In my early twenties I’d moved from New York to San Francisco, gotten a job with a regional brewer and lived in a studio apartment that I didn’t like. The building it was in was ramshackle, the walls were paper thin, the furniture, such as it was, came from a thrift store and the sofa bed I slept in was lumpy. My title at the brewery was Sales Research Manager, which sounded impressive enough, but in reality I had a staff of one and my salary was probably less than any of the unionized workers in the brewery.
I became interested in a pretty girl in accounting; her name was Gloria. It turned out that Gloria had a cat and the cat had kittens. Gloria was looking for anyone who’d take the kittens. When she pleaded with me to take one I couldn’t turn her down. After work she brought the kitten over, it was tiny and gray, along with a litter box and some cans of cat food. I must have made a pass at her, my memory after all these years is hazy, but it was inconclusive. I do remember that when I was in my lumpy sofa bed that night I felt a little furry presence on my stomach and heard a purring sound. A month or so later Gloria announced she was getting married and quitting her job. So Gloria was gone but I had Mickey.
When I returned from work I’d call Mickey and she’d come from wherever she was at to be fed her supper. When I sat down in my uncomfortable armchair to read after my own supper she’d jump in my lap and I’d tell her about the events of the day. I assumed my neighbors could hear me as I could hear them through the paper thin walls and maybe they thought I was strange. Or maybe they thought I had another person in the apartment with me named Mickey. I’d had Mickey for several months when one day the landlord unexpectedly appeared, told me someone had said I had a cat and no pets were allowed in his building. I had to get rid of Mickey or move out. I started looking for another place to live.
I found a place, not in San Francisco, but over the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito. It was on the middle floor of a three-story wooden house and it had a view of the Bay, Alcatraz and of the city beyond. It had a balcony and also had a bedroom with a real bed. The rent was quite a bit more than I’d been paying. I told the landlord I had a cat. He said that was okay. I immediately took it.
Mickey and I liked the Sausalito apartment much better than the old one, even though I had to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge every day to work. Before leaving in the morning, I’d let her out. There was an empty field in back of the building where she could play. When I returned I’d go out on the balcony and if I could see her in the field I’d call her name. Her ears would go up. At my second call she’d turn around. At the third call she’d come running. At night we’d sit out on the balcony and watch the lights of Alcatraz and of the city. After a time, I learned that Mickey also visited the spinster who lived in the apartment below and the couple in the apartment above. She became known as the building cat.
One day when I came back after work I didn’t see Mickey in the field or anywhere else. I called but no Mickey. Night came and still no Mickey. This continued for a week. I’d lost Mickey. Then on a Sunday I was watching a football game when there was a scratching at the door and a low meow. I sprang from my chair and rushed to the door. It was Mickey but her back legs were crooked. She must have been hit by a car. I called my office on Monday and said I wouldn’t be in. I found a vet in the phone book and took Mickey there. He did something and Mickey’s back legs were almost straightened out. The vet said she’d recover in time. The vet was right. I had Mickey again.
The only problem with living in Sausalito was that, even with Mickey, after a while I became lonely. I finally met a girl, Ashley, at the San Francisco Marketing Association. She was Marketing Manager at a paper company, but she was a real manager, with a staff of half a dozen and a salary that I was sure was much higher than mine. She was also sophisticated and very ambitious. I must admit I was smitten with her. After a few dates I brought her over to my Sausalito apartment. She was impressed with the view but didn’t like Mickey; she said she was allergic to cats. Mickey in her turn didn’t like her. She came over to examine Brittany, shook her head and walked away. Then came another event. The brewery where I worked closed down. They’d decoded they couldn’t compete with two other powerful regional brands. I was out on the street. The next time I called Britney and told her I was unemployed she said, “Oh” and hung up. Later on, someone at the Marketing Association told me Ashley had said she’d gone on a date with some poor loser with a scruffy cat. I never asked her out again.
Sally was a different story. She was a nurse at a San Francisco hospital. The wife of my landlord, also a nurse there, had introduced us. Sally was a shy girl, like myself, with a soft voice and a warm smile. When I brought her over to my apartment Mickey came over to examine her and promptly jumped in her lap. Eventually, after a few months we made good use of the first bedroom I had. A few months after that we were married. By this time I had another job, with the State, not terribly exciting but a lot more secure than the brewery. We had to move to Sacramento, the state capital and center of all state agencies, for me to get a promotion. We found an apartment which didn’t allow pets. We searched all over but couldn’t find anything else. We had to move quickly and I left Mickey with the couple who lived upstairs who promised to good care of her. It was a sad leave taking. After a year in Sacramento we bought a house and got a cat. I named her Mickey II.