The Russian equivalent of shish kebab is shashlyk (more commonly spelled shashlik in English); it comes from the Caucasus, and I once had it on a Caucasian mountainside after waiting for an entire wedding party to be served, by which time I was so hungry I couldn’t tell you if it was any good. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about a cat.

Many years ago—well, fifteen years ago, as it turns out—my then wife and I decided to adopt one of a litter of kittens a friend had found on the street. She decided Shashlyk would be an excellent name for him, and he grew up to be a lean, agile, gray-furred adolescent, friendly to all comers and constantly seeking out new ways to sneak outside and explore the forbidden territory of the Astoria streets. I missed him after the divorce, and took pleasure in imagining his further adventures. Now word comes from my ex that the thread of his life has been cut: he had been depressed and refusing to eat, “a pile of skin and bones, unhappy and clearly uncomfortable,” and it’s finally all over. I hate to think of him that way, and I find it hard even to imagine him as an old cat; to me he’ll forever be the gray streak caught out of the corner of my eye flowing impossibly straight up a cabinet, or chasing his tail with endless enthusiasm, or staring wide-eyed at an invisible Martian in the corner, or sitting quietly in a kitchen drawer. Goodbye, kiddo; you were a good companion, even if you did stick those claws a little deeper into my thigh than was strictly necessary from time to time.


  1. I am sorry for your loss. Since I abruptly left Turkey, I have often thought of my cat Kedi, but I am unable to learn about him due to the circumstances of my departure. Since yesterday was WCW day, here’s a poem in memorium:
    As the cat
    climbed over
    the top of
    the jamcloset
    first the right
    then the hind
    stepped down
    into the pit of
    the empty

  2. Sorry to hear. It’s tough having to leave behind an old friend like that, be it by separation or by death. Both, that’s really tough.

  3. PF, that’s one of my favorite WCW poems, and I’d like to think I read it to Shashlyk at least once. I hope Kedi’s OK.

  4. (That’s what Leonard Cohen likes to call the human heart, you know – shish kebab.)

  5. When growing up as a suburban child in the summer time, my father, of blessed memory, would make shash lik outdoors in the grill. Of course, that was the only time men of his age would ever cook. We’d never call it shish kebab, but shash lik. I guess it was my grandparents’influence. And when he recently passed, his cat would walk around the condo, looking for him.

  6. Good grey memories. We’re very partial to Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats around these parts.
    (But I’ve just betrayed the cat cause and bought a puppy)

  7. A very moving obituary for a cat. I am reading this with Voyelle on my lap — her claws thankfully freshly blunted — and send my sympathies.

  8. Look at the bright side – there is not a living thing now to connect you with your ex.

  9. Heh. True.

  10. Can Yöney says

    shish kebab is a turkish term, we use it for meals like shashlyk.

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