Why you should care

Because, apparently, there’s a thin line between loving cats and hating Jews.

My ex-wife had a crazy sister who rescued animals and talked us into adopting a stray cat. Not an exotic or expensive animal. Just a regular white female cat with brown blotches. My ex named her Tessie and proceeded to neglect her, barely remembering to give her food and water. Those jobs fell on me, the bleeding-heart member of our household who also sorted the recycling and drove my two stepsons (from my ex’s first marriage) to their soccer games and medical appointments.

It didn’t surprise me that Tessie bailed on us. I was relieved, as I had fantasies of abandoning her in the woods someplace. It was a month before my ex even noticed she was gone.

“What the hell did you do with her?” she demanded to know from me.

“She’s living next door with the fat neighbors,” reported one of the kids.

“What? Those fat bastards stole our cat? I’m going over there right now!” my ex said.

“No, I’ll take care of it,” I volunteered.

It was the fat husband who opened the door. I seem to remember them being named Bob and Virginia. He was a big, soft type with a trimmed red beard.

“Do I know you?” he asked.

“Jon from next door.”

“Sure, sure, come in,” he said. “What was your last name?”

“Cohen,” I said.

“Here’s a $1 gold piece,” he said. “That’s something you people understand, am I correct?”

“Oh, that’s right,” he said. “I thought so. Virginia’s taken Tessie to the cat groomer.”

“That’s why I’m here,” I said. “My wife sent me to take her back.”

“Whoa! Not so fast!” he said. “Virgnia’s become very attached. She’s with her right now. Took her to get some proper vet care and have those painful fur snarls removed.”

“I’m afraid I need to repossess her,” I said, trying to crack a joke.

His nose turned up and his beady eyes filled with icy hatred. “I have an idea,” he said. “Follow me to the museum.”

The museum was an office in the back of the house with Old West wanted posters on the wall. Jesse James and the like. He opened a large, old-fashioned safe and pulled out a leather book full of coins.

“Here’s a $1 gold piece,” he said. “That’s something you people understand, am I correct?”

“Huh?”

“Worth more than a litter of new cats. How about it? Just like the old days. Your livestock for our gold?”

“Can I think about it?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said. “Take the gold piece home. Show it to your wife. Talk it over.”

I drove first to a bookstore and looked up the value of the coin. About $180. We were broke at the time, as my ex had recently been fired from her job for the second straight time, and we were late on the rent and my car payment.

“This will help,” I told her. “Can I tell him we have a deal?”

“Absolutely not,” she said. “Either act like the man and get my cat back, or I’m going over there to kick some ass.”

“All right, all right,” I said. “No need to start another war with the neighbors.”

This time both Bob and Virginia came to the door. I remember Virginia’s wide pelican mouth and fat white neck.

“I beg you, can we pleeeze keep her?”

“I’m afraid not,” I said, not daring to look either of them in the eye. “Here’s your coin back.”

Bob put the freshly groomed Tessie into my arms. Virginia hurried to the back of the house, from where I could hear her sobbing. Tessie struggled all the way home, digging her claws into my shoulder, but I held tight just long enough to dump her back in our kitchen.

It was 10 o’oclock that same night and pouring rain when Bob rang our doorbell.

My ex and I were in bed reading books at the time. “Who the hell is that?” she said.

“I think I have a feeling,” I answered, putting on my bathrobe.

Bob held an umbrella over his head with one hand and a bank check in the other. “I don’t want you to ask me in,” he said. “I’m here with another generous offer. Go ahead. Take it in your greedy little hand.”

I studied the check for $500. “Let me show it to my wife,” I said. “You can come in if …”

“Never.”

“This is $500,” I said to my ex. “I can take the bus to work, but at least we won’t get evicted.”

“Do whatever you like,” she said. “Leave me out of your whole miserable existence.”

I was able to snag Tessie out of the garage, where I had her locked in. I handed her over to Bob with his check in my bathrobe pocket.

“OK, we’re all even,” I said.

Kike!” he muttered, plenty loud enough for me to hear, while he shuffled away with Tessie under his arm.

The truth is that I’ve never felt much anger toward him after that. In fact, I think of him as someone who helped me finally find myself. And get out of that hell of a marriage.

OZYTrue Story

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