Felix The Cat Part IV: The Grey Dragon
By Melissa Roberts
When my cat Felix decided to tolerate Mum and Dad’s cat Tiptoe in 2010, we had been living there for nearly two years. I never expected Felix to give in, but then again I never expected to lose my job and have nowhere else to go but back where I had come from.
Former stray turned beloved pet, Felix moved with me from St. Louis, Mo to small town Kansas after I lost my job as a hospital chaplain in 2008. My parents and I agreed this would be a temporary situation- six months at the most- until I could get back on my feet. We all overestimated my employability and underestimated the recession.
My parents had their empty nest organized for their needs, so Felix and I carved out a corner of a storage room for our space. I stacked suitcases of clothes and boxes of books too precious for the outdoor storage unit around the bed with a path cleared to avoid tripping. “A few months,” I repeated to myself. “Just a few months.”
Felix got free reign of the two story Victorian house as long as she behaved. She had lived here years before, and her favorite sunny window spots remained. The only problem was that a new cat had taken them.
Fluffy and black, with tufted paws and a plumed tail that stood erect like a flag, Tiptoe was everything Felix was not. Extraverted, clingy, bouncy, and charismatic, Tiptoe sang in chirps and coos instead of meowing. She rolled over to have her belly rubbed. She yowled when ignored and curled up beside the computer for extra attention. At barely a glance, she rumbled a high volume purr with gratitude more fitting a canine than a feline. Mum and Dad were well trained; Tiptoe head-butted their legs to get meat scraps during meal times and sang them awake for breakfast on her time.
Felix couldn’t eat protein because of her kidney disease. She had always been a highly selective cat who only allowed certain people to touch the grey fur on her back and head. She barely had time for most people, let alone another cat. Felix could not keep up with the competition. To make it worse, Tiptoe wanted to be friends.
At first, Felix hissed and lunged at Tiptoe, but Tiptoe would back off and sniff the air curiously. The humans present yelled, “no,” and shooed Felix away. After all, it was Tiptoe’s house. Felix slunk away, tail tense in fury. “There goes the Grey Dragon,” my dad used to say. The Grey Dragon did not know how to share. She had never had to learn.
Felix started stealing Tiptoe’s protein rich food. As her failing kidneys repulsed it, Felix vomited and found herself confined to my room by my angry parents. We still couldn’t keep Felix out of Tiptoe’s food, and she had to take daily pills to keep her body balanced.
Finally, Felix and Tiptoe formed an uneasy truce. Felix reclaimed a sleeping space on top of the couch, and she guarded it when I was off working the current odd job. When she heard me come home, her green eyes popped open. She stretched and followed me. Tiptoe might have the house, but she was not going to have me. Despite Felix’s antics, Tiptoe remained oblivious. She wanted to play chase and snuggle up for a group nap. Again and again and again, she tried to be friends.
After a year and no full-time work, my parents cleared out a bedroom for me. Now Felix had her own suite- a bedroom and adjoining bathroom. Any time Tiptoe head-butted her way inside, Felix hissed and spat, ears back. If Tiptoe came closer, Felix batted her with streaking white paws. Tiptoe retreated, and Felix had a small victory. Yet Tiptoe kept trying, and the Grey Dragon defended her honor again and again, fiercely defending what little she had left in the world.
Two years at Mum and Dad’s, and I had nearly given up hope of getting back on my feet. Exhausted from constantly upgrading temp jobs, I came home to someone else’s house and routine, constantly tiptoeing around to not be a bother. One evening I crept up to my room; a sleepy-eyed Felix following.
I crashed into bed and stared at the ceiling. “I don’t belong here,” I thought to myself, tears stinging my eyes. “I want my life back.” Felix jumped on the bed and head-butted my face as if to say, “it’s okay, I’m here.”
Several hours later, I woke up. Felix lay on the pillow beside me, curled up with her front paws tucked under the chin and her white whiskers curving straight up like a sprinkler system. At the foot of the bed, a black ball of fluff rolled over, stretched, and cooed. Tiptoe finally got her group nap.
A yellow eye popped open, and Tiptoe returned my stare. She pranced towards my head and sniffed me cautiously. The Grey Dragon rumbled beside me. Tiptoe peered at Felix, and then me. Felix opened one eye and stared at Tiptoe. Tiptoe retreated to the foot of the bed.
As I watched two cats on my bed, brought together against their will, I thought of everything I had been through since I had left St. Louis. I fought, hissing and howling, to find and keep a series of jobs to make it. I had a book contract, and I had found a man. In another six months of college teaching, I would have enough money to move out.
Sure I had lost my apartment and most of my furniture. I had cried and screamed for home, yet home existed inside me all along, that flicker of feeling that caused me to fight for what I had and live in hope of something better despite the pain. Like the Grey Dragon, I had gone down kicking and screaming, but in the end I had changed and grown despite myself. I could face my life and smile. Though it wasn’t what I expected, I claimed it as mine.
Melissa Roberts Bio:
Melissa Roberts is a freelance writer who lives in Parsons, KS. She enjoys sharing stories, cooking, meditating, the beauty in life and people, time with boyfriend Mark and, of course, the presence of the elderly feline Felix. Melissa is a Feature Writer for Suite101.com, an online magazine, and enjoys sharing articles on religion, history, cooking, travel, and spiritual growth there. Here is a link to her website.
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