@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
Slim and Chunky
Let’s face it. Kids aren’t exactly the most creative when it comes to naming pets or stuffed animals. For example, my nephew named his plush stegosaurus “Bumpy” and when we were in Florida together and found this malnourished little lizard that hung out in my parent’s lanai, he called him “Runny” because he ran fast.
We weren’t very different kids in that respect, I guess. Growing up, we didn’t really have pets. My dad and I both have dander allergies and cats especially are nightmares for us– some dog breeds can make us sniffle as well. We did, however, befriend wild kittens that were born under our shed when we were in elementary school.
For a long time on our block at Home on Long Island, there was a stray cat problem. People, I suppose, were just letting their cats go and they were breeding like mad. There were cats everywhere. I didn’t mind it so much save for when they pissed under our deck which was a perfectly vile gag worthy smell.
Our neighbor next door used to capture the cats, bring them to the Vet and have then neutered before releasing them back into the wild. This was relatively altruistic of him. Although, we did have another psychotic neighbor who accused him of capturing the cats, filling the cage with bricks and dumping them in the bay (a very oddly specific accusation).
A litter of six kittens were born under our shed. My siblings and I slowly won their trust (usually with turkey hot dogs or cold cuts) until they befriended us. The mom cat was a feral looking beast, missing one eye. And with her one eye she watched us, suspiciously. But the kittens trusted and loved us. In fact, when we got home from school, we ran into the backyard and they would stick their cute little faces out from under the shed and then run to us and we’d play till dark.
We pleaded and pleaded with my Dad to let us adopt them and bring them in the house. Those cats never came in our house. In his defense, I’d do the same thing now. Sure, cats and especially kittens are cute and fun to play with but it doesn’t take long for my eyes to grow blood shot and itchy followed by sneezing fits. We got three of them adopted to good homes. The other three remained wild cats and I’m unsure of what their ultimate fate was.
Those kittens were likely the strongest bond I ever had with a “pet.” We had a bunny named Sweetie at some point, which our dad also made us give away to this dude who had a bunny farm. We were promised we would be able to visit, but Sweetie died from AIDS shortly after moving there. I guess the silver lining is she got to literally fuck like a rabbit before her demise.
Then there was Marty, the turtle. We found Marty in the wild and decided to adopt him. Mom told us Marty ran away, a suspicious story. Years later she confessed she let him go as she felt bad about him being in captivity (this, I argued, since our neighborhood was flooded with stray cats, was a bad strategy because it’s likely the cats would eat him alive. Poor Marty).
Since house pets were never to be had in the Palminteri household (though I’d later have an aquarium with all types of fish), we continued to befriend wild animals when we could. Two of these animals would be squirrels.
We named them Slim and Chunky. Because one squirrel was skinny to the point of malnourished and the other was obese to the point that he might have had diabetes. Of course the way you befriend any wild animal is just to feed them. And that’s what we did. Until they would literally come to our backdoor door and paw at it for their daily feeding.
“Oh look, Slim and Chunky are back!” Us kids were gleeful about our woodland friends. Dad, not so much. Their existence annoyed him, as did our excitement to see them. “They’re going to try to get in the house,” he scorned at us. We didn’t have any trouble with creatures in our attic, but if my memory serves me correctly my grandparents had a squirrel problem in their attic and it was a huge pain in the ass. My Dad, being the most handy of his siblings, had to tend to such an issue.
In short, Dad hated Slim and Chunky.
One day, we were feeding Slim and Chunky when Chunky, despite his obesity, darted right into the kitchen. Mom screamed. We fretted, “oh god, dad was right! I hate it when dad is right!” But we threw food out the door and Chunky, being the gluten he was, ran after it.
Then came the hard rule: no more feeding squirrels. My Cinderella dream of being one with the creatures, crushed. Slim and Chunky hung around for a short time after that and we gazed lovingly out the window, forbidden to continue our friendship. We knew without the conditioning of food, the bushy tailed friends would abandon us. And they did.