This little bundle of fur squeaked and ripped into my life about two years ago. It was whilst I was working in Kiev. One afternoon, whilst editing legal documents, or assessing the current state of play of the office refurbishment I was overseeing, I received an SMS. It was from Manfredi, my Italian flatmate. Roughly, it read, “Luke, there is cat in the bathroom.”
Whilst this is a simple, clear message, it confused me. However, BCT, my boss at the time, must have loaded a task on me at that moment, because all thoughts of kitty disappeared, under the usual sea of English grammar mistakes regularly made by Russians. Or a demand to see the new tile samples for the entrance hall, or evidence of a thawing of relations with the other residents of the building on Prorizna Street.
Two hours later, I found myself on the metro across the Dnipro River to Darnitsiya district, where I lived. I’d forgotten all about the cat until I exited the station and saw a stray on the way home. Being fairly late in the evening, I presumed I’d be seeing Manfredi and Brandon, the Montana corner of our triangle of foreigners in this unfashionable area of Kiev. But I arrived at an empty flat, and dropped my bag in its usual spot. I divested myself of my brogues in favour of the Gap slippers that I still wear nightly, 15 years after they were gifted to me.
And then I heard the meowing. It sent a shiver down my spine. I don’t like strange noises, no matter how expected. I nervously opened the door to the bathroom and immediately realised that the owner of the squeaks was in the toilet room next door. I opened the door and was confronted by this fearsome silver tiger, this awesome force. This tiny, tiny kitten. I’m not sure the photo does justice to quite how fragile and vulnerable it was.
I took it and its sour milk through to the kitchen, where we spent the night getting to know one another. This seemed to consist entirely of the kitten climbing all over me, proving remarkably strong for something so scrawny. I took the English Russian dictionary down and searched for the Russian for “silver”. Happily, there is a word for “silver hair”, and so Serebristiy was christened.
Manfredi returned, and explained how he had come across this poor creature being attacked by a crow on the way to work. Rather sweetly, he had picked it up and popped it in his hoodie, where it stayed until a break in lessons and he was able to deposit it back in the flat.
And all of this would have been fine, but for the fly in the ointment. Both Manfredi and Brandon were leaving Kiev. Not only that, but as my Russian is so poor, the landlord wanted me out of the flat too. Serebristiy needed a home. It is for this reason that I took the photos; I figured I’d need them to seduce one of my friends from the Golden Gate bar into taking him on (his nature and spirit made him a boisterous boy in my opinion).
I arranged to meet my friend Sub for a game of pool. A journalist for Reuters, Sub lived in the centre of the city, and we played pool every now and again, usually culminating in marathon smoking and Slavutych beer drinking sessions in her stunning apartment behind the Opera House. She was the ideal candidate to take on the little cat, who was by now displaying an unhealthy appetite for wires; my mini-speakers were the first casualty.
I showed her the pictures, and to my eternal joy she was smitten. There was just the little question of convincing her landlord. Two days later, I was given the news that her landlord did not see the addition of a cat to the tenancy as a good idea. I sighed into my pint, but had not reckoned with Sub’s combination of disrespect for authority and desire for the kitty companion. Sub had decided she would take Serebristiy on, and hide him from the landlord whenever he dropped in.
So, I took a cab to Sub’s place with my feline cargo stowed in a box, Manfredi’s jumper as a bed. Sub had stocked her fridge with pouches of wet food (not my choice, I’m firmly in the dry food and plenty of water camp), and had an appointment with the vets arranged, to be gelded. His name had been contracted to Serek, and a litter tray sat by the washing machine.
Sub called me a week later – would I mind cat-sitting whilst she spent a week in Minsk? It was of course a pleasure. Sub also furnished me with the surprising knowledge that Serek was in fact a she-cat.
Serek has grown into a fine, naughty little creature. Word is, the next leg of her life with Sub will be in Canada. She has had the injections and got herself a passport. Canada is lucky to have them both, although it’s bloody miles away.