“Best Friends Come in All Sizes” by Steve Liddick
This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Cats.”
It was raining when I returned from the barn to feed our horses and noticed a bedraggled cat on the porch of our Pennsylvania farmhouse. He was attacking a bowl of cat food as though he had not eaten in a while.
“What are you doing out here, Tiger?” I asked. This was odd, because Tiger was strictly an indoor cat.
“Not Tiger,” my wife, Sherry, said from the doorway. “He just wandered in and I put some food out for him.”
No surprise. All five of our cats had “just wandered in.” With so many of them out there needing a good home, the idea of buying a cat was an alien concept.
We had a large fenced-in compound alongside the house and an entry flap for the felines to come and go as they pleased. That way, they were indoor/not-quite-outdoor cats, safe from roaming wild critters.
Sherry named the new boy “T.C.,” for Top Cat. From the beginning, he was an indoor/outdoor cat. During the day, T.C. would hang out with our horses in the barnyard. He became friends with a palomino named Dusty who didn’t seem to like anyone, human or equine. And for good reason—no one had ever treated Dusty humanely before we got her, and she never entirely trusted that we would not hurt or neglect her, either.
But Dusty truly loved T.C. They often went nose to nose in affectionate greeting. It was common to see T.C. walking among Dusty’s enormous hooves without a care that the half-ton animal could squash him flat.
When evening came, I would go up to the barnyard, pick up T.C. and wear him like a fur piece around my neck as we walked back to the house for the night. From then on and for the rest of the time we lived in Pennsylvania, T.C. remained an indoor/outdoor cat.
Over time, T.C. became my cat and I became his human. We were inseparable. If I sat down, he was in my lap. If I got up from my chair to go to the kitchen, T.C. was close behind. I often referred to him as the son I never had. And T.C. showed his gratitude for being rescued by occasionally putting a dead vole or field mouse in Sherry’s barn boots. Looking at it from a cat’s perspective, those were generous gifts.
Eventually, we moved back to California for my job, with the cats in separate carriers on the plane and the horses trucked across the country in a stock trailer.
For the dozen final years of my nearly half-century career as a radio newscaster, I was a correspondent for a network that provided Sacramento regional news for distribution to affiliated northern California radio stations. I worked out of my home sound studio.
T.C. helped. Trying to write newscasts with a cat sitting on your lap with his paws sometimes touching the keyboard is not the most efficient arrangement, I’ll admit.
As I was working one morning, I heard an odd sound coming from my computer.
At first, I couldn’t figure out what was causing it.
Then I noticed that while T.C. was standing with his back feet on my lap and his front feet on the desk in front of the keyboard, he was drooling onto the keys. Apparently, the moisture shorted out something.
Since I was on deadline, as one always is in the radio business, I was in a panic. I was only halfway finished writing my news and I suddenly had no word-processor capabilities. Then I remembered that I had another keyboard. I hauled it out from the “things-that-are-too-good-to-throw-away-because-I-might-use-them-sometime” pile. I hooked it up, the noise stopped and I was able to continue.
Well, as much as I enjoyed T.C.’s company while I worked, I couldn’t risk those kinds of delays again. So I put a pad on a table beside my workspace. That became his perch and he could look down at me while I worked. Occasionally, he would reach out with a paw to touch my arm.
Years later, I’d had major surgery and was in the hospital for four days. When I got home, I was in pain and bedridden. T.C. was there to greet me. He raced around the living room when I arrived. I struggled to get into bed. He huddled down beside me, wrapped both paws around my forearm and stayed that way for hours.
I had never felt so welcomed home in my life.
Nowhere is it written that a person’s best friend has to be another human . . . or even a dog. Mine is a cat. T.C., to be exact.
Steve Liddick is the author of three novels, a memoir of his 47 years in the radio business and a camping cookbook. He and his wife, Sherry, live near Sacramento, California with their horse, three donkeys and five cats.
Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Cats.” The book is filled with 62 cat-approved stories written by their humans. Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/1CdPXYt) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/1zFY1kd).
To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.