Morti and Me
Slice Of Life
By – Sheri de Grom
Four decades ago, on a Thanksgiving morning, I met one of the greatest loves of my life.
It all started as “let’s play a joke on Sheri” and ended twenty-seven years later with my being a better person for having been loved and owned by a tabby cat with the name of Mortichi Muffin Mouse-Catcher Bowser-Brown. (Morti for short).
My first paid writing gig came about from my being in the right place at the right time and being high on life. Mortichi filled my life with love and laughter.
I’d hired into StarKist Foods on Terminal Island, California (across the bridge from San Pedro, and near Los Angeles harbor). How I convinced the head of the accounting department I’d make a great addition to their department I’ll never know. I’d never bothered to balance my own checkbook and I’d never taken an accounting class. My first day on the job I was assigned an account for a large tuna fishing fleet. I was scared. I’d never met a number I’d liked.
At the time, I was in the stage of life where a party every night was an ordinary occurrence. I didn’t want to hang out with the accounting and investments crowd. Prime interest rates simply weren’t that interesting to me.
However, some days Morris wasn’t fun to work with.
As expected, Morris didn’t always want to cooperate with the script and a certain number of hours of polished commercials were a requirement.
I found it an amazing challenge coming up with revised scripts for Morris that would fit his mood for a particular shoot on a given day. We never knew if he was going to be sassy, mellow, or lazy. One thing I learned early on, don’t rearrange Morris’ fat!
I’d joke with the crew that the only cat I’d ever met that I’d really liked was the cat I dissected in zoology in high school. They still let me write lines and the handler remained on the set as Morris’ protector.
Come Thanksgiving morning, about a year after I’d transferred to advertising, we received instructions for ten sets of new dialogue. Morris’ voice man needed our work first thing Monday morning.
I hadn’t made special plans for the weekend. I was single and instead of rotating between several parties—the norm for the single crowd living in the Los Angeles beach communities—I volunteered to work on the scripts over the long holiday weekend.
The huge office complex was eerily quiet. My shoes created echoes in the lonely halls. I didn’t spook easily but I wasn’t going to take the elevator to my office. What if it stuck between floors? I’d be there for four days. I’d take the stairs thank-you-very-much. (Back then, ten flights seemed like nothing at all.)
Unlocking my office door, a creepy glow cast a shadow across the props we used in shooting commercials. A morning fog hovered over Los Angeles harbor. It should have been daylight but it wasn’t happening. Before I freaked myself out, I decided to turn on the lights.
Approaching my desk to power up my word processor and turn on the coffee maker and my desk lamp; I heard the softest meow.
Not a cat!
In my in-basket was the tiniest ball of pale orange fur with five small dots on the end of his nose. Picking him up gently, I studied his nose close-up and realized the black dots were perfect; the angels must have painted them.
Upon further exploration, I discovered a litter box had been set up. How would this little guy ever get in it? How old was he anyway? This was pre-planned.
I located a tiny water dish and some cat food.
We had a break for lunch. Kitten wasn’t interested in cat food but I did find white albacore tuna in the cafeteria and, while I made myself a sandwich, I gave the kitten flakes of the albacore. No one was in the cafeteria with us. Had it been open, I could have had lunch for thirty-five cents if I’d ordered the daily tuna special. I’d never known there were so many ways to prepare tuna until I worked for StarKist!
Back to the office with the kitten who by this time I was calling “Little Guy.” Fortunately, he’d figured out what the litter box was for and, with a full stomach, he did his business, then curled up and slept in my scarf all afternoon and evening.
I’d planned to work straight through the night until I was finished with the project. No one was waiting for me at home. But what was going to happen when I did go home? What did I do with Little Guy then?
The StarKist kennel was closed for the long weekend. A caretaker came in on holiday hours but no one answered the kennel telephone and I had no idea when someone would be there.
I’d brought snacks from home to get me through, but certainly nothing appropriate for a kitten. Without another choice, we raided the cafeteria once again for tuna.
Little Guy and I worked Thursday until Saturday evening when I declared the work was completed to my satisfaction. By that time, I realized I was going to have to take the kitten home with me. I couldn’t leave him alone in the cold office building.
I explained to Little Guy on our drive home that the sleepover was a temporary arrangement. He’d be going back to the kennel on Monday.
Little Guy ignored my warning with a purr as he curled up beside me and blinked his big green eyes. He knew he’d already won my heart, forever and a day.
Please join Little Guy (now Morti and me) for another ‘Slice of Life’ soon.