Decades ago my father had a dog, named “HeyYou.” The black and tan Coonhound bitch was ferocious, crushing cats like a sock full of eggs. When pink plump Frankie came screaming into this world, my parents thought it was a good idea to replace the cold-blooded killer with a more appropriate companion: a cat. Following his trend of originality, my father named the calico “Kitty.”
Kitty would roost on top of me, using my padded fat as insulation from the cold of Canada. Only slightly worried she would smother me, my parents welcomed the reliable heat blanket. Often, Kitty would knead and massage my tummy, coaxing spittle and milk-goo from my toothless mouth. An instant snack. Her contented purr would put me to sleep instantly, an Eskimo wrapped in brown and white fur.
One particularly brutal snow-swept spring inspired my parents to relocate. Fleeing the cold, our family immigrated to Texas. The warm summer nights allowed Kitty the freedom she’d not had in Canada. Kitty became an outdoor cat, staying out late and cavorting with reckless abandon. I was imprisoned indoors, with Beatrice the stuffed snaggle-haired bunny. But before my abandonment issues were exposed, Kitty got knocked up and was prescribed couch-rest.
During this poignant time in my development, I began repeating words like a trained parrot. Pieced together in broken English, my first phrases were an early glimpse into my adult persona. Frank are Hungry! No paint wall! Fucking Cat! The latter expression I mastered from my mother, but used during a church function to frame my father. At two, I was already a master at manipulation.
The most famous phrase from my youth occurred shortly after Kitty’s vagina exploded. Although largely complacent, her temperament would flare as I toddled toward her litter. Varying the force of my adoration between pats and thumps, Kitty would emit a guttural growl.
“Frankie?” My mother would nag. “What are you doing? Be careful. He’ll scratch you!”
“Kitty good! Good Kitty!” I’d drunkenly pronounce, digging my pudge of a finger into her ear. “Ear fun truck!” With seven kittens suckling at her teats, Kitty was not as easily amused. Again, she snarled. I dug deeper. “Ear fun truck!”
“Frankie? Don’t do that!” My mother reprimanded, in that singsong voice mothers invented. “He’ll scratch you!” I extracted my forefinger from Kitty’s orifice, and examined what I must have been brain. “Oh God, FJ! That’s disgusting!” My mother leapt from the couch and disappeared into the kitchen.
With the ever-watching parent momentarily absent, I reached for a bug-eyed kitten. Kitty warily eyed my arm and outstretched hand. I scooped up the feeding kitten, which clamped onto his mother with fervor. Kitty had had enough. In a deft move too quick for my infantile motor skills to process, Kitty swiped her paw across my hand. In all her fury, the cat had not drawn blood. But I had been betrayed.
I gasped, released the kitten, and stood facing my double-crossing companion. My vision blurred, tears seeped forth. Clutching my hand, I began to howl.
My mother rushed into the room, and towered over me. “Frankie, what did I say?”
I held my hand to her in offering, attempting to gain sympathy from the woman who’d birthed me. “He scratch you!” I sobbed, burying my face into her leg. “He scratch you.” I muttered. She swooped me into her arms, and carried me away from the battlefield. I ceased crying Instantly and glared at Kitty and her litter.
“He scratch you.” I declared one last time. Fucking cat.