A cat named Weed
Personal Stories of Inspiration, Love and General Observation
From Sam, who discovered the pleasures of living with an ‘inherited pet’ on one of Brownstone Brooklyn’s one-block “Places”:
One day in the Key Food on Atlantic Avenue I was chatting with a fellow musician who carried his horn in a backpack case. After a musical chat, he asked where I lived. “I’m staying with a friend, and looking for an apartment… any suggestions?”
“This might be your lucky day,” he said. “Our co-op building on Willow Place has a ground floor vacancy… the owner is moving to New Jersey and wants to rent it. But you’ll have to take the cat that lives there… his name is Weed.”
Like all “Places” in Brownstone Brooklyn, Willow Place has the intimacy of a one-block street in a small town. Pets and children play freely — and usually safely — on the street in close proximity to their homes. My inherited apartment mate, a cat named Weed, wandered and played as a child would. Everyone on the street knew Weed because, unlike other cats I’ve known, he often strolled with me, following along and sometimes actually leading me down the street. As a new arrival, I discovered Weed had spent lots of time strolling before I ever came. My new neighbors often spoke to Weed first: “Hi Weed [then to me]… welcome to Willow Place.” Unlike any cat I ever knew, Weed would actually cross the street to greet you if you called out his name. But I soon found that Weed’s friendliness with all humans stemmed from what I can only describe as “a huge pair of brass ones…”
The former occupant of my apartment, who moved to New Jersey, told me she found Weed as an abandoned kitten in the overgrown weeds of a vacant lot behind the co-op building.
I first experienced Weed’s brassiness at about 2 a.m. one morning when I was fast asleep. Weed awakened me by actually pouncing on my chest and tapping my head with his paws (no claws… just friendly swats). He wanted me to open a window and let him out. In this ground floor apartment, with certain windows exposed to the street, I guess the former tenant-owner felt safe with no bars… I kept the windows shut and locked when I slept. I dutifully let Weed out and went back to sleep, only to be awakened a couple of hours later by his persistent tapping on the same window, as if to say, “Ok you can let me back in now.” Goddamit, Weed, I thought, if you want to be a Tom Cat, I need to make a ‘pet passage’ in one of the windows. I never did.
One weekday evening, while cooking shrimp in a frying pan for soon-to-arrive dinner guests, I left the stove to answer the door. Coming back to the kitchen I found Weed pushing one of the cooked shrimp across the kitchen floor, apparently to cool it off. He had batted it out of the frying pan. My guests were amazed and delighted: “Clever Cat,” they said. Not so delighted were some of my neighbors. As they came to know me better, they confessed that Weed, a friendly and familiar street presence, had often popped through an open door or window to become an uninvited dinner guest.
While I would suspect that birds and rats knew the treachery of Weed’s claws, humans never saw Weed’s wild side. Always friendly, he was forgiven his brashness because he seemed to know just how far he could push — with humans at least. If he had learned to speak English I’ll bet he could have become a Wall Street trader.
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I feel I must continue the story of Weed, speaking as, I presume, his final owner, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he owned us, my husband and me.
We had often seen Weed as we walked down Willow Place from where we lived in a house at the opposite end of the street. At one point, we were absent for over a year. On the day of our return, Weed was the first to greet us. He walked into the house and from that day on, made it his bas of operation. His previous custodian, who was the former editor of the Heights Press (he may have been the successor to the person who wrote this article), did everything he could to tempt him back, but Weed stayed with us and his previous owner visited. He was with us for years. Then one day, after stealing a piece of chicken from the kitchen counter, he disappeared and we never saw him again. Who knows, he may still be roaming the streets. He was a wonderful, beautiful cat.