Alice Bishop
Melbourne, July 5, 2010

When we met he was very little. Eyes just opening. I’ll take him I said. Leave him with me. Found him behind La Mama theatre, they said. Mother dead.

Don’t name him, the vet said. You can’t expect him to live. I’ve already named him. We’ll do our best then she said. He wouldn’t be still for the examination. Sounded like he had a motor inside him. Can’t hear his heartbeat for all that racket he’s making, the vet said. Strong life force. Hope so I said.

Later, waiting at the tram-stop, I looked at him in my pocket. That just cost us three hundred dollars Bob. It’s up to you now, son. You need to do your best.

After two weeks of round the clock feeds Bob was finally looking like a kitten. I put him in a beanie next to my pillow every night. And every night he kept up all that racket, purring as if his life depended on it. So I’d sing him a song to help him sleep. Mama Cass’s Dream A Little Dream Of Me. Lullaby for an orphan who was not expected to live. When I sang, it was if he flipped the switch of his motor to a low level so he could listen to the words properly.

Bob grew into a big tabby cat. Got into scraps. Lost an ear. And made many friends. Not cat friends, obviously – see previous point about lost ears. Human friends. He liked to sit at the end of the drive to receive visitors. People I’d never seen before would come calling. If for some reason he wasn’t present when they arrived they would even come up the path to find him. I’d dutifully let him out. If I asked who they were he’d say Oh, just some people I know.

On long winter afternoons Bob and I would play records. Bob had two favourites. Best of The Mamas and The Papas – of course, and Liza With a Z. I’d sing Maybe This Time along with Liza and when we got to the high bits, Bob would by turns yowl and purr then yowl again, every hair on his tail standing on end so it resembled a twitching toilet brush. And he’d hit those notes with Liza and me.

Bob lived till he was thirteen. Not long enough. Kidney failure. Best to let him go, the vet said. I asked Bob what he wanted to do. He said he’d rather stay. That he’d try his best. He tried his best for a few weeks. Until one day he couldn’t get out of bed and we knew it was time. No maybe about it.

I sang Dream A Little Dream Of Me to him. Bob purred till the motor stopped and the purrs ran out, and then he was gone. July 5, 2010 was the last time I ever sang that song till just now.

© Alice Bishop. Alice is a freelance director and writer. Her debut Stereo Story was about Last Kind Words Blues by Geeshie Wylie.

Alice is a freelance theatre director and writer. She has been obsessed by the blues ever since the age of five when she heard her father's Leadbelly records for the first time and wondered why the singer sounded so sad.