Max, The Mad Balcony Cat
My love affair with cats began, ironically, with a cantankerous
Siamese who hated me at first sight. I met him 37 years ago in
Germany when my husband, Ward, came home one day with an arm-load of
mean-eyed, tough-talkiní cat who took one look at me and glared a
warning not to come one inch closer. I suspect that he sensed that I
didnít know anything about cats--and didnít especially care for
We were in the bleak seaport of Bremerhaven because Ward, a Navy
Lieutenant, had been ordered there a month after our marriage. Our
government housing--grim rows of concrete apartment
buildings--squatted on a tract of barren land. Each of the
apartments was faced with a small, iron-barred balcony, and thatís
where I suddenly recalled seeing this cat--on the balcony of a
building across the street. I had noticed him because he seemed to
be there all the time, a lonely figure, even in the dreariest
"Isnít this the balcony cat ?" I asked. "Whatís he doing here?"
"Heís ours for a week!" Ward announced. "The Prestons are going to
Munich so I offered to cat-sit," he explained. "I thought it would
be a good way to introduce you to Siamese cats. Theyíre really
different. Great personalities. Talkative. Kind of dog-like. Youíll
love this cat. Youíll see."
Good grief, was my husband a cat person? Did he intend to get a
Siamese of our own? I did not recall this being in our marriage
Ward put the cat down and patted his rear end. The animal smiled up
with a look of adoration worthy of the shepherds and wise men. Then,
as if to say, I havenít forgotten you, lady, he flashed me a sullen
"Take him back, please," I begged. "I donít care about cats."
"Too late. The Prestons left this morning." Wardís grin was sly. Too
sly, I thought.
By now, the cat was sensuously winding and rewinding his body around
Wardís legs while tossing challenging looks at me. I have since
learned that with those caressing motions he was marking Ward with
his scent. At that moment my husband became that catís property!
Clearly sensing my defeat, with another loving glance at Ward, the
big cat swaggered to the sofa, sprawled languorously, yawned, and
went to sleep.
In the morning, Ward went off to work, leaving the cat (named Max)
and me to forge a relationship. We turned to one another, and I
swear that his eyes were glowing with ill will. I wouldnít have been
surprised if heíd snarled Itís no good screaming, lady. No one can