Snooker the Cat and his Many Owners
by E.R. Warren
Snooker the cat lived in a seaside town, where he had no owner. Or, it might be more correct to say that Snooker had many owners. Snooker was a fat cat with orange spots. He was proudly fat. Everyone in the town loved him and left treats for him. Everyone seemed to think that they were Snooker’s owner, and Snooker was happy to indulge this line of thinking, because, the way he saw it, he had enough love (and stomach-space) for everyone.
So, each day of the week, Snooker visited different people. He was a good listener—a quiet cat—and they liked to talk to him.
On Mondays, Snooker stalked the alleyway between the donut shop and the cheese shop.
The Patels owned the donut shop, and the Haverships owned the cheese shop. They both claimed to own the alleyway. They shouted a lot, in general, about this. But the Patel daughter smuggled donuts through the alleyway door for Snooker anyway.
One morning, she met the Havership boy. He sat on the stairs with a world-weary sigh as his parents shouted at each other about brie salt. The Patel girl sighed back and offered him a glazed, buttermilk donut. Ever since, they used feeding Snooker as an excuse to chat.
Snooker saw no problem with this arrangement.
On Tuesdays, Snooker visited Merz, who ran the corner bookstore.
Merz had once been the bearded lady in the traveling circus, but then bearded ladies went out of fashion with the politics of the day. So, Merz started waxing thoroughly, and she spent months in and out of tattoo parlors. She became the tattooed lady. But then tattoos came into fashion and everyone got them. So, Merz lost her job as the tattooed lady and simply became a lady with lots of tattoos.
Merz fed Snooker buffalo jerky.
Actually, it might be more correct to say that Snooker had an owner once. For severals weeks, the townhouse filled with brown boxes of all shapes and sizes, which Snooker enjoyed very much. The little boy wrote Snooker’s name on the box in crayon. One afternoon, amidst the usual hustle and bustle, Snooker dozed off as the sunlight from the window filled his box. When he woke up, his box was the only one left in the house, and everyone was gone.
He nudged his box to the door. But no one came back for him.
Ironically, perhaps, on Wednesdays, Snooker stopped at the furrier’s.
The furrier was a round man with a dusty store full of animal heads and fur coats. Snooker had avoided the store. But that cold winter, he waited outside on the corner near the old townhouse. The furrier had coaxed him inside with milk and laid a wool blanket over one of the overstuffed chairs beside the fire. Those were the hungry days, before he was everyone’s cat.
These days, he fed Snooker raw rabbit, which he ordered from a catalog. “Real cat food,” proclaimed the furrier. This pleased Snooker very much. They were good friends.
(And besides, the coats were all mink.)
On Thursdays, Snooker slept beside the tango studio.
When Ricky, a passionate man exploding with tango energy, threw open the doors for lessons, Snooker came inside with everyone else. Ricky would sometimes invite him to the front of the room to show off his moves, which he would do. His legs were shorter than Ricky’s, but his technique was excellent. Also, because his legs were short, he tired easily. He sashayed about the room, and kept an eye out for Ricky’s lady cat.
As the tango students packed up their bags, sometimes Snooker and the lady cat would sit together in the window of the tango studio to watch the lights over the water.
Ricky put out canned food for the both of them, and that was all right.
Fridays were always busy in the seaside town.
This was a town that still had a milk truck because the milkman owned the dairy nearby in the rolling hills. He hopped onto the back of the milk truck, where the milkman’s son gave him cream. Then he jumped off the truck and leapt into a blue car delivering newspapers. Maggie, the newspaper lady, always let him forage through the bags of hamburgers, fries, and chicken nuggets in the back seat. (She had a very messy car.)
Maggie scratched the top of his head, and no one else did that. When she delivered her last newspaper, Snooker left her car at the boardwalk. He did his business under the boardwalk.
Then he slept on the fortune-telling machine at the end of the pier. He covered the buttons. He dreamt of good things. The crowds took pictures.
On Saturdays, Snooker visited the graveyard by the cliff.
In a way, it was easier to forgive humans of their mistakes once they’re gone. He always paused at the narrow, cliffside road that led away from the seaside town, watching headlights from a ledge. In the mornings and evenings, heavy fog, as thick as soup, rolled off the ocean. The old man in the shack by the graveyard swore that a ghost cat lurked in the mists.
The old man put rings of salt around his shack, to keep out the ghosts. Snooker stole his smoked herrings before he returned to town.
Snooker was most fond of Sundays.
The church held a big luncheon after the service, with chicken and seafood, and all sorts of fresh bread and vegetables that Snooker was not fond of. But he was the mascot of the church’s football team, so they fed him the choicest bits of chicken.
As for the church service, it was all very high-minded for him, and he was a simple sort of cat. Sometimes the old ladies sang too loudly. But he appreciated good food and community as much as anyone. Sometimes he even sang along.
The pastor claimed to own Snooker, which was sort of true. Both the pastor and Snooker were good listeners. When the congregation cleaned the plates and left for the day, Snooker sat on the steps with the pastor, and he listened. Listening is the foundation of love, and Snooker loved many people.
Even the old man from whom he stole the smoked herring.