Sugar was a very outgoing cat, unafraid of strangers. He greeted visitors at the front door, the way the pet of the house should. If he happened to be on patrol outside, he would escort a visitor down the front walk. He always knew which people were afraid of cats, or allergic, and took special care to vigorously and relentlessly rub their ankles, leap unexpectedly into their laps, and leave extra tufts of loose fur in the air as he was escorted away. I vividly remember seeing him leap onto the hair of an acquaintance of my mother’s. She had a late-sixties style puffy salon hair-do, the kind the takes a full head of curlers, finished with a generous spray of Aquanet. Sugar had a particular fondness for certain smells: cantaloupe, cigarettes, and hairspray. I remember the way she screamed, but more my mother’s pained expression: my mother had very careful good hostess manners, and not only was this embarrassing, it was hilarious.
The house I grew up in was built in about 1930, of brick, with hardwood floors and plaster walls. The bathrooms had all the original tile work and original fixtures. In my mother’s bathroom, she had a hose attached to the faucet so she could lean over the tub and wash her hair.
Our cat Sugar loved to watch dripping water, as do many cats. Once, while we were out of town, Sugar took the hose out of the tub so that he could watch it drip water onto the floor. After a few days of this, the water had made its way through the floor and had saturated the kitchen ceiling, below. By the time we got home from our trip, the wet plaster of the kitchen ceiling had collapsed.
My mother called her homeowner’s insurance company, and an adjuster was sent out. He examined the damage from below and took a couple of pictures. Then, he and my mother went upstairs to see it from the bathroom. Sugar followed. When they entered the bathroom, which now had a gaping hole in the floor, they paused to allow the adjuster to carefully position himself for a picture. Sugar rushed ahead, and leapt into the tub, and sat himself at the faucet. He turned his face to the insurance adjuster with that yellow gleam in his eyes. If a cat could do it, he would have said “Cheese.”