In 2003 a struggling artist named Richella was working in her studio. She rented a large warehouse space – 5,000 square feet or so. She had a cat named Fitzgerald with whom she traveled across the country to art festivals. Fitzgerald was a very large orange tabby, and he was very comfortable on the road. He kept her company while she worked all hours of the night on her pottery, her miniature collectibles fired with a Raku technique.
Richella was a very good friend of mine and I feel that she was troubled sometimes. She told us that she needed the amount of space she had in order to be able to work, due to claustrophobia. So, she worked alone in her studio surrounded by her pretty things and in the company of her cat who enjoyed nothing more than being her entire world.
At some point, though, another tabby peeked in the garage door of the studio. She gave the new cat some food and put it back outside. But, the cat came back, as cats are wont to. She took the cat in to get it fixed and if you've noticed a lack of gender-specific pronouns in this paragraph there's a reason for it. She couldn't tell if it was a boy or a girl. She thought girl, so she named her Buttercup. The vet told her it was a boy, so the name was changed to Butternut. When the vet discovered that the cat was pregnant, he used deductive reasoning to establish that she was, indeed, a she. Thus, the name Butterbean was given and finalized.
This caused a bit of an upset in Fitzgerald's life. He only had room in his heart for one woman and that woman was Richella. He could see no reason for the presence of this other cat in their life, regardless of what gender she was before she was neutered. Butterbean was street savvy and could kick any cat's ass that got in her way, so there was a bit of tension as the two got to know each other. (In all honestly, Fitzgerald never got over the betrayal.) But, the ball was rolling and there is no stopping the course of fate.
I think that it can be said without too much argument that Richella was in an unlucky phase in her life with regards to romance. She had a boyfriend at one point around this time. He wasn't much to write home about, so I tried not to pay attention. But, any person has a space in their heart for another human being and sometimes we let somebody into that space whether or not they are truly worth it. It's difficult to say what would have been appropriate for Richella. She loved the movie The Silence of the Lambs and all of the prequels/sequels. She also read all of the books. One might not think too much about that, except that she found it to be the most remarkable love story she had ever seen. It touched her in a place that had never been touched before. For those who haven't heard of it, the two main characters in SOTL are Hannibal and Clarice. Hannibal is a brilliant psychiatrist, and he also happens to be a cannibalistic murderer. Clarice works for the FBI and is sent to enlist Hannibal's assistance in stopping another serial killer. Thus begins their strange relationship.
So, when yet a third cat showed up to Richella's studio and it was clear that she wasn't going to go away, this new black cat was named in honor of Richella's favorite protagonist, Clarice. Clarice, the cat, was a timid little thing at the time, and Butterbean was quite the fighter. Butterbean was generally locked in Richella's bedroom, but occasionally the door was left a crack open and Clarice would sneak in to see what was in there (because what cat can leave a closed door alone?) She had her little black butt handed to her on more than one occasion that way.
There has always been something a little different about Clarice. Some cats are nervy or skittish, and that's natural. Clarice, though, has always wanted attention; she was just always a little put off by being touched – even when she requested it. She lived her life among other cats a bit like that. She wasn't certain that she wanted to be there, but there didn't seem to be anywhere else to be, so she abided. Asserting herself had only caused physical harm, so she meekly asked for attention, even though she didn't particularly like it. She spent a great deal of time lying quietly, trying to blend into the background until her need for affection overcame her distaste for it.
Years later, she has come into her own, living in our home now. (This is the same Clarice that I recently wrote about – our cat who has diabetes now.) She sits on her corner of the kitchen table and proudly announces that she is in need of attention. It is my job to pick her up (yes, she allows me to pick her up now!) and pet her and coo to her and tell her what a beautiful kitty she is. I have to pet the back of her head, rub her whiskers and this must go on for at least five minutes. She uses her front paws on my arm to perch up and receive her due. She closes her eyes and imagines a life without so much heartache; lets herself forget how far she's come and just live in the moment with me.
And, then it's time to put her down and we both go about our business.
|A sketch of Richella demonstrating her art|