RumpusMarch 9, 2009
Today my brother is taking my old buddy Rumpus to the vet, then when they get home my brother will go out into the backyard with a shovel.
Rumpus’ health has been in decline for a while. He’s 15 years old. I saw him recently, and he was a skeleton with fur. He still purred a little when I petted him, but everything, even purring, seemed at least a bit of a struggle. It hit me while I was sitting beside him in the room he’d been quarantined to after taking a senile leak in a box of my brother’s kids’ toys that I was seeing my friend for the last time. He struggled onto my lap on his rickety legs as I was thinking this, and as I continued petting him and he continued producing his ragged purr my wife called me on my cell phone. I got about two words out before I started crying.
I was sharing an apartment in Brooklyn with my brother when Rumpus arrived in our lives. Construction workers found him in the first days of his life wandering along the side of a highway, then my brother and his future wife selected him from among several other cats in the cat-glutted apartment of a woman devoted to rescuing cats and finding them good homes. Or, to put it more accurately, Rumpus selected my brother, sauntering into the room, picking a couple fights with cats much bigger than his kitten self, then going right over to Ian and climbing onto his lap and falling completely and satisfyingly asleep. It was love at first sight between my brother and Rumpus, and later that day the same thing happened with me when I returned home from my shift at the liquor store and saw a cute little kitten staring up at me and purring, already completely at home in our lives.
Always a voracious eater, he grew in fairly short order from a cute potbellied, big-pawed kitten to a bright-eyed behemoth with what my brother and I liked to describe as the gravitas and charisma of an All-Time Great. I lived with my brother for the first few years of Rumpus’ life, and he was our cat, but then when I moved away it wasn’t even a question that Rumpus belonged with my brother. He was my brother’s echo—both of them big, exasperating, lovable, surly, affectionate, moody, sensitive, bullying, kind. My brother has had his rough patches over the last fifteen years, but his burly little echo was always there by his side.
Needless to say, it’s going to be a bad day. For my brother especially, but for me, too. After I went off on my own Rumpus always knew me whenever I returned, always came right up to me and started meowing in an excited, slightly demanding way, as if to say, “There you are, guy. What the hell?” He always let me haul his big bulk up onto my shoulders and pet him as he purred. I am going to miss him.