Something got my attention straightaway when I walked into Bryan’s apartment in the summer of 1994. What was that thing dangling from our friend Aimee’s arm, claws dug in for dear life? That, my friends, was Bryan’s new kitten, Cannonball.
Cannonball, or ‘Can’ as he was often called, was named for the toe-tapper on the Breeders’ 1993 album, Last Splash. No bigger than your two hands put together, black as black gold (Texas tea), with the most amazing florescent green eyes, he was also insane. During his formative years, he didn’t mosey anywhere; he sprinted like a junkie running from the cops. He didn’t just sneak up on anything, he had a 3 foot vertical and pounced on everything: string, dirt, a hand carelessly draped over the sofa.
Bryan took him in because a friend of a friend found him in an alley days after Kim and Jen convinced him that he needed a cat in order to infinitely improve his life. Even though Cannonball was off the street, his life was not off to the best start. Bryan took him to a third-world vet who decided that it was perfectly acceptable to fix a cat at the tender age of 6 weeks and return it to its owner covered in green mystery goo. I’m convinced to this day that the lack of testosterone was one reason for Can’s unique behavioral issues.
When people would come to the house, we would tell them, “Don’t mess with Can. He’s a mean sonofabitch.” They’d laugh us off, and bend down to play with the cat. He would be all sweetness and light for about 47 seconds. After you started to pet him and trusted him enough to bring your face close enough to him, or look away from him for even a second, he would swat at you, claws fully extended, and take his best shot. Any time you walked past him, you got a claw in your pant leg or heel. All of our friends have scars from Can. Just ask Phil. The funny thing was, Can was fine around other animals and little kids. He loved Nelly’s dog, Jackson, and I don’t know how many times Liam fell right on top of Cannonball and the cat didn’t flinch.
It was evident from the first time we took him to a (board-certified) vet that Cannonball was no ordinary cat. I got him out of the cat carrier and the vet actually said, “Ohmygawd. That is the biggest cat I’ve ever seen” which is impressive coming from a vet. In his prime, Cannonball weighed 32 pounds and stood 18 inches tall. We had to put a leather-studded dog collar on him because, even though he had a tiny pea-head, his neck was too big for even the largest cat collar. He had the shoulders of a bulldog, and the nastiest dander you’ve ever seen. Can never liked to be brushed, and he was too fat to clean himself. Usually by Labor Day, he would be incredibly dreadlocked and nasty. One year, the vet had to shave him down, but only to his front legs. He looked like a buffalo, and was not pleased because it was obvious that our other cats, Chi-chi and Rosita, were openly mocking him. Then, last year, we found Paws and Claws Cat Grooming who specialized in “problem” cats. Four hours and $85 later, I returned home with a perfectly groomed Can. There was even a bow in his hair. Once he was out of the carrier, though, the bow was gone. I didn’t even have a chance to get a photo.
Wherever you were, Can was there, too, especially in the kitchen. He was constantly underfoot and begging for anything. He loved his treats. He loved the milk leftover after you’d eaten your cereal. He had a love/hate relationship with plastic bags from the foodstore. Sometimes, we’d hear him licking one that we’d left on the table or on the floor. Other times, he’d just pee on them. Who knows why?
Cannonball’s had a rough go of it. He caught a virus in his heart and nearly died a couple of years ago. Late last year, he was diagnosed with cancer. Because he was so big, we couldn’t even see the tumor until it was the size of a grapefruit (10 ounces) and sticking out of his side. We had it removed, but three months later, it came back with a vengeance. He was unable to walk up and down our stairs, and his back left leg was about 3 times larger than his other legs. We knew we couldn’t put him through surgery again and made the tough decision to have him put to sleep.
I had called him “fat bastard” on a number of occasions, but mostly when he was in my way in the kitchen or clawed my foot while we were eating dinner. When he had his first brush with death, I told Bryan in the car on the way to the animal hospital that I really loved that cat. And even though he made Bryan’s asthma worse, I know he loved that cat too. He was part of our lives for 9 years. Everyone who met Cannonball remembered him. He will be missed terribly.