As I gingerly crept down the stairs, the creature was waiting at the bottom. It sat up on its hind legs, bared its fangs and claws and hissed like something out of Africa. My plan had been to make Chaucey the cat go back outside where he normally resided. But when it became more than obvious that he was in no such mood, I quickly decided Chaucey could stay in the basement that night.
We inherited Chaucey many years ago shortly after we moved into a home on SR 124 that an aunt and uncle had lived in for several years. They tried to take Chaucey with them to their new home a handful of times, but each time he found his way back to his old home. So we had a cat.
Chaucey was an old, white Tom cat, and not what you would call friendly. In fact, for some reason he would have almost nothing to do with my wife or stepson. But, he would take a seat with me occasionally – when the mood struck him.
Earlier in his life Chaucey had been hit by a vehicle in front of the SR 124 home, which sat probably 10 yards or less from the road. He would roam the woods behind the house for days at a time, but he would not go close to the road where he nearly lost his life. In fact, he had a little path worn in front of the front porch, and he would go no closer to the road than that path – ever.
It seemed strange because his jaunts into the woods would often last a week or two. Then he’d show up with new wounds, would nurse himself back to health and stay around the house for a month or two, then would disappear on another adventure into the woods.
By the time the poor cat passed away it had no tail, no ears and a scarred face, which we could only assume were the result of fights when he was out on his adventures. Sometimes he’d show up missing part of an ear, or another piece of tail, with a slash across his face, or limping. He evidently kept fighting until he lost his ears and tail completely, and that was largely why I hightailed it back upstairs that night he looked like he was in the mood for another fight.
By that time Chaucey was not allowed in the house much. That’s because he once infected our home with fleas. And infected is an understatement.
A day or two before my wife was to leave for a friend’s wedding in California, we noticed a flea or two in the house. The day my wife left for the wedding we noticed there were more. So we went out and purchased some of those flea “bombs.” I have never purchased one since.
They might have slowed the fleas temporarily, but a day or two later, if my stepson or I walked across the carpet, we could look down and see fleas on our legs. Lots of them.
Now, let me make this perfectly clear. I do not like bugs. In fact, in my opinion, the greatest thing about winter – even better than not having to mow the yard and battle weeds – is – is that the bugs disappear.
So, the evening that the plague of fleas appeared, I was more than a little unsettled. Not to mention mad at my wife, because it seemed that somehow, since she had abandoned us for California, it just had to her fault. Right? And besides, she’s the one that suggested the worthless bombs.
That night we went upstairs to go to bed. There was no carpet upstairs, and as far as I could tell the fleas had not advanced that far yet. But each time I closed my eyes it seemed like every inch of my body was itching, and sleep was not possible. So we packed up late at night and sought relief at my parents’ home.
We called the exterminator the next day and the fleas were quickly gone. But I swore that the cat would never be allowed back in the house.
Still, he managed to sneak in from time to time, and even though visions of fleas were dancing in my head that night I went after him down in the basement, I was not about to tangle with that wild cat.
Thankfully, it exited the house peacefully the next morning.
A year or two passed and one night my stepson and I were playing inside when we heard the strangest noises out on the big front porch. That’s where the cat stayed at night by then. For a couple minutes we couldn’t figure out what it was, because it sounded like nothing we had ever heard before. But after listening a while longer, I looked at my stepson and said, “Shane, I think that’s Chaucey’s death chant.”
Sure enough, we found Chaucey dead on the porch the next morning.
At first, between the chants from the evening beforehand that one night in the basement I was afraid to touch the thing, thinking it might spring to life and attack. But, we finally gathered him up, carried him to the woods and put him to rest where he seemed most at home.
That was many years ago.
Now we have a really cool, black Tom cat. We inherited him, too, from a neighbor. He’s really friendly, and pretty much the complete opposite of Chaucey.
But I will never forget Chaucey, the only cat I ever feared enough to run from.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.