I was going to post this later, but I just found out that today, August 17th, is black cat appreciation day!
It hurts me to see the signs on animal shelters about black cats and how people kill them, particularly on Halloween because they view them as evil or bad luck. They are adopted the least often of any color of cat and are the most likely to be abused.
When I was in third grade, this girl brought her black cat for show and tell. Some of the other little girls stood terrified in the corner because of the whole "bad luck" stigma, but I was entranced by her shiny, dark fur. I thought she was beautiful and insisted that I must have a black cat of my own. My parents immediately said no.
I prayed very hard for a black cat every day. I grew-up in a Christian home. On a Wednesday night as I walked to the car to go to my church for a children's group, I found a little black kitten playing with my shoelace. It was love at first site.
"Can we keep her?" I asked my parents the way every child would in the same situation.
They didn't even bat an eyelash. "No," they said and threw her outside.
She clung to the door all night, mewing so cutely that she broke my parents' heart. We lived in a forest. If we left her out there, she could be eaten by coyotes, so we brought her in and she became a member of our family.
I named her Charlotte. I had a fascination with Charlotte's web, so I wanted my cat to be named after her. My Dad liked to call my cat "the spider" because of it. He'd say to me,"There's a giant black spider wanting to be pet in the living room. Should I go kill it?" It was a joke because I hate spiders and was always asking him to kill them. I knew he was really trying to tell me that my cat wanted attention. I'd run into the living room and hug my cat as she growled menacingly at me.
That's right. My cat was an angel. She'd howl and complain every time I held her. She'd stare at me in fury, insisting that I wasn't treating her like the Princess she was, while guests would come over and be terrified over the fact that my cat made noises louder than an engine with no muffler. She didn't scratch often, but she grumbled all day long.
But if I didn't hold her, she'd start appearing in every room my family traveled to. First we'd be in the kitchen and she'd be staring off bored out the window. Then we'd move into the living room and she'd be lying on the rocking chair. We'd go into the bedroom and she'd be napping at our feet. She had the power to teleport nonchalantly, so we'd give her the attention that she supposedly didn't want without having to ask.
The vets saw her as a hell beast. Every time we'd come and pick her up, there would be warnings all over the cage about how she scratches and bites. I remember hearing a veterinarian approaching her cage once and cooing at her while her claws extended themselves and she hissed until she was spitting. I cooed in the same way and she started to purr. Charlotte was vocal about her opinions towards people.
She was loud in general. She'd meow all the time for cat food and treats, sometimes biting my Mom on the leg if she took too long to get her wet cat food. She was also loud when she sat in the window and stared out at birds. She thought she was a master of disguise and could trick the birds into thinking she was one of them. They'd start tweeting up a high pitched storm. My cat would listen carefully and start chirping along with them. She was actually very good at imitating the noises they made, except she usually put an "m" sound at the beginning of it. So instead of "tweet, tweet", she'd say "meet, meet". I regret never recording it to post on youtube.
My cat was one of my best friends. I got picked on a lot growing up, but I always knew she would be waiting for me on my bed when I got home from school. I'd pet her and sing to her. Sometimes I'd tell her about my day. She'd cheer me up.
It's how I knew my black cat wasn't bad luck. She was some of the best luck I'd ever had.
Years ago, my cat began to act strangely. She had always been terrified of water, but suddenly she was in love with it. She was falling asleep with her head in bowls of water and sitting inside the toilet and meowing at the water. We couldn't figure out what was wrong with her and why she'd cry so loudly.
We took her to the vet and found out that she had thyroid problems. She was unusually hyper for an older cat. She slept a lot, but would suddenly run around the house so quickly that she'd slide on the ground and fall onto her side when she tried to round corners. She made a galloping sound when she ran. Listening to her run, even when she'd jump on my face while I was laying on the couch because she was so hyper with her claws extended, brought a smile to my face.
Unfortunately, the reason she was so hyper was because she had an overactive thyroid. It was why she was nervous all the time and it would take a toll on her heart. We were given pills to feed to her and told to come in for a check-up every six months to make sure the dose was correct. Her personality stayed mostly the same, but she stopped meowing at water.
My cat was old and her fur was getting lots of tangles. She fought my mother whenever she tried to cut them out, so my Mom thought it would be a good idea to take her to the groomers. I wasn't so sure. My cat was nervous a lot and I was scared that going to the groomers would be too much for her. She insisted that it would be all right and that we needed to do this, so I said,"Okay."
The day my Mom took my cat to the groomers, she asked me to come over because she wanted to talk to me about it. They had tied my cat up at the groomers because she had been difficult (as always) to take care of and it turned out that she was so frightened by the visit that she collapsed on the table and went into cardiac arrest. The woman working on her did CPR, but it was too late. Charlotte was dead.
She cried as hard as we did. She said she had been grooming for twenty years and nothing like this had ever happened to her. We weren't angry with her. We didn't yell at her, but her place went out of business not too long after that. I worry that she felt too much guilt or fear over what happened to my cat and stopped grooming animals. We didn't want that to be the case. My cat had been getting sickly and skinny for awhile. We knew she might go soon anyway. We didn't want her to blame herself.
Because of my cat, Charlotte, and the good luck she brought into my life, I've made it a secret priority to bring that good luck into my novels by secretly writing her in. In my Spirit Speaker novel, one of the characters, Parmenia, raises several animals, accidentally, from the dead. One of them is a black cat. In my Medusa novel, Medusa travels to ancient Ethiopia. They have a bunch of gods there that resemble animals and one of those animals is a black cat. I also have an idea for a book series about necromancers where the main character has a pet that's a mixture of a black cat and a snake. And I have another story idea where the best friend of the main character is a single woman who lives with only her black cat. I find ways to subtly sneak black cats into many of my stories, but not all. If you keep your eyes open and read my novels, you'll be able to find each reference, but if you don't pay attention, you'll probably miss them because they're subtle.
Everything I write about isn't about me. Some of it is about other people I've known and experiences I've seen them having, but little bits and pieces of me sneak into my stories. This is one of them.
Do you have any little secrets or tributes like this that you add to your stories? Have you seen any in other novels?