Jumpin’ Jack Brash

In the middle of May, I mentioned Jack the Cat in this column. Jack the Cat is not one of my cats, a point that would be obvious to anyone who has ever met one of my animals: Jack has a spine, and mine do not. Jack is also a renegade — imagine Bruce Willis as a cat.
In all fairness, Jack has considerably more hair than Bruce Willis. Jack is not one of those disturbing, hairless cats that look like small, bald geriatric aliens. Jack is a furry gray tiger stripe with bright eyes, sharp features, and a hiss that could scare a rattlesnake. He lives a couple of houses away from mine and belongs to my friends, Todd and Jennifer Goodyear and their kids.
The point I made about Jack the Cat two months ago is that he can spray like a fire hose. We’re talking water park power. He would mark a live lion if one ventured into the neighborhood.
As I have gotten to know him, however, I have come to realize that he is more than merely a squirt gun with legs. He is a leader — and a subversive influence on my cats. Jack is the sort of bad boy on the block that my felines are starting to look up to. Right now it is in that interesting love/hate stage. First the hate: The other day Jack had four of my cats cornered on the front steps of my house. There they were, each sitting like a sphinx, watching him warily as he stared them down from 3 feet away on the front walkway. Four against one are not terrific odds in a cat fight, but Jack has my cats so cowed that the moment I opened the front door, the four of them bolted inside at warp speed. Jack wanted to follow, but I discouraged him.
The single time that one of my cats tried to stand up to Jack, he would have wound up eating her if my wife hadn’t broken up the fight with the garden hose. That’s what it took: a garden hose. And when my wife finally put the hose down, Jack — the Cujo of Cats — dove at my wife’s shins, apparently believing that he could bring her down and eat her, too.
But then, however, there is the respect that my cats have for Jack, and the way they look up to him as a feline rebel without a cause. In their eyes, it seems, if Jack does it, it’s cool. To wit: My cats, even the female ones, have started to spray. Just the other day my normally serene female, Horton, was spraying the church beside our house. There is a very sweet yellow Lab who lives nearby named Isabelle. When she was asleep near our house last Tuesday, I swear my cat Dorset — who is over 18 years old and weighs about 6 ounces — would have sprayed her if I hadn’t reined the old girl in.
Moreover, my cats have started roaming beyond the confines of our yard, just like Jack. Suddenly, they are crossing driveways and streets, and they have lost all fear of the dogs who occasionally wander through our yards. (Exhibit A: Dorset’s desire to spray a sleeping yellow Lab.) In fact, I’m not sure they’re scared of anything or anyone other than Jack.
Now, make no mistake: I like Jack. I like his spunk and his sass. I like the fact that he swaggers when he walks. Here, however, is what I wish: If he is going to teach my cats anything, I would be mighty grateful if he would teach them to scare away the moles who have turned my lawn into a moonscape. That’s right, including Jack, there are now five cats hanging around outside my house on any given day and, for all I know, twice that many moles.
Consequently, I am hoping that the next time Jack marks something … it’s a mole.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on July 22.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

One thought on “Jumpin’ Jack Brash

  1. I Love Cats, But... says:

    Jack sounds like the menace of the neighborhood, frankly. I love cats; don’t get me wrong. And they love me back, all of those that I’ve ever met, save for one, extremely fierce cat named “Angie”. I Never said to *her*: “heeerrreee, ‘ittle, itty-bitty, cutie-pie puddywuddy catsums, come to mommie”! I think if I ever did, she’d have bit me. (And maybe I would have deserved it). Still, Jack shouldn’t be trying to eat Bohjalian’s cats or any others for that matter. Jack needs to go to cat reform school, I guess. Although he actually sounds like a graduate of it.

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