Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

In Memoriam

Okay, time to use LJ as a virtual wake again. Thanks to everyone for the many condolences. (And double to cvirtue for the cookies I found hanging on our front door this evening. Chocolate chips are always a blessing.) It's really sinking in more tonight. For the first time since we bought this house some 15 years ago, there are no cats in it. It's really much too quiet. I'm resolved to not get another cat until we move to a new place; we'll see whether that resolve wavers over time. But in the meantime, some memories of the boy.

Merlin was our second cat -- we got him when Comet was a year or two old, specifically to be Comet's pet cat. Comet was initially a bit dubious about this idea, but once he caught on to it he was always a bit protective of his little brother, in a distinctly alpha-dominance sort of way: alternately licking his ears and getting into scuffles with him. We did eventually decide to get Merlin a pet cat as well, but he got a stuffed one, to avoid the danger of infinite regress. Merlin quickly got nicknamed "Junior", which was how Comet got the moniker of "Senior". (The stuffed one is named "Tertius".)

We got him from the Salem Animal Shelter. Comet was already starting to spud a bit, so I was very explicit that I wanted a cat with Personality. This I found in spades -- when they opened up Merlin's cage, he basically ran up my arm, onto my shoulder and started alternately purring and mewing at me. He was slightly older than we'd originally intended, perhaps a dozen weeks, but he was clearly the right cat for us. The name Merlin was a direct reaction to his original name. I love the Salem Shelter all to bits, but you just *can't* name a black cat "Lancelot". We decided to switch it to Merlin before we even left the parking lot.

He had a bit of Peter Pan Syndrome, and never really grew up -- perhaps in reaction to Comet's orneriness, Merlin stayed kittenishly playful almost his entire life. He was never a lap cat for me (until the very end), but we would play a lot: he was always up for a bit of roughhousing, and would purr ever louder the more I would pick him up and bat him around. He had a great fondness for toys, but never for purchased ones -- his favorites were the paper bags from my comic books (just the right size to serve him as a cave) and Fun Round Things like ping pong balls and frozen peas, which he would send rattling back and forth on the kitchen floor.

Whereas Comet was always content with cat food, Merlin always preferred the real thing: a staple of dinnertime prep was him meowing around my ankles for a bit of chopped-up beef or shrimp or chicken or even asparagus -- as far as I could tell, he considered anything that we ate to be fair game for him. (He was especially fond of ranch potato chips, which he would lick into utter sogginess.) He victimized msmemory terribly: whenever we would eat dinner, he would go after it, either "subtly" (in the cat sense of sedately walking across her shoulders and down onto the arm of her chair for easy access to her plate) or overtly (doing the full Antonio-Banderas-as-Puss-in-Boots full court press of big eyes staring at the food). Not that we ever really disciplined him properly -- for every three times he'd get tossed onto the floor, she'd actually give him a nibble once, so he wasn't exactly dissuaded.

He was a curious kind of squirmer. msmemory could hold him on her shoulder for a little while -- she has a real touch with cats, and can handle many that are considered entirely too restless for it, but even she could only hold him for a short while before he would insist on being let down. But he loved "show cat" position: if you picked him up with both hands at the ends of his torso and held him over your head, he found it endlessly fascinating. Far as I can tell, it was Kitty Flying for him, even if he didn't do anything except study the ceiling.

He literally walked all over me: the cat tree sits behind my easy chair, and he would walk right up my chest onto it. Or, in his more energetic days, jump from the floor onto the edge of my chair, and then right over my head to hit the tree at the five-foot mark -- always a bit disconcerting, but his aim was excellent, as was his strength until the last year. Indeed, for his first five years it was almost impossible to find a safe place in the house, because he was able to jump six feet straight up onto the top of the bookcases.

He will be missed terribly. Much though I loved Comet, Merlin was always my favorite -- even when he was being a pain in the butt (which was frequently), he was so friendly and enthusiastic that it was still sweet. I'm going to have to work very hard not to compare our next cats to him, since he set a very high standard.

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