The Grey Menace liked going into class with me almost as much as he enjoyed parties. He just hated having to get into the carrying case. And so every time I’d have to trot him along with me, it meant a whole new line of claw marks up my arms and bites, oh yes, bites. But he enjoyed inflicting the wounds, so the only part he hated was the trip to class. Even years after, I’ll swear that I notice faint marks on my arms, and who will ever forget an excellent hard chomp in the thenar space – the flesh twixt and tween thumb and first finger. Once he had bitten you there, he would hold on, look at you, rate how much pain you were in and try to dash away before the other hand swept in and grabbed him. 

Once in class, he was an accomplished actor: rubbing on people, inviting pats, and generally ingratiating himself. He was especially fond of the ladies. If he invited a guy to rub his belly, it was a prelude to a clawing. With a woman, however, the paw would gently hold the hand in place, gaze into their eyes, purr loudly, and leave them wondering what sort of a shit I was to deserve such a beating from this lovable kitty. He did so much better with women than I did.

Of course, he put away the act when he decided that a particular woman was not on his approved list. Then it was glares, stares, and stalking. At over twenty pounds, he was an intimidating beast. 

Then he ran into Clair. Clair was not into cats. She didn’t dislike them; she just was indifferent to them. So when he tried his wiles on Clair, her reaction was to ignore him and continue to pay attention to the lecture. Unfortunately, one did not just ignore the Gray Menace. He began to stare at her, no response. Then he stalked her, no response. At last, he moved in and took a friendly swat at her. Clair’s reaction was to reach down, suddenly grab him, and swat his rump in return and then drop him. He reared up, growled, and invited combat; she laughed.

One usually did not laugh at the Gray Menace, but he instead ran back to me and sat near me for the rest of the class, shooting glances at Clair.

At the parties and cookouts we had afterward, I noticed that he consistently showed great deference to Clair: sitting near her, trying to buddy up to her. Clair, knowing his reputation mentioned to me that he thought that she was a badass like him, and therefore an equal.

After Clair and I ended our relationship, I realized that the Gray Menace had understood things about Clair that I had missed. I was reminded of that verse in a Warren Zevon song that suggested that a girl worked him over good – 

She put me through some changes, Lord.

Sort of like a Waring blender.

The Gray Menace missed Clair when she stopped coming around. After all, peers were hard to come by if you are as tough as he was.

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