How to buy a used cat

by John MacBeath Watkins

In a universe parallel parked just two down from ours, buying a used cat is just like  like buying a used car.

We will illustrate the pitfalls with the case of Bill.

One day, Bill's old cat died. We need not dwell on the causes of his old companion's death, and we turn away from Bill's private grief. However, when the tears had fallen, Bill was left with a universal truth. To paraphrase Jane Austen:

"IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a cat."

But the search for the cat is like the search for a used car, so this will not exactly be Pride and Prejudice. Not even Pride and Pedigree.

Bill set out hoping he could afford a new cat. He looked into the exotics, just because a man can dream, even if he can't really afford something fast and dangerous that isn't really suited to his lifestyle.

The Savannah cat struck his fancy, but it cost about half as much as a hose in flyover country, and he was still renting.

A brand-new Manx kitten had a muscular, aggressive stance with a sort of Kammback look that enticed him, but after it ran up his pants leg leaving a trail of fresh wounds on his leg, he realized that even if he could afford the sticker price, the insurance on his drapes would be ruinous.

This is when he fell into the hands of a used-cat salesman.

"This is your lucky day," said the salesman, clad in cheap, chequered sport coat and polyester pants. "I've got a used cat that will just knock your eyes out."

It was an old cat, sleeping rather noisily in the back row of the cat lot. Aside from the snoring, it had long, tangled fur and more than a few notches in its ears.

"This cat looks like it's got a lot of city miles on it," Bill said.

"Let me tell you about this wonderful feline," the salesman said. "It would never have come on the market at all, were it not for a fortunate accident. I mean, fortunate for you."

"What's that smell?" Bill asked.

"This cat was the beloved companion of a large and demonstrative family, the kids carried it everywhere and it never once scratched them," the salesman went on.

"Is it leaking fluid?"

"No, no, we had another cat parked here before we sent it to be repaired. Can't sell defective merchandise, can we?"

"Can't you?"

"So, anyway, the family so loved this cat, they would never let it out of their sight. They took it to church of Sunday, and the rest of the week, I tell you, they worshiped that cat like ancient Egyptians."

"So how did it end up here?"

"Well, one day, the whole family was walking to church, and little Willie, who had fallen in with fell companions on the second-grade playground, said a naughty word. Well, you know how God feels about that, he sent a bus to run them all down and wiped out the whole family."

"That's terrible, but wouldn't that have killed the cat, too?"

"God so loved the cat, he spared it. And now, it's your good fortune that the cat is here, before you, ready to begin a new life with you."

"Um...I kind of swear a lot, is that a problem?"

"You go to Church every Sunday?"

"Not so's you'd notice."

"I wouldn't worry about it."

"Think I'll pass, anyway."

"Well, sir, what will it take to put a cat in your arms today?"

Bill told the salesman his budget.

"What else have you got in my range?" he asked.

"Yer lookin' at it."

So, Bill bought the elderly, flatulent cat and began waking home with it in his arms. It woke, farted again, and began to purr. He began to like it, when suddenly, he stubbed his toe.

"Fuckshitcuntcockpiss!" he said, before considering the consequences. "Oh, God, that hurts," he amended.

Just then, a severely depressed neighbor with bad aim tried to kill himself, and instead took off Bill's hat. Bill picked up his ventilated hat and looked reproachfully at the cat.

"Did you tell God I said that?" he asked.

The cat yawned hugely, revealing some bad teeth and breath that would make a passable paint stripper.

"Well, God dammit, I don't believe a word that salesman said," Bill declared. The cat scratched him, causing him to lurch away from the road just as a dump truck ran into a light pole next to him. Bill realized that the truck would have pinned him against the light pole if he hadn't lurched.

"Cat, are you cursed?" Bill asked.

The cat avoided his gaze, nonchalantly licking a paw.

Bill went back to the cat lot, where the salesman showed himself extraordinarily agile, dodging him and locking himself in the office.

"Open up, you sold me a lemon, dammit," Bill shouted. The salesman dived under a divan just before an eagle dropped a turtle on Bill's head, crushing his battered, bullet-riddled hat and leaving him dazed.

"Don't curse!" the salesman called from under the divan, "one lightning bolt could wipe out this office!"

"I want my money back!"

After a moment's consideration, the salesman said, "You can have your money back if you take the cat with you."


The salesman wouldn't open the door. He slid an envelope under it and dived back under the divan.

Bill checked the amount in the envelope, then put down the cat and walked away. "Serves the S.O.B right," he thought. That only resulted in distant thunder.

As he neared his home, Bill stepped into the crosswalk without looking, and a car screeched to a halt inches away from him.

"Watch where you're going, you God-damned idiot!" the driver yelled, and the engine of the car immediately caught fire. That's when Bill looked around, saw that the cat had followed him home, and resigned himself to cleaning up his language.