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Cedric the Flying Cat

The cats that lived at my house have been pretty run of the mill cats—except Cedric. Cedric was a volunteer. Not a volunteer like those who play football for the University of Tennessee and who people from Auburn University generally dislike, but a volunteer who showed up at the house one day and said, “ Here I am.” Cedric was small, skinny, and coal black. He apparently had not eaten for a while because he was eating pizza that even my wife Lynn, a real pizza lover, would not eat. Cedric informed us that he had selected us from among all the people on our road and he was moving in. He did. Over the course of his long life (he lived 14 more years in three states and in 5 different houses) he showed us the underlying basis of the old adage that cats have 9 lives.

First, when we lived just outside Auburn, Alabama, we owned a very sleek looking Toyota Celica hatchback with black metal louvers over the large back window. Cedric liked to sleep on the louvers in the sun. Remember Cedric’s color. It’s important. Late one afternoon my wife, Lynn, decided it was critical that she go to the grocery that instant and that she go very fast. The decision was based on the fact that I had just invited my boss and his wife for dessert and we had no dessert.

Lynn rushed out the door, leapt into the car, and headed for the grocery. As she accelerated through about 40 miles per hour, she happened to glance in the rear-view mirror to discover a large black cat, spread-eagled, flying through the air beside the car at approximately the same rate of speed that the car was traveling. It was Cedric. This was Cedric’s first attempt at flying and, like many beginning human pilots, he found that landings are not quickly mastered. Although he extended his landing gear at the appropriate time, his feet could not keep up with the rest of his body when he touched down. This resulted in a maneuver called “cart wheeling” in the flying business. We looked for Cedric (or his battered and broken body) for an hour after the boss and his wife left but found neither hide nor hair, which was surprising because I would have thought that hide and hair might be all that was left of Cedric.

We grieved briefly and prepared to face life without Cedric. It was not to be. About three days after incident, Cedric suddenly showed up at the house. Actually “suddenly” is a poor word choice. Cedric didn’t do anything suddenly. He was, as we sometimes say in the south, “all stove up.” In a race with a turtle, the turtle would have won by several lengths. Also, Cedric had no hair on his face or the top of his head. It’s hard to imagine the position he would have landed in to plow the hair off his face and head. In fact, don’t try to imagine. It will give you a headache. He looked peculiar but after a few days was none the worse for the wear.

After we moved to Texas, Cedric took another ride on the outside of a car. This time it was on an Isuzu Rodeo with a luggage rack. It was a 5-mile ride at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour and Cedric was hanging onto the luggage rack like “bird droppings on a windshield.”* Cedric had learned that it was best not to depart the vehicle while it was in motion. My wife was driving and stopped as soon as she figured out why so many passersby were waving at her and pointing to the top of the car. At first she thought they were flirting with her. Then she thought they were just friendly Texans. Then she decided there was a heretofore-undiscovered passenger aboard. When she had come to complete stop, Cedric hopped off the top of the car, climbed inside and the trip proceeded without further incident.

Cedric survived being impaled through the lip by a large fishhook; being caught between the garage door frame and the automatic garage door; a number of encounters with other animals (wild and otherwise); and leaping from the roof of a two-story house to attack a German Shepherd Dog he didn’t like.

With a critter like this around for amusement, why would you ever waste even a minute in front of a TV set or writing some dumb ending to this piece?

· This is something Dan Rather would have said on election night if he had thought of it.