‘Or “Salmon” or “Steve”. Or maybe just “Kitty.”‘
I’m kicking myself that I can’t find that poster. The Child made it herself, when she was, oh, ten or so. See, we had this most amazing cat at the time. His name was Mango. And he went missing.
He was an orangeish tigerish marmalade cat. So The Child named him Mango. She was very good at naming cats. She was responsible for the late lamented Tuna (whose runner-up names were ‘Grandpa’ and ‘Lipstick’), and our current cat-in-residence, Wombat. When I was a kid, I was terrible at naming cats. I would give them names like (barf) ‘Buttercup’. And then everyone, including me, would just call them ‘Kitty’. We had two littermates once called ‘Black Kitty’ and ‘White Kitty’. They were both brown; one was just darker than the other.
When I was pregnant with The Child and considering names for her As-Yet-Unbornedness, my Oldest Younger Brother Scott would tease me and say ‘Why worry about names? You’ll just end up calling her “Baby”‘. (He wasn’t far off the mark, since I do in fact refer to her as The Child.) Speaking of names for The Child, remind me sometime to tell you about how The Dude wanted to name her after a Greek goddess. (‘Persephone’ was one of his suggestions.)
Anyway, back to Mango. And why The Child made the poster that I can’t find even though we cleaned a whole Toyota-load of old magazines and papers out of the attic this weekend.
Mango was a cat who just showed up at our house in Amagansett one day, purring and looking adorable. We fed him, and, sure enough, he started hanging out. We loved having Mango around, but we didn’t actually ‘own’ him. Oh, we tried to. I took him to the vet for shots and such, and slapped Frontline on him in tick season. But when I introduced him to the litter box, he looked at me like I had holes in my head. So, ‘outdoor cat’ he had to remain. But he’d come running when we’d call, and spend many happy hours chilling on the deck, or ensconced in the nearest lap.
Well, one day we called and called. And called some more. No Mango. I tried my best to reassure The Child, who was around seven at the time, that Mango was ‘just fine’ and would ‘turn up when he’s hungry’, but I was just as worried as she was. Probably more so.
So The Child made this poster that said ‘Lost Cat: answers to the name Mango’ — complete with a photo of said Mango and those little strips with a phone number that you can tear off — and plastered them around the neighborhood.
A couple of weeks passed by in Mango-less agony. Nobody responded, alas, to the posters. Maybe people thought they were too cute to deface by tearing off one of the little strips.
But one weekend, just about when I’d started to practice my ‘Mango is probably better off wherever he is now’ speech, I hear this ‘meow’ outside the bedroom, and there Mango is. He’d clambered up to the second-floor deck via the drainspout, and dammit, he wanted in.
This would be the first of many Mango Disappearances-and-Returns. Eventually, we got used to them. We figured, wild bachelor that he was, Mango just needed his ‘space’. Eventually, though, we discovered the horrible truth: that Mango, that rascal, actually had two other families.
I found out about one of his families, the Levinsons (who called him ‘Salmon’), during a visit to the vet. Turns out they took him to the same one. (Her name was Dr. Katz. Seriously.) And The Dude found out about the Michaels (who called him ‘Steve’) when he was walking on the beach path with Lorne one day, chatting, for some reason, about cats.
The Michaels loved ‘Steve’ so much that his photo adorned Lorne’s desk at SNL. (Yes, our neighbor is Lorne Michaels of SNL fame; another time, another story.)
Interesting that the callout says ‘Steve’ was a ‘former Purina calendar model’. Hmmm. Anyway, when we found out about the Michaels’ connection (ages before the Levinsons’), we tried to honor their claim by referring to our joint-custody cat as ‘Stevie Mango’. Which actually had a nice sort of Rat-Pack Rhythm to it.
As for Mango/Steve/Salmon himself, he didn’t care what you called him, as long as you called him. But now, alas, he really is ‘lost’, passed on to the Great Catbox in the Sky. But we won’t forget him. Not by a long shot. And, speaking of shots, here’s one last one:
If you’re feline inclined, I’ve got a couple of other cat tales. One’s about a guy who makes a living with a cat on his head (‘The Cat is The Hat’) and another featuring the infamous Tuna (‘Tuna finds the Baby Jesus Sweet Spot’). Both are, of course, best enjoyed with a cat on your lap.
New York City. March 2016