Marzipan was a perfectly ordinary tabby cat. He was born in June 1997; it was about two months later that my wife and I traded a basket of blueberries for him. We always wanted a cat, especially now that we were in a new house with more than enough room for a pet. And we always wanted that cat to be a perfectly ordinary housecat; what they lack in pedigree, they more than make up for in vitality and mischievousness.
Marzipan was a very happy cat. It took almost no time for him to own our home. He discovered the most unusual hiding places. He was very fond of technology; so much so in fact that for a while, I was rather worried that he would one day become a very fried cat, chewing his way through an electrical cable somewhere. Later, when his male insticts kicked in, he began to find odd spots behind my computers which he chose to mark in that peculiar tomcat way. Apart from the danger of electrical shock, this also had a rather odorous side effect; so eventually we opted to have him neutered.
Eventually, Marzipan's attention turned from cables to toilet paper. Far safer if you ask me, even if it is a hint of questionable taste...
Marzipan was also an accomplished acrobat. The photo below shows him practicing his flying skills. He was a truly three-dimensional animal. He climbed up bookcases, curtains, the underside of stairs, you name it.
Alas, these happy days were to come to an all too sudden end. Marzipan was less than three years old when we noticed that he isn't behaving quite the same way as before. When we also noticed that his kidneys started to grow to an unusual size, it was time to consult the vet about his condition. The verdict was quick and cruel: Marzipan had renal lymphoma, an almost always fatal form of cancer that was likely to claim his life within the next 4-6 months.
That was in early March, 2000. We may not believe in an afterlife, but we certainly believe in the sanctity of life, even the life of an animal; so we asked the specialist to do what he can to save our cat. At first, Marzipan responded to treatment remarkably well; then, when his condition began to deteriorate, we found that he was still responding to an unusual combination of drugs, which kept him not just alive, but well enough to show great interest in everything, including a chance to try out some of my new calculators.
But he kept losing weight, and his lymphoma refused to go away. This Monday, November 6, he looked more lethargic than usual. No problem, he was due to visit the vet that day anyway, for another chemotherapy treatment. We weren't too worried, not even when later that afternoon the vet phoned and informed us that it's best to keep him in there for the night, because he's dehydrated and must be kept on fluids.
At around 11PM that night, we got another phone call: Marzipan's condition has turned for the worse, much worse. His blood pressure and body temperature were both down. We visited him that night in the hospital; he was still alive and looking at us with a glint of recognition in his eyes, but it was only the oxygen and intravenous fluids that kept him going. Then, at around 5AM, the final phone call came: Marzipan was dead.
I know, it's just a cat. Other people have lost friends, relatives, spouses and children. People survived wars, internment camps, and worse. But that doesn't make it any easier when we think of this poor kitten's all too short life and what it meant to us.
Short as his life was, Marzipan was actually a famous cat. His photo (actually, a frame from a video) found its way into my book, Programming Windows 98/NT Unleashed illustrating multimedia playback for Windows programmers. This book has since been translated into several languages (including Spanish, Chinese, and Korean) and the video screenshot found its way into each and every one of them. So, whatever little consolation that is, Marzipan has achieved a degree of immortality; his photo has greeted (and hopefully, cheered up) many a programmer on at least three continents.
Marzipan died in the early morning on November 7, 2000. Sounds familiar? No, I am not referring to the date in the Western calendar of the Great October Revolution in Russia.
You see, Marzipan was a cat full of mischief. He had enough mischief to last a decent lifetime; unfortunately, a decent lifetime is not what Marzipan had at his disposal. He only lived a little more than three years and four months.
So what to do with that huge reservoir of mischief? Marzipan had the perfect answer: since he can't thumb his nose at the world for the next 20 years, he'll do it all at once.
You do know of course what happened on November 7, 2000? Why, the most botched up election in US history, that's what. Here we are eight days later, and we still haven't a clue as to who will be the next "leader of the free world".
I'm sure Marzipan had something to do with this. If he can't thumb his little nose at the world for decades to come, he'll do it all at once: one single act of mischief so outrageous, the world is not likely to forget it for many years to come.