Burt is dead.
For those of you who don’t know who Burt is – he was a cat. I’m tempted to say my cat but he never was mine. He lived with me but we were not owner and pet and we were certainly not friends.
If you never met Burt, let me tell you bit about him. First of all, he was the biggest funking cat you have ever seen. When he jumped on your lap he would frequently knock some wind out of you. People often commented that they had seen smaller dogs. He was also spectacularly handsome with the purr so loud it could drown out the sound of the television (as could his snore.) He was a striking creature that drew in admirers with his looks and seemingly docile countenance. Then he would strike.
I’m tempted to describe Burt as vicious but that would be untrue. He certainly, in his younger years, was the bane of every small mammal, bird and cat in the neighbourhood. Several times I awoke to find him feeding on a couple of pidgins in the kitchen. I once came down in the morning to find the kitchen floor completely (and I mean completely) covered with back feathers from the half a dozen blackbirds he had plucked before devouring. But I wouldn’t call that behaviour vicious – that was just a big cat being a big cat.
Several of my friends and neighbours who left my house with bleeding extremities would certainly label Burt as being vicious. Burt would saunter up to a stranger and look for all the world to be one of those people loving cats. He would purr and rub against your leg and let you pet him – but only on his head. As soon as a foolish hand tried to rub him down his back – he would strike. Like lightning, a blur of fur and claws would leave four red streaks down the back of a wounded hand. As a matter of health and safety, the first thing all of us who lived in our house would do, was warn any new arrival to the danger that was Burt. I can’t tell you how many people who claimed that “all cats love them,” would leave bleeding and humiliated.
Later in life he began to tolerate the long pet but he would not tolerate inattention. He would grant one the privilege of letting you stroke him as long as you focused on him. If the poor pet-ie were to turn their attention to say, answering a question – they would bleed. I once offered my 13 year old son ten pounds if he would pet the sleeping Burt on his exposed belly. He declined. Even at that tender age he knew there were easier ways to make money. Like coal mining.
Still I won’t say Burt was vicious – he was more like the dumb thug that smart and vicious gagsters keep nearby to do their dirty work. Burt just didn’t realise his own strength or the sharpness of his claws.
You may think after reading this that Burt was unloved but you would be wrong. He had many admirers and was certainly respected in the local. But he was unconditionally loved by three. My son loved the kitten and never stopped loving the cat. And then there are the two women who have loved me the most: Caroline my late wife loved Burt despite… no maybe because, of his faults. She loved Burt with the same love that keeps a mother visiting her murderous son in jail. I wanted to bury Burt with her like the Egyptians pharaohs did but no one would let me. The other woman in the exclusive Burt fan club is my current love, my partner Nadine. She is a veterinarian. Early in our relationship I tried to get her to put Burt down after he started pissing in the living room. Instead of killing him she fixed him. As the new woman in my life she thought it was unwise to kill my son’s late mother’s favourite pet. I guess she had a point.
Burt is gone now. I no longer have to fight for my space on the sofa or jump back in terror when I hear his daily hiss. I feel like Batman after The Joker died. I’ve lost a nemesis and maybe a bit of purpose in my life. Friends often accused me of secretly loving Burt – I didn’t – but I will miss him.