Li Chiapao was a slope-eyed cat with a white face, a white
belly and a grey fox back. The reason why he had a full name
was because he came from the family of Li, a good friend of my
younger sister’s. And Chiapao—family precious—was the name
given by my sister. Since he was of different lineage from other
family cats and dogs that were originally strays, we all called
him by his full name.
Li Chiapao had just been weaned when he first came to our
house. The moment I saw my sister walking in with a kitten in
her arms, I painfully grumbled: We’ve already had half a dozen
dogs, three rabbits and more than a dozen cats in the house! I
was far beyond the age of naivety, and much preferred living in
a clean tidy household to playing around with cats and dogs.
Therefore I wouldn’t even take a glance at Li Chiapao, despite the fact that even my father extolled him as the most fair and
tender cat he had ever seen.
A cat with a surname turned out to be truly unusual. I
couldn’t remember when he started to curl up like a peanut on
my palm. As he grew a bit older, he would climb up and leap
onto my shoulder. Regardless of whether I was reading, writing,
walking or doing things, he would squat on my shoulder as if
settling into his own home. When the weather turned cold, his
tail was just long enough to wrap around my neck in a full circle,
looking exactly like fox fur on some aristocratic woman’s
After cohabiting with him like this for a winter, I fell unwittingly
into his trap before I could even regret it. There I was
busy telling everyone I met about Chiapao’s exceptional look.
He had a short face with a pointed chin and a pair of large phosphorescent
eyes in olive green. The portion of his face below
the eyes, as well as his stomach and limbs, was pure white.
There were also pure-white Persian cats in our house, but
Chiapao’s white fur outshone all of theirs. Theirs was the powder
white, whereas Chiapao’s was the translucent china-white.
In the spring time, several pretty female cats in our house
were in heat, which made the tom-cats indoors and around the
neighborhood sexually aroused night and day. But Chiapao was
the only one totally unaffected, keeping company with humans
as always. I was therefore quite impressed by his un-animal
behavior. When the summer came again, if not sitting on my
shoulder, he would perch high up on the sill of the transom
above the living room door, looking down at the people, dogs
and cats on the ground in a detached, leisurely manner. When I
looked up occasionally and met his eyes, he would quickly flap
his tail a few times, very much like the tacit smile I would often exchange with a close friend while standing apart in a noisy
These behaviors of Chiapao also drew praise from other
family members. Some said that he was like a little devoted
Buddhist novice. Others commented that, if Paoyu in Dream of
the Red Chamber were reincarnated in the form of a cat, he
would surely look very much like the handsome Chiapao. As
for myself, I had somehow unconsciously taken him to be my
“white cat” prince.
There was a period of time when things were not going
well in my love life, during which I became even more attached
to Chiapao, until my younger sister suddenly made a discovery
one day. She asked me why lately the cat, dog and kid in the fiction,
essay and even script that I was writing were all named
Chiapao. She also said, laughingly, that if one day somebody
had nothing else to do but study my work of this period, he
would make a big deal of this for sure, assuming there was some
symbolic meaning in the word “Chiapao.” What she said grieved
me. Nobody would ever know that it was simply a