I found him dead on the floor Monday afternoon.
I didn't say a word to the kids. I called my father-in-law who, bless his heart, came over to get my kids out of the house so I could get him out of the tight corner he was in and into a more presentable position (box) to say their farewells. I feared moving him while they looked over my shoulder, since I wasn't sure what would happen when I picked him up.
I don't know when this happened. The Oracle says he last saw him Saturday. I don't know. I do know that, other than filled food and water dishes, I hadn't thought about critters at all on Saturday or Sunday because we were swamped with getting ready for Kryptonite's baptism and the handful of people visiting house afterward.
Peake arrived with his sister, Chessie, in early autumn of 1995. The Oracle's friend and coworker were plagued by a stray floozy feline that considered their porch her private maternity ward. Rather than being overrun with feral cats, Bob and his wife kit-napped the babies to hand tame, bottle feed, and adopt out. Bob brought the box of tiny kittens with him to work. The Oracle took a liking to the little calico Bob had dubbed "Sausalito."
The Oracle, being much more considerate than I, talked with me about adopting a kitten (I simply would have brought her home). We were still feeling the loss of Missy, an elderly long-legged coal-black stray that showed up on our doorstep Thanksgiving week of 1993, and who died a bit over a year later. We were ready for another cat.
When the kittens were old enough to adopt, I visited Bob's house to pick up the calico. I vividly recall (for once!) standing in their kitchen waiting to meet our new kitten. They had only two kittens left from their latest litter. As his wife brought them out, she introduced the orange tabby as "Reginald" and tucked him into my arms with Sausalito, knowing I wouldn't be able to resist. I don't remember whether I called The Oracle first, but I went there for one kitten and brought two home. I'd read somewhere (possibly Life's Little Instruction Book or similar) that if you were going to adopt a kitten, you might as well go for two, since you're getting double the fun for little extra effort.
I remember bringing them home and introducing them to Strudel, our first shedder. The kittens took one look at this large, sniffing dog and instantly transformed into hissing demons with every hair standing on end. They ran up my bare arms and buried themselves under my hair and against my neck. "Ouch" was an understatement.
The names Sausalito and Reginald sound aristocratic, but they're a mouthful. We realized that they would have quickly been reduced to Saucy and Reggie, and we weren't crazy about those nicknames.
The Oracle, as those close to him know, is an enthusiast for railroading history. He enjoys industrial history in general, but railroading is something he's loved since he was small.
Back in the '30s, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad ran an advertising campaign for their long-distance service, "Sleep like a Kitten," surrounding a stray cat they named "Chessie." Chessie's husband was "Peake." A little of the story can be found here. The names were fun, the story was interesting, and Sausalito and Reginald were renamed Chessie and Peake.
In nearly 14 years, they've been separated only three times, and those occasions were for surgery to Peake's left foot. He had an extremely-rare cancer of the nerve sheath, and the surgeries were intended to debulk the tumor and keep him comfortable. In recent months I'd been torn over having to take him back for more surgery, because it had become so involved in the foot I figured I'd be bringing home a three-legged cat.
Peake was The Oracle's cat. Peake claimed him from the get-go, choosing to lay on the footrest of the recliner alongside The Oracle's legs. We called him "Baby Boy" in addition to "Peake," and although I'd taken to calling him "Old Man" in the last few years, he was always Baby Boy to The Oracle.
In recent years, Peake wouldn't go to bed unless The Oracle came too. Around 9:30 or 10:00 p.m., he'd start yowling in the hallway, and he wouldn't stop until The Oracle started brushing his teeth.
He was also a major-league moocher. He could be sound asleep on the foot of the bed, but when I cracked open a can of tuna to make The Oracle's lunch, Peake would be winding around my feet meowing pitifully for morsels of tuna. He mooched at the dinner table, too, and The Oracle shared little tidbits of whatever was on the menu. I've even caught him raiding Knucklehead's dish if she left anything behind.
One thing he enjoyed was American cheese. It's something he'd loved since he was a kitten at Bob's house. Knowing it was unhealthy, I rarely gave it to him. Sometimes I couldn't resist.
The picture above doesn't show it, but Peake had marvelous whiskers. I loved his whiskers. They were long and full and perfectly fanned, especially when he smelled something interesting.
And, God, I'm going to miss his pretty orange eyes.