January 4, 2009
By Anna Hanley, Ligonier, PA

It was staring at me. The big furry freak was staring at me with unblinking yellow eyes, making sleep impossible. I futilely tried to kick it off the bed but the thing was so fat it wouldn’t budge. I rolled over and smashed a pillow down over my head. It trundled over, sat on the pillow, and dug its claws into my scalp; charming.

It hadn’t been my idea to get a cat. When my roommate, Dave, had suggested it several weeks ago, I had just laughed, thinking he was kidding. Unfortunately, he wasn’t, and for the next two weeks I was forced to listen to a constant barrage of reasons why we needed a cat.

“Come on Bella,” He said persuasively, “who wouldn’t want a kitten; a cute, fluffy, adorable little kitten?”

I gazed stonily back at him, “I hate cats. Plus, we live in an already cramped apartment, five stories up, with six square feet of crunchy brown grass to call a yard. It would be one miserable, cooped up cat, and it would take that misery out on us.”

Dave was unaffected by my logical lack of enthusiasm. He continued on, effectively ignoring my negativity, “Just think about it: you come home from work and, instead of being greeted by a cold and empty apartment with no company but the TV, you’re met at the door by a lovable little kitty who just wants to cuddle and play.”

Dave’s ridiculous scenario made its way past my attempts to tune him out. With deliberate calmness, I took it upon myself to knock some sense back into him. “Okay, Dave, first of all, kittens do not stay as kittens forever, they eventually become cats and then they become evil incarnate. Second, I wouldn’t be greeted by a lovable little kitten who wants to play, but rather, by shredded furniture and a mangy fur ball lying in wait to leave permanent claw marks on my ankles. And when have I ever come home to an empty apartment? I wish I could, but you’re always here! When you get a job, we can talk about getting a cat.”

His annoyingly cheerful demeanor was unaffected by my diatribe, so, to reaffirm my point, I gave him the most withering glare I could muster but he just grinned in response. Irked by his attitude, I struggled to get up out of our overstuffed love seat, more a trap than a chair, and stomped out a path to my bedroom.

Dave called out sarcastically as I disappeared around the corner, “You’re just afraid to love. It’s okay to feel, Bella; you need to let your emotions go.”

I slammed my door in response, one hundred percent set on not getting a cat. Three days later I was being dragged to the shelter.

Upon our arrival, I sulked my way out of Dave’s beat-up sedan, onto the gravel pathway and towards the decrepit brick building which was emitting a rather pungent odor. I wrinkled my nose in distaste, counting the smell as yet another reason why this was a bad idea. Dave saw my sullen expression and threw his arm around my shoulder. With a final, longing look at the car, I held my breath and stepped inside. One of the shelter’s employees approached and asked if she could help us with anything. I noticed that she didn’t address me which was probably a wise decision on her part; my irritation was nearly tangible. Dave however, clearly enthusiastic, asked where the kittens were located. Grabbing my arm, he dragged me off in the direction the employee had indicated and made a beeline for the cage containing the cutest, and most expensive, kittens. Yanking my arm back, I ignored the cages full of mewing fluff balls and instead began searching for the much less expensive cats; I didn’t particularly feel like paying for something I didn’t want in the first place. When I saw a door entitled “The Cat Room,” I went straight for it, pulling Dave, who had become sickeningly sweet in the presence of kittens, along with me.

After stepping no more than two feet inside “The Cat Room,” Dave and I were immediately accosted by the room’s occupants, a gathering of at least twenty cats. Dave, apparently at ease with the idea of being outnumbered ten-to-one by the clawed beasts, plopped down in the center of the room and allowed himself to become a jungle-gym for the attention-starved cats. I, however, was far less comfortable and stayed by the door with one arm tensed and ready to grab the handle at the first sign of attack.

Separating himself with great difficulty from his new feline fan club, Dave began pointing out all of the different cats we could potentially bring home. “Look, see over there on the pillow, that one looks nice. Or hey, what about this one?” He held up a fluffy brown creature that looked more like a decorative pillow than a cat. “She’s purring. She likes me. Or maybe over there, at twelve o’clock. No, not your twelve o’clock, my twelve...Never mind! It’s right there.” He pointed towards a dainty calico perched effortlessly on the windowsill.

I intended to show my dislike of his choices by walking out of the room, but before I reached the door I was assailed by a flying fur ball that landed on my back, nearly knocking me over with its excessive weight. Giving an appropriately startled shriek, I whirled around rapidly, hoping to dislodge the animal and send it flying off of my back. Unfortunately for me, however, this particular cat had long enough claws to ensure a firm grip in my skin. After feeling said claws dig into my flesh, I abruptly stopped moving and turned my head to look at my attacker. I nearly fell over again when I saw what was perched on my shoulder; it had to be the biggest cat I had ever seen. At roughly the size of a small Labrador retriever, with coarsely speckled brown and white fur and looming yellow eyes staring at me from an inch away, I was shocked into immobility. This immobility ended when the cat craned its oversized neck and bit me square on the end of my nose.

Dave was laughing uproariously from his spot on the floor. I tried to whack him upside the head, but he dodged my hand and only laughed harder. Turning away from Dave, I picked up my new cat-nemesis, held him safely out of paw’s reach, and glared into his eyes. He stilled and returned my glare. Apparently this cat was better at glaring than I was.

Shifting my new pet to a more comfortable position in my arms, I turned to Dave, who was still having trouble getting his hysterics under control and said, “We’re keeping him.”

Dave slowly picked himself up off the floor, unable to contain the grin that was threatening to burst across his face. “I told you so! Oh I was so right! Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t I tell you we needed a cat?”

I purposefully ignored him and started walking towards the car.

Moving quickly to catch up, he asked me eagerly, “Can I name him? Please? Please?”

Feeling like I was dealing with a two-year old, I obligingly listed to his list of absurd names, shooting them down one by one.

“The Thing?”




“Yevgraf Ivanovitch Shiryaev?”

“What? No. Think of something more normal.”

He outdid himself. “John? Bob?”

I accidentally kicked him. “No and no.”

He paused for a second and then said, “Adolf?”

“We have Jewish neighbors.”

“Well then, what about Stalin? We could call him Joey for short.”

“Russia’s too cold,” I replied.

“Fair enough. What about Napoleon?”

I considered it. “Well he does seem the diabolical genius type.” I made my decision. “Napoleon it is.”

I looked down at the newly christened Napoleon, “And what do you think of the name Napoleon you insane fur ball? Do you like it?”

He reached up a paw and biffed me on the nose. Good enough for me.

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