Hong Kong Calico

Written by Michael LaRocca

HONG KONG CALICO Copyright 2005, Michael LaRocca

"Dogs have masters; Cats have staff."

Picasso was born in February 2000. According to local astrology,repparttar Year ofrepparttar 147563 Dragon. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? I rescued her fromrepparttar 147564 SPCA in September 2000. Someone had stuck her in a donation box. I don't even want to know what that means.

I had very definite plans. A calm, quiet, lazy girl who would be content spending all day cooped up in an 18th floor Hong Kong shoebox apartment.

There she was. In a glass cage. Her roommate was playing with a cat toy that some people dangled before her, ringingrepparttar 147565 bells and acting like a kitten. Meanwhile, she rested on a perch, mildly disgusted by allrepparttar 147566 commotion.

Once I reached in, but not before, she rubbed her head on my hand and purred. Yes, I decided, I'll takerepparttar 147567 quiet one. The paperwork said she was four months old, based on her size. The guy who handledrepparttar 147568 adoption looked at her teeth and said, "No, she's probably seven months, just underfed."

When I got home, I told my wife, "She has a naughty face, but she's really very sweet."

I returned two days later, afterrepparttar 147569 desexing operation, and brought home my shy, quiet cat. I set downrepparttar 147570 cat carrier, opened it, and there she was. Scared, skinny, gorgeous.

My wife,repparttar 147571 painter, stated thatrepparttar 147572 kitten looked like a Picasso. If Picasso had painted a cat, this is how it would have looked. Black, white and ginger all in unique swirls and patterns. Thus, we named our new kitten Picasso.

Picasso camped out inrepparttar 147573 spare bedroom, betweenrepparttar 147574 wall andrepparttar 147575 nearby wardrobe, atop some luggage. A very confined, safe area. The room was full of other hiding places, naturally, since we used it for clothing storage. Space is a rare commodity in Hong Kong. I marvel atrepparttar 147576 folks who live with two kids, grandma, and a Filipino maid.

"She may be too quiet," we worried forrepparttar 147577 next two days. "Boring."

We need not have been concerned. That's how long it took her to recover fromrepparttar 147578 surgery, and to realize that her masterful con job was a resounding success. Don't you know that all cats, when seeking a home, pretend to be angelic? Then, when everything is safe and you've been lulled into that false sense of security... BAM!!

Picasso loves to play with pens, lighters and balls of paper. Knocking massive marble balls fromrepparttar 147579 windowsill always gives a satisfying bang. Onrepparttar 147580 polished wood floor, they sound like bowling balls when they roll. Never in a straight line, leading to hours of fascinating study. The hair on her tail sticks out like a bristle brush and her eyes look feral as she rushes madly throughrepparttar 147581 flat. What will she attack next? Possiblyrepparttar 147582 large silk butterfly onrepparttar 147583 wall. No one ever knows, not even her.

She loves pouncing on wall hangings, and attacking funnel web spiders onrepparttar 147584 television. She knows how to sit onrepparttar 147585 remote control and turn onrepparttar 147586 TV, but it's much more fun to liftrepparttar 147587 lid onrepparttar 147588 computer printer and watchrepparttar 147589 cartridges move.

Her favorite room may berepparttar 147590 bathroom. Picasso can watch people in there, onrepparttar 147591 toilet or inrepparttar 147592 shower. She can smell things. She can stare at herself inrepparttar 147593 mirror. She can attackrepparttar 147594 box of tissues, although she knows not to do that. Not that knowing stops her. This is a cat, not a dog. She just lies atoprepparttar 147595 basin full of shredded tissues and says "meeeeowrrrrr..." Roughly translated, that means, "I didn't do that. I just found them here. I don't know how they got this way." Even though we both know it's a lie.

She can leap fromrepparttar 147596 basin torepparttar 147597 wall that dividesrepparttar 147598 room almost in half, landing onrepparttar 147599 4 inch space between that wall andrepparttar 147600 ceiling, slamming intorepparttar 147601 roof onrepparttar 147602 way. From there she can climb ontorepparttar 147603 light aboverepparttar 147604 mirror, then leap allrepparttar 147605 way down torepparttar 147606 floor when someone opens a tin of tuna.

Imagine you're a guy about to take a leak, only to have a cat jump onrepparttar 147607 toilet and challenge your aim. Now imagine her battingrepparttar 147608 stream, perhaps even taking a sniff. Then whenrepparttar 147609 toilet flushes, she must stick her head way down in there for a close-up wide-eyed look. She's stopped doing all that, fortunately.

The bathroom has a tub, which is great for rolling in or hiding in. Recently I saw Picasso licking a bar of soap, then licking her white chest. Maybe that's how she keeps it so clean.

Or perhaps her favorite room isrepparttar 147610 kitchen. She andrepparttar 147611 kitchen didn't get along at first. She leaped onrepparttar 147612 stove at a bad time and burned her whiskers. Now she's learned that it's safe only whenrepparttar 147613 burners are off.

