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For My Dad - The Stories of Albert

As I write this, the man I've identified as Twin, is lying in a hospital fighting for his life. So, I'm feeling the need to focus on something a bit lighter just now...

When I was getting out of college, my dear friend Jessica (who became my boys' godmother) wanted to get me a kitten for graduation. But, since we didn't know where I was heading after college, she did the next best thing. She got me all the things I would need so, when I was settled somewhere, I would be ready to get one! When I landed in Boston for a while, my then-boyfriend took me to go looking for a kitten. I knew I wanted one named Winston (I'm not really sure why) and after a few tries, we found this gorgeous, fluffy gray and white ball of fur. I was instantly in love! But he was not a Winston, he was an Albert. He did have a brother though, and the folks at the rescue were hoping to keep the two of them together. His brother was a beautiful grey and white tabby cat, and he was definitely a Winston! I was in heaven!! I had not one, but two adorable kittens as I went off to start my new life, working in regional theater!

These are the stories of Albert and Winston, but mostly Albert. My father loves these stories, and I promised him that someday, I would write them down and share them so, here we are.

I loved those kittens. They had so much character and kept me company and entertained me for many years. As a kitten, Winston loved to be held and would regularly climb up the leg of my pants to my waist, to get me to pick him up! Albert dutifully followed suit and thankfully, they were small. Living in Maine, I wore a lot of jeans, so they never did too much damage. Winston also tended to be concerned with my safety and would park himself outside the shower, sitting stock straight with a horrified look on his face. Always relieved when I emerged unharmed, he'd literally fall over while continuing his vigil to ensure I survived my ordeal in the water. Very quickly, it became clear to me that Winston was the brains of this furry little operation and Albert, well... Albert was really pretty...

My apartment in Portland was often referred to as a shotgun apartment, meaning you could shoot a gun through the front door and the bullet would sail right through and come out the back door. I loved that apartment, even though everything sloped a little downhill toward the kitchen. My landlord was a very sweet guy with half a dozen kids of his own, so he tended to keep half an eye on me as if I was one of them. He could often be bribed with a cup of coffee or a couple of cookies and, since the theater where I worked was only three blocks away, he'd usually blow the snow off my car since he knew I wouldn't because I generally refused to drive in winter if I could help it.

My days were long, and I couldn't have been happier. There were dance classes or rehearsal in the morning, then work at the theater and usually a show at night. When I was at home, I would play with the kittens as much as I could. They loved bottle caps, like the ones off 2-liter bottles, and I'd sit by my front door and fling them towards the back door. Winston, being lazier, was usually good for one, maybe two runs, and sometimes he'd even bring the caps back. Albert, however, would chase the caps over and over. Being a long-haired cat, Albert had very fuzzy paws with tufts of fur on sticking out from between his pads and, my apartment had wood floors. So, every time he would start to run after a bottle cap, it would literally take 3 to 4 seconds of his little legs doing their best Road Runner impression, before he'd get enough traction to start moving forward! While at the other end of the apartment, it never occurred to him that this same issue would make it difficult for him to stop. Time after time, he'd go sliding right into the back door. I think I lived in that apartment for about three months before Albert learned how to spin-out so he wouldn't keep crashing himself into the back door over and over again!

MY favorite Albert game though, was Super Cat! I never really knew if he loved it or hated it but, when I'd put my hands on his belly and hold him up in the air, he'd put his paws out in front of him like he was flying. After a minute or so, he'd cover his eyes and then he'd put his paws back out and was flying again. I always meant to get him a little red cape, but I just never got around to it.

My building was originally three floors with an apartment on each floor and, somewhere along the way, the whole thing was divided in half to create two apartments on each floor. Although they each had their own thermostat, the furnace was still only capable of providing so much heat. Since I worked such long days, my apartment was usually cold when I got home and finding snow on the floor by the windows was not unusual at all. The good part of this was snugly kittens! Most days I'd wake up with Winston asleep on my pillow and Albert sleeping under the covers, down by my feet! How he could breathe down there is beyond me but, it was truly his favorite spot and more than once I wondered if sleeping down there was depriving his brain of oxygen. Yet on cold nights, there he was, waiting for me to get into bed and lift the covers so he could run right in. He was such a beautiful cat but, smart he was not.

The top of my refrigerator was another favorite spot for Albert. It was an easy jump from the stove to get there and thankfully, I didn't have much time to cook so it was rarely on. Albert liked to sit with his paws hanging off the front of things; tables, counters, my bed, and the top of the refrigerator. I didn't think that much of it until one morning, after grabbing some coffee out of the freezer, I turned around to see Albert frantically trying to remove the tufts of fur under his paws from the seal of the freezer door! I had seen him lying there, with his paws hanging over the frond of the freezer but I really, REALLY thought he'd move them when he saw the freezer door about to shut on them... Guess not.

Albert also had an unusual affinity for water and I'd routinely come home to find him asleep in the bathroom sink while the faucet dripped on him, creating a puddle in a corner of the sink. He would even climb into the bathtub with me. He would do it so often, I started keeping cat toys in the tub because he liked to play with them, usually trying to grab them with his mouth before remembering he couldn't breathe under water! He'd come up spluttering and sneezing but undeterred and would continue to play with the toys until the water had long been drained from the tub.

All these things quickly taught me that I'd need to keep a closer eye on Albert than Winston. One Spring afternoon, I was enjoying watching both kittens, transfixed by the arrival of birds in the trees, one sitting on the sill of each window in my living room/bedroom. After a bit, I went into the kitchen to do the dishes and naturally, Albert came along a few minutes later. I had been burning scented candle in the small space between the sink and the kitchen window so, when Albert jumped up to check out the view of the birds from this new vantage point, I figured I better move the candle before he set himself on fire.

You know how sometimes things seem to happen in slow motion? I barely had time to register the thought when Albert's tail, forgotten as he focused on the birds, began to droop, right into the flame and his super fluffy tail went right up in flames! I grabbed the nearest dish towel and started to swat his tail to put out the fire and, I kid you not, he started to chase the damn towel so I couldn't get it on to his ass! I finally grabbed him, plopped him into the sink and hit him with the sprayer. I swear to you, he never had any idea what the hell had happened! But, for the safety of everyone, I decided that would be the end of my relationship with scented candles for the foreseeable future.

Everything I've shared here is true, not even the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Winston lived a great life and became a big fat cat, passing in his sleep after almost 12 wonderful years with us. Sadly, Albert developed kidney problems and left us shortly after Eli was born. He will always be my Super Cat!!

Daddy, here are The Albert Stories, I hope you like them.

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