49: My Maine Man

49: My Maine Man

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That!

My Maine Man

Most of us rather like our cats to have a streak of wickedness. I should not feel quite easy in the company of any cat that walked about the house with a saintly expression.

~Beverly Nichols

“Ouch,” I said, not from pain, but surprise. Tucker, a massive Maine Coon cat who deemed me worthy to serve him, nipped my ankles as I walked by. Tucker’s motto reflects what a crazed woman in the movie Fatal Attraction said: “I will not be ignored.”

Tucker is my “main man” in a household of one female person and one female cat. He prowls, struts, chases the other cat, and bites me.

He also adores me.

Strikingly handsome in his long coat of mixed brown, tan, and beige, he knows he is good-looking, and races to the cat brushes whenever I say the word “brush” so I can fluff his magnificent fur.

He weighs about twenty pounds, and has a huge head with mesmerizing green eyes in a face that is strikingly symmetrical, topped by two hairy, pointed ears. His fur is luxuriously soft. When he curls up in my lap, I’m instantly warmed by this giant plush pillow.

“Leave Gracie alone,” I yelled at him for the umpteenth time as he relentlessly pursued the other cat, who only wanted peace.

But when Tucker is on a mission, he will not be denied. He goes into robotic mode, intent on completing his mission. If I discipline him to stop his behavior, he follows me and nips at my ankles. He doesn’t hurt — in fact, it’s kind of funny — but he makes his point.

Gracie, the tiny stray with stunted legs, is content to be subservient to Tucker’s dominance. It’s likely that Gracie was born under my back deck, where she survived harsh outdoor conditions before she gratefully made her home with me.

Tucker came into my life in a padded carrying case from his foster home, where he had been fondly groomed and nourished. His constant demand for attention in a household of many cats led to the family’s decision to find another home for him. He entered my house with a sense of entitlement and wasted no time informing us that he was in charge.

One day this summer Tucker went too far in his bad conduct, so I carried him out to the screened-in patio. My cats enjoy being there, but that day I left Tucker in the patio for some relief from his escapades.

Freed from the mischievous monster, I completed my morning chores and prepared to go to the market. I debated about leaving Tucker in the patio. Usually I brought him inside when I was not at home, because even in the protected environment of the patio he found ways to disobey.

He climbed on the screens in an attempt to reach the squirrels or birds that fascinated him or the stray cats that agitated him. If Gracie was on the back patio and I wasn’t there to supervise, he picked on her. If the door wasn’t closed securely, he pushed against it in an attempt to escape.

However, the weather was pleasant, and Gracie was enjoying a snooze indoors, safe from Tucker’s reach. Besides, I would only be gone a half an hour. So, I left Tucker on the back patio and drove away.

I didn’t know it was a special triple-coupon value day at the market. Instead of buying the few items on my list, I went through all my coupons to take advantage of the extra savings. My few intended purchases ballooned to a basketful of groceries, and the half-hour venture took closer to one and a half hours.

During the time I was in the store, a thunderstorm had come and gone, apparently quite a doozy given the number of puddles and downed branches. Tucker, brute that he is, is afraid of storms. I worried about him as I hurried home.

When he is indoors and a storm strikes, he runs to a corner of the basement to burrow into coverings; on the patio, there are no dark corners or niches in which he can hide.

I dropped my groceries onto the kitchen counter, not taking time to put the frozen foods away, and hurried to the patio. I opened the door and called out “Tucker” as I searched under the furnishings. I couldn’t find him. There were no holes in the screens, no signs of escape.

Had I forgotten that I brought him indoors before leaving for the store? I didn’t think so, but I went indoors and scoured the house, calling “Tucker” throughout three stories of rooms. No Tucker, so I repeated the room-to-room search, this time getting down on hands and knees to look under furniture — still no cat. Did a neighbor hear him crying and take him in? Did a stranger find him and take him away?

I returned to the patio for another futile search. Perplexed and upset, I considered my options. I was about to search the yard when I heard a half-cry, half-meow from above. From above?

There was Tucker. How a mammoth cat could cram onto the shelf over the door behind a display of pottery, without knocking any of them down, defied logic. I couldn’t coax him down until I offered his favorite treat. Clumsily, he emerged, dislodging ceramics, until I could reach him. He was soaking wet. His normally large pupils were enormous, and he trembled. I held him, trying to comfort and dry him at the same time.

He seemed so pathetic and — could it be true — humbled. For the rest of that day and all of the next, he was a changed cat, respectful and docile. I enjoyed his genteel demeanor, but only for a while. I missed the Maine Coon with the mean streak who never ceased to entertain me. Fortunately, Tucker returned to his former mischievous ways soon enough. I don’t know if Tucker has a deepened respect for storms, but I am more tolerant of his naughty quirks.

~Linda Panczner

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