Test Cat

In 2011, Osama Bin Laden was killed, HBO debuted “Game of Thrones,” Japan was hit with a massive tsunami, Meryl Streep won an Oscar, and the world population reached 7 billion.

It was also the year I graduated high school and got my first job as a sales representative for Cutco Cutlery, a subdivision of Vector Inc. With my case of display products in hand, I knocked on doors and demonstrated high-end kitchen knives in living rooms all over town.

When I took the job, I was eager to see where the possibilities would take me. There was potential for growth! But after a month of only knowing people who couldn’t afford the product and my father’s constant urges to drop the gig, my outlook was bleak.

Still, I persisted. My dad had given me a phone number of one co-worker, David, who happened to have a son that I graduated with, and we’d set up a meeting for me to pitch the knives to him.

We met in the early evening. I pulled up my hand-me-down Buick on the curb outside of the suburban single-story under a pink Florida sky. I knocked and a man in his forties with short, salt-and-pepper hair and a symmetrical smile greeted me. I introduced myself on his front step and he welcomed me inside, out of the humid heat.

The home was small and simple, little touches of personality inviting. Next to the kitchen was a shelf set shaped like a coffin, painted black and lime green, with horror movie props of varying authenticity that David showed off to me.

As we admired the pieces, a ball of black and blonde fluff on four legs barrelled down the hall and collided with my leg, bounced back, and hissed at me. A quiet burst of air. I laughed and watched her scamper away with fuzzy tail raised high.

“Sorry about that,” said David, “That’s my ex-wife’s cat. She left her with me. I’ve been calling her T.C.”

T.C.?” I repeated, confused.

“Test Cat. Don’t know if I’ll keep her.”

“Well, I hope you do,” I said. “She looks like she needs a home.”

We sat on the living room floor with the contents of my display spread between us. I showed off kitchen knives with long, elegant handles that cut through the demonstration rope, scissors with hand-fit grips sliced through a shiny penny, and Test Cat shot herself from one end of the living room to the other. She pounced on the rope, played with the zipper on my bag, pawed sheets of paper, and dove into her cube cloth toy. Typical kitten antics. It threw me off of my script on occasion, but only because I was laughing at her.

When the demonstration was over, David agreed to purchase a pair of scissors and a multi-purpose knife. We moved into the kitchen to grab a pen and fill out forms, collecting payment information, copying numbers in the proper order, and Test Cat followed us with a curious eye and another little hiss.

“Do you want her?” David asked.

“What?”

Of course I did. I want all the cats. Especially a cute little puff-ball full of energy. But I was living with my dad and the family cat, notoriously grumpy and territorial. I couldn’t take a kitten right now.

“Let me ask,” I told him, then left with my case and the order form in the passenger seat. I drove home with the memories fresh, and anxiety equally so.

Surprisingly, my dad accepted the offer for T.C., potentially just to satisfy his co-worker and help him, but regardless of motive I was elated.

A week later, while David’s order was on its way to him, I showed up again with a cat-carrier in place of my display knives. We packed up T.C., without much of a fuss, and I brought her to her new home.

T.C. as a name never settled right with me, though, not the way T.C. easily settled into the new place. She was in my lap, she was on the couch, she darted back and forth through the living room day after day, she tried to get the older cat, Scarlett, to play with her. We all loved her instantly. Dad called her ugly, only because he didn’t want to admit that he liked her. I knew that.

I posted a picture of her on Facebook, hoping for name suggestions, but nothing unique came to mind. Nothing that fit her.

It wasn’t until one day my family and I decided to check out the new shop that had opened in town: off-brand Build-A-Bear, essentially, one of our favorite childhood places. I didn’t get anything, not desiring to spend the small amount of money that I had on something that I didn’t need, and instead enjoyed going along with my pre-teen siblings as they indulged.

My brother selected a shark to stuff, filled with fluff and snuggly soft, and was sampling from the buffet of sound-bites available. We went through roars and bubble sounds, “I-love-you”s and “twinkle-twinkle-little-star”s, until we discovered a recording that had us all in stitches — a kitten-ly “meow.”

It struck me, then. The perfect name for my new kitten was Shark! Her carrier could be the shark tank, when she played and bit down on you it was a shark attack. And the name “Shark” gave rise to many cute-sy words and nicknames to give her.

Ever since, Shark has been Shark, and I think she loves her name. She snuggles me, she sleeps by me, and she spends her time near me. When I am gone for long periods of time, she sleeps in my place in bed or outside my door. I think she is grateful for a lovingly chosen name, as she was lovingly chosen to be my companion.

I didn’t know, when I walked into David’s home, that I would find my best friend there. How could I have? But, even though the job with Cutco didn’t work out, I feel that it gave me more than I could have ever expected. It gave me Shark, and that is something priceless.