He was a regular domestic cat. Not that it meant anything to him. He walked across the room, his tail held up high, constantly rubbing his lean body across the single chair in the room. The cat was nameless. Everyone referred to him as Puss.
Puss had a permanent angry scowl on his face. Perhaps a tribute to a world that denied him a name. Would it cost humans a lot to name him? How was he supposed to figure out his personal identity if he didn't even have a name? How would they feel if their name was human? No one even adopted him. He simply showed up one day as a kitten. Bloody humans couldn't be trusted to do one thing right!
His perch was on the armrest next to her. The 90-year-old woman did not have many visitors and often spent most of the time mumbling to herself. Puss would occasionally tilt his towards her and blink slowly as if he understood her.
Every day like clockwork, the old woman would rise up at 10, and Puss would make his way to her side. He would wait until she was seated before rubbing his body across her legs and making his way to her usual perch.
Their breakfast consisted of milk, bread, and bananas. The old woman preferred the sweetened yellow bread. The one time her children tried to offer her whole-grain bread citing diabetes and something about fiber and digestion, they both told them to get lost. Puss didn't have to say anything. He merely scowled his approval. After all, Puss had nine lives, and the woman had had life to her fill, and early death didn't really fret her.
How well a visitor was entertained by the old woman depended on how much Puss liked them. Ignoring Puss or failure to compliment him would be met by stony silence from the old woman who would mumble something about having to take her afternoon siesta.
I lived in the same compound as the old woman, having rented a single room from her. Every morning, I would knock at her door to set up her stove and check if she needed anything. Being a young unemployed high school graduate who depended on casual jobs to make ends meet, I would frequently default on the rent.
She would tell me not to worry whenever I would drag myself up to her house and plead with her to allow me some time to pay the rent. Puss would invite himself on occasion into my single room quarters. He would do a thorough inspection of the house, frequently hissing to express his disapproval at the shabby state of my house. I was grateful for his presence since it discouraged mice from boarding in my room.
The old woman expressly forbade me from owning a dog citing Puss' safety. However, knowing Puss, I was pretty sure it was the dog who had to worry about their safety. The cute, cuddly cat, the old woman, saw was a vicious bully who had terrorized the neighborhood dogs into submission.
I suspected that the dogs had to pay taxes to Puss. He had the bearing of an aristocrat, especially any time we encountered the neighborhood dogs; on the few occasions, Puss decided that I was late from work and would waylay me on the way to make sure I went home. We had a perfect routine where I would come from work, say hi to the old woman, refuse her offer to make me dinner each night, chat with her for twenty minutes then leave. Puss would continuously move between my legs any time I made an indication that I wanted to leave.
The old woman sometimes regaled me with tales of her youth and how she fought for freedom. She would casually reach into her mouth and remove her dentures. I remember the first time I met her, being shocked at how she had a full set of beautiful teeth in her mouth at that age. I would later learn that those were dentures and that she had lost all her teeth at only 26. She told me that a buttstroke to the mouth by a colonial policeman prematurely ended her teeth’s career.
Puss would always accompany me to my room on my daily walks from the old woman’s house. We would walk together in the dark. A single meow would mark the end of our journey as Puss made his way back to his favorite spot-by the woman’s side.
Each day the routine never varied. Even though I could not guarantee a job on a particular day, I was sure that Puss would be there to rub himself against my foot in the morning when I went to light the kerosene stove for the old woman.
I would later secure a job in another town, leaving the old woman and Puss. We rarely made contact as she did not own a phone, having ferociously objected to owning a phone.
I remember receiving the call from her granddaughter that the old woman had passed away. I was granted leave from work to attend her funeral. Very few people turned up for her funeral; The forgotten freedom fighter who had led millions into war fighting for her country's independence. Puss was rarely seen during the entire funeral process. I only caught sight of him once when we briefly made eye contact before leaving, never to be seen by anyone I knew again. Puss never forgave me for leaving them. They who granted me a family when I had none