After I buried Pooh in Central Park, I wanted nothing more to do with felines, at least not for a while. I was in mourning for my little friend, and mourning takes time. My wife, however, had other ideas and a team of accomplices pitted against me.
We lived on West 19th Street in Chelsea at the time, and a Dominican couple with four daughters had moved from the South Bronx into the building next door a few weeks earlier.
The apartment Carole and I had was essentially a two-room studio, and we learned that their apartment had the same setup, cramped quarters for a family that large. When I came home from work I would see the girls on the street in front of the buildings, and would stop to talk with them. The oldest, about 7, was their spokesperson. She would tell me about everything that had happened in the building and on the block that day.
One evening, soon after Pooh’s demise, there was a knock on the door. It was the little spokesperson. “Your cat is dead. Do you want our cat?” she asked. I said no, although I told her it was a very kind offer.
The next evening, there was another knock on the door. “He’s a very nice cat. His name is Garfield,” she said.
“Shouldn’t we at least take a look?” Carole asked after the disappointed neighbor left.
“It’s too soon,” I said.
The next night, another knock. This time my little friend had her three sisters with her, as well as Garfield, cradled in her arms. He looked to be no longer a kitten, but was not full grown. He also looked strikingly like the dear departed Pooh.
Their mother had said Garfield had to go, she explained. After I sent them away disappointed again, my wife stared daggers at me. It was very quiet around the dinner table that night.
The next evening, the now-ritual knock was heard again. It was the four girls and the cat, now wrapped in a large towel. They had washed him. I looked at the wet animal. I looked at my wife. I looked at those four pairs of dark eyes, which seemed to be looking back imploringly as they waited for my answer. “Okay,” I said.
And that is how the cat whom we rechristened Bunky came into our lives. He was a close companion for the next 20-odd years.
T.E. McMorrow is a reporter at The Star.