Sooner or later, when my arms are damp from his wet nose, I surrender. I let him settle in on top of me for a long stroking session, his paws across my neck, his tail swishing at my knees. As he gazes into my eyes from a distance of about 5 inches, we have a talk.
Possum reminisces about his beginnings.
This morning, I said, "Possum, I don't think your parents gave you enough attention. You so often seem desperate for love and affection. Why are you so needy before 8 in the morning?" He ignored the second half of my statement and took umbrage at my attack on his parents. He's sensitive about them. He said, "My parents were wonderful to us. We were brought up beautifully. There were just... unfortunate circumstances."
"Do tell," I said. I'm always curious to hear about Possum's family, although I don't know if he's always telling the truth. He likes to tell a good story and feels creative embellishment is sometimes necessary.
"As you know," Possum said, "My family are from Norway. We owned forests and some nice coastline. We were respected members of the Norwegian Forest Cat aristocracy. My younger brother and sister and I were born there, on our estate."
"And how did you end up in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, from Norway?" I asked.
"My lovely parents feared for our safety," he replied. "My father had gotten mixed up in some business dealings with the Norwegian mafia. You never hear about them over here; Italians are so much more popular, but the Norwegian mafia is big business back home. It's very undercover. They do many of the things the Italian mafia does, but there's a much bigger focus on fish. Salmon, herring, cod, other fish. And that's how my father came to be involved with them. My family had a major interest in herring. Also rakfisk, which you can never get over here. Just thinking about it depresses me and makes me long for the fjords. Rakfisk is so divine, the nectar of the gods. But I don't suppose that you'd bother to make me some, even if I found you a recipe, and located the trout, and coached you through the cleaning and fermenting steps. You know, I have my mother's recipe, but it's in Norse and I can't translate all of it."
"Go back to your story, please" I said. Possum must really be Norwegian, I'm realizing. Why else would he be that intense about rakfisk so early in the morning?
"My father decided to enter the Norwegian Mafia Witness Protection Program after a mobster chopped off the top of his first-born's exceedingly handsome left ear over an unpaid debt, maybe it was fish, maybe gambling. I never asked. But leaving was the only thing we could do. And you keep telling everyone I'm feral. How can I convince you that I lost my ear in Norway? Do I seem feral?" he demanded, lounging regally across me in his expensive fur suit. I had to admit that he did not appear feral.
"I was very young, but I remember a little of our crossing, which was reasonably luxurious. Possibly the QM2, second-class, I don't know. I don't remember how we got from port to Shrewsbury. All I know is that we three kittens were separated from our parents one night when we were taking a walk from our hotel. We found ourselves in a trap and then we spent a few weeks in some family's house, far away from Shrewsbury. They were very decent to us, considering that they were in league with our kidnappers. That's where you found us, and chose me. Good choice," said Possum.
"But Possum," I said. "It's terrible that you were all separated. We should have taken all three of you."
"We keep in touch," he said. "My brother and I do, anyway. Neither of us has heard from our parents and I suspect the Norwegian mafia tracked them all the way to Shrewsbury and killed them. I remember a strong smell of lutefisk as we were being trapped, and that can only come from Norway. God, I miss lutefisk. My uncle, the baron, had cooks who made it taste like a dream." he said.
At this point, he realized that my husband was serving breakfast and leaped off of me, racing into the kitchen. But there is more to his story and I will ask him about his baronial uncle the next time he wants attention in the morning.