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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Will: Sharon, the NEA is a loser. Yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paycheck, but he gets to hit you with it any time he wants. It doesn’t cost money, it costs votes; it costs airtime, column inches. You know why people don’t like liberals? Because they lose. If liberals are so fucking smart, how come they lose so goddamn always?
Sharon: Hey!
Will: [to Lewis] And with a straight face, you’re gonna tell students that America’s so star-spangled awesome, that we’re the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom, Japan has freedom, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium has freedom. [laughs] So 207 sovereign states in the world, like a hundred and eighty of them have freedom.
Moderator: Alright–
Will: And yeah, you, sorority girl. Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there’s some things you should know, and one of them is, there’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force, and number 4 in exports. We lead the world in only 3 categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined. 25 of whom are allies. Now, none of this is the fault of a 20 year old college student. But you, nonetheless, are without a doubt a member of the worst period generation period ever period. So when you ask, “what makes us the greatest country in the world?” I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Yosemite? [Pause] We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors. We put our money where our mouths were. And we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it, it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in our last election. And we didn’t… we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things, and to do all these things, because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore. [Pause] Enough?
— WIll McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), The Newsroom