MY INVISIBLE (cat)
When I was a little boy all the way up to when I was a not-so-little boy, I had sort of ...well--an INVISIBLE CAT as a friend.
I'll let you adjust to that thought before I continue...
My invisible cat's name was Tommy.
Tommy only spoke with W's.
I'll let you adjust to this also...
My Mom was Tommy's interpreter. I know what you're going to say. And I can't say I blame you. But this whole thing was Mom's idea.
At bedtime, Tommy would arrive and greet me.
I was somehow able to understand him over time the way parents adjust to baby talk or speech impediments in their kids.
What Tommy said was, "Hi Terry, how are you this evening." However, it sounded exactly like this.
"Why Werry, Wow war woo wiss weevening?"
I'm going to assume at this point you are beginning to understand why Terry grew up weird.
Tommy would tell me a bedtime story made up right on the spot, ad-libbed through Lillian (my Mom) his interpreter. (He called her 'Willian'.)
Mom never read to me from a storybook.
No no no.
Her tales were outlandish on-the-spot concoctions straight from her extraordinary warped imagination. Oh, the strange tales from the cat with the strange tail. (Mom drew a picture of him once. Tommy's tail went on in coils forever like Rapunzel's hair.)
I absorbed two things from my invisible friend.
I can still understand any cat who speaks with W's and I can make up bedtime stories out of thin air.
From an early age, I craved to become a writer and
I set about endeavoring to improve my vocabulary.
I once read how Abraham Lincoln (when he was growing up) would discover and memorize one new vocabulary word each day while reading borrowed books which were too hard for him.
Being a kid wound too tight, I overshot Abe’s goal.
I came up with my own recipe for proficiently rich vocabulary acquisition.
I would acquire SIXTEEN new words each and every day!
Old Abe Lincoln was the sixteenth President.
Yeah. I know.
I always carried around a book borrowed from our downtown Carnegie library. It had to be a very difficult book so I could discover extraordinarily weird, wild, and wonderful words.
I'd pore through the book as I read and re-read the difficult paragraphs and scoop up a tasty word like a lepidopterist snatches butterflies out of summer sunshine with a net.
When I'd acquired sixteen words for the day, I took out my portable dictionary and penciled in the definitions on my list and began writing sentences utilizing the words correctly, colorfully, and colloquially.
My teachers in grade school were baffled and distraught by what came out of my mouth and lept off the pages of my homework!
I could easily tell when my homeroom teacher was grading one of my papers. She'd start shaking her head side to side in puzzlement.
"Terry, this isn't even a word!"
"I'm afraid it is, Miss Allen. Here, let me show you..."
I enjoyed this a bit too much I must confess to you.
(Sidebar: I’ll share with you how I choose from among dictionaries. Any dictionary which does NOT have the word ‘asymptote’ isn’t worth owning!)
I digress, however---
Back to my INVISIBLE CAT who speaks in W's!
Tommy was very real to my little boy imagination.
By that I mean, I did understand it was my Mom creating this illusion---except--I let go of that awareness early on. Tommy became quite vividly palpable to me the way Buddha or Jesus takes up residence in the hearts and minds of devotees.
I LOVED HIM as a dear part of childhood communion with an otherwise difficult parent.
The day my mother died of cancer, of all the distraught and mournful thoughts racing through my mind was this extremely distressing (and ABSURD) thought which jolted me.
Tommy too was dead.