Black Cat-atonic in Southern California

It’s black cat season. I’ve owned lots of black cats (or they’ve owned me), but one of my favorites was a community cat, a guy whose name was Biff.

Many years ago I worked for a small town in Southern California.

I was assigned to the Public Works Department, aka “the swamp.” Why, you say, was it called the swamp? The inhabitants of the office—the engineers, building inspectors, and assorted technicians—had a few questionable tendencies. Today, we’d just call them male chauvinists.

They did, however, have big hearts when it came to one of their resident members who lived at City Hall. His name was Biff and he had luxurious black fur, paws with sharp claws, and lots of “cattitude.”

Biff the cat was spoiled. He attended meetings of the town council, pranced at his leisure across the long dais where they conducted their meetings, plopped on their agendas and bathed himself in full view of the public. Nobody picked him up by the scruff and removed him. They ignored him, just as he ignored them, gracing them with his presence and then jumping down and leaving them to their business.

Biff was well fed and liked to sleep the day away in administrative in-baskets. He generally ignored his mousing duties. Or so we thought.

One day, pretending to be asleep, he leaped from a desk, bolted behind a bookcase, and came back with a hapless rodent dangling from his jaws. He was put outside—immediately—after lavish praise from the person who was, by then, on top of the chair.

The day Biff disappeared, a search ensued. The City Engineer, knowing I had a number of rescue cats at home, hustled me to the back of the Public Works storage area. Biff lay sprawled unmoving on the cement floor.

“Is he dead?” he asked.

I moved closer. The cat was on his back, motionless, paws in the air. I noticed he was on top of something resembling ashes. I scraped the substance with my finger and brought it to my nose. “No, he isn’t dead. This cat is stoned. Who gave him all this catnip?”

I prodded the feline. He turned over, but didn’t get up. We cleaned up the mess and left him alone to sleep it off.

The catnip culprit never came forward and Biff the Cat lived out all of his nine lives at City Hall. When he died he had a fitting obituary printed in the local paper. I know because I wrote it at the request of the grieving swamp dwellers.

The next meeting of the town Council was dedicated to Biff’s memory.

I told you it was a small town.

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