by Terry Sullivan
Sammy was a nervy little rascal who wasn’t bothered by killing. Some said it was because he was black, but there’s many a superstition about black cats and their connection to death, mostly as omens.
Sammy was my neighbor Kate’s cat, who loved to stalk birds from the shadows; so I used to chase him from my yard with my imitation of Donald Duck screaming, “You Bastid!”
He came to hate that phrase, based on his body language, as he ran away, shaking his head as if to say, “Okay, Okay already.”
Sure Sammy was a pest, chasing the birds I had attracted by my two bird feeders, landscaping and year-round fresh water supply, but he couldn’t help himself, it was his nature to kill and he did it well. That’s why someone said he was named after “Sammy the Bull,” Gravano, who only admitted to 19 murders at the John Gotti trial; Sammy the cat could do that in a month.
While walking out my door one day, I saw a flying chipmunk bouncing off the side of my large oak tree, followed by a shadow ten times his size.
“Oh NO, Sammy,” I screamed as I leapt off the stoop just in time to distract him mid-air as he was gaining on the chipmunk. His paws skidded in the gravel path as Sammy hung a left and the chipmunk headed straight to live another day.
That was just dumb luck, being able to catch him mid-flight, in the act, for no matter how many times I chased him out of my yard, within hours he’d be back. Sitting in the garden, relaxing by the fountain, waiting for slow birds; he was telling me I might own my yard, but it was his killing ground, and he was proud of it. He had nothing to be ashamed of, as Mark Twain said, “ Man is the only animal that blushes, or needs to.”
I admired Sammy; in a way he reminded me of myself as a wild child/alleged adult. The more I tried to police my yard the more brazen he became waiting in the shadows under the evergreen tree, by the bird feeder, where some birds scour the ground for seeds, dropped by sloppy birds at the feeder.
Next door my neighbor Kate had a very different perspective, as Sammy was the cute little lovable cat she had saved from the gallows of Animal Control, by going to Elsa’s Ark, run by Pat Lillis, an Irish woman with a heart of gold and a benevolent boarding house for a menagerie of furry orphans. She deserves a bundle of funding and a glowing biography for her tireless, selfless service to the least powerful among us: the pets that are treated like so much trash by those who abandon them.
Kate’s Sammy was the guy who came flying in the door, up onto the counter top, and onto the back of the couch, he was always flying ; was he flying for joy or was he practicing his predator dance in the air?
She said his body had changed over the years, getting thinner and longer, and I must admit at 14 years of age he looked like a long distance runner: long and lean like a tiny panther.
Even though Sammy was a rascal, if you’ve ever had a pet, you know they grab a special little piece of your heart for good. Even though Kate was embarrassed by his bird harvesting, he wasn’t; and the bird corpses he brought to her, he thought of them as presents. Kate just didn’t have the same taste in “dining al fresco.”
Sammy was killed last night, in the middle of the night by someone speeding down a street eight houses long. How much speed do you need on a street so short? it’s just damn reckless. It’s not like they’re going through my neighborhood, it’s a giant cul de sac, if you go down my street you are going to my neighborhood.
This is a quiet block in a quiet neighborhood until Memorial Day, when some “visitors,” come out to spoil the peace and quiet they are allegedly coming out here to enjoy. It is an irony to die for, in Sammy’s case, and I feel like I’ve lost a neighbor because someone needed to speed down an eight house long street.
Sure Sammy was a testy rascal, but he was killed by the most dangerous animal on the planet: a car driving human*
*32,708 humans were killed by humans in cars in 2010, countless pets.