A pair of big, beautiful orange tabbies, Patches and Pickles, were the bass player’s cats.
He brought them home in a cardboard box from the animal shelter 10 years ago. They were adolescent kittens, half-grown, lanky creatures brimming with curious energy. Still perfecting their skills, it took them a few days before they could pick their way around the shelves full of boxes of superheroes and music paraphernalia without knocking a guitar pick or 3 to the floor.
The bass player brought the pair of ginger troublemakers home shortly after the soon to be ex-wife and her allergic child moved out. He missed the girl who was just old enough to be fascinated by the explanations the bass player gave her about how things in the world worked. When he squatted all the way down butt-to-the-floor he was only a head taller than the child, close enough for deep eye-to-eye mechanical and philosophical conversations. The house was too quiet without her.
Pickles and Patches zoomed around the roomy spaces in the middle-class house in the suburbs ‘the ex’ had insisted the bass player mortgage. The 3 of them now divvied up the California king-sized bed. One of the other 3 bedrooms was the perfect space for the litter box, far enough away to be out of sight and mind for days at a time – for the bass player, NOT for the little brothers.
Cat toys became a weekly purchase at the super store where the bass player did his weekly shopping. Soon they littered every surface, but all eventually ended up in the pantry whose position at the long end of the house and space under the door was the final goal zone in what seemed like a never ending eight-legged early-morning, mid-day, and late-night soccer game.
The bass player, inspired by home-ownership and his little ginger brothers, built a carpet covered, 3-tiered climbing structure that was the focal point of the living room. For this he required the help of the blues harp player and a newly purchased table-saw, radial arm saw, belt sander and pile of scrap-lumber that inhabited one bay of his two-car garage for the rest of his life.
For many years all lived in harmony. The bass player found multi-player video games to be a great substitute when the band “the Brothers of Other Mothers” eventually wound down. He strategically striped the walls of his office with shelves for “the little brothers” to climb. While he sat in front of his 3-screen array for hours at a time, a rum and coke at his side, Pickles and Patches shed most of their kitten energy and grew into their full leonine grandeur.
Far from his family of origin the bass player readily accepted “brother-of-choice” status from the harp player and joined his dozen or so local family members for all the major holidays. He contributed cat giffs to the family text thread and even hosted a couple of Christmas’s there at his house, Pickles coming out to sit next to folks on the couch, Patches hiding under the blanket on his third of the bed.
During the record-breaking flood of 2018, the drummer’s house stood in 4’ of water. The bass player and his ginger brothers shared their house for 3 long months with the drummer, his wife and their toddler whose never ceasing curious energy reminded all of a pair of roll and tumble adolescent cats. Pickles and Patches, angelically patient “big brothers”, never administered a bite or a scratch even when being carried through the house by the neck.
The bass player was probably as fit and healthy as most of his demographic but he suffered his health problems quietly. His brothers and sisters of choice only knew he was suffering when health problems kept him from showing up to family gatherings, his famous, baked mac n’ cheese in tow. During the increasingly frequent bad times the gingers (now behemoths) curled with him in front of the TV, wrapped in the king-sized blanket from the bed.
Then came the fateful call at 11:15 on a recent Thursday morning. The drummer called the harpist, “have you heard from him? His boss called. I’m his emergency contact (who knew?)”
The harpist racked his brain for their last conversation (was it Christmas?) while the drummer drove the 10 miles to the bass player’s house. Everyone did their best in those minutes not to go straight to the worst-case scenario. But they all knew, the bass player never “didn’t log in.” You could set your watch by him, even at family holidays:
“What time is Thanksgiving Dinner?” the harpist asked his wife.
“What time do want everyone here?”
“I don’t know…3?”
“Then tell them ‘We start eating at 2:30’.”
No one would arrive until 3:30 except the bass player who would arrive at 2:15.
So, when he failed to log in at work and didn’t respond to calls from his boss, the drummer, or the harpist, we all knew something was wrong.
The drummer found him on the floor, a foot away from the crumpled blanket on the couch. The bass player was dead.
After the coroner, the police and the remains of the bass player had left the house that afternoon, the drummer, and the harpist found the little brothers under the big bed, the only safe place in a world turned upside down.
Pickles and Patches spent the next few days hiding upstairs at the drummer’s house while the bass player’s siblings-of-origin flew in from across the country and all ascertained no one was in the position to offer permanent refuge to the little brothers orphaned at 10 years old.
Finally, the drummer brought Pickles and Patches to the harpist, whose wife drove them, the blanket, and a bucket full of toys to the Houston SPCA where they bravely endured examination and check in. Pickles and Patches, big and beautiful, loyal and patient, now reside on the adoption floor waiting for a new big brother or sister to bring them home.