He was short and slender--almost sinewy--hair the color of sable, a rich semi-sweet chocolate brown. Eyes like mottled amber glowed out of a dark face and when he smiled, it was evident that one fang was shorter than the other, giving him a slightly off-balance appearance. He was also very short-sighted if the way he kept running into things and missing whatever he jumped on was any indication.

His name was Thibault Minuit...the Prince of Midnight...seven pounds of part-Siamese, part-who-knows-what-else.

Thibault and I met by accident--or perhaps by his design. One late afternoon, I left work to walk across the parking lot to my car when I heard a baby crying. Hoping no one had been foolish enough to leave a child unattended, I stopped, looking around--and saw him...striding purposefully toward me with the stiff-legged strut of an SS Storm Trooper on parade...one small brown cat.

He stopped in front of me and opened that crooked-fanged mouth. "Yaa-ooow." (Undoubtedly this is Siamese for Hiya, beautiful--your place or mine?)
"Go away, Cat. I've got dogs at home!" I turned and scooted for my car. He trotted behind me.

I opened the car door. He jumped in, perched himself on the top of the driver's seat and dug in his claws.

I drove home with a kitty teetering at my shoulder.

The dogs were curious. They'd never seen a cat before. Hey, Mom--he's sure a funny-looking dog! Why doesn't he bark?

The cat took one look, a deep breath, and waded into their midst, calmly convincing them that--Yes! I am, indeed, a dog...but from another country where doggies looked much, much different. Perhaps he gave them that line Data from Star Trek: the Next Generation used when he time-traveled back to 1906 San Francisco: "I'm French."

Whatever he said, his admittance was an established fact and the clamor died down, and he graciously accepted my offer of mushrooms and pepperoni pizza, then climbed on the sofa, settled himself and fell asleep, snuggled against Cindi, my beagle-dachshund, who had appointed herself his buddy.

His name came easily enough--Tyball the cat from Romeo and Juliet--a common name for a cat back then and one this English student had always wanted to use. Liking the French version better, I changed it to Thibault (which means Prince) and added a surname of Minuit (Midnight), after a romance novel of the same name with Italian heart-throb Fabio on the cover.

Thibault was truly an unusual cat. How many other felines could live with five dogs, convincing them he was one of them, came when he was called, and would walk on a leash? He was with me for twelve years, traveled from Nebraska to California in a kitty-carrier in the foot of a U-Haul, was given into the foster care of my son when the apartment owners wouldn't let me have a cat and a dog, and then...just disappeared.

My son had some gruesome theories as to Thibault's fate. I proposed a more fitting one, writing "The Cat's Letter to His Mistress," wherein said feline explains his disappearance--that he is simply an advance scout from the Cat Star, and now, having seen what he came to see, he has returned to his own planet to tell his leaders about those strange creatures called humans. The story was published in Animal Magnetism, an anthology whose royalties went to Noah's Ark and other animal rescue organizations helping out during Hurricane Katrina. I never made a cent off the story.

Thibault would have said that was only fair. "Why should you be recompensed for the time I've allowed you to spend in my company, Mistress?"


(The above picture is of Thibault, sitting in contemplative solitude, on my patio in Nebraska.)

8 comments

  1. Mary Marvella // January 20, 2009 at 12:58 PM  

    AWWW, Toni! I'm in love with him and I'm not even a cat person!

  2. Cyrano // January 20, 2009 at 1:44 PM  

    I myself am a cat person. Nothing against dog's of course, It's just that I've never had the priveledge of owning one.
    I have two cats right now. Cyrano and roxanne.
    I call the male, Cyrano DeBerg-a-cat. I think he likes that.
    He's a lovely beast, slate grey fur, slanted green eyes. He's also enormous, twenty pounds of sinew. A miniature panther. His claws are like talons and I'm sure he has the strength to take down a Buffalo...only he wouldn't.
    Unlike his confident, large nosed namesake, Cyrano the cat is a cowering ball of fear. I've seen him run screaming, fur standing on end when a butterfly had the audacity to land on his nose.
    Roxanne, my sweet female puffball, on the other hand, has been known to chase down next door's German Shepard. Her mewling war cry can be heard far and wide. The neighborhood cats often tease Cyrano, chasing him up trees, or into storm drains. Roxanne let's them have it, batting bravely at their noses with her tiny pink paws. After all, Cyrano's her boyfriend. She must protect her man.
    Alas, my cats were horribly misnamed, but I still love them dearly.
    It's good to hear that your cat, your prince of midnight was loved too.
    Wonderful post.
    Loved every word.
    Have a fantastic year,
    Tamara

  3. Mary Ricksen // January 20, 2009 at 4:15 PM  

    I just love kitties! My husband and I just tried to save one we found starving in the street. She was so sweet. But it was too late, people who just move and leave their animals are horrible.
    How lucky to be so loved like that.
    PS-Love doggies too!

  4. Arkansas Cyndi // January 20, 2009 at 5:44 PM  

    I can't have a cat. Two dogs and one parrot and a husband who SWEARS he's allergic (but I don't believe it). Plus with all our RV travel, a cat would be hard.

    BUT, I miss have a cat. I love how they snuggle (when they want to, of course).

    Love your story. I think he went home to the Cat Planet and made his report!

  5. Beth Trissel // January 20, 2009 at 7:51 PM  

    I love cats and really enjoyed your story.

  6. Scarlet Pumpernickel // January 20, 2009 at 11:06 PM  

    Toni, I feel your pain at the loss of Thibault. We too lost a cat that was very much a member of our family. He was our hero having alerted the household to a fire in the kitchen when he was but a kitten. He came in spirit to visit me a couple years ago. I felt him jump on the bed and heard him purr! Perhaps one day you'll get a visit as well.

    Scarlet- brought to tears over our kitties!

  7. Pamela Varnado // January 20, 2009 at 11:24 PM  

    Toni,
    I'm a dog lover, but you've given me new insight into the world of cats. Now I'll always wonder what's going on behind their stares.

  8. Edie // January 21, 2009 at 12:54 AM  

    Great story! Thibault sounds smarter than some humans I know.