We wanted a free cat. One that was excess, part of a mewling litter of rejects. One that the owners would hand over like he was a piece of Big Red pulled from a fresh pack. An ad boasting kittens! took us to one of Rochester's treeless neighborhoods, where a gigantic man with a gnarly red mop of hair and a fucked up face showed us the goods: The cats, definitely not kittens, skulking around angrily. That new cat smell wiped clean. These were hissers, surly teens from a broken home. "Three months old," he croaked, obviously lying. More like 6 years old. I didn't even like cats -- this was Oneniner's idea -- and I planned to ween myself toward the possibility of not hating one by starting with something cute and furry and pocket-sized. Something more like a balled up wool sock with eyeballs, than a python with peach fuzz.
Next stop was a place with acreage near the outskirts of town. An ancient red stripped tiger rested in a patch of light from the window. A retiree accustomed to lazy afternoons in Naples, punctuating each sentence with a yawn, disregarding SPF as a fad, mice served on a tray with a straw wedged into its gaping neck hole. We took her son. She didn't seem to mind.
I wanted to name him Perro. At 3 months old, he already looked like a dog. The big-pawed hero in a picture book prancing grandly and checking his appearance in shop windows. Oneniner thought that was mean, that it would confuse the cat. The kitten hadn't yet learned that the sandbox under the bathroom sink was his toilet, but he was fluent in Spanish. "Una pescada, por favor," he said, his eyes shaded beneath a sombrero.
By the time I scheduled Toonses' vasectomy and manicure surgeries, Oneniner and I had broken up. I understood that he was special -- not everyone has the fortitude to get expelled from community college -- I eavesdropped on myself telling people about him and understood that I'd been duped:
"... Wants to work in forestry. He's a great fisherman and has a natural way with animals. He's a great hunter because he thinks like a grouse and isn't afraid to smear his pulse points with deer urine."
"... Pool is his hobby. So, no. I don't think it's weird that he is at CJ's at 11 a.m. drinking bloody Mary's and working on jump shots. Plugging the juke box with enough loose change to make the bar echo with Randy Travis's Greatest Hits."
"... Yeah, the new waitress is pretty hot. But he hates that long hair, full lips, toned body look. And he wouldn't lie to me."
"There is a lot of pressure on him. He's the youngest of eight, so, like, everyone is always harping on him about finding a job and not drinking so much. They need to just be a little more hands off with him. Just let him play softball and figure it all out. And pay for his softball league fees."
Fannie and I went to the vet's office to pick Toonses up. The doctor worked out of his home, his basement had a steel table and jars and cabinets filled with sharp utensils, and gauze to undo what the sharp utensils did. Toonses was out cold, and the vet whooshed him around the table like a dust mop, showing off the kitten's neutered zone. His front paws were wrapped like boxing gloves. We drove him home, his lifeless body in Fannie's lap like a fur stole.
A few months later, Toonses and I moved into Fannie's apartment. This was a reason for celebration, kind of like Tuesdays were a reason for celebration. We bought beer. We bought tequila. We had friends. Things were getting ramped up when we decided to examine Toonses' intimate areas -- more a scientific curiosity than stone cold animal perverts. There, beneath his squinched cat anus was a soft round area. Twin round puffs, like fuzzy dice.
His balls had grown back, we decided. Or rather, the tequila decided.
"Call the vet," Fannie urged.
So I did. I called the man's home and left a rambling message about how Toonses' surgery didn't take. Through some feat of feline testosterone, little nubbins of procreation had sprouted. Never mind the fact that Toonses never went outside -- Greatest fear: Grass -- we were going to have a roving man whore on our hands, trying to plant his seed in the arm of the couch or Steve Madden footware. By the time the doctor called back, it was well after 10 p.m. and even more tequila had been consumed. He must have explained cat genitalia to me in the compassionate, albeit uncomfortable way of a single father who is charged with telling his daughter that those flecks of muddy red in her Rainbow Brite drawers do not mean that she has leukemia.
I just remember the sound of my own slurred voice asking the kind of questions that I now recognize as Yahoo Answers fodder. And his ultimate diagnosis: Toonses' balls had not grown back.