9: Gray Cat, Corner Pocket

9: Gray Cat, Corner Pocket

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

Gray Cat, Corner Pocket

To play billiards well was a sign of an ill-spent youth.

~Herbert Spencer

Our cat Spot was unique from the beginning. He was born in a kayak in our garage, which must account for his innate sense of adventure and interest in all things wild. Named for the tiny black spot on his ear, he was as soft and gray as the wild rabbits he liked to “hunt” through the windowpane, chattering with anticipation and drooling all over the woodwork as he went through his daily routine of jungle cat on the move. Birds were his other favorite obsession, but Spot was an indoor cat, so luckily for the local wildlife, his hunting escapades were limited to his imagination.

Spot was constantly finding creative places to hide, like a shoebox, where his excess poundage would drape gracefully over the edge in a feline version of a muffin top. He loved the cavernous dark mystery of the linen closet or hiding behind the shower curtain to pounce on an unwitting victim. But his favorite game of all was chasing pool balls across the billiards table in our family room. He would silently stalk the pool table, slung low like a panther on the prowl, skulking in the shadow of a red plaid couch before leaping onto the table mid-game to take down his prey. It was the source of constant amusement in our house, and with five kids, the pool table was always alive with action for Spot. Games of Eight Ball were constantly interrupted with cries of, “Spot, noooo!” or “Hey, no fair, Spot got that one in!”

One spring day, Spot upped the ante with the pool table hunt when we were all at school. Random balls had been left on the table, and Spot found such a bounty of prey irresistible. Ball after ball was chased down across the green felt lawn until each one escaped into its dark hideaway. With his bloodlust up, Spot chased his final victim, a solid green number six, into its corner lair. He could feel the tantalizing scrape of his claws on the smooth surface of the ball as it rolled around in the pocket, just beyond his reach. Taking a cue from his predatory ancestors and his mantra of no pool ball left behind, he dove head first into the hole to finish off his victim.

My sister, Pam, had just come in the door from the school bus when she heard a wail coming from the family room. She flew into the room and found the source of the mournful cry by the pool table. Spot’s head was wedged firmly in the corner pocket. She called my mother and together they tried to gently dislodge Spot from his trap. They tried turning him, slowly pulling him straight back, then gently pushing his head to one side to see if they could find the right angle to slide him out. No luck. They called our neighbor, Paul, a teenage boy who was good with animals. He came running across the street to help and they tried easing Spot backwards, slathering butter on his neck, then adding vegetable oil to grease the track, with no better results. Spot’s head was wedged in the corner pocket of the table.

Along with the three of them, Spot was starting to panic, so my mother called the police department and started the conversation with, “You’re not going to believe this, but…” Our town was so small that phone calls could be made in town using only five digits, so the officer who took the call knew our family. After he stopped laughing, he said help would be on the way. Minutes later, the local police and fire truck rolled up our driveway and the firemen took over the rescue mission. Between making jokes about Spot’s dedication to the sport of billiards and comments like “Isn’t this what their whiskers are for?” they worked on trying to free him.

Spot wouldn’t budge, and after fifteen minutes he was becoming exhausted and dizzy. Four men gently turned the pool table on its side so Spot wouldn’t lose consciousness, and then an executive decision was made. “Are you sure you want to do this, Mrs. Graham? Okay, look away,” said the chief to my mom. “This isn’t going to be pretty.” As one of the volunteer firemen came into the room with a saw, my mom said, “Do what you have to do.”

The firemen converged on the table, one holding Spot’s writhing body while the other positioned the saw. “What a shame,” said the guy before firing it up.

The saw sprang to life with a hideous screech, matched by a howl from Spot. My sister cried, Paul shuddered and my mom closed her eyes and cringed. Two minutes later, the firefighter cried, “Okay!” and turned around. In his arms was Spot, still in one piece, looking sheepish and exhausted. His head looked ridiculously small, covered in vegetable oil and flecks of sawdust, while the rest of his fur puffed out like giant dust bunny. Behind him, a big square was missing from the corner of the pool table. “The guys are never gonna believe this one,” the chief said with a laugh as my mom reached out to hug him. Spot lived through a move to a new home with our family and another fourteen years of adventures, but none quite as dramatic as his pool table escapade. The pool table survived a transformation into a ping pong table, which was much safer for everyone.

~Susan Graham Winslow

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