Gomer Grunt(1) first introduced me to Flo about five years before we started to hang around each other a lot. Gomer tells me Flo used to belong to an Old Fisherman. The Old Fisherman died and Flo continued to live on his boat until the boat was sold. When the new owners took possession, they simply threw Flo onto the dock and sailed away.
Gomer let her hang around and then tried to give her to me...
"Oh Gomer, there's hardly enough room for the four of us on Dowager!" I told him. "If I added a cat to the mixture it'd just be too much! I'm sorry!"
...until he too had to leave, then accepting precedent threw her onto the dock and sailed away.
I forgot about Flo until we moved from Green Dock to Blue Dock. Ripley the Wonder Dog had gone to the big rabbit field in the sky and Faith, my youngest daughter, having demonstrated an acceptable level of self sufficiency, had moved to the hard. It was some five years later.
There was this dock cat always hanging around. "What's her name? Who does she belong to?" I asked The Cowboy down the dock.
"Oh…she doesn't really have a name", The Cowboy down the dock told me in his booming voice trained to reach high above screeching howling very lonely winds. "Lots of people feed her."
"It's OK if I let her on my boat then?!" I asked trying not to skip up and down and clap my hands.
I decided to call her HerShe.
Eventually I was advised, rather haughtily I felt under the circumstances, that her name was Meow Meow.
"Oh…OK…her name is Meow Meow", I repeated dutifully.
Made sense. Meow Meow likes to talk a fair bit. She's a very girly girl cat. Later still, Gomer came for a visit and was delighted to see "Flo!"
"Flo." Gomer pointed at me triumphantly. "I told you, you should have her!"
Dowager was used as a Fisheries Patrol Boat at that time. On her maiden voyage under a brand spanking new Captain of his very own Fisheries Patrol Boat she picked up a dock cat.
During a refit they then undertook to install a small green glassed window just big enough to accommodate a not fat cat. A special perch in the wheelhouse was built providing the best view on the boat and (!) a secret passageway was contrived where a cat could move in perfect stealth stem to stern.(2)
"We did Fisheries Patrol for 7 years with that cat. When she died...it was enough…".
They sold the boat.
In any case, Flo/Meow Meow/HerShe hung around Dowager after we moved to Blue Dock sunning herself on our back hatch and sizing us up for some time. I'd eagerly invite her in, tempting her with my tuna fish sandwich and she'd haughtily stick her tail up in the air, wiggle her bum at me and stalk off righteously angry at having the peasants attempting to converse with her.
Finally, one day in the summer after we'd been on the dock for several weeks, Dowager's door open because of the heat, alone and lonely, stirring up a batch of fudge, I noticed a gray blur dancing round my ankles.
"Oh HerShe!" I exclaimed, my voice rising several octaves above normal. I immediately forgot about my fudge and bent down to pick her up.
She mewed at me a few times, very vocal, and immediately gave good purr.
I showed her the green glass door made especially for a not fat cat but went too far. She bolted from my arms and streaked out of the boat like the tendril ghosts of Dowager were chasing her and fast catching up.
She continued to visit from time to time after that but flirted shamelessly with Fred completely charming him and utterly ignoring me. I took to not letting her through the door unless Fred was home. (4)
Summer continued and Fall came. HerShe was now Meow Meow. (She really does talk a lot!) Meow Meow started to loose weight, got a bad case of the fleas and one of the Dock Guards kept talking to me about her spending long cold winter days and nights on the dock. "Poor thing." He asked me if I thought he should have the SPCA pick her up.
I caught her and gave her bath in dish soap and peroxide to clean out the wounds she had from scratching at the fleas and the Dock Guard offered to buy a flea collar for her.
It didn't work. It wasn't enough.
Again I talked to The Cowboy down the dock. I told him I thought she needed a Vet but that I couldn't afford it being out of work at the time. The Cowboy down the dock told me in his booming voice made for communicating through evil high howling winds, a story about Bad People and a pet he had had in the past. He advised he couldn't take the cat into a Vet either but, that he'd see what he could do.
She was back from the Vet before I found out what The Cowboy did. We chipped in twenty dollars too! The total bill was ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY DOLLARS!
Winter came. Gomer Grunt reminded me Meow Meow's REAL name was Flo and by that time…she'd pretty much moved in.
(1) See Down the Docks, Gomer Grunt
(2) Secret passageway removed in our own refit of Dowager(3)
(3) See Down the Docks, M.V Dowager
(4) Cats are NOT stupid. Fred was the hard sell.
Later on I had Fred check with The Dutchman. The Dutchman had been the one who had accepted the donations for the Vet. The Dutchman advised with a far away look in his blue eyes, that Meow Meow did as she pleased.
"We're still friends. She comes to visit," he assured.