Now you've done it - got me started about Stella. I thought about changing her name for the purposes of internet anonymity, but it can't be done - she's Stella through and through, and the story would be worse for any change to that. Stella means 'star' in Latin, and she appears as if covered in them - gold and pale, champagne stars amongst the darkness, and blazes of light containing their own black stars. Stella acts like a star, too - she has the strut of one on the catwalk, under the spotlight.
She has a beauty salon - our bathroom. When we turn on the heat-lamp in the ceiling, she goes in to get her tan, rolling on her back, showing stars on her belly. If we turn it off, she complains loudly. When she's out, I take pleasure in calling her name like I'm Stanley in "A Streetcar Named Desire", out to the neighbourhood, "Stella!" I like it best when I'm telling her to come down from the roof.
The house is full of small dehydrated lizards. She brings them in alive. They escape into corners and hide frozen until I find them, much later, beyond hope. I have a collection. I feel like maybe some future witchcraft might require them. Lucky I already have a familiar, a star-crossed cat. Stella sometimes plays fetch, but only occasionally returns the ball, just to keep me interested. Her other favourite games include getting in the dryer, and burrowing under any sheet, blanket or carpet.
The couch is beyond hope, its corners shredded, deep claw marks through to the wooden frame. Stella knows who has domesticated whom. She is an expert in the rustle of different varieties of plastic used for the manufacture of cat-food wrappers. She is also expert in extorting treats from unsuspecting owners and housesitters.
The day she was brought to us she fit in the palm of your hand, taken too soon from her mother and raised in a bath. Like a compressed universe, she was a ball of noisy colour, tortoiseshell patterns so dense that she almost looked bristly.
We looked up 'chimera cat' on the internet and compared pictures. She's not a perfect chimera, with a colour down each side, but Stella alternates, with half of her face light and half dark, and then one light front paw and one dark, but in opposition to her face. Then her back paws are also one light and one dark, but they swap back to match her face. She's like some kind of harlequin, and all of these patches are emblazoned with her stars.
She grew into her patterns and into her personality. We lost our previous two cats to road accidents, but I think we have taught Stella to stay away from cars. She's four or five now. I want her to make it to cat old age - become a stately old lady of cats creaking around and knocking things off of tables at 16.
It's funny watching her with the neighbourhood stray. He's twice her size and muscular. But he knows, as I do, who really runs things around here. She intimidates him, right up in his face, hissing and staring him down. But I feed him, and give him the food that Stella rejects, and he knows that I belong to Stella, and so his size and his muscles don't mean a thing. He respects her.
She got into a fight with another cat from out the back and came home with no collar and puncture wounds all around her neck. I went over the next day and asked if I could look for her collar. I found it in the neighbour's back yard. The neighbour told me that they think Stella may have come off the better. She apparently had completely shredded the neighbour's cat's ear in half.
Her palace is under the house, and she likes it all the more down there since the bare earth was covered with insulating plastic that she can stick holes in with her claws. She has shelter and a nice breeze. She has several entrances and exits in the form of small gaps between the skirting boards, and there are piles of dry wood to sit on. I keep some of the art I have made down there. Stella thinks it's only good for scratching the side of her face on.
(Image: Original photo by me of Stella's fur close up.)