Daily Archives: April 11, 2012

Boo Radley


When we got him, he was named Bourbon. Having lost two of my three cats in the previous year, K convinced me that it was time to get some company for Sylvester, my 16-year-old girl cat. At the pound, I found a great little guy named Basil, still mostly a kitten, paid his bail, and arranged to take him home. While I was filling out paperwork, a woman brought in a hissing, yowling ball of gray fur in a carrier.

The woman’s mother had just died, and this was one of her cats. She thought he was around seven years old. I reached in and scratched his neck, and he started to purr and rub against me, forgetting the terrifying situation. I knew that if I walked away from this freaked-out, already geriatric cat, no one would take him and he’d be euthanized within the week. We took him home before he was ever entered in the system.

As soon as I let him out of the carrier, he hid under my bed. And stayed there. For two weeks.

If I scratched him, the same switch flipped, he forgot his fear, and turning into a purring, drooling ball of affection. The rest of the time, he was terrified. We realized he probably had brothers and sisters, and was at a loss without them. K surmised an entire liquor cabinet full of cats to go along with “Bourbon,” a name we were looking to replace.

Remarking on our effort to get him to come out, it was my ex Rebecca who came up with Boo Radley.

One night, I was awakened by something furry slamming its head into my chin. Like his namesake, Boo had come out in the dark and was rubbing his face against mine, purring fiercely. From that first visit in 2002 until last night, Boo slept on me or next to me every night I was in my own bed.

It took another week for him to be comfortable enough to come out and relax during the day, but once he did, I discovered I had the most astoundingly affectionate and loving animal I’d ever seen on my hands. Boo lived for people. Lap. Chin. Shoulder. Face. He just wanted to be on you. He would leap from the ground into your hands to be held.

And then there was food. Boo wanted ALL the food, ALL the time. He once devoured an entire chicken breast – near as we could tell, bones included – in under 90 seconds when I left it unattended. At Thanksgiving, 2002, he attacked the entire raw turkey. Perspective was for lesser mammals.

Sometimes, he had a very mechanical way of moving. He walked like something didn’t work right in his transaxle. He got lost in our old warehouse, and would echo-locate like a bat. Often, we suspected that Boo was actually a mechanical cat piloted by aliens.

This morning, just over 10 years later, I said goodbye. He was ready; an exhausted, wobbly, rail-thin shadow of his former self. K came to say her farewells, and suggested that the aliens had finally learned all they could. Or maybe his batteries just ran out.

All I know is that Arthur “Boo” Radley and I had an amazing decade of borrowed time together, and I’m so glad I was in the pound that morning to benefit – as I so rarely do – from genuine luck.

Damn. Fine. Kitty.

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Women, when they have made a sheep of a man, always tell him that he is a lion with a will of iron. — Honore de Balzac