by Brett Harrison

Every relationship has that defining moment. That moment where you know if you don’t do something right now, you might miss your big chance. It could be asking out your future wife to the prom or offering to help your future best friend move. Life is full of choices, and we never know which ones will impact our lives forever.

The defining moment for Simone and Me came on Dec 18, 2009. Simone was part of a colony of feral cats that I was feeding at the time. I had bonded with several of them but not so much that I wanted to bring them in.

Part of it was cost. I didn’t make that much money back then, and I don’t make a whole lot now. But part of it was my landlord. Let’s just say he will never get nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and leave it at that. He knew I fed the cats, and I asked him once, just in passing, if I could ever bring one in.

He said “Sure, cough up $250 for the pet fee, and you got yourself an inside cat.” Never mind that tacking on a fee that’s not mentioned in the lease is probably illegal. But I’m a “pick-your-battles kind of guy.” So much for that idea.

There is an old Yiddish saying: “Man makes plans, and God laughs.” My brother will tell you I rely on that old chestnut perhaps a tad too much. But for a reason. It’s true.

I had every intention of obeying my landlord. I didn’t have $250 at the time, and I sure wasn’t going to bring in a new buddy only to have to cruelly kick him or her to the curb. I’m not wired that way. And I didn’t want to get myself in trouble, either.

But I didn’t count on a Category 3 snowstorm that day either. By mid-afternoon the snow was falling at a steady pace and didn’t look as if it was going to let up. The rest of the cats found shelter, as they normally do, but not Simone.

To this day I don’t know why she waited outside the stairway door, where my apartment and three other units are, but she did. I went past her several times, and she flashed those big green eyes at me.

They seemed to be saying “Schmuck, what does a girl need to do to get invited in?” All afternoon I agonized. Raising the money was not an option. But I didn’t want to come out the next morning and find a frozen kittiesicle. That was a possibility too horrible to contemplate.

There’s a famous line in the movie “Risky Business”. “Sometimes you have to say ‘What the f—.’” I’m cleaning it up a little, although the father does actually say that line at the end of the movie. I bit the bullet and brought her in. I said “What the f—” and kept her until the snowstorm subsided on Sunday.

What followed was a strange, delicate dance that lasted until early spring. If the weather was nice, I’d let her outside with her buddies but bring her in at night. If there was another snowstorm (there were several more than Winter) I brought her until it stopped. I don’t know how I managed it, but I kept Simone and myself out of trouble while saving $250 in the process.

A lot has happened since then. During one of her afternoon jaunts outside, Simone managed to get pregnant. I had to bring her in then. There was no other choice. Fortunately, a rescue group not only gave me the pet fee money, but also helped me to find homes for her four kittens.

Simone has settled into her role as housecat quite nicely. I let her have the run of my tiny apartment and don’t even mind when she drinks out of my cup. I want to her to feel she’s welcome. She’s not one of those super- affectionate cats, but does purr like a Bengal tiger when I find the right spot. She’s even been known to bite me gently when the petting gets out of hand. But she always knows when to stop. Well, usually.

Mr. Landlord of the Year is no longer here. He never was the landlord, just an apartment manager with big dreams who owned a few percentage points of the building and borrowed the boss’s car to impress people. He was replaced by a nicer manager, one who didn’t budge or charge me extra when I asked if I could bring in Neela.

That’s right, Neela, who, like Simone, was pregnant when I brought her in. She lost her two kittens in a premature birth, which saved me a lot of trouble but was pretty sad. Other than the fact they look somewhat alike, Neela and Simone are as different as night and day.

Simone is serene and quiet. Neela makes these cute little sounds that make her sound like a baby wookie. And she is anything but serene. Although they clashed at first, they get along now like-long lost friends. But, like long lost friends, sometimes their play can get a tad rough.

Years ago if you had asked me if I was a cat person or dog person, I would have answered “dog person” without a second of hesitation. I never dreamed in a million years that I’d become “The Cat Man.”

There’s another old Yiddish saying: “You can live without a cat, but it would probably not be much of a life.”

Those old Yiddish people definitely knew something about life.

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