Panorama of San Bernardino

Monday, April 23, 2012

Leopold the Cat

I first saw Leopold in a Houston high rise.  I was on lunch from my corporate law firm gig at Texas’ largest law firm.  He was small and black and mewing in the corner of a cage. 

There was a mall attached to our law firm’s office, most everything in Houston is enclosed due to the hot humid summers. 

Most days, my colleague Nancy and I would sit at Starbucks and talk about all the bullshit at work.  But on that day Nancy was busy and I walked around the mall deciding on what to eat.  Chic Fil A was a typical choice. 

The mall was sponsoring an adopt a pet day and as I walked by the Humane Society table a young volunteer said, “Wanna get a cat?”

I looked in the cage at the small black cat.  Due to my goth girl leanings  I had always wanted a black cat.   He mewed when I picked him up and I stared into his bright green eyes and it was over.  I had always said that I would name my cat Leopold after Leopold Bloom (the main character in James Joyce’s Ulysses). 

When I brought the cat up to the registration table, the young girl said, “Oh you picked Leopold”.  When I looked at his tag the name Leopold was scrawled in blue ink.

Leopold Bloom Mantz became my confidante.  He weighed in at twenty pounds and was more dog than cat.  Whenever I got home from work at the law firm, I would walk into my house and say, “Leopold where are you?”  Leopold would bound down the stairs two at a time and meow at my feet.    I would pat my bed and Leopold would jump on the bed and snuggle in the covers with me purring in my ear.

When I moved to San Francisco I found out UCSF housing didn’t allow cats so my mom and dad took Leopold in.  “He’s like a big monster Jenny,” my dad would say on the phone.  “He sleeps on my recliner and won’t get off.”  My dad complained about Leopold but I could hear the affection in his voice.

When Adrian and I moved to an apartment in San Francisco that allowed cats, my mom and dad drove from the Inland Empire to bring Leopold to us.  As they drove up Ninth Street in their beat up car, I could see my mom shaking her head.  Leopold sat in the back of the window.   My mom pulled up to our apartment and got out of the car pulling at her hair. 

“That stupid cat, he got out at the rest stop.  Your dad and I had to chase him down.” 

My mom picked up his cat carrier and said in an anxious voice, ”He’s not in there where did he go, god dammit!”

“Mom, he’s in the back window,” I said with a laugh and reached in the car and picked him up with a grunt.  He had gained at least five pounds.    

When my dad was sick and I was down from San Francisco taking care of my dad, he would always ask, “How’s Leopold Jenny?  That cat’s crazy.”

After my dad died, Leopold came home to the Inland Empire with me.  Poor Leopold was forced to stay with my mom in her senior apartment until I bought a house.  Leopold would sit in the front window at night when my mom was asleep.  One day, my mom’s next door neighbor told her, “Un diablo en un casa (a devil is in your house)”.

Soon, Adrian and I bought our house in North Fontana and Leopold moved again.  He loved the new house and roamed the rural neighborhood. 

About a month after we moved in, I went to the LA Fair with my friend Tracy and before I left, I let Leopold outside to prowl.  When I got home from the fair, I couldn’t find Leopold anywhere.  I tried not to panic.
I put up flyers in the neighborhood.  I chose my favorite picture, the one of Leopold in his superman Halloween costume.  I offered a five hundred dollar reward.  Adrian drove around the neighborhood for days and looked in all the storm drains. 

Adrian tried to console me, “We’ll find him, don’t worry.”  But I knew.  I could feel it in the pit of my stomach.  He was gone.

One night, about four days after he disappeared, I woke up in the middle of the night and swore I could hear Leopold meowing.  I ran outside in my pajamas and followed the meows next door to the empty for sale house.  But, I knew there were no meows. 

It was just my memory of Leopold’s meows echoing in my head.

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