She was a deceivingly young 15-year-old white cat. Ruling the roost was her job, so when a 4-month-old chocolate St. Poodle puppy joined the family, she turned her pink nose up.
It was at the San Francisco ASPCA all those years ago where six chock-a-block-with-fleas kittens begged to be adopted — that is, all except one. This white ball of fur was called Snowflake. Her green eyes looked then turned away as if to say, I am special, and the sooner you know about, it the better. She was one hell of a kitty and too young for her independent attitude; I was in love. This kitty seemed not to care if I adopted her or not.
Turning to those years, if it wasn’t a challenge, it wasn’t special. I promised myself not to call to mind an overkill of men and a handful of husbands.
Many weeks would pass before she showed me recognition of any kind. It was when returning after a day away. Her mew was softer, and there was a trilling noise emanating from a secret place. I took it to be a loving noise and that she missed me.
Truff, my new baby, was 12 pounds; when fully grown, the breeder claimed she would be between 65 and 70 pounds.
It started several years later out of the blue when Scarlett was about 17 and Truffle fully grown at 3 years old.
Friday has always been the day I cook chicken soup. When my children left home years earlier, the preparation of what some call Jewish penicillin never stopped. The sweet smell for Shabbat fills the house and is part of the unwritten law the world over, or as Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof would say, “Tradition.”
On the fifth day of each week after our walk, Truff would take a seat in the day room facing the kitchen and plop down on the spot she chose. It had a perfect view of my chopping board. Even when I didn’t want to cook, I couldn’t disappoint her, so I did.
It took 20 minutes of a rolling boil form some of the smaller pieces of chicken to be ready. In a waiting bowl of ice, a small drumstick was cooled, and I took the meat it off the bone to give her. A more appreciative recipient did not exist.
It may have been around two years later when one day as I entered in the back door, Scarlett, as she was wont to do, wove in and out of my legs showing pleasure; it made me kvell, like I think she was, but this time she was wet. Her short white fur was sticky-uppy. Scarlett had a punk do. I shook my head and blinked thinking I was imagining something that wasn’t.
Truff by this time had grown to an adult — part poodle and part brown bear, at not quite 3. My confusion as to how it happened was of short duration. The following morning as I had my tea, I saw Truffle jump on my bed and sit down next to the headboard, which was against the window. In short order, Scarlett was up on the sill and looked Truffle in the eye as if to say, “OK, I’m ready.”
After a sniff here and there, Truff embarked on what would be a ritual every Friday after her treat for the rest of her years: Truff began licking at the head, moving slowly down to the ears and then below to a waiting paw. With her paw, she touched Scarlett’s and proceeded to lick each, one by one. A minute later Truff stood back and waited. Scarlett a fast study, knew the next step and turned so that Truff could take care of her back end, tail, and rump.
At first, it felt surreal, the happening like I was watching could not be, yet it was. I wanted to call in a neighbor to validate what was happening but didn’t in fear of missing a moment. This same bath had taken place earlier without me, but then in living color, I witnessed enchantment.
Scarlett stayed with me for another 11 years and left at 26; Truff for nearly 13. I miss them every day, especially on Fridays.
Barbra Hana-Austin was born on the kitchen table above her father’s linoleum store in Brooklyn. A few minutes after graduation from high school, she married and had two brilliant kids. Hana-Austin lives in Calistoga and is looking forward to revisiting with you the place she fondly and oft times hilariously writes about — the Brooklyn of yesterday. “Dietrich and Me,” one of Hana-Austin’s many short stories, has been included in One Hundred Voices,Volume II, which is available on Amazon.com. Early in 2019, her Kosher Style Stories will be available as a free Podcast. Contact her KosherStyleStories@gmail.com.
Main article photo by: Barbra Hana-Austin