We have just passed the anniversary of Ming’s arrival in our lives. I think it was June 4th, 2003. She has done very well for a little street cat from the drains of Port Dickson – international travel, a worldwide internet profile, health, contentment, security. What more could anyone ask for? As our friend Mart said at the time, from hell to heaven in one leap.
Her first meal – ever, virtually – was two sardines, imported from Canada, Brunswick. They were all I had that was suitable to give her, and at 10.30 pm, in a small town in Malaysia, I wasn’t going to be able to buy cat food.
The first sardine ‘barely touched the sides’. After a few minutes I decided she could have one more. I was afraid that if I gave a starving cat too much to eat it would kill her. The second sardine went down more slowly followed by some serious whisker licking and face washing. Then she had a drink of water.
I tucked an old towel on to one of the chairs under the table so that she would feel safe and comfortable. Those first nights she was locked up in our screened-in verandah, to protect her from civet cats and monkeys and cobras, and not completely ‘inside’ because I was still getting Marius used to the idea of having a pet in Malaysia. Once he pronounced her as Ming Dynasty-Vase Doyle, I knew she was accepted because all our dependents have three names: children, dog, and now cat. (The dog stayed in Australia but that is another story.)
Ming was a tiny scrap when she first accosted me on the steps of PD Eating Point. She must have recognised me as a kindred spirit (Marius says she could spot a sucker) because strays usually run from people, not try to trip them up. She put her paw out to catch my foot and then wrapped herself around my ankle to make me stop, at least to look down at her. I looked.
I thought she was about three months old, maybe younger. According to the vet, her teeth said she was 6-10 months old (it later turned out she also had a litter of kittens somewhere). The distance across her hips was less than an inch. She could fit into the palm of my smallish hand.
I looked down at her and she looked up at me with huge topaz blue eyes. She meowed. She had no obvious injuries or wounds, clear eyes, didn’t smell, a clean shiny coat, but frighteningly thin: I picked her up. She purred. I asked around at the restaurant if she belonged to anybody. Marius was sure, desperately sure, that she must belong to someone because she was so pretty – like a Siamese cat with a few dainty stripes and a typically Malaysian Zorro tail.
|the end of her tail has a little 'zorro'|
We had come to pick up some takeaway food on the way to a friend’s house. In the car I told Marius I would adopt the little cat. Not a good idea as we were in the last six months of our posting and didn’t know where we would go next. I wish I could remember my argument because it must have been a good one (mind you Marius is also pretty soft-hearted). He agreed that if she was still at the restaurant on the way home, I could have her.
We had a pleasant evening with our friends and later we took another visitor back to their hotel on our way home. We passed the turn off to the restaurant and we passed our house. On the return journey, I said ‘Now we can see if that cat is still there.’
Marius said ‘I thought you had forgotten about her.’ He drove back to the restaurant and then told me ‘I’m not getting out or stopping the engine. You have two minutes to find her.’
There is a side terrace facing the street, with tables and a man cooking satay on a make-shift barbecue. I walked up the road beside the diners, calling ‘puss, puss’. Ming darted out from under one of the far tables. I picked her up. She purred and rubbed herself on my neck.
<cue: smaltzy music and shots of the sun setting through palm trees>
I climbed back into the car and did up my seat belt.
Marius put the engine in gear and turned for home. ‘Couldn’t you find her then?’ He almost sounded disappointed.
I’d been gone less than the two minutes. ‘No, I found her. She’s here tucked under my chin.’