The summer of the 13 cats
His name was Charles Carruth Loyd, one L in Loyd thank you very much. To all who knew him he was Charlie, except for his two daughters who knew him as daddy. He was blessed with a dry sense of humor and told the best bedtime stories in the whole world. Daddy thought his two daughters were perfect and was at every game cheering just as loudly if one of his darlings missed the basket, dropped the ball or forgot to swing the bat. He sat through countless piano recitals and never winced over a sour note. He loved us with all his heart and proved it beyond a doubt the summer of the 13 cats.
Now, let me explain. We didn’t belong to some cat cult where we danced around a fire at midnight. No we started off with a very respectable number of cats: Winky and her sister Penelope. They lived in harmony sharing the sun that came through the living room windows. But, one night a tom cat wearing catnip for after shave, lurked around outside and our two ladies left the safety of their home. Now they were either very good actresses or just not very smart, but they looked as shocked as the rest of us when Winky presented us with six babies and Penelope gave us five.
A few months later we were packing to move to the beach, when my sister and I realized nothing had been said about the 13 cats. My sister pushed me in front for I was truly superior when it came to trembling lips and teary eyes. We bravely suggested for us to be left at home and for our parents to go on to the beach. We were confident that our parents would not even consider such an offer. Our mother folded her arms, leaned her head to one side and looked as if this was the perfect solution. This was definitely not according to plan. Daddy stepped in and saved the day. He couldn’t stand to see me, the drama queen, with tears so he said graciously “put the damn cats in my car.”
My sister and I sprang into action before he changed his mind. Now we were not knowledgeable about cars and cats, so we put the kittens into shoe boxes without the tops in the floor board of the back seat, tossed the two mothers in, begged them to be good and daddy started off.
Mother, my sister, and I still had things to put in the second car so we did not catch up with daddy until he was about to cross the Grace Memorial Bridge, the only way to get to the beach from Charleston at that time. Daddy had a kitten spread eagle on top of his head, one kitten sitting on his right shoulder, one kitten sitting on his left shoulder, kittens on the dash board helping him to drive, and some kittens at the back window with little paws on the glass clearly calling for help. It was painfully clear that all 13 shared one thing in common – they were all car sick.
Once off the bridge, mother wisely let a few cars move between us and daddy so he was the first to pull into the yard. We arrived as he got out of the car, leaving the door wide open. Daddy did not look to the left or the right, but walked straight to the ocean and kept walking until all you could see was his head, bobbing up and down and looking out to sea. We quickly washed down the kittens and the car and put the furry 13 into the screened porch under the house.
When daddy came back, mother handed him a stiff bourbon and ginger as he walked to the shower. He hung his wet clothes, his watch, his wallet, and his shoes on the clothes line. He never used any of those things again. Mother handed him another drink and his cigar. We had a very quite first night at the beach.
It has always been daddy’s habit to get up very early and go surf fishing. This summer was no different except when he came back, he cleaned his catch and shared some with the cats. This became the morning ritual for the whole summer and after the first two days there was a sight to see. Thirteen cats lined up on the edge of the yard facing the ocean. When they saw daddy coming they raced back to the porch, waiting for their treat. Sometime during the summer, the cats and daddy voted and we knew 13 cats would not be returning to Summerville. We were able to give a few cats to friends, a cousin came and took Winky and Penelope to my Nana, the rest went to Dr. Shuler, the vet. He would try to find homes for our darlings, but eventually those left would have to go to the animal shelter in Charleston.
Daddy let my sister and me pick two male cat. My sister took an all black one that she named Hannibal and I took an orange marmalade named Patrick. These two cats lived to a ripe old age, remained outside cats and after the trip back to Summerville never took another car ride. They had the good manners not to bring home their children, grandchildren or great grandchildren.
The next summer we had a dog. He knew the rules of car riding and just sat back and enjoyed the ride.
Brenda Loyd Allred grew up in Summerville when it was a very small town. She now lives at Franke at Seaside with her husband Les.