Hang around cycling for a while and you will meet a lot of people who can say, in all honesty, that their bike saved their life. Heart disease, ulcers, diabetes, escaping from an angry, shotgun-wielding father of that 15 year-old you dated in high school… I have a similar story, having gone from disgustingly obese – heart attack & soon-to-have-diabetes fat, to merely fat. My life ain’t saved yet, but I’m on the way. And that’s well and good.
But how many people can say that their bike saved their cat?
I couldn’t say that until this morning.
On the way home from the Squadra Coppi muffin ride, I was tooling up Route 50 toward Annapolis. “Tooling” is a term of art meaning “going as fast as a 1990 Ford Ranger with 180,000 miles will go without shooting valves through the truck’s hood.” As I approached the I-95 overpass, I noticed something blowing around in traffic, maybe a little brown bag or something. As I got nearer to the little obstacle, I noticed it was a cat. A tiny, tiny orange cat, running back and forth, skidding under an 18 wheeler, bouncing off the side of a car, and tapdancing faster than Mr. Bojangles.
As I passed, the small cat, a kitten, made it to the center median and started heading West along the jersey barriers. He who hesitates is lost, or at least a quarter mile past the tiny kitten in traffic. I didn’t pull over decisively, to my everlasting shame. Instead, I decided several hundred yards up the road I needed to stop and get the cat out of the traffic. So I zipped through moderately heavy traffic to make the I-95 North turnoff, drove to the 450 exit, got off, turned around, and headed down the 50 West onramp, thinking about this poor terrified cat. I got to Route 410, waited impatiently (the only light I didn’t blow this morning) and entered 50 Eastbound. Nearing I-95, I slowed. There was the cat, huddled on top of a sewer grate. I said a quick prayer that the thing was uninjured.
I pulled up on the inside shoulder, past the cat. I told William to sit quietly in his booster seat, Daddy had to take care of something. I took off my shirt – having captured feral cats before I anticipated this one would go down fighting – and started jogging up the road. When I got near the sewer grate, the cat saw me, and took off running Eastward, against traffic but at least adjacent to the jersey barriers. Hey, I can’t blame it, I’m kind of a big scary looking dude, and that’s when I’m trying to be friendly. I prayed it wouldn’t zip into the road, where the traffic was still heavy. After two or three attempts to pick up the cat, I wised up, jogged past it, and then started chasing the cat back toward the pickup. I really didn’t want to be down at Cheverly chasing this cat, while William sat in the pickup truck near New Carrolton.
Eventually, I caught up to the cat, and picked it up. It was very scared, panting and wheezing like Giacamo after a long hill. I rolled the kitten up in my shirt, and held it up to my chest, with its head under my chin. I started whispering to it as we maneuvered down the shoulder and into the pickup truck, and there it sat most of the way to the Vet’s office. William was fascinated by the kitten, and reached out several times to stroke it. He was a good co-pilot while I called Mandy to ask about whether she could handle the cat picking us as new owners. She was cool with it, and I decided to go to the vet and if the cat checked out, to welcome it into our home. The kitten was very gentle, didn’t try to swat or bite me, and eventually crawled down onto the passenger side floorboard to explore a little, then curl up.
About an hour ago, I got a call from the vet. “The kitten is fine. It’s got abrasion on its feet, under one eye, on a leg and its hip.” I explained to the vet the circumstances of its rescue, and she immediately understood.
In an hour or two, I’m heading over to the vet’s to pick the cat up. It occurs to me, that the cat and I have matching road rash right now, with the exception of the cat’s cut under the eye. The cat probably doesn’t have an achy shoulder, however, so I guess we’ll call it even. It’s a male, which makes its passivity when I picked it up in a fight/flight situation pretty remarkable. And that should help it get along with our female adult cat. So it will be fun to bring the cat home. But we’re already having an issue. Here’s my problem, and here’s where you can help.
Mandy, my wife, can’t agree with me about a name for this cat. It’s a boy, and I want to name him… well, there’s really only one name that occurred to me. I was coming home from a ride with Squadra Coppi. Had I not been for a ride with the Coppis – we lawyers call this “’but for’ causation” – this cat would be dead by now. And were it not for the Campionissimo himself, the Squadra Coppi probably would not exist. So it seems to me this cat is destined to be known as Fausto. And after all, Fausto Lives!
Other possible names I might accept include Bill, since he is an orange and white tiger striped cat, greatly resembling Bill the Cat. This would also be a nod to Coppi gregario Bill Cusmano, an incredibly encouraging teammate whose tips and cheering helped me keep up my resolve when starting racing was so very hard in February and March.
And perhaps, possibly, I’d accept Allez (Allez Cat, bad pun there), Robbie (for McEwen, since he was on a number of hostile wheels then pulled it out with a great sprint) or maybe Campy or Cole (short for Colnago). There’s Lance, or Bobke, maybe Geno or Eddie, maybe Johann (for Museew, the Lion of Flanders)… I dunno. I still really like Fausto. Because Fausto Lives! And that's the best thing you can say about this cat today.
In short, I need help with the name. My wife has come up with “Lucky,” which is nice, but not really adequate to express the sense of destiny I feel from the traffic patterns, the bike ride, and my mush-headedness all bringing me to a certain point in space time where I was willing to snag this cat out of traffic.
So leave your suggestions, or votes for one of my suggestions, in comments below.