That is not to say that Little Cat didn't weigh well in excess of five kilograms, but here as with everything else he lived his life in the shadow of Big Cat, being cuter but less awesome, less remarkable and less popular, and, maybe, never as appreciated as he should have been.
We had always planned on having two cats, and in June 1996, after Eliphas had been with us for more than three months, we finally found someone giving away black kittens, so Tiassa and I went there in a borrowed car. The place was a pigsty, full of far too many animals and kids, with a floor so rotten that I felt it give way once or twice. You should, I learned, never get a kitten from a place that reeks strongly of cat piss, but I didn't know then, and the tiny black furball (in retrospect more like six weeks old than eight) stole my heart.
Back home, tiny Aleister took one look at the great furry monster that was one-year old Eliphas, fluffed up to three times his size and disappeared behind the large chest in my room. Food got him out quickly, though, and he learned to climb up people's trouser legs and even T-shirts to investigate interesting things, but stopped it when people started being less than enthusiastic about it. He and Eliphas got used to each other and formed perfect heaps of cat on the bed and the sofa, greyish black and deep black like a very dark Yin-Yang. Aleister had thicker fur than Eliphas and we joked that he had angora cat in his ancestry, but where we discovered cats that looked exactly like him was in Tuscany.
He loved to eat and was very clever at stealing food. His crowning achievement was to steal a paper bag with two sandwiches from the neighbour's flat, getting up on a three-inch wide, four feet high balcony rail to sneak over, and then get back with a paper bag nearly as large as he was. We never dared to tell the neighbour that our cat had raided his kitchen.
He never became entirely house-trained, and made me into a very tidy person who did not have anything lying around that could not be wiped or washed, and who, for more than a year, slept on a blanket on the floor which got put away every morning, because Little Cat could not be trusted with a mattress. He made me cry with exhaustion and despair, because having him basically meant having nothing else. It might have been possible to train him, but we were living in creative chaos back then ourselves and never managed to be decisive on anything.
Aleister always looked as if he was planning how to best take over the world. He never let himself go, and sprawling was entirely out of the question for him. He could fold himself into a very compact shape, to that degree that, when I moved, he hid in a very tiny box and was discovered only when one of the remover guys picked up the box, and a cat exploded out of it and disappeared into the junk room like a very black streak of lightning.
It took him a while to get used to the new place, though he had less trouble than Big Cat to adjust to the lack of people. Sometimes he got into a fight with Big Cat, which he usually won on points: While Big Cat was stronger and had the larger reach, Little Cat was more stubborn. Sometimes the fights turned enthusiastic and I was sweeping black fur off the floor, but usually they ended with a happily snoozing heap of cat on the sofa.
Only when I went to the US and Big Cat became lonely and unhappy and unwilling to make a stand, Little Cat became smug and nasty. Snow never forgave him, and I was on the end of my wits and my nerves when I came back and couldn't set things right.
Little Cat was cute and very furry, and gentle (unless he had to go to the vet), and loved to cuddle. He slept on the foot of my bed and hogged the hot water bottle when he could. He had a tiny purr and was scared about people wearing heavy shoes. He liked potatoes: Not only could you summon him from wherever he was hiding by opening a bag of potato crisps, he even snatched raw potatoes from a bowl of water and gnawed on them.
He was neat all his life, and seeing him sprawled out on the veterinarian's table broke my heart. I miss him like crazy. I miss them both. I come home to my flat and I look for movement, I look for the cat, then I realise that there is no cat, but still I look. My eyes catch on every black T-shirt lying untidily on the sofa or the bed, and any hint of movement makes me turn around, but it is only the wind sweeping dust bunnies over the floor.