Bobbie Brown, one of the caretakers of a cat colony at Maui Community College, led the way to a utility closet on the campus. Inside were two brothers who were recuperating from surgery.
The black one didn't want to be handled. His orange-and-white sibling didn't mind. The tiny cat, thin as a man's index finger, went into the carrier. On the drive home, he didn't make a sound. He turned out to be a very quiet cat. Perhaps his mother had taught him to be quiet while hunting or lying low.
At home in a 600-square-foot cabin in the middle of a lilikoi pasture, the carrier was opened near a cat box. The resident cat, Neville, took one sniff and headed outdoors. The cat hatch was blocked off. While that was going on, the new guy disappeared.
During the following days, the new guy stayed out of sight. The cabin was searched thoroughly. No cat. There were footprints in the cat box and the food disappeared during the day. He was still inside, but where?
One night, while watching television with Neville in my lap, the new guy stuck his head around a counter. A short length of string was waggled. The new guy came close enough to grab. Neville stayed put. The new guy seemed happy to be in the company of another cat. Neville wasn't. He took off. The new guy settled down to be stroked and scratched.
In subsequent days, the new guy stayed out of his hidey-hole, the one place in the cabin I couldn't check. He'd gone behind and then under the stove. It was the first of many indications the new guy was more intelligent than most. He needed a name. He had a heart-shaped spot on his pink nose. Cyrano came to mind. And so it was.
Once let outside, Cyrano again disappeared. Twenty-four hours later, Neville and I were in the yard. A soft mew came from under the truck. Cyrano slowly ventured out and seemed happy to be taken inside. He'd explore the surrounding pasture and a nearby gulch during the day and come back in at night. He was an accomplished hunter of mice and dumb doves.
One night, my ku'uipo was visiting. The little cat came around the kitchen counter, one foot held up, ready to head back to his hiding place. The visitor, who had been raised in a bird-loving household where cats were said to have "murder in their hearts," saw him and was charmed. She has a soft heart and came to love Cyrano. The attraction was mutual. My ku'uipo was the only other person Cyrano accepted. While other strangers were ignored, he'd jump into her lap and begin vibrating. It was more than a decade later that he actually purred.
Cyrano practiced sharp love. He'd put his paw on your face, claws extended. "Soft paws, Cyrano, soft paws," he'd be told but he never learned that lesson, although he was easily dissuaded, usually curling up on my chest for a time. Then he'd stretch out on my thighs with his head resting on my knees.
It took only the thought of getting up to get him to jump down. He was telepathic. It wasn't a one-way deal. There were times when I'd be reading, watching television or working on the computer and I'd suddenly be aware of him sitting nearby. If he was hungry, he'd open his mouth as if to mew but there was no sound. "Are you hungry?" he'd be asked. He would lick his lips and face the kitchen. At the first sign of human movement, he'd lead the way since I obviously had forgotten where the food was.
During the winter in a Kula house, Cyrano loved sleeping in front of the fireplace, usually on a small stool, although he'd move away when the heat became too intense. Later on, he tolerated a cat colony that had developed. He avoided confrontations, but there was one day when he got into it with the oldest and biggest member of the clan.
They were off in the corner of the front yard in a furious ball of fur. Each sought to punch and scratch with rear paws while holding on with mouth and front claws. I broke up the fight. Cyrano took off. His adversary latched on to Cyrano's butt fur and was dragged several yards before letting go. I had to laugh. Neither cat suffered any damage.
There are more stories that could told about the best roommate I ever had. After enduring months of nasty-tasting, toxic pills and a few days of struggling to move, he succumbed to cancer. He died on the porch, saving me from having to end his suffering.
Cyrano, March 2001-July 2014.
Goodbye, my friend.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.