took him to the vet, I hadn’t gotten a carrier for him yet and he was still so tiny. He rode the two blocks on the dashboard of my minivan, sunning himself.
I named him Mr. Bean. He never spoke much, he had rather strange ways of doing things…he wouldn’t jump up onto things without four or five false starts and always preferred climbing. He thought he wanted to be an outdoor cat, but if he got outside or I took him outside, he would sit by the door or window that got him there until he was taken back in. Windows, in his mind, were meant to be open so he could see and hear and smell. Multiple open windows required regular patrols from one to another. He liked to eat french fries. The smell of tuna or baked chicken would bring him running. I grew catnip for him in the yard. Fresh it didn’t do much for him, but dried and crushed…he was a catnip junkie and I was his favorite dealer. His favorite game was “Thing under the blanket.” I was the thing and he would attack over and over again. He came when I whistled.
When I moved to Texas, he came with me. Holly was too big and she went to stay with my parents. Bean got to see the world, though. He lived in three different places here, then moved to Boston. Ah, the trip to Boston. Shannon and I were on a tight budget and didn’t want to pay extra for having a pet in the room. When we couldn’t find a motel where the room doors were accessed directly from the outdoors, we emptied out a suitcase and stuffed Bean in it to sneak him in. I thought we were going to die from trying not to laugh in an elevator with meowing luggage. He loved Massachusetts. It was cold enough at night that he never got booted off the bed for making us hot. Our patio was well-railed in and up high enough for us to let him sit out there on sunny days. He greeted us at the door every time we came home and demanded that we play with him.
Then we moved back to Texas and we got Widget. We thought he might enjoy having someone to play with when we weren’t there. We thought wrong. Mr. Bean and Widget were never friends. When she showed up, he didn’t want to play Thing Under the Blanket anymore. He wouldn’t stay in the same room with her. He just wanted to sit in his windows or sleep.
After a few years together, the two of them had sort of a truce. She’d hiss at him or growl and he’d ignore her for as long as he could. He was allowed to smack at her if she was being a pain, but fights got them both in trouble. Sometimes, they’d share the bed. Widget was the lap kitty, the one who liked people. Bean was my kitty, the one who just wanted quiet time alone. He spent most of his time in the bedroom, waiting for one of us to come in there.
Yesterday, I came home from work and found Mr. Bean. I don’t think he had been sick. Just that morning he’d been pestering to have a window opened. He was just lying on the floor, all alone. Shannon buried him by one of my rose bushes, next to one of the windows he liked to look out. Now, he gets to be the outdoor cat he thought he always wanted to be. I hope he has lots of fun watching the new backyard bunnies. I’m going to miss him very much.