The kitchen offers many opportunities to observe coffee brewing, cooking and dishwashing. Best of all, it has a tap. The water falls down, then vanishes intorepparttar 147614 hole. How does that happen? If she's feeling a bit energetic, I can simply leave it dripping and go on my merry way. She'll appear half an hour later, face and paws soaked from batting atrepparttar 147615 water and trying to bite it.

Whenrepparttar 147616 pipes stopped up, she was extremely fascinated with my repairs. Running water and an open cabinet. This combination was simply irresistible. Ditto when I repairedrepparttar 147617 toilet. This is a cat who is definitely obsessed with understanding plumbing.

The bed is also good, because she can lie on Daddy's chest and purr. This after fifteen minutes of "kneading bread" on a stomach that bounces like a waterbed. Picasso almost never bites. She doesn't sleep at our feet, but she does visit often. Sometimes too often.

Did you know that a bite onrepparttar 147618 leg orrepparttar 147619 toe is a friendly morning greeting? Picasso taught me that. Two minutes later, it's also good to sniff my face, purr, and perhaps lick my eyelashes.

She gained some weight, incidentally, and looks her age now. She is not fat, but neither is she skinny. If I fed her every time she demanded it, she'd be more bloated than Garfield.

Secret Agent Man

Written by Michael LaRocca

SECRET AGENT MAN Copyright 2005, Michael LaRocca

Today's mission -- smuggle a contraband calico cat from my flat, past security and a few hundred tenants. Find a taxi. Explain torepparttar driver that we're going torepparttar 147528 Hong Kong SPCA even though I don't speak Cantonese andrepparttar 147529 driver probably can't speak English. Getrepparttar 147530 cat vaccinated. Find another taxi. Return home. Smugglerepparttar 147531 cat past security again.

I began by carrying Picasso, in a cat carrier, pastrepparttar 147532 security guard. As usual, he lookedrepparttar 147533 other way. There must be hundreds of dogs living here, in spite ofrepparttar 147534 rules. Every time a dog is taken for a walk, he rides in a lift with a security camera. A guard sees him onrepparttar 147535 monitor. He doesn't care. Thenrepparttar 147536 dog is walked past a second guard, who also doesn't care. So really, this isn't a problem.

The fun begins when I get inrepparttar 147537 taxi. There's always one waiting byrepparttar 147538 exit, it seems. I toldrepparttar 147539 driver "Wan Chai." That was easy.

Then I said "Wan Shing Road." He didn't understand. Cantonese is tonal language, and I always butcherrepparttar 147540 tones. Plus I've never learned how to say "Road."

I said "SPCA." That was English, but I don't know how to say it in Cantonese. He still didn't understand.

In a flash of insight, I realized thatrepparttar 147541 SPCA logo onrepparttar 147542 side ofrepparttar 147543 carrier was in both English and Chinese. I pointed to it and said "This place."

The cab driver laughed. "I understand. Cat?"


He laughed again. "Is she a good cat?"


"You are lucky." He laughed again. Then he looked atrepparttar 147544 box and said "Meow!" Then he laughed yet again. He's quite happy inrepparttar 147545 mornings. "Is she Bossy Mouth?"


More laughing.

"How big is she? This big?" He put his hands far apart, as if perhaps I had a Labrador retriever inrepparttar 147546 tiny box.

"No, this big." I tried to show him with my hands, but my memory's shot at that hour ofrepparttar 147547 morning. Along withrepparttar 147548 rest ofrepparttar 147549 time. "She's very young."

"Ah, I understand." He paused to look at where he was driving. "Is she cat daughter?"

"Yes," I agreed, and we both laughed.

It didn't occur to me until later that he never sawrepparttar 147550 cat. He just guessed "she." Likewise, she never made a sound duringrepparttar 147551 cab ride. He just guessed "bossy mouth." Maybe he has a cat daughter of his own.

In case you couldn't tell, I really liked this guy. Was his English any better thanrepparttar 147552 other cabbies in Hong Kong, orrepparttar 147553 cashiers atrepparttar 147554 grocery stores, restaurants, or 7-11s? Probably not. But he spoke with confidence, and when I didn't understand what he said, he repeated it until I figured it out. He wanted to communicate. I loved that.

Finally we settled intorepparttar 147555 journey. He drove throughrepparttar 147556 absurd early-morning going-to-work traffic while I read my newspaper. When we reached Wan Chai, he attempted another conversation. I was slow picking up on this one. He repeated what he had said, verbatim. His vocabulary was a bit limited. I caught on at last. This was a sales pitch. He wantedrepparttar 147557 fare back home as well.

He gave me his cell phone number. He made absolutely sure that I wrote down his cab number. He told me to call ten minutes before I was ready to leave, and he'd be there. How could I resist this smiling, friendly, charismatic old cab driver?

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