As tomorrow is Halloween, I have a tale of Black Cats, Burning Devils and a modicum of superstition (my own that is). A purely personal post, this is a story close to my heart.
Here in Guatemala they have a tradition wherein once a year on the 6th December they set fire to a devil. Literally. Yes, a massive devil in the street, blazing away for everyone to see. This day is called ‘La Quema del Diablo’ The burning of the Devil.
You see, all those smiling little Guatemalans get together and build a massive paper mache devil. Built with love and painted with care they then take it into one of the main streets and set fire to it. This is meant to burn away all the bad juju of the last year and welcome all the good, positive energy into your life for the following year. Makes sense right? And I mean who doesn’t want to see a giant flaming devil? Ooo pick me, pick me, I do.
So I ran home to get my camera, fly into my apartment and it was then that I heard something that made me screech to a halt. All of a sudden there was a tiny ‘meow’. I stop breathing. I listen intently…nothing. Okay I could have sworn I heard a kitten and then reaching for my camera bag ‘meow’...there it was again! So now I’m thinking “is there a cat in my apartment” “how the hell did a cat get into my apartment - they can’t get in off the street”… meow… argh… where is this kitten.
Sounding in distress I am now crawling all over the floor, looking under the bed, in boxes on shelves (cause you know, they’re tiny and all climby) and ‘meow’ … aaaarrgghhh where is it?! By now I’m truly concerned the poor little thing is stuck in a drainpipe or something so opening the front door ready to continue the search I look down and there sitting on my doormat is a tiny ball of black hair with eyes. Appearing out of nowhere, just sat there on the front doormat, he looks up at me and ‘meow’. So I say ‘hola’.
We look at each other for a moment then he takes off. His little legs are going a million miles an hour but he’s not moving too fast because his fluffy paws are slipping on the tiles making him look like he's in a cartoon. I grab him. He looks terrified and my heart is breaking because he is so scared. Now what do I do?
I’ve never had a cat. I'm a horse and dog person, not a cat person and he’s tiny and too young to be away from his mother. So I message my weird ‘cat guy’ neighbour who is obsessed with his cat. He’ll know what to do, Tom’s a cat person (and now my kitty guru on all things cat). You know, the ones that they make funny Youtube videos about. Let’s put it this way, he used to wake me in the wee hours singing to his cat… in cat. Yes that’s right, you heard me, IN cat. Bazaar, yes. Funny, yes. Harmless, yes and kind of sweet.
Popping kitty in a box I anxiously waited for backup. As soon as Tom got there we took the poor little guy to the vet who announced “he’s five weeks old’’. Great, so counting back in my mind…OH MY GOD… he’s born on Halloween. Nooooo it can't be. Yup. I have a black cat that has come to me, appearing out of thin air like a phantom, on the day of the devil and he’s born on Halloween! Are you kidding me?! OK breathe Belinda, it’s a sign. A big one.
Now you should know that over the hour we were getting acquainted I had fallen madly in love with this little phantom. Also, I’m a little superstitious so I figured if I got rid of a Halloween born black cat on the Day of the Devil, well, seriously, I'm thinking that has to be about a million years bad luck. Yes, I am aware that sounds idiotic but as stated at the beginning I am a little superstitious so didn't want to upset the balance of my universe over one teeny tiny furball.
So, how do I keep this little treasure in an apartment that doesn’t allow pets?
He’s only tiny - I could hide him. No that’s not right, and dishonest (more bad luck). Deep breath. If it’s meant to be then it will all work out. And it did. Telling my landlady the whole story, I put on my best teary eyed 'please help me' face and pleaded like a 12yr old. I promised with all my heart I'd look after him if she would just let me keep him. Then, just to be on the safe side, I put him in front of her face…ha ha ha she didn’t stand a chance. Seriously, look at this little smooshball. He was the size of my teapot, no-one can say no to a fuzzy teapot sized kitten. Victory was mine.
The little phantom was mine. As it turns out, his mother (a wild street cat) had a litter of kittens in my roof and being the most adventurous of the lot, he'd ventured out, gotten too close to the edge and fallen off the roof. That didn't stop me calling him Fantasma which is Spanish for ghost/phantom because on the day I found him I honestly thought he was an apparition that had taken earthly form and materialised from thin air.
Now, he is about to have his first birthday. Tomorrow, on Samhain (Halloween). This last year has flown by, he adores me and I him. He eats all his veggies like a good boy - the vet’s amazed that he loves veggies, beans and lentils and don’t get me wrong, I know cats are carnivores so I bought him some meaty treats - he didn’t want them. Left them on the floor for two days before I threw them out, but he’ll claw your leg off for some porridge or corn and when I make lentil bolognese he’ll eat two bowls to my one so he’s just a little weirdo.
My little weirdo that was meant to be. And who is curled up in my lap giving me purry cuddles making me type one handed because he’s holding the other one on my lap. Naaww. I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe one. I'd stop him jumping on my bladder half an hour before the alarm goes off. Yes, that would be nice. But apart from that we live a very happy co-existence.
Even accepting that he isn't allowed to chase the hummingbirds, he sits contentedly in the doorway and watches them with me instead.
My Fantasma, a gift of good on the day of the Burning of the Devil that I welcomed as a positive change into my life. And it is true.
The legends say the veil to the other side is thinnest on Halloween allowing the spirits to pass into this world. Maybe he is an old soul come back to guide me and be my companion. If so, I am very glad to have him with me during the next chapter of my life.