I asked Mottle, the dainty little, mostly-feral tortoise shell cat that has lived in my backyard jungle for 7 years now, if I could write about her. She agreed — but only if I didn’t divulge her true location on any given day. She prides herself in being illusive.
Mottle came to live in my compost when she was young and so skinny that she disappeared when she turned sideways. She loved the compost (it was warm) but was hanging out with a new boyfriend (an unsavory looking fellow) and wouldn’t be lured into shelter until she was full of kittens and autumn was on its way.
I named Mottle after a cat in Timothy Findley’s book Not Wanted On the Voyage which is a dark comedy and fascinating retelling of the old story of Noah and the arc. In that story, Noah is portrayed as a quintessential patriarch. His wife, who has no other name but Mrs. Noyes, has a cat named Mottle and both of them can only just barely tolerate the old man (he’s mean). In preparation for the voyage, Mrs. Noyes brews gin, bottles it in quart jars and hides it in the rafters of the arc. Once the rain begins and the voyage is underway, Mrs. Noyes and Mottle sneak down to the animal deck each night, crack open a jar of gin and spend the evening teaching the sheep to sing. I loved that.
So when I told Mottle how she got her name, she chuckled and murmured under her breath as she strutted by on the way to the raspberry patch….”I love to sing!”