This is a new sketch I drew of my old cat, Wabe. I think I’ll just share a few nice stories here about my old best friend.
We got her in 1995, a year after we moved to America. I was seven. Somehow, the parents heard about a new litter of kittens going up for adoption, so we drove a long way to some house to see them all.
Three or four tiny little kittens were running all around this one bedroom. My dad was the one who ended up choosing her. She was a calico. He said he chose her because she came right up to him and rubbed up against his leg, purring. She was the friendliest of the bunch.
Well, we drove her home, and talked about what to call her on the way. ‘How about Peanut,’ someone said. ‘Because she has brown patches like a peanut.’ So it was decided, our new cat’s name was Peanut.
She was tiny, and had a big head and even bigger ears. Brown and black patches against mostly white, and an all white fuzzy tummy. I remember playing with her, and putting her on my head.
One day in school, we learned about rabies. So, naturally, I started calling her ‘Wabies’, which eventually became Wabe, or the Wabe.
One night I was watching the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards in my favorite brown blanket, and the Wabe jumped up and laid down between my legs.‘Yes, this is my good friend,’ I thought to myself.
I was fascinated right away by the way her shoulder blades went up and down as she strolled past; by the way she purred; I would gently put my finger on her throat just to feel it rumble. I’d put my ear against her too, just to hear that deep purr. And I was fascinated by her ‘woog’, that furry underbelly, which I loved to scratch.
Then, our crazy fun aunt Inger visited all the way from California. She was an artist, and a singer-songwriter too, so she wrote a song about the Wabe. She even packed our school lunches and created artworks on the brown paper bags, drawing pictures of the Wabe, and writing the lyrics of the song in beautiful flowing handwriting. The song went: ‘Wabie, Wabie, that cat is so crazy. Wabie, Wabie, that cat is so cool.’
Later, we’d build castles out of pillows and couch cushions, and put the Wabe inside. We’d throw her into big piles of pillows too, just for fun.
But sometimes she’d get mad if you went too far. She might bite you if you bugged her too much, but she never bit too hard. And she’d always lick you afterwards, where she bit you, if you put your hand out.
In the winter of 1996, there was a big blizzard, and probably five or six feet of snow fell in one day. We let the Wabe out into her first snow, and she jumped and played and explored and loved it.
She became an athletic young cat. We let her be an outdoor cat, and she made the best of it. She would even jump up to the roof and walk all around it. We’d sometimes even let her in from the second floor windows.
One game I played with her was called The Game of Trust: when she was sitting, with two paws down in front of her, I’d just poke one hand underneath one paw, which she would lift and place on top of my hand. Then I’d put the other hand under the other paw, so she’d basically be standing on my two hands with her two front paws, therefore, trusting me…
My sister Hanna had a little plastic watermelon purse thing, so we made up another song. The lyrics went like, ‘Let’s put the Wabe in the Watermelon. Let’s put Wabe in the Watermelon.’ Probably, it was inspired by that Harry Belafonte tune, ‘Put the Lime in the Coconut,’ but I can’t be sure.
We also scared her once, when we played a song called ‘Bawittabaw’ by Kid Rock for her on the boom box. The song starts real slow, but builds to a mad crescendo; we turned it up all the way, and made the boom box lunge toward where the Wabe was sleeping. She ran, fast.
Sometimes when she was sitting on the ground, I’d also lay down, put my head underneath her, and just looked up at her from below. She seemed so tall. Her character always seemed so dignified, noble. She loved sitting by the heat vents, and sometimes she’d lick my hair.
There was a friendly black and white neighbor cat across the street called Boots. We decided this was Wabe’s love interest. There was also a rival. He was a big, fluffy, mean cat who lived in the house behind ours. His name was Pumpkin. Wabe and Pumpkin would sometimes have fights, and we were worried about Wabe getting hurt, but she could always hold her own.
When it came to mice, the Wabe had an interesting way with them. She would sometimes catch mice or chipmunks, but she generally wouldn’t kill them. One time, I saw her laying out in the sun, in front of the house, with a mouse laying right next to her. The mouse was breathing… maybe Wabe was just playing. I feel like she was almost too nice to want to hurt them.
One day, we saw another cat at the pet shop, and my sister decided she must have it. So we came home with a little shy tabby kitten called Ray. Wabe wasn’t very happy about this, and I guess she was pretty depressed about it for a while. They ended up fighting quite a bit, and would hiss at each other.
Wabe got other nicknames over the years, too, like: the Beast, or Beastro. And so did Ray, who remains the Kitten, or Kittanya. Though they had some fights, they eventually got used to each other, and even managed to sleep on the same couch sometimes. Friends? Just maybe.
As I got older, the Wabe was always there for me. She was someone I could count on to hang out with, but didn’t have to think of things to talk to about, instead just sharing a comfortable silence. I was always kind of shy, so this was great.
One summer, probably sometime during high school, I decided to do a little experiment. The Wabe liked to go outside late at night, and I always wondered where she went. So, I decided to follow her. She went in our front yard, and then into the neighbor’s yard. I tagged along.
Suddenly, the neighbors came home, along with their big dog. I dove into the bushes beside their front door. Then, the Wabe walked off; what a pal. I just leaned, petrified, between my neighbor’s house and the bushes, hoping they wouldn’t notice me, especially with that dog. They just went inside the house, none the wiser.
Unperturbed, I followed the Wabe some more. She went to the house across the street, which was having some construction work done on it. Wabe walked across the gangplanks above the gaping pit in the moonlight. Cicadas buzzed, fireflies glittered in the night around her.
Then she crossed Fairview Avenue and walked up to one of my classmates’ house. I figured it’d be really embarrassing to get caught by someone I knew from school, so I called it a night. But the Wabe kept exploring. And wherever she is now, I’m sure she’s exploring still, with her tail held high.