For as long as my wife and I could remember, a gnarly feral black tomcat has roamed our west Galveston neighborhood.
I had named him “Katz.”
My father would tell me about a Jewish GI from New York City he met during World War II named Katz. Private Katz had been shot at by German snipers who had put a hole in his helmet, and had a Nazi grenade land near him — that didn’t explode. According to dad, after his having had several cold beers from the Country of 1100 Springs, Katz was found lying next to a crater after the unit had been barraged by the infamous German artillery. Katz was loaded on a stretcher for dead when he woke up without a wound on him.
My father would smile, sip some cold beer, shake his head, saying the name “Katz.”
Dad would always close his Katz story with a reminder that although Nazi evil had killed millions of Jewish people, they didn’t get Katz.
“Even in the worst of times, lad, our Lord preserves some good,” was his lesson.
Which brings me back to Katz the cat.
Not long ago, my wife and I were driving up our street and next to the road under a bush we saw Katz lying there, not moving. Flies were buzzing around him. We stopped the car and he didn’t move. We both looked at each other, a little misty-eyed.
Katz had been a neighborhood fixture for a long time. Katz had always traveled alongside our fence line; never venturing inside of it; always close enough to demand a response from our rescue dog Ozzy. Katz knew Ozzy couldn’t get through that fence. Ozzy knew this too, and it became a game between them.
Just like his Jewish namesake, Katz was the epitome of blatant arrogance, grace and … luck.
Katz slinked along our ditches, fences and fields with a crooked tail and a slight limp. These were the medals he wore for having survived years of people rushing down our street. Bunnies, opossums, dogs, cats and birds had all met their fate under the wheels of drivers on cellphones or speeding to their destination. Spring breakers had shown little compassion for Katz and his fellow wild things.
Katz was a pretty cautious fellow.
That evening, as we sat on our porch watching the setting sun lengthen the shadows of the field in front of us to the accompanying gentle roar of the Gulf, we discussed the story of Katz. I promised to go and bury him properly in the morning.
Suddenly, my wife sat up in her chair, pointed to the field and screamed: “Look!”
Sure enough, a fat field rat struggling in his jaws, Katz limped a crooked tail path steadily through the tall grass.
“But there were flies buzzing around him!” my wife exclaimed.
I smiled, took a sip of my cold beer, and slowly shook my head: “L’Chaim, Katz.”