Her name was Tip, short for Tipitina. She was Laura's family for 19 years, the equivalent of at least 120 in human years. She was black, wise, and resolute. She had two litters before she was fixed sometime in the Eighties. She came as a kitten, together with a brother, from a couple named Hope and Miles. Her brother died a violent death many eons ago, but Hope and Miles' kitty went many more miles, and, at the end, a kind of hope danced her increasingly frail frame, keeping her going all through the terrible year 2005, until Christmas Eve, when she gently gave up the ghost, after taking one long nap with her mistress. Napping was Tip's specialty: she knew how to nap with an ease that would have made Sleeping Beauty jealous. Tip was a nap teacher. She taught Laura how to nap and cats came from all over the world to learn Perfect Napping from Tip. Well, maybe not, but it could have happened. She napped through much of George Bush Sr.'s presidency and barely lifted her head when the first Gulf War came on TV. She watched the Clinton Era with a detached and somnolent wisdom, and didn't quite see what the fuss of impeachment was all about, since she had had quite a wild youth herself and still enjoyed watching humans making love. She watched a variety of such activities with an unperturbed eye. After napping, her specialty was purring. She purred under many hands, Laura's first of all, then those of Laura's children, Ben and Will, both of whom grew under her gaze from babies into teenagers, then young adults. She purred through the years of Bush Jr., watching the world change as it does, and never once allowed any national or international situation to detract her from her chief occupations: napping and purring. As she grew older, she moved with greater difficulty, and sometimes stood stock still in the middle of the kitchen floor on her way to her food bowl or kitty-litter box, as if forgetting her destination. Such moments of Zen amnesia came more often in 2005, a year that most people would rather forget. Perhaps, at long last, the world of people, which experienced the tragedy of Katrina nearby, began to affect her. She had been named after a New Orleans music club after all, and many musicians were homeless and destitute. Tip was never homeless and saw nothing but love during her long days through the unrolling decades. She suffered her old age with dignity, without raising a fuss about the end. Two weeks before Christmas she stopped eating. She became weaker and weaker, without giving up either napping or purring. On Christmas Eve she curled up and died as the voices of humans drifted around her. She let go as easily as she'd napped. There were a great many lessons in that cat. I wish everyone to learn at least one of them in 2006. Bye, Tip.
Andrei Codrescu's new book, New Orleans, Mon Amour: 20 Years of Writing From the City, has just been published by Algonquin Books.