My first wife’s favorite color was purple, and the Grey Menace’s Favorite thing to lie upon was her long purple woolen muffler. He’d wait until she had placed it on a chair after coming out of the winter weather. Then, once he was sure she was not looking, he’d start dragging it away to his lair, one long loop after another. Once safely in his dark corner behind the sofa, he’d happily purr as he knitted on it for hours.
Sooner or later, there would be a dramatic scene as she searched for it. But, for some reason, she never seemed to remember where the Menace’s lair was so that the house would be pulled apart in a frantic search before I reached behind the sofa and extracted the fur-covered muffler.
All this chase and excitement typically happened just a few minutes before she left for work. So she often left with the muffler shedding grey fur on her hat, coat, gloves, and whatever else she wore.
Everyone at work knew just what sort of cat she had; grey but primarily defined in short, nasty epithets. I always believed the Menace knew this, and his pleasure at frustrating her rekindled every afternoon when she returned from work.
For her birthday, I got her a replacement purple muffler in the hope that the old one could stay safely behind the sofa and the new one remain free of fur. But unfortunately, this seemed to enrage my wife. The replacement was merely “store boughten,” while her mother, Cora, knitted the original. Finally, Cora and the Cap’n suggested that the Menace moves into the shed where I had my workshop. He spent half his time there while I worked, sleeping in front of the wood stove. But I pointed out that at night the shop was unheated. To this, the Cap’n, my wife, and Cora shrugged, “he has a nice thick fur coat.”
Despite having a tough cat reputation, the Menace was a great appreciator of the more refined comforts in life, his food bowl in the kitchen, and his place at my feet on the bed at night. However, he did not take well to living in the workshop. The first night he yowled so loud that the Cap’n got little rest. At the other end of the house, I slept peacefully.
Everyone appreciated that the Meanace kept the house rodent-free within the week. Cora opened a pantry door one morning to find a family of mice setting up home near the flour. The Cap’n called a family conference about the crisis. The Cap’n and Cora wanted the Menace recalled to his duties inside the house.
The Cap’n was severely sleep deprived, and Cora was on the verge of dumping all the pantry contents. My wife expected me to take her side as a faithful husband, but I sat and watched the action. My wife sat on the couch glaring at the rest of us. The purple muffler sat on the chair by the door in a pristine, fur-free condition as exhibit A.
At this point, in stalked the Grey Menace, who promptly rubbed against the Capn’s calves and continued on his way towards the pantry. I venture a small laugh but cut it short as I received the full brunt of the “look” from my wife. The Capn’ pulled out his pipe, packed it full, puffed it alight, and then pointed the stem directly at my wife. “Georgia, the little grey bastard is coming back into the house. Your mother is beside herself over the mouse turds she’s finding in the kitchen, pantry, and linen closet.” A thump, a squeak, and a rustle came from the direction of the kitchen. The Menace was back on the job.
Cora shrugged her shoulders and said, “it’s alright, dear. I have more purple yarn; I’ll make you a new one.” The Menace trotted through the room, the squirming mouse in his mouth. I looked on proudly; that was my boy. I received a second dose of the “look” for this. Knowing that three could be fatal, I said nothing and tried to look uninvolved. Having been trained not to contradict her father, Georgia looked to her mother and said, “Thank you, Mommy.”
It was long winter. The Menace cleared up the mouse problem in a week of day and night long hunting. Cora knit a long muffler for Georgia that she gave her at Christmas. She also made a small purple blanket for the Menace; this he studiously ignored. Soon both mufflers were to be found in the Menace’s lair. I gave Georgia the best fur removal device I could find, but she still left for work covered in grey fur.
The Menace and the Cap’n could now and then be found enjoying the fireplace together on chilly evenings. But, most importantly, the Cap’n slept well every night, and the Menace returned to his place at the foot of the bed.
It was a metaphor for life in that house, much fury, much action, but little change.