When I was in college, I had my first opportunity to have a pet (my mother is allergic to fur). So I decided dorm-rules-be-damned and what-are-they-going-to-do?-Kick-me-out-of-this-overpriced-cinderblock-box? And I got a kitten [see ‘Ghost in the Machine – Part 1’]. My roommate/best friend also got a kitten. In fact these kittens were the ill-gotten gains of a tryst between a purebred Persian and a purebred Silver Tabby. Not wanting to miss out on a year’s litter, the owners ditched the Mudblood babies at four weeks old. They were about five inches tall and needed a three-inch collar (which no one makes). Too tiny to jump, they needed a ramp into the litter box. They were also identical.
Antigone and Juliet (what can I say? we were in an honors college!) grew to have no concept of ‘cat’. When my roommate and I parted ways, she took her music system and I took both cats. They sat at the dinner table with me, tried to attempt my homework and confused guests because the only way anyone could tell the cats apart was by the collars – the collars that were buried under Persian fluff.
For fifteen years, I had a recurring nightmare about these cats. In the dream, some roommate or other opens the front door to find that our two docile housecats are sitting outside. Of course, they let the kitties in. Only, these aren’t our cats – these are evil cats who look just like my cats! I try to kick out the evil cats, but things keep going wrong. Every time I identify the evil cat, someone mixes them up, or they get in a fight and I can no longer tell who is who.
Antigone and Juliet each died at fifteen, about seven years ago, and the nightmares stopped. Though the cats looked identical all their lives I never met another who looked like them. When we moved to Nashville, we got two new kittens. Not wanting to spark another fifteen years of cat-mares, we got a boy and a girl, one black and one gray – Samson and Delilah (hey, I went to an honors college!) [See ‘Trading Up – Part 2’ and ‘Stupid Is As Stupid Does – Part 3’]
I had not had the cat-mare since Antigone and Juliet had passed. So when I pulled up to the house last year and saw Delilah approach, I reached down to pet her. She walked on by. I turned to grab the groceries, and as I straightened, Delilah walked by again – in the exact same path. I turned to my husband and said, “There’s a glitch in the Matrix.”
As we watched, one Delilah ran the other down and began a cat fight that was luckily brief. But those moments stretched out long for me. Was I awake? Had my cat-mare become real?
I held my arm out and said “Pinch me.” Now I don’t know if it’s a good friend or a bad one who pinches you when you say that, but suffice it to say, I passed the ‘damn, I AM awake’ test. When the two cats stopped hissing and batting at each other, I checked them out and ascertained that I COULD tell them apart. I dubbed the second cat “Other Delilah” and ran it off my property.
Other-Delilah still comes around some times, but I tell him to go home. (Yes, it turns out he’s a he.) But just two days ago I was doing some yard work when Samson came up. I held out my hand, “Hey, Sammy” and was rewarded with a solid hiss. I frowned at him, told him ‘no’, then turned to grab something else. There, standing in front of me was another Samson.
My shoulders sagged, my heart grew heavy, and my brain went ‘not again.’ But no, it wasn’t the same thing. I looked at this new cat, then back at the first. Something was wrong, I couldn’t tell which one was the REAL Samson.
It was all solved when a third black cat sauntered up to me. I looked from one to the other to the other, and I said, “Oh, Sh!#.”
I swear, one of them tipped his head back and laughed at me.