Mourning Linus, the Neighborhood Cat
On our block of Weymouth Road in Southern Pines, we’re all in a state of shock and mourning. Linus, our longtime friend and neighbor, is no more.
Linus, you see, was a cat — a universally beloved gray-and-white, bobtailed feline who had a lot of personality and enjoyed the run of our neighborhood. He met a sad, if not entirely unexpected, end on Sunday, cruelly crushed beneath the tire of an automobile.
I say “not entirely unexpected” because old Linus had a reckless and fatalistic streak. I had remarked only a few days earlier that he had probably used up eight of his nine allotted lives during his 16 years. It was not unusual to see the old boy lounging daringly right in the middle of the intersection of Weymouth and Orchard/Old Field, staring down passing motorists in a way that seemed to say, “You got a problem with this?”
My wife, Brenda, worried that Linus always seemed to be living on borrowed time.
“You’d see him just lying there in the street,” she said. “There were a couple of times I thought he was dead, but he was just sunning himself.”
There was just a special something about Linus. Though we all liked to think he belonged to us, he in fact belonged to Maureen Clark, who lives up on the corner. She pretty much let him run free during daylight hours, and he paid regular visits to our various yards, typically pausing only briefly to allow himself to be petted before getting on with his rounds.
Sunday’s tragic accident was not the first time Linus came off second-best in an encounter with a car. His first one, at an early age, was what cost him his tail.
“He had a beautiful, long tail, and he’d carry it like a candy cane, curved forward,” Maureen recalled. “Then, one day he was sleeping up on top of the wheel of a car, where you couldn’t see him, and the person started the car and began backing out. He managed to jump off the tire, but it got his tail, and it had to be amputated. It took a while before he was himself again.”
When Linus would show up at our front door, I had this silly game I liked to play. I would pet him vigorously enough to get his scent all over me. Then, after he departed, I would go inside and hold my hands out to our big female cat, Lucy. Upon catching a good whiff of the alien smell, she would always hiss and spit in outrage at this unwanted male intrusion on her turf.
The house belonging to David and Beth Carpenter, kitty-cornered (you should pardon the expression) across from Maureen’s, was Linus’ second home. When not out in the street, he would lie in a grassy corner of their yard where he could keep an eye on things in all directions.
“He loved to have his head and face scratched,” Beth recalled fondly, with a bit of a catch in her voice. “He followed you around like a dog. And you know what? He loved half-and-half. I’d put out milk, and he wouldn’t touch it. Or cream. But he loved half-and-half. He was a picky cat.”
For all his loving quality, Linus was no softy. He regularly ran other male cats out of his territory, leaving them roughed-up enough to think twice before returning. And he was a formidable predator in his prime, according to our next-door neighbor, Edna Earle Cole.
“He used to catch little baby rabbits,” she recalled, “and Lucinda (her daughter) would get angry with him. He would bite off their heads and leave the rest of their little remains, which she would bury. She really wanted to pop him for that. But he was a sweet old soul.”
Edna Earle’s late husband, Charles, was one of the old tomcat’s biggest fans, and Linus would come around frequently to comfort him in his final illness.
“It was such good therapy for Charles when he was sick,” Edna Earle recalled. “He would sit out in the backyard, and Linus would come sit in his lap, and they were just two good friends. ... And the other night, after we lost Linus, Lucinda said, ‘Mom, you know, I think he went to see Daddy.’”
Contact Steve Bouser at (910) 693-2470 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book, “Death of a Pinehurst Princess,” is available at The Country Bookshop and other locations.
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