There was nothing obsequious about the Gray Menace. Assume that he was some cuddly, cute kitten, and he’d attack. I do not think the term feral was widespread for loose urban cats of his type back then. But that’s what he was. He was curious enough about how the other half lived to try it out. I did not rescue him; he rescued me. And he made that amply clear often in the years that followed.

Living in “chambers,” so to speak, was different than on the street. There was a steady supply of food, warm places to sleep, and a human to harass at need. He rapidly showed command of his new environment. He soon figured out how to flush toilets and turn lights on and off at night. He was the master of his universe.

Sometime in the spring of 1970, I moved to a new apartment. Again, there were many windows to occupy, fire escape to escape to, and multiple rooms to zoom in. But most of all, across the hall, was Fifi. Fifi was a white Toy Poodle who loved to get loose in the corridor and come to yip incessantly at our door. I was warned by Fifi’s owner that should anything untoward happen to her little darling; terrible things would happen.
My reply was that if she wished to avoid terrible things, she should keep her mutt away from my door. Things got frosty after that. After all, Fifi was a pure breed dog, and the Menace a ruffian cat.

It took almost half a year for the inevitable to happen. The Menace got loose in the corridor at the same time as Fifi. Two humans ran around in panic as the cat stalked the dog, and the dog barked at the cat. After a few minutes, it was clear that the combat would be a ritual one between cat and dog, as one hissed and swatted while the other yipped and barked. Both Fifi and the Menace had a good time as the humans screamed and yelled at each other. The threats grew extreme, and soon the neighbors came out of their apartments to see what the commotion was about. Bored, the Menace was studiously cleaning his claws while Fifi demanded her human feed her, taking the edge of her robe in her teeth and tugging her into the apartment. This ended the First Battle of the Corridor.

The Menace and Fifi enjoyed this event so much that it became a regular part of entering and exiting the apartments. One of us would come home, go shopping, or take the trash out, and the Menace and Fifi would be at the doors desiring a rematch. When Fifi moved out, the Menace was bereft until a cat moved in. Then the howling and hissing matches started.


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