Enter Morris

November 22, 2021

By Trude Hoffacker 



The virtual Dickens Universe of 2021 introduced a feature not to be enjoyed at Universes on the Santa Cruz campus, where pets are not allowed. We were introduced to one of Courtney’s dogs, Sheck; we heard Helena Michie’s dogs barking in the background; we met a new rescue pup; we saw  a stately dog stretched out in the doorway of a participant’s study; we excused fellow participants to let out the dog or let in the cat. “We should do a feature on pets for All the Year Round,” said John Jordan, as he held up his dog, Cooper. 

Enter Morris.

Our morning context professor, Sebastian Lecourt, faced us from behind his invisible Zoom screen. We were just getting into our discussion of The Christmas Carol when a the face of a gray tabby cat appeared in the crack of a slightly ajar door behind Sebastian. She surveyed the scene and, pushing the door wider open, inched further into the room looking to each side. Then she entered and came toward Sebastian, who lifted her up for introductions.

“This is Morris,” he said. “I’m keeping her inside because we just moved to this neighborhood and I want to give her time to adjust. There are many feral cats out in the yard.  He stroked Morris and set her down on the floor beside his chair.  

Each day thereafter Morris entered, soon more assuredly, and disappeared somewhere below Sebastian. By Friday, she was in the room ahead of us. We asked after her, wanting to say goodbye, and again Sebastian lifted her up.

“What,” I wondered, "is Morris’s story?” 

It is a story worthy of Dickens, for Morris started life as a feral cat, a street cat, a waif.  Sebastian’s neighbor fed her and named her, and she became a regular visitor to that neighbor’s house along with her sidekick, a yellow tabby named Max. And then the neighbor was evicted. She departed without a word of explanation and left Morris and Max behind. Sebastian took over, feeding them and then inviting them indoors, and when Sebastian left the neighborhood for a new home, Morris and Max came with him.

The orphaned street cats now are family. They have moved with Sebastian to new digs twice. They have been to the vet for a check-up and for confirmation that Max is, indeed, a neutered male. Morris is the alpha cat in charge of the smaller, more docile Max. She gives the orders; Max obeys. In her days of roaming the streets, she did not take kindly to the many other feral cats that inhabit Houston, but she bonded with Max. Her other likes include people,  and shoes. She is “very chill,” says Sebastian. She and Max spend time together looking through the window blinds; they sleep on soft cushions; they enjoy a variety of toys. Sebastian feeds them well. In fact, Morris looks as if she could use a diet. Sebastian plays with them, swinging a toy dangling from a string on a stick as Morris bats at it. 

It is a happy Dickensian ending for all: for Sebastian, who never enjoyed the companionship of a pet when he was a child, and for Morris and Max, who have traded the perilous freedom of the street for the loving comforts of a home.

God bless them, every one.