Mr. Whiskers watched Larry the Cockroach slowly crawl by, pretending not to be aware of the dangerous predator nearby but obviously frightened beyond measure at the near certainty of his demise. Mr. Whiskers admired the cockroach for his bravery and thought of letting him go this once. He wondered if the creature would appreciate that his name was Larry and was sad that he could not ask him. Instead, he let the bug continue a few feet beyond his position on the sidewalk, just far enough to feel that he had escaped his fate, and then he pounced, catching Larry underneath his paws. He held the bug there for a moment, feeling him attempt to escape. He hadn’t eaten for a bit and the roach would make a nice snack, but he enjoyed the chase and this had been a bit too easy. He thought he’d give Larry another go and as quickly as he had pounced, he swatted his prey, sending him a few feet back in the direction he had come from.
Larry. Mr. Whiskers liked the name Larry and even thought that he might not eat the bug because he didn’t like the idea of eating a Larry. He wished he had given the bug a different name, like Milky. Milky was the name of a good meal. He knew a cat named Milky, though, and he liked Milky enough not to name his next meal after her. He thought perhaps he’d go by the house she lived in later and stare at her from the yard. Just long enough to let her know that he was around and if she ever made her way out of the window and out into the woods, he’d be there.
He heard some of the people in the bar talking about him one day, wondering if he liked his name, liked being Mr. Whiskers. One of them thought it was rather undignified, that perhaps he should have a name such as Bucephalous or Donatello. One thought perhaps Gatsby would be appropriate, given that he was a tuxedo cat. Then there was some nonsense about cats having secret names. The fact was, most of the cats he knew didn’t have names at all and only acquired a name when someone was good enough to provide one for them. He was Mr. Whiskers because the nice woman who worked over at the school, the one who was taken by the man who had gone away good and come back bad, had named him Mr. Whiskers and someone else heard it and it stuck and, frankly, he was happy to have a name and would occasionally even answer to it if the mood struck him to do so.
Larry bravely made his way past Mr. Whiskers once again. This time, rather than pounce, the cat rather cruelly swatted the bug back yet again simply because it amused him to do so. It was his right and privilege to play with his food. There was a danger to it, though. If he waited too long, some person might wander by and, like they do, step on Larry without a thought as to how it might affect the meal of a hungry cat. For the last few months, he wouldn’t have even thought to eat Larry. Play with him? Yes. Kill him? Perhaps. But not eat him. There had been a lot of human traffic through town over the last few months and the ones who came through were less than careful with their trash, which often included food and more than often, that food was offered kindly to the tuxedo cat that allowed them to pet him. He told the other cats that if they just let the humans offer a proper scratching from time to time, there were rewards. Risks, yes. His friend Walter, who was unceremoniously renamed Crayon by the six year-old girl who was named Francine who he was quite sure would not liked to be renamed something like Crayon by some random person who picked her up off the street and tried to make a housecat of her like she and her mother did to poor Walter who was now Crayon. Thus far, his status as the resident cat of Charlie’s Restaurant and the fact that everyone in town knew his name to be Mr. Whiskers protected him from abduction and renaming. But danger lurked everywhere and so he was ever vigilant.
Larry the cockroach was lucky today to have been named Larry. All things being equal, he preferred not to eat bugs and while he was a little hungry, he just couldn’t bring himself to eat a Larry. So this time, when the bug scuttled by, he let him go, hoping that Larry would find his way safely wherever he was going.