Steve, our neighbor across the street, uses his leaf blower every day. Not sure why as they have maybe two trees, but I can count on him coming home from work and starting it up every day from spring until fall. One September afternoon in 2015, I was working in the front yard amid the growling, sweeping of the blower. And then it abruptly stopped. I heard Steve talking on his cell phone, loudly (he always spoke loudly) in his driveway. I heard him address someone at the cat shelter.
“I blew a kitten out from under my deck,” he said.
Part of me wanted to pretend I didn’t hear anything, that I wasn’t eavesdropping on purpose or by accident. We had four cats already. But nope, I thought. Can’t let him take that kitten to a shelter. Nope.
Steve yelled at me from his driveway, “Want a kitten?”
I walked over and saw a fluffy ginger, maybe two weeks old, meowing to heaven, sitting in the palm of his hand. I picked him up and held him. “If he’s a boy, I’ll name him Steve,” I said.
A trip to the vet a couple of days later, Jon and I were waiting in the exam room for the doctor. “Are we naming him Steve?” I asked. Jon shook his head. “How ’bout Waffles?” he said. The ginger kitten, who had seemingly lost his voice from meowing for days, just then looked up at us and meowed. Just one sharp, distinct meow: definitively, affirmatively. “OK, then. Waffles.”
From the beginning, the lines on his face gave him a worried look. I found myself wanting to reassure him about everything. But the lines belied his curiosity and penchant for trouble, like being all zoom-zoom or getting into my email and addressing a draft message to “AQ11.” (Is Waffles is really a spy? We’re not telling.)
Kobe and Bennie, our oldest cats, endured Waffles’ kitten hijinks like a couple of old men coping with a sugar-fied two-year-old. They had aches and pains; Bennie was tilty from a mass in his ear and deaf. Both passed on within a couple years of Waffles’ arrival.
Waffles is Scout’s best friend. He would sleep curled up beside her when he was a kitten. Today, they play together, groom each other, share sun spots. They chase each other down the hallway, make a sharp right into the living room, another sharp right into the closet hallway, and somehow Waffles does this without letting Scout bump into a wall.
Since Dru started living indoors, she has seen Scout as prey. So Waffles has taken on the job of protector, keeping watch under the hutch, chasing Dru up, up, up –onto the counter, the cat tree, the office desk–whenever she is upstairs. It’s a problem but it’s hard to begrudge him for loving Scout that much.
On Facebook, Waffles’ persona has evolved with each post announcing, “Hello, this is Waffles.” For no good reason, except that Jon and I started saying it and it stuck. We have a specific intonation in our Waffles voices for this greeting that, sadly, has not yet been recorded for posterity’s sake.
Waffles is the nerdiest of our cats. Likes to climb trees but gets stuck. Isn’t that interested in toys or catnip but will go nuts for a candy wrapper or those plastic rings from a milk container. We indulge this and find crinkled up balls of mini-Hershey’s chocolate wrappers in corners, under the couch. He’s fascinated by water and will stand by Jon’s side and crawl under his arms while he’s doing the dishes.
He headbonks. He blinks a lot. Signs of love.