five nights in sydney

My cat caught on fire this past Friday evening. Isaac and I were sitting on the couch in the living room. I was reading aloud to him, from David Carroll’s Self Portrait with Turtles, when I heard a sound behind us. I’d lit five candles shortly beforehand, tall candles in tall candle sticks. They were lined up behind us in a row on a shelf that serves as a window sill. I turned around slightly, to see Torpedo joining us from the rear on the couch. He’d walked between two candles. The sound I heard was a brass candlestick struggling with gravity, struggling not to topple over. The candlestick won. Unbeknownst to Torpedo, after nearly knocking over the candlestick, his fur had come in close enough proximity to one of the candle flames to catch on fire in two places: on his back and on his tail. It was an edge fire, the sort that occurs when you set a dish towel too near the burner, manageable but terrifying for its potential.

I instinctively put out the two fires – each one was two or three inches long, and one inch wide – with my bare hands. Isaac and I were stunned. The cat was clueless. We blew out the candles, lit a match to try and mask the odor of singed cat fur, and talked. What if we hadn’t been right there? Torpedo could have been badly burned. We reviewed Torpedo’s lives, and decided that this had been his fifth. Herewith, the first four; the first three took place before Isaac was on the scene.

1.) Being abandoned as a kitten in a half empty apartment building, mine. An elderly neighbor who’d been taking care of Torpedo entrusted him to me one day. She never came back for him. That was how I came to possess Torpedo. It also explains his aloof, Marlon Brando personality.
2.) Falling out of my fifth-story apartment building, landing on all fours in the paved alley. He spent the night in the animal hospital. They promised to call during the night if he took a turn for the worse. He came home the next day and for days limped around like a rabbit.
3.) Disappearing for several weeks around Clinton’s first inauguration. We were in the midst of a cold snap, 20 degrees and lower. Torpedo must have snuck out behind me when I went to work in the morning. A neighbor found him in the basement. If Torpedo had ventured outdoors, he would not have survived.
4.) Developing a major paw infection. Last spring, he was losing weight, not eating. The vet suspected cancer. He removed a growth with suspicious cells on his paw. The vet had never seen anything like it before.

None of our other pets (another cat, two parakeets, one cornsnake) have such a storied past, though losing the baby cornsnake the day we brought him home from the pet store, only to have him fall into Isaac’s lap in the car four days later, is a darn good yarn, a candidate for our anecdote hall of fame.

This morning I entered a sweeps to Sydney. Five nights, airfare from L.A. or San Francisco. It’s Frommer’s monthly Win a Trip offer. To enter, click HERE. The Win a Trip icon is on the upper left hand corner of the screen. The deadline is January 31.