Last summer, amidst the greasy bowels of my Toyota Camry, I found a live kitten. No, you didn't read that wrong— unless you're picturing the greasy bowels of a Toy Camel, then maybe you did read it wrong. Anyway, for a day and a half, my car emitted a shrill yelp every time I hit the gas. At first, I considered the possibility that my car was angry with me. Admittedly, I had been neglecting it. The only battery I've ever replaced was the one in my walkman, and the last time I chose "supreme" over "regular" was at a Taco Bell.

My initial reaction was to ignore the problem in hopes that it would go away. This had always worked for me in the past with situations of this sort, like all those times my thigh had started vibrating and ringing like a telephone. However, the yowl of my cat-calling Camry persisted, presenting several serious problems. First of all, I could hardly drive a block without sexually offended women flicking me off. Secondly, when passing through residential areas, throngs of neighborhood dogs would sprint after me, sometimes dragging leash and owner for miles. Of course, I could get rid of the more closely following canines by braking abruptly, but overall it was becoming increasingly difficult to look past the problem

I decided I had to put an end to this. I enlisted the aid of my father who diagnosed the noise as feline. We then, being the macho guys that we are, gathered our equipment (a Maglight), suited up (I put on pants) and trudged out to the driveway. We searched scrupulously for a long three and a half minutes before finally throwing in the towel. This was an especially devastating blow for me because the towel happened to be the only thing my dad was wearing at the time. Defeated egos in tow, we ultimately concluded the cat was so well hidden that locating it would require some sort of cat-detecting mechanism and/or a well-trained, highly experienced feline investigator. About an hour later, my girlfriend noticed the cat casually lounging in the front yard.

The kitten was as cute as a button and only the size of my hand. However, it was deceptively ferocious and hissed at us when we approached it. I dated a girl like that back in high school so I knew it was best just to walk away and be happy it was out of my car. Unfortunately, these circumstances wouldn't allow it. It was too late— My girlfriend had already begun emitting a squeal of sympathy that was of the same pitch as the original noise from the car, but twice as annoying.

We then spent the better part of an hour chasing the tiny, scrambling fur ball around my yard with a shoebox. If we dove one way, it dove the other. If we closed in, it scurried under our legs. Picture Bugs Bunny waltzing tauntingly with a bewildered Elmer Fudd and then picture an elephant trapped in an aquarium— the former accurately describes the situation at hand and the latter is pretty near hilarious.

Like some feline Emitt Smith, the cat juked, jived, leapt and lunged with the quickness and dexterity of a pro running back. Clearly, my girlfriend and I needed a new plan for catching the Emitt Smith of cats. As in all situations dealing with the coaxing of animals, this called for chicken. We got some shreds of meat which the cat gulped down eagerly. However, this was apparently still not reason enough to befriend us, as it continued to hiss and snarl when we tried touching it. My girlfriend and I hadn't been so cautious with a fist-sized fur ball since we got that birthmark on my neck looked at.

Eventually, with the aid of a thick pair of gardening gloves, I snatched the cat up and carried it inside using a "hot potato"-like technique. To this day, I have no idea where the cat came from or how she found her way into my engine. I am suspicious, however, that it had something to do with the time I pulled up to the 'Full Service and a Kitten' pump at Exxon.

Once inside, my girlfriend and I fashioned it a nest by carpeting the shoebox with newspaper shreds. Though the newspaper bits were for bedding, I could swear that once or twice I heard a quiet chuckle followed by a muffled "Oh, that Doonesbury."

My girlfriend and I decided to give it a name because we kept getting it confused with country music star Kitty Wells. We settled on the name Dan, even though we later found out the cat was female. While that might sound strange to most people, my family actually has a history of giving our pets names that are in contradiction with their gender. I'm serious. Growing up, I had a female cat named Matthew and a pregnant hamster who went by the moniker Bob. Therefore, Dan suited her perfectly. My sister Larry agreed.

Unfortunately, we only had the kitten a week before my mother's allergies started acting up. Her eyes watered and her constricted nasal passage squeaked like a chew toy. Tests later showed that she was, indeed, allergic to cats named Dan. This was bearable until the sneezing began and, irony be damned, it was of the same pitch as that original noise from the car, but ten times as annoying. We were forced to find a new home for her but I'll always remember the way her whiskers felt against my cheek and the way she used to meow when she was hungry. Yep, I sure am going to miss Mom.


If you've got questions, responses, or you'd like to comment on my driving, please feel free to email me at comeydean@yahoo.com