Shy, Never!

There was nothing shy about that grey tomcat of mine. If Clancy liked you, he’d let you know at once, and if he didn’t like you, he’d let you know at once. There’d be a slight variation in technique. For like he’d savor your blood like an excellent vintage, and lick you clean while rubbing against your legs. If he took a dislike to you, he’d ignore you until an opportunity presented itself to do some genuinely foul thing. He was neither bashful nor shy.
So how did you wind up on the side of the enemy? Let me count the ways: Ignore him, push him away with your foot or hand, disparagingly speak about him (he could tell), kick him, refuse to share your roast beef sandwich with him. I could go on. He rarely forgave, and he never forgot.

On returning to the Boston area after grad school, I took up with some sailing buddies as roommates. George and Andy. George was a hard-working type, while Andy never attended a party he didn’t like. After living with them for a while, I realized that George kept to himself to avoid Andy. They were roommates for economic convenience, not because they were friends. Things could get boisterous when Andy returned from a good carouse.
George got on Clancy’s right side early – he shared his roast beef. The cat loved roast beef subs, preferably with hot pepper on it. So George was on Clancy’s right side. Clancy had never liked drunks, and Andy was one. So Andy started with a handicap. Then one night, he made the mistake of using his shoe to shove Clancy aside. A bean bag chair followed the shoe. I heard about it after I came home from work. Clancy sulked and bided his time. With him, the longer he sulked, the worse the revenge would be.

Andy used black trash bags for almost everything, from trash to housing clothes to storing valuables. One day when George and I were taking the garbage out, we put a big part of Andy’s wardrobe on the street. When he bought replacements, he kept them in a black trash bag. Clancy took the opportunity to sneak up to Andy’s room, pee on the bag, and join George and me in front of the TV. Have I told you that the cat had a perfect poker face?
Clancy was robbed of the ultimate pleasure. Andy did not blow up or stomp downstairs, screaming. It turned out that Andy had almost no practical sense of smell. The next morning he came downstairs and said he had to do some laundry because his clothing smelled a bit mildewed. George and I looked at him; Clancy looked at him. As soon as Andy left, the cat made a beeline upstairs. I did not attempt to check on what was going on. George found it hilarious and bought a roast beef sub, with hots for Clancy. I sped up my preparations for moving into an apartment of my own.
Andy moved out first. He insisted that he could never rid his room of the mildew odor. Our next roommate liked turkey club sandwiches. The new roommate shared. Clancy, being neither bashful nor shy, decided that turkey was good stuff and that Steve was an alright guy.

B & E

For many years, my constant associate was a large gray cat with attitude issues. Clancy J. Bumps ( with an umlaut over the U) was a feral cat who claimed me while I was living in Ottawa, Ontario in 1969. Clancy entered my life by walking up to my friends and me one day. He looked us over, and choosing me proceeded to climb up my leg, my back, and onto my head. He thereby claimed me as his personal property.

Being duly claimed, I had no choice other than to search the neighborhood for his mother, brothers, sisters, or other responsible parties. The most positive comments I garnered about my kitten’s character were, “oh good…the little brat’s your responsibility now.” Many hinted that his mother, in desperation, had kicked him out of the feline family. Being assured of his sterling character, I took him home.

The young Clancy soon expanded his rep by hanging out regularly with the most hardened cat in the neighborhood – a Siamese called Hunter – known for beating up a local Rottweiler. In human terms, Clancy would have been Hunter’s consiglieri. Of course, I became his favorite sparring partner when the blankets would not cooperate. Lights went on and off at odd hours as he practiced surprise combat techniques by leaping at the old fashioned light pulls.

After moving back to the Boston area, I moved into an old factory building behind Sullivan Square. It was far from being in a good neighborhood, but the rent was cheap for a space that was large enough to serve as a carver’s shop, and bare living quarters. The landlord hoped that having a small artist colony in the building would discourage the breaking and entering that was plaguing his property.
Clancy soon teamed up with another resident cat ( the double pawed Jean Le Foot) for nightly expeditions to catch mice and smaller rats. Watching the two cats double team on a rat was quite the thing among the workers at the coffin factory. The two were considered the sheriffs of the building, and they were shameless in their willingness to accept and expect rewards for their activities.
This was all very amusing, but none expected that the two cats would actually help discourage a breaking and entering.

The building was deserted on weekends. The factories closed on Friday, and the sounds of planers, jointers, and saws gave way to the creaks of an old mill building. Sunday, I went out with friends and left Clancy a large enough serving of food and water that he and La Foot ( who came and went through a hole in the wall) wouldn’t be hungry. I did not return that night.

Monday morning, I hurried down Sherman street because of the several police cars and an ambulance in front of my building. I was greeted inside by the owner of the coffin factory and an officer:
“Ahhhh. Wes glad you’re here…can you go up and coral your cat?” My cat? At this point, the officer filled me in on the situation. Sometime in the early hours, a burglar had made the rounds of our building: artists studios, butcher block company, casket factory, and at last, my shop. He would have gotten away with his felony, except the two cats somehow found fault with him. Clancy would attack at any opportunity, but his buddy was more peaceable. So I suspect he kicked one of the cats, and that did it. The biting and scratching began. The blood told the path of his retreat through the third-floor corridor. Then it spread and pooled in the coffin factory and into the bathroom. It was there he was found by the owner of the coffin factory. He called the police, but no one could get the felon to step off the toilet that was his final refuge. The two cats still circled like sharks below. Growling, and howling, they were just two angry kitties. I was able to lead them away with a can of food. The burglar, now in custody, passed me on his way to the police car bitterly complaining ( as he pressed towels onto his bleeding bites) that it should be against the law to keep such vicious animals. The cop just laughed at this.

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