I got Bouncer in 1990, from a friend who had a long-haired orange tabby who’d been hanging out with a neighborhood Siamese. The unnamed kitten came home with my then-boyfriend (later my second husband) from the friend’s house, having sat in the other seat watching out the window for most of the fifty-mile trip, and having not complained about the car or the movement. Bouncer was a mellow kitten; he moved in, made instant friends with the other cat in the house, my pedigreed Persian, Fafhrd (named for Fritz Leiber’s wonderful hero), and chose me as his person. He became my writing buddy, my friend, and my companion.
He was with me when I wrote my first published novel, Fire in the Mist, and he was with me through every book since, frequently curled up under my desk where I could rub his tummy with a foot, or where I could rest my feet on him while I typed.
If you read Minerva Wakes, you know him. He was Murp. He was the cat who would come when called, from wherever he might have been. I remember whistling and yelling “Bouncer!” when he was young, and waiting for a minute, and seeing him sail over the chain-link fence in the back yard without even stopping on the top. He would gallop up to me and careen to a stop, just to see what I wanted. He didn’t walk or trot up and down stairs. He bounced. Hence the name.
He gardened with me, walking through but never on my plantings. It sounds stupid, but if I sniffed the flowers, he’d sniff the flowers, or at least stick his nose in them to see what was so interesting. He’d try to play board games with the kids, which lead to occasional wails from de-housed Monopoly players and his ejection from the bedroom in question. Where we were, he was, and he was there for all of us. But I was his person.
When the kids and I were on our own, he did his best to step in as provider, bringing me the back halves of neighborhood squirrels on several occasions. Thankfully, at some point he realized that we were doing all right, foodwise, and he stopped that. He was the inventor of squirrel-foot tea, a one-time invention that the other cats, by then Fafhrd, Grey Mouser, Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, and Hrogner, all loved.
He was not without his vices. He loved pizza, and was capable of procuring his own. He’d jump to the top of the fridge (which in that old house stood away from any counters or other launch pads—he was a tremendous athlete in his younger days), and open Domino’s pizza boxes, and eat the one or two slices we always had left over, all except for the rim of crust around the end. His favorite was pepperoni.
He was a bit of a slob. Having started life as an indoor/outdoor cat with an adventurous streak, he had a sort of Guy Thing going. He didn’t mind being dirty until one of us noticed and brushed him. He was, in his later years, an indoor cat, and pals and nap buddies with our youngest cat, Spenser (named for Robert Parker’s hero), who is as fastidious as Bouncer was messy. Spenser spent time keeping Bouncer groomed and his face clean. I never saw Bouncer return the favor.
Bouncer was a comfort through two divorces, a friend to three children who were sometimes clumsy but who never even knew he had claws because those claws never came out, even by accident. Even when the youngest, as a toddler, fell on top of him or picked him up by his hind quarters once.
He was a chatty guy but without the shrill Siamese voice, who was waiting outside the bedroom door when I came out in the morning and who followed me around the house, talking to me, throughout every single day. Even yesterday, even when he was failing so badly and was having a hard time walking, when he was down to weighing almost nothing and it hurt to see him that way, he met me at the door in the morning, and he greeted me at the front door when we came home from shopping. I rubbed his tummy and he purred.
And then I came out to help Matt start supper, and saw him under the table. He was already gone. It had been quick. Quiet. He was there for seventeen years, and then all of a sudden he wasn’t.
We buried him last night with a favorite toy and something of mine, and we stood by the grave, and I couldn’t think of anything to say but, “He was a good cat. And a good friend.”
We ordered a pepperoni pizza from Domino’s in his honor—it’s the first time in years we’ve had one, because we didn’t need it and neither did he. But last night we opened the box, and I remembered catching him on top of the fridge carefully working the box top open in order to get his prize, and I had to smile.
I’ll miss rubbing his tummy, miss hearing his cheerful greeting in the morning, miss talking to him as I do the laundry or the dishes and having him talk back. Mornings will be colder and books lonelier to write without him.
I hope there’s a place with a sunny window sill for him to stretch out on somewhere, with birds and bugs and breezes full of interesting smells. I hope there are trees to climb and roofs to thunder across at full speed. I know I’ll think of him that way.
Mostly, though, I hope I was as good a friend to him as he was to me.