May 8, 2008

Motor Man's Tale

By Kari Diane Pike

Initially, Dad called him “Deuteronomy.” His incessant, generator-like purring earned the big orange tom cat the name, “Motor Man.” The name fit him well. He acted more like a person than a cat anyway.

Motor Man loved yogurt. Every time Mom opened a carton, he jumped onto the arm of her chair and tried to snatch licks. Mom would chide him,

“No! Wait your turn.”

Motor Man would sit back on his haunches, twitching his tail in anticipation of the creamy treat, and watching every bite that went into Mom’s mouth. The spoon scraping the bottom of the carton signaled his turn. Mom held the carton up while Motor Man stuck his face in as far as he could and licked it clean. He led a charmed life until Dad developed a severe allergy…to the cat. That’s how Motor Man inherited me.

Moving from a quiet, two-person home to a home with not only small children, but a large dog as well, proved to be a challenge for Motor Man. Gone were his days of being pampered with kitty massages and brushings and, of course, his yogurt fixes. This proved to be an “every critter for himself” kind of home. Poor kitty. But Motor Man adjusted. He learned where to find his food and the litter box, and the best places to hide from excited little girls who liked to play “Dress the Kitty.” He even learned how to use the laundry chute in my bedroom as an emergency escape route.

Motor Man became my shadow. I could always count on him being somewhere near my feet; whether it was under the computer desk as I wrote, or under the table where I studied or cooked. Going down the stairs became hazardous because Motor Man had a bad habit of crossing in front of me. He followed me out to the mail box or to meet the school bus, and always popped out of somewhere in the yard to meet me as I pulled into the driveway after shopping or running errands.

He came close to getting evicted once. Our daughter’s wedding was just a few days away and we were busy with all of the things one does for weddings. Family came to visit, and that included a couple of extra dogs. Motor Man took his usual refuge in my room, but this time he also exacted revenge. I went to my closet to retrieve the wedding dress, to show to a friend, and Motor Man had used the train of the dress for a litter box. Fortunately, the fabric was washable (I’ll save the flooded bathroom part of the story for another day) and I managed to not tell the bride until after the wedding…but Motor Man knew he was not in my good graces for a very long time.

Motor Man liked to leave me gifts at the door. I often found offerings of lizards or geckos on the doormat. Bird offerings were more rare because Motor Man had been de-clawed by previous owners. I should have known something wasn’t right when he left me birds several days in a row. I had seen a number of dead birds in and around the cul-de-sac, but I didn’t really think about it until it was too late. Saturday, I noticed that Motor Man acted funny. By Sunday morning I knew that something was terribly wrong. I made a comfortable place for him on the porch, but he wouldn’t eat or drink. Sometime in the night, Motor Man left this life. I found more dead birds. Someone in the neighborhood is poisoning them.

It feels strange to sit her at the computer without feeling Motor Man’s tail tickling my feet. I miss the gravelly sound of his generator-like purr and the way he insisted I follow him to his food dish and touch his food before he would eat it. I never used to think of myself as a cat person. But then, Motor Man never thought of himself as a cat!


  1. I'm sad, too. I love my three cats who are companions in the way only cats can be. A well told story, Kari. Thank you for sharing it with us. I hope it helped.

  2. Oh gosh you brought up all those cherished memories of my first pet and how much I leaned on him. Isn't it wonderful to know we'll be reunited with our pets at some point, not sure how that will work, but I know it will happen. Although it makes me sad, thanks for again reminding me how much I owe the ones I still have around.

  3. Kari, having lost three cats in the course of a year (not this year, about 18-24 months ago), your story touched me deeply. I, too, have great faith that I will be with them again some day, but though I have two new cats whom I love and adore, I still miss the other ones deeply at times. I am convinced I spent a great deal of time in the pre-existence, playing with all the cat spirits. Each one is so unique. I'm missing Motor Man with you tonight.

  4. What a great ode to Motor Man, Kari. I'm sure he's missing you just as much. Your connection to him lives on with this story told. Thanks for sharing.

  5. What a great post!! I loved it. I grew up with at least a couple of cats at any given time until I left for college. Then I married a "dog man" ~ no cats allowed. A few years later we were running a fruit orchard and a kitten followed Jim around all day. I was home, very sick with our 2nd child and he opened the bedroom door and through the kitten on the bed and went back out to the orchard. That was the first of many cats who have lived with us and our family over the years. We lost the most precious dog a few years ago after being a family member for 16 years. After about a year, I was longing for a pet and talked Jim into another cat because they are less work... bad decision. I handpicked, from my son's cat's litter, a beautiful kitten who grew up to be the cat from... well, you know where. She will rub up against you, let you pet her and then out of the blue, she arches her back, scratches and bites you all at the same time and then holds on for dear life. I think she will be our last cat... but she probably has more than 9 lives.


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