Grimaldi’s Thanksgiving

Grimaldi knew something interesting was afoot.  There was unusual hustle and bustle in Anna’s kitchen.  She and her husband Salvatore spoke loudly, using strange words that he was just beginning to understand.  When they spoke to him, though, they made the familiar sounds that Jon once used.  Grimaldi early on figured out that when Anna said “latte,” she meant milk and “carne” meant meat.  No matter which language, these words brought Grimaldi running to his bowl.  

Grimaldi missed his old home.  He still grieved for Jon, although he loved Anna.  His thoughts drifted to the beings who had disappeared from his life.  He knew that after Jon had vanished, Jon’s mate Lucy did not want him.  She moved to a place called Naples, leaving Grimaldi with Anna and Salvatore.  Henceforth he was to be Anna’s cat. 

As far back as Grimaldi could remember, Lucy never liked him, and for his part, Grimaldi disliked Lucy.  She had no business being in that house but could stay at Jonathan’s sufferance.  Lucy cooked and cleaned.  That Grimaldi would give her.  She did not encourage him to stay around when she cooked, however; so he made a habit of lying in the doorway, pleased when Lucy barely missed tripping on him.  She never shared tidbits from her plate, as Jonathan used to do. 

One day, shortly before Jon vanished, Grimaldi had stretched out on the kitchen table.  Lucy had gone out.  Had she seen him, she’d have thrown whatever she could grab at him.  Grimaldi heard the key; he jumped down and stood in the middle of the room.  As Lucy entered, he put his tail in the air and sauntered away upstairs.  Lucy snarled at the cat’s departing rear and set out to make dinner.  Then she noticed cat hairs on the table.  She felt the surface.  Warm.  “Damn that cat!” she shouted.  If she had gotten her hands on him, she would have tossed him out the window. 

Grimaldi, though, was quite pleased to have gotten away with something.  Upstairs now, he considered jumping up on the bed, but thought he’d better not push his luck. Lucy had it in for him as it was.   He meandered into Jon’s studio.

He found Jon absorbed in painting.  A cup of lukewarm tea and a cheese sandwich sat on a side table.  Grimaldi lapped up a little spilled milk and nosed the sandwich.  He pushed the top piece of bread off and nibbled the cheese.  Then he yowled his Siamese yowl.  Jon turned around and smiled.  Grimaldi sat and regarded Jon, blinking his blue eyes. 

Jon stopped painting to admire Grimaldi.  His colors were perfect—a tail the hue of dried autumn leaves melded into a sandy tan touched with sienna on his body.  The shade flowed back into deep brown of his graceful legs and upward to the ears.  The cool blue of his eyes made for a startling interruption of the warm browns.  Something in the eyes recalled the Mediterranean.  But viewed from afar.  As if gazing on the sea from the mountains above Amalfi.  A blue approaching a cool bright turquoise (but not quite) sliced by glints of white sunlight.  Jon never entirely managed to capture their luster in paint.  Light defined them, not pigment. 

Grimaldi finished Jon’s lunch.  He warbled, and careful not to disturb Jon’s paints, wove himself around Jon’s legs.  Jon seemed dispirited, as if retreating behind his easel.  Then Grimaldi smelled it — not Jon’s scent, but a smell that meant something coming to an end. 

Grimaldi’s instinct was to run away.   He had not forgotten his littermate, Grazia.  She too had emanated this same odor of death that made her unfamiliar.  From the time he first detected it, Grimaldi kept her at a distance.  Grazia crept into the basement where she hid behind the furnace.  She stayed there for two days until Jon pulled her out, limp and dusty.  He wiped her off and laid her ever so gently in a box.  This he put into the car and drove off.  When he returned, he was alone.  The way Grazia changed and vanished disturbed Grimaldi for a long time. 

Now it was happening again. Only Grimaldi sensed it.  Lucy did not.  She behaved as if everything were normal.  He did not run away this time, but rubbed the easel with his upper lip to mark Jon’s place as his own. 

Soon however, the hubbub in Anna’s kitchen made Grimaldi forget his melancholy and drew him there.  He sprang to the windowsill.  He sniffed the delightful aromas and tried to discover what was going on.  Anna was unusually busy.  Interesting smells floated all around.  Grimaldi, taking advantage of Anna’s good nature, plopped himself in the middle of her table to see what he might eat. 

Anna didn’t mind.  She was glad of the company.  Her adopted country did not relegate cats to outdoors where they were expected to hunt their own food.  Here they treated animals as the sentient beings Anna knew them to be.  So, working around the cat, she prepared her American Thanksgiving. 

Foremost was making pumpkin pie, an American dessert that she found peculiar but scrumptious.  Anna offered Grimaldi crumbs of crust and put a little condensed milk into his bowl.  The cat gobbled it all.  Then Anna opened the can of pumpkin.  He went mad with delight.  He mewed and rubbed her legs, nearly tripping her.

“Pumpkin is for cows, not cats,” she told him.

After the pies were baked, Anna put them on the dining room table to cool.  Grimaldi leapt to a chair, then onto the table.  He was about to lick one when Anna picked him up.  She carried him out and closed the door.

While Anna was relaxing, reading the Corriere della sera, Grimaldi made his way to the dining room.  He couldn’t push the door open, but he had an idea.  He leapt and grabbed hold of the doorknob with his paws.  As he dropped, it turned, and the door opened a crack.  Grimaldi nudged it open and stole in.  Yet again, he jumped on the table. A pumpkin pie was waiting. He devoured the center, leaving a great hole. 

Grimaldi was thankful that Thanksgiving — thankful to be clever enough to get a taste of pie, and that Anna loved life too much to deny any creature a measure of enjoyment.