My mom shouted down the passage while my father was still in bed.
“Peter, come see. Basil slept with Gina last night.”
Not the sort of thing you say in a conservative Greek household when your son is 17 years old. Not just that Gina was Italian and not Greek, but that Gina sounded like a woman. Actually, Gina was a cat, a grey striped cat’ I think from the pet shop on the road behind the offices. Why Gina? Well, she looked like and behaved like a “Gina” cat. Did I know a Gina then? No. Perhaps it was the idea of Gina Lollobrigida who graced the Friday evening movie screen at home occasionally?
But my father was angry. His son shouldn’t be sleeping with a woman. Not in the house, heaven forbid. Then when he saw the kitten he was still angry. Not at the practical joke, he enjoyed those. But at the fact that a pet had spent the night in a bedroom. That was also anathema in the conservative Greek household. We had had a cat before, Lord Mortimer, who lost and eye and was one of the first cats to have a cataract operation in the remaining eye at Onderstepoort. But Morty slept away from us, and he was a fine rat catcher. He had a job in the conservative Greek household. But Gina was to lead a life of luxury.
To me she was just a Gina Cat. She was the wildest of the kittens, very playful and could easily find the highest spot anywhere in the house to ambush you. She grew old but never lost that playfulness. She was the first of the cats in my life. My father always used to rush off to work. Many years later when he and my mom adopted 2 collies from Border Collie Rescue he was confronted by a dog psychologist. My mom was worried the dogs were not settling in, so she called in a dog whisperer. She was at home early one morning when my father rushed out. She stopped him.
“You can’t rush out like that. You’ll upset the dogs.” “What?” “You need to take time to talk to them before you leave. Tell them you’ll be back”
Which is a useful thing to do with any loved one…
One morning my father was rushing off to work and drove over Gina and killed her. I was devastated. A few weeks later I got a new cat, white with one green eye and one blue eye. No, I didn’t call her Elizabeth Tailor; her name was Fabiana.