Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Cat Story

One Saturday morning at 8:15, my phone began to vibrate around the nightstand, sending low vibrations over to the bed and into my and Alex’s ears. She nudged me to wake me up and I checked the caller id, which displayed an anonymous 440 number that I was not familiar with. I clicked the IGNORE key and rolled back over. Around 10:30, we woke up for real and I checked to see if the person calling had left a voicemail. He or she had not.

Curious, and maybe even a little irritated, Alex suggested that we call the number and see who answered. I told her that she could do that and she did. We huddled around her receiver and waited anxiously for the person on the other end to pick up. The dial tone stopped and the phone clicked.

‘Good morning, Apollo Machine,’ said a deep voice.

Alex promptly hung up. We giggled like we had played a prank on someone. After the laughter subsided, we were still confronted with the question of why I had received that call. Alex had another great idea and googled ‘Apollo’ and the phone number.

The first result led us to a PetsMart located on Apollo Parkway in Willoughby. This proved an odd turn of events, as we were planning on taking a trip to PetsMart to look at cats. I was not planning on picking up a cat, only on gauging the cat market for when I move out on my own in May. It would be nice to have a cat. Thing is, my roommate J is deathly allergic to cats. They close up his throat and he can’t breathe. Dies.

Just below the PetMart entry was a listing for Apollo Machine, also in Willoughby. This was the company that called me. The information only confused us further, for the company manufactured medical supplies like CAT (cat!) scanners and so on. Plus, my phone has a 727 area code, as I bought it in Florida, so there was really no reason the call could have been a misdial.

We were not going out to only look at cats. Half Price Books was also out that way and Alex had a gift card. The two of us also had gift cards for The Olive Garden and planned to dine there after our shopping experience. We planned for an early dinner, as T.O.G. fills up fast and stays that way until late in the evening. We decided that a 5:00 dinner was early enough to beat middle aged couples with their kids and stuff; and late enough to miss the senior citizens out for supper at 3:30.

But first, Alex and I showered and so forth and went to the Mint Café for some lunch around noon. We sipped on tea and I made a list of things that needed accomplished throughout the day:

1. eat lunch (checked)
2. ½ price books
3. performance bike (circled)
4. petsmart
5. olive grdn
6. good stuff

Performance Bike (3.) was kind of a secret. You see, Half Price Books, PetsMart, and Performance Bike are all located in the same plaza in Mayfield Heights. We planned a trip up Mayfield Road and a day of errands with a little reward at the end -- T.O.G. (5.) and the more general Good Stuff (6.).

Traffic was rough up Mayfield and Alex had to run a yellow light in Lyndhurst but we made it to Golden Gate Shopping Center safe and sound. Alex parked next to PetsMart (4.) and it was cold out so we decided to go in there first. Then we would go to Half Price Books (2.) and then -- sneakily, and on the way to the car -- I would suggest we stop at Performance Bike (3.). So we were taking things out of order, but it would be okay, because we were in a shopping center and it does not really matter what order you do things.

Inside, we checked out the fish. I appreciated the bottomfeeders like catfish and slugs, as they reminded me of my fantasy hockey team, the Benign Sharks. Alex liked the guppies. Then we found the kitties, courtesy of PAWS (not, I believe, an acronym) Adoption Agency. One cat, in particular, caught our attention. The tiger stripe with a pink nose was missing his tail. There was just a ticking little nub. Tickticktick. The cat looked playful and bounded around his cage. I looked at the manila tag that held the cat’s information. His name: APOLLO.

The cat was named Apollo. I told Alex this.

‘No effing way,’ she said. ‘You have to get this cat.’
‘He looks kind of crazy,’ I said.
‘I guess I’d be a little crazy too if I lost my tail.’
‘His name is Apollo.’

I read the little scrawled bio on Apollo’s card. The feline had lost his tail in an accident but is now all better and ready to party. The weight of the coincidence sat on my shoulders and I told Alex that we should take a walk around the store. Near the middle, past the gerbils and nasty rats, was another stack of cages from a different agency. These specimens were more kittens than cats but appeared rather downtrodden. One kitten sat in his litterbox, paws buried in the sand beneath him and he just stared down into the rocks, dejected.

These were not happy kitties. These were not for me. I thought of Apollo’s spry step and his ability to overcome adversity. We walked back over to the PAWS cages. Alex and I asked to pet Apollo. The worker let him out and gave him to Alex to hold. Apollo just hung out, he did not look out of place at all and enjoyed the attention. Alex took him to a bench and sat down. Apollo relaxed and took it all in: the life outside the cage. He jumped down, not for excitement but for leisure, and lay on the ground. He was undoubtedly the coolest cat I have ever seen. I paced back and forth in the little room, knowing the he was, in fact, the perfect cat (minus the minus tail). But this cat would kill J, my hyper-allergic roommate.

We had to leave, I said and gave Apollo back to the PAWS handler. This was only supposed to be a day of cat speculation, not a day of cat ownership. I felt like a bastard. Sans cat, we walked back out into the cold February day and over to Half Price Books.

I bummed around the store, not really interested in anything except that cat. I thought about how I had abandoned Fate and Apollo and sulked between the shelves and thumbed absently some books by Eggars, Barthelme and Zadie Smith. To cheer me up, Alex bought the books with her gift card. She let me go to Performance Bike even though I didn’t even really want to go anymore. We got in the car to leave.

As we were leaving the parking lot, I saw an InkStop and remembered that the store had portable hard drives on sale. Even though InkStop was not even in the plans that day, Alex took me over there. The man behind the counter told us that they were out of hard drives, but the new store in Willoughby had them in stock. He said the store was on Apollo Parkway.

Alex and I looked at each other uneasily. I sank my shoulders some more. The man said that store would put the item on hold for me.

Alex drove me up to Willoughby and I bought the hardware and we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts for some coffee. Then she drove down to the lake and we sat in her car and watched people fish despite the ice that was everywhere. I thought some more about Apollo. There was a pile of cat food next to the dumpster where we were parked. I told Alex that Apollo would be my best friend.

‘What about me?’ Alex asked. ‘Aren’t I your best friend?’
‘You’re my best person friend,’ I said. ‘Apollo is my best cat friend.’
‘I would let him enjoy all the privileges that I have, except eating at the dinner table, because that’s disgusting.’

I never got him. There was no way we could work out the logistics of it. Alex did not want to catsit Apollo for an extended period of time. She did not know how her cat Wendy would handle a roommate. I did not know how my roommate would handle a cat. And so it went.

I acted depressed for most of the evening, and our trip to Willoughby had cost us an early table at T.O.G. When we arrived at 6:30, the hostess greeted us with a sixty-five minute wait. I did not feel like standing around. Alex understood this so we left and went to Whole Foods to buy stuff to make dinner. Alex said she knew a good recipe for pasta carbonara. She was right: it tasted good. But I still wished I had that cat. My cat, Apollo.