Mad Anthony

The tall weeds of September remind me of Mad Anthony, who people said was a little crazy. They were wrong. Mad Anthony was my cat, and I knew he was a lot crazy.

Mad Anthony liked high grass and watering cans. And he liked playing dog. On a day like this, I would whistle up Mad Anthony, and he would climb out of his watering can where he sat and thought about being a dog. He would trot up to me and wag his tail. Then we’d go for a walk, just a boy and his little furry dog along a country road. We would stop to look at butterflies and bugs and birds. Mad Anthony would heel. Sometimes he would point. But once in a while he’d get excited, forget he was playing dog, and revert to his natural role of insane cat. He would spring. Mad Anthony was the only cat I knew who sprang straight up. He never leaped toward a butterfly, bug, or bird. He rose vertically, at least two feet, often three. Whether there was wildlife nearby or not. There was no warning, and the effect was startling. When Mad Anthony sprang, it was as if he’d been standing on a land mine, or over one of those on-off Yellowstone geysers. All of a sudden—boingg!!

People were amazed. They asked me why my cat leaped up that way for no reason. I told them he was a very special cat. Privately, I thought it was because he was nuts. But I didn’t say that, because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. We were good friends. We played a game in the tall grass. Mad Anthony scurried into the field and hid. But not too well. He twitched his tail, so I could see weeds moving. Then I ran into the field, straight at him. Boingg!—Mad Anthony rocketed up, legs outstretched, mouth wide open, a wild gleam in his slanty eyes. I caught him in my arms. He always pretended to be surprised. He yelled “Yeow!” a couple of times. Then he struggled to get down, so he could run off and do it over again. The game could take up most of the day. My mother would ask me where I’d been, and I’d say catching the cat.

Mad Anthony lived in the watering can. We left it out all winter for him. He spent an awful lot of time in there. I wondered what he found to do. My parents said he was probably redecorating. Early in the morning I would tiptoe out of the house and try to sneak up on Mad Anthony. But he always heard me. His head would pop up under the watering-can handle, and he’d squint into the sunshine. His triangular face reminded me of Sub-Mariner, a comic-book hero back then.

My family didn’t use Mad Anthony’s watering can. We bought another one to water the garden with. But one time, somebody got mixed up and put water in Mad Anthony’s house while he was out boingg-ing around somewhere. He came dashing across the lawn and leaped into the can. There was a terrible splash. And a long pause. Then the Sub-Mariner’s dripping head appeared in the opening. His eyes were more squinty than usual. But he didn’t say anything; he just looked casually around, pretending he wasn’t up to his neck in water. He stayed in there for a long while, just to make his point. Like I said, he was crazy.

I wish he were still around. Now, a lot of years later, I still think of Mad Anthony when I see tall grass. Or a watering can. But I never see a cat’s face peeking out. If I did, I guess I’d spring straight up in the air.

          —Dereck Williamson