Cinderella Daisy Flower
Karen had always been allergic to cats while growing up, so the thought of getting a kitten was always out of the question. This all changed one night as we slept on the floor at my brother’s place out on “the farm.” During the night, a tiny kitten nestled up to Karen’s head, finding the perfect place to stay warm. The next morning, rather than suffering the usual swollen eyes and stuffy head, Karen felt fine. There was something about this cat that was different. We mentioned this to my brother and his wife and they told us the kitten had a sister from the same litter that might still be available. We made a call and soon had ourselves a new kitten. She was shiny black with distinctive white markings on her face, ear and tail and white boots on her paws.
The kids were two, three and four at the time, and they were given the task of naming our new pet. This was long before the days of home videos, so the kids were greatly influenced by the stories we read to them. One name was simply not adequate for our special kitten. She needed a full complement of names and thus became Cinderella Daisy Flower. Fortunately, we were permitted to call her simply Cinderella. We had her spayed and gave her all the required shots. She was a joy to all of us.
Cinderella was soon joined by a little puppy that the kids named Scarecrow. We knew we were getting a dog, so we kept saying we thought we saw one in the backyard. The kids would run outside searching but finding nothing until one day a puppy finally did appear. They thought the puppy was scared and that’s why it took them so long to find her. So they named her Scarecrow.
Cinderella and Scarecrow rapidly became fast friends who played together, ate together and even slept together. My happy family then consisted of a wife, three daughters and two female animals. Being the only male in the family was fine with me. Life couldn’t have been better.
We moved to Virginia in January 1979. We arrived at Dulles Airport after a long red-eye from SFO with two caged animals and three sleepy daughters. We decided to stop by our future house (another story) to check it out. The snow was deep despite the sunny morning, and we thought we should let the kids and pets out for some exercise. Scarecrow frolicked in the snow with unbridled enthusiasm. Cinderella, on the other hand, skulked into a street gutter and disappeared down a drain. We needed to get to our realtor’s office for an appointment by 9 AM and after twenty minutes of calling Cinderella, we were forced to leave her. We were comforted by the fact that we would be living in that house and that Cinderella would surely reappear as soon as we moved in.
Each day we all kept an eye out for her, but as winter turned to spring and spring to summer, we began losing all hope that our dear cat would ever return. Another year passed and Karen and I began discussing a desire to move back to California. One day, I received a telephone call from my boss saying that there might be an opening at the company in California if I was interested. I hung up the phone, calling to Karen, I said, “We’re going back home.”
At that exact moment, the kids burst through the front door screaming, “We found Cinderella! We found Cinderella!” Sure enough, there she was, mangy, bedraggled and squirming in Tanya’s hands, but it was our Cinderella, the same white markings on her face, ear and tail, the same white boots on her paws.
We tried to hold her and pet her, but she would have none of it. Cinderella used to love to cuddle up on our laps and be petted, but her hard life in the gutters had driven her toward the wild side. We thought, “Let’s get Scarecrow in here. She will surely give Cinderella a warm welcome.” The kids called the dog in from the back yard and she came romping into the living room, tongue hanging down to her knees. We were all overjoyed to watch this special reunion.
Instead, our resurrected Cinderella’s back arched and a frighteningly vicious hiss rose from the depths of her throat. Then all hell broke loose. Though four times the size of the cat, our happy dog yelped in fear as she tried to escape the wrath of the enraged beast we had brought into her domain. The chase was on... into the kitchen... into the dining room... back to the living room... back to the kitchen... I went to the back door and opened it to allow Scarecrow to escape the monster’s attack slamming the door before Cinderella could follow. She looked at me and howled like a banshee. I stepped back thinking, “My God, she’s gone off the deep end!”
As Cinderella slunk through the house looking for a means of escape, we discussed the situation as a family. Our poor little cat had been so traumatized that she didn’t recognize her loving family... even her best friend, Scarecrow. We decided that the best approach was to keep her in the house for a few days and give her as much positive attention as we could. Despite the scratches we all endured on our arms and legs as we tried to force gentleness on our now ferocious Cinderella, we persevered.
Over time, she grudgingly accepted that our home was better than the gutter. With only one exception, the family accepted her foul attitude as the result of the supreme trauma of living in the wild. However, Scarecrow’s peaceful life was destroyed as Cinderella systematically terrorized her. Scarecrow would naively think she could safely sit on the front door landing of the split-level entrance. From nowhere, Cinderella would suddenly materialize, flying through the air with claws exposed, howling like a raptor. We tried to comfort poor Scarecrow, yet the prodigal cat deserved our understanding, and the dog simply needed to suck it up and be the dog she was rather than the wimpy coward for which she was originally named.
Moving day was coming and we decided to fly the kids back with the dog a few days early. We didn’t want to subject poor Cinderella to the psychological trauma of another flight, so Jaren and I decided to take her with us in the moving truck. We rented the largest truck available along with the largest trailer it could haul.
August in Virginia provided us was a 95 degree moving day with equal humidity. I have no idea what the temperature was inside the truck, but each time I stepped out after loading a bit of furniture, it seemed cool. We spent that night in a motel and Cinderella stayed with us, prowling and howling her disapproval. The next morning, we climbed into the truck excited about our long journey across the country. I slid the key into the ignition and gave it a turn. The big diesel engine roared to life and Cinderella went berserk. Like the cartoon cat that has been plugged into an electrical outlet, Cinderella’s fur turned to wire, her eyes bulged like balloons and her screech equaled the decibels coming from the engine. She then proceeded to set the land speed record in the confines of the truck’s cab, her momentum allowing her to defy gravity as she raced across the ceiling, windows, dash and humans at full speed. Her claws dug into everything she touched and Karen and I were trapped in a cage with this rabid monster. Karen did her best to finally settle the cat down enough for us to get on the road, but every few minutes Cinderella would resume her manic racing.
After three hours, we were in the mountains of West Virginia and I had had enough. I told Karen, “if that cat doesn’t settle down, she’s gonna kill us.” Karen said, “she’s just scared.” I bellowed, “I don’t care! I’m telling you, she’s gonna kill us.” I was just about to roll down the window and throw the cat out by its tail when Cinderella climbed up on the back of my seat and suddenly became catatonic (no pun intended). She could easily have been a floppy, stuffed animal. As the day progressed, she slid down my back and became my lumbar support. That night, we carried her into our motel room, limp as a wet rag. The next morning, she showed a little life and put up a good fight when we loaded her back into the cab. The second the diesel engine turned over she let out one long howl and collapsed back into her catatonic state.
Cinderella essentially remained in this condition until we reached California five days later, utterly and totally traumatized by the experience, but also chastened. Her normally vicious attitude had softened into something more in the realm of grumpy. We were hopeful that now that we were back in California, perhaps she would return to her old self. Indeed, she stopped attacking Scarecrow, focusing on mice which she would proudly present at dinner time. Soon, however, we found that her nasty nature was redirected toward other cats in the neighborhood as she initiated at least one catfight each day. She was also a very stinky cat... mean and stinky. I always thought that cats kept themselves clean, but Cinderella was no normal cat. After all, she had had a hard life and now that she was finally back home again, we tried to cut her some slack.
We were finally back in California, settling into new jobs, new schools, and a new house. Life was good. One afternoon I heard Karen’s voice gently awaken me from a rare nap. “Jim? Can you come upstairs and look at Cinderella?” I sleepily climbed the stairs and found Cinderella sleeping on her back spread-eagle. The kids were closely examining her private parts. Karen said to me, “Do you think Cinderella is a female?” I was too groggy to seriously consider such a silly question, and while joining the examination authoritatively stated, “Of course, she’s a female! Look at her... BALLS!”
We renamed the cat Cinderfella, but soon shortened it to Cinder. We had him neutered so he stopped stinking and also stopped terrorizing the other cats in the neighborhood. He retained his grumpy demeanor, much like a crotchety old man, but he finally got along. One day, he laid down in a sunny spot in the front yard and took his final sleep knowing that he was the only cat in history to be both spayed and neutered.