If he helped split utilities, he'd become my most reliable roommate.

I came back from church this afternoon, and as I pulled in, a small cat jumped out and ran out to about twenty-five feet ahead of my car, where it stopped, sat, and stared me down. I eased to a stop and waited until it finally got up and stalked saucily away, then drove on and parked on the other side of the lot. I got out of the car and turned around to see the cat had sprinted across the lot to the parking spot, and, as I locked the car up, it darted over and began rubbing its head in an amicable fashion against my ankles. I am fond of animals in general but not particularly of cats, but I assumed that this was the friendly stray the apartment had been watching over for a few months and decided that it was probably just in need of a meal. Stray cats aren't particularly trusting animals, and so as I experimentally picked up the beast to transport it to my apartment, I expected it to leap terrified from my arms at any moment and flee; but the thing snuggled up against my chest and made no protest as I carried it upstairs to my apartment.

Leaving the front door open, I left the cat outside and went in to snag a can of tuna, assuming the cat was probably wild enough to feel uncomfortable entering a house. When I turned around from the kitchen counter, the cat was quietly exploring the living room like a buyer inspecting a home, experimentally nosing things and kneading its claws into the couch pillows. I put down the food and the cat sauntered over and started eating as if nothing was out of the ordinary. When it finished, it lay down next to me at the computer and began purring contentedly.

It was at this point that my brother Chris burst through the door and spotted the cat. The following conversation is printed verbatim:

Chris: "Awesome! We got a cat!"
Me: "It's not ours, it's just the neighborhood cat."

Chris: "No, it's not, I passed the neighborhood cat on my way up."

Me (peering out window): "You're right. Huh."

Chris: "We're keeping him, right?"

Me: "I dunno, I'm really allergic to cats..."

Chris (entranced): "We're definitely gonna keep him. You name him?"

Me: "What?"

Chris: "Did you name the cat?"

Me: "I hadn't thought about it."
Chris: "What about 'Kitty?'"

Me: "What? No."

Chris: "Why not?"

Me: "Because we're naming a cat 'Kitty.' That's idiotic."

Chris: "Britney
(Chris' girlfriend) has a dog named 'Puppy.'"
Me: "Well, that's uh... well... y'know, we don't even know if the cat is a boy or a girl. Check."

Chris (picking up cat): "It's a boy."

Me: "Are you sure?"

Chris (inspecting cat closer): "I think so. I think those are balls. Are those balls?"

Me (leaning in): "Yeah, those are balls."

So, the cat is ours, and the battle for naming the cat is still underway. Chris has also suggested "Bill," and rejected my first suggestion, "the captain." I've been leaning towards "McDermot," the name of the cat in Robert Lawson's Capt. Kidd's Cat, but remain torn, trying various names out on the cat to see if he responds to any. Unsurprisingly, he's failed to.

Still, in just a few hours, I've grown fond of the cat. He's taken to falling asleep on my chest while I watch television, which is charming and yet really bad for my health, as I have to try to shove him off once my eyes start to itch, at which point he starts trying to dig in with his claws. When I'm on the computer, he sits faithfully on the desk next to me and keeps me company, which is a skill that our dog Digger never mastered (not that he would have fit on the desk).

Sigh. Digger. The truth is that the reason that Chris and I want to keep the cat so much is that we miss Digger so terribly; and even if we haven't admitted as much to each other, we both know deep down that he's dead, and we both know the apartment is a depressing place with him gone. It's a code of silence neither one of us is comfortable breaking. Digger ran off from Britney's house while we were away over Christmas, and a month later, we still haven't had the heart to take down the stocking our mother made him. It still hangs joylessly in the living room, stuffed with bones and toys and who knows what else, and maybe will stay forever, as if whichever one of us that takes it down and empties it is the one that really ends the possibility that our dog is coming home.

And so the cat stays, for now, and we can keep pretending that we don't miss Digger as much as we really do. Though at leas this way, I'll have a good excuse for my eyes being puffy and bloodshot.