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New York City
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
October 2005
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She was Fife. She was Fifer. She was Fifey and Monkey and Monkeygirl and Monkeylove and Lovehead and Lovebucket. And Sweetpie and Sweetpea and Funnygirl and Missygirl and Love. She was all of that and more.

She was ours for five years. We adopted her at twelve. Someone else had loved her before us – and loved her well. But as soon as she saw us, as soon as we walked in the door, she came over and rubbed against our legs. We knew then, as we hadn’t known before, not being in the market for another cat— We knew then she was ours.

She was a long-legged lady who stood naturally in third position. She had tips on her ears, a bit of the lynx. In the mornings, she ran. She raced through the apartment, from one end to the other – streaking down the hall and around the leather chair and across the carpet and into the bedroom and onto the bed and then back out the door and under the glass table and down the hall again. She ran until she stopped. Then, her face expectant, she waited for praise, or a comb, attention, validation.

She loved billowing sheets, the snap of the fabric when the bed was being made. From the kitchen, she’d hear the sheets and come darting into the bedroom, leaping onto the bed, burrowing under the sheet. Then with the cotton sheet lifting and falling down atop her, she’d jump and crouch, waiting for the sheet to sail again.

Every day, she worked with us. Sat on our desks, sometimes directly in front of the screen, or walking across the keyboard. She would stand there facing us, her feet in third position. Staring at us, and defying us not to look back. I’m not moving, she’d say. Not until you tell me I’m so beautiful you can’t get any work done.

And a jumper too. From the kitchen floor to the kitchen counter and then atop the fridge and up onto the washer/dryer, until she was high above us atop the kitchen cabinets. Her cabin in the sky, she would sleep for hours, her long hind legs dangling over, the only part of her visible – until we climbed atop a stool and glimpsed her whole languorous body.

One year, she leaped onto the sill of an open window and walked along the outside sill, seventeen stories above the street. She tightroped unnoticed by us – not until later did we notice her footprints on the sill and follow her progress to the balcony where she’d leapt down and where she remained, smelling the marigolds.

And cardboard boxes— Never was there a cardboard box that Fifer didn’t love. She lived for a cardboard box from which she could peer out. No one else beside her, no one else allowed in. Her own private cardboard box.

And a winker. No one ever winked as much as our girl Fife. Sitting on the floor, staring up at us, she would wink. In our arms, her face close, she would wink. From between the sheets, her head near the pillow, she would wink. What a flirt, what a winker.

When she went to the vet, she went wrapped in a towel, tight against our chest. Her forepaw around our neck, holding on. The girls at the vet exclaiming, “Look at that, how she holds on.” That long front paw wrapped around our neck.

And a kisser. What a kisser. Fifer was such the kisser. She kissed on the lips. She kissed our foreheads and cheeks. She kissed us in the mornings and late at night. She kissed us so much and so often she sometimes forgot her tongue was out – and left it hanging there, out, ready for the next kiss.

And a talker, too. She talked right back at us, letting it be known her opinion on everything. Where were we going and how late would we be? And gazing up near our feet, saying, “Pick me up, now, and carry me around.” And also “Take me on a tour of the apartment, carry me in your arms.” And “Dance with me. Pick me up. Let’s dance,” for also, she loved to dance.

And popcorn and potato chips, she loved those too The sound of the bag or the popping in the microwave alerting her – and there she was at our feet, and then walking onto our lap. Determined to have her way, her popcorn and her potato chips. Unwilling to hear no, she was endlessly persistent, if not entirely patient. She got her way, biting down on a chip, crunching on popcorn – before waiting for more.

At night, she slept with us. Between us, beneath the sheets. She was a slender girl, long and narrow, and she spooned between our bodies. She fit naturally, perfectly, and with time, we no longer worried about smushing her in our sleep. She wouldn’t let us; she would kick at us with her hind legs. Those long legs, so powerful, she would remind us she was there.

The people before us, they’d had her declawed. So when she’d had enough of us, enough nuzzling and kissing, she’d press her front paw against our faces, pushing us away. “Leave me alone, you’re smothering me. I need room to breathe.”

And when we were combing her, when she’d had enough, she’d swat at the comb. And if we didn’t listen, she’d hiss and leap at us, her front paws grasping our faces, “Didn’t you hear me? I said enough.”

She was very possessive. She loved her boys and didn’t want anyone else loving us or us loving anyone else. When she was in bed with us, it was only about us three. The other cat couldn’t come anywhere near. Fifer didn’t need anyone else – only her two boys.

And the sun— How she loved the sun. A sunbath on the windowsill, soaking up the heat until she was so hot and groggy, she could hardly jump down from the sill, where she’d collapse on the wooden floor. “Too much sun,” she’d moan. Her head resting on the cool floor. A sun addict, she knew it would drain her, yet she couldn’t resist. Spread long on the sun-dappled floor in the bedroom, her body impossibly long. How could she be so long? Such a long-limbed and lithe cat, stretching so long and narrow.

She weighed so little. A long-distance jumping running cat. Some years nine pounds, and later, only eight. She was nothing but muscle. Muscle and love.

We saved all her whiskers. The ones which fell on the floor and dropped near her water bowl and on the carpet and in the bed. Black ones at first, and then only white. Some left on our deskpads.

Every night for the last year, we gave her i.v. fluids. At first, she resisted, until we found the right routine. Her on Robert’s lap while I found the sweet spot to stick in the needle. And then as the fluids dripped in, we would all three hold tight. My nose next to hers, Robert holding her body – and she was calm and quiet. She knew it was good for her, kept her with us that much longer.

Words and whiskers, photographs and memories. Someone once told us she was one of the greats. Our girl Fifer, one of the greats.

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