Wednesday, December 1, 2010


wednesday 8 december 2010, turners tesseracts

Juergen Jergen Oppenheimer was his full name. I was eighteen when I got him. And if you find his full name a tad too much, think on the fact that the one before him was, in full, Jeffrey Jeremy Hilary Boob Jason Julian Chaucer. I was a teenager, for heaven's sake, and a teenager with Asperger's at that. Take a gander at some of the names Opal Whiteley gave her animals: Peter Paul Reubens, Lars Porsena of Clusium, and Thomas Chatterton Jupiter Zeus. And she was just a little KID with Asperger's. By comparison, I wasn't that bad. And by comparison to Jeffrey, Juergen got off easy.

He was a gift, of sorts, from a sibling. One summer day, 1971, I'm there in the livingroom, and sibling squeaks open the heavy front door, tosses something onto the rug, and says "Here's an orange cat for you." Orange was my favorite color for male cats in those days, and the previous one, the aforementioned Jeffrey, had died earlier in the year. Then sibling shut the door again.

Juergen was probably less than six weeks old at that point, very puzzled to have landed in this strange place. He would prove to be calm and quirky, and almost all the time an introvert.

So who's the kid in the photo with the interesting face treatment? I'll call him Joey. He lived nextdoor and was great pals with Juergen, the only one of my cats who was laid back enough to be friends with a four-year-old. As I myself had been, Joey was not what you'd call a mainstream sort of a four-year-old, but he and I were different from the norm in mostly different ways. Joey was often very serious, even moreso than I was at seven, but once in a while he would come out with something that was a howl.

One spring someone buys Joey a plastic fishing pole, with a plastic and magnetized worm on the end, and a separate, magnetized plastic fish. Joey was bored with the plastic, lifeless fish, and seemed to find it much more fun that Juergen came along one day and went after the bait. After that, it was THEIR game. One day my father saw them at it and said "Catfishin' Joey?" And with a completely straight face, staring down at Juergen in the puddle, Joey says "Yup." And the cat, despite his general dislike of water, never hesitated to roil around in the puddles to catch that damned plastic bait.

Another of Juergen's much-loved games was to sit in my lap while I ate and be passed goodies from my plate. His favorite hand-outs were plain donuts. The old-fashioned kind, made in an old-fashioned donut shop.

Joey's about 42 now, with kids of his own. I don't keep in touch with him and couldn't ask permission to use his picture, so I've concealed his face. I'm 57. Juergen, of course, is gone a very, very long time, having died on 8 December 1984 at the age of thirteen.

(photo by l. billard)

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