Thursday, April 21, 2011
Chester and the Infinite Coolness
He reminded me of a Cheeto. Not by leaving layers of FDC Yellow No. 6 on your fingers. It was his fur. His golden fleece. And his charisma. Cheetos have incredible charisma.
Mostly, however, it was his resemblance to the Cheetos mascot. If Chester could have found a pair of shades that flattered his face, he would have worn them.
That's why I gave him that name. A name no one else liked. But Chester liked it so it stuck.
What Chester did well was be a cat. An excessively cool cat. He lived in the country with my parents and owned every rodent in a two-mile radius. If you wanted to survive as a rat in his neighborhood, first you made good with Chester.
He came from a humble beginning. Very humble. In actuality, he came from a pothole. That's where my brother found him during his formative kitten years. He had fallen into a pothole in a parking lot and clawed his way out. Or would have if he'd been taller than the pothole.
Because of his spunk and tenacity, and because my brother loves all creatures great and small, Chester was rescued and taken to animal heaven, which equates to living with my mother and her bountiful love, hot milk, soft quilts, and table scraps.
Mom bottle fed Chester four times a day until he finally put up his paw and said, "You're too gracious. I love ya babe. You're adorable. Now how about that bowl you promised."
Once he entered the solid food stage, Chester had hit the big time. He went from soft chewables eaten in the garage to live rodents captured in the barn. He had plans. Big plans. Everyone feared and adored him. Eventually, he hoped to open a gaming casino for infestation. He told me once, "Kid, do you have any idea how lonely these crickets get out here every night? Not to mention the beetles, bees, and Box Elder Bugs. I'm tellin' ya. Untapped money train. Untapped."
Although he didn't live to see his 24th-birthday in cat years, Chester called everyone "Kid". You got use to it.
In the summers, he was a man about the acreage. If anyone was in the garden planting vegetables, he'd help out with a little light digging. If you were relaxing in the shade, he'd jump in your lap because he knew, deep down, even though you hadn't asked, you wanted him there.
He could read people like that.
And, when things became humdrum, he'd stand up, smack his paws together to rid them of dust, and put on a one-cat show.
"Okay, okay. Stop beggin'," he'd say. "I'll chase a bug. Okay? Geez. The things I do to entertain you people."
Chester never left you wanting for affection, attention, or money. His loans had very competitive interest rates.
"You keep the cash, Kid. But next time I have an itch behind my ear, you're there. You got me?" All you could do was nod in acceptance. "Good. Real good. Now, see that fur I rubbed on your pant leg? That's a bonus. That's for you." Then he'd wink and saunter off on one clandestine mission or another.
No one knew what Chester was always doing, though rumors were often wild. One feline said he was in the woods training a stray cat cabal. Another refused to go on record but hinted at "an organized litter".
The cows, however, said he was a true statesmen and had been working feverishly on funding for a border fence. If denied, he'd promised to declare war on the coyotes. But then, other than complaining about wanting more alfalfa grass, the cows were always mooing about the fence.
Mostly, however, Chester loved Mom. Her's was the leg he'd rub against most. Or, if she was out in the garden, he'd surprise her by jumping on her shoulder and patting the top of her head.
"She likes it," he'd say, when one of us would ask why. "Who doesn't like to be petted?"
It's hard to define a guy like that. Few leave such an indelible mark. Especially with fur. But Chester achieved it. He loved to be around the action, to listen in, to add his two cents, and then to head into the horizon for another day of claiming his territory.
He loved to love and be loved. And his downy fur and bunny soft belly meant no one could deny him a scratch and a rub. You could try. But then he'd cock his eyebrow and with a jaunty, "Really? Resistance? I think not," you'd give in. And the rest of the evening would be spent dabbing masking tape all over your clothes to remove the hair.
I'm not much of a cat person, really. I'm a dog person. A German Shepherd dog person, to be exact. But I've never met a cat, or rarely an animal, with as much fearless sass and personality as Chester. His untimely death yesterday has been a great tragedy for us.
So this is for you, buddy. As silly as it may be, it'll be awhile before your absence isn't heart-wrenching. The farm isn't the same without you. Even the insects seem sad not to be chased and eaten.
You were a truly benevolent creature, a spirit that warmed everyone around him, an animal with a huge heart that was so often a balm to my own. You didn't live long. But you lived big.
Here's looking at you Kid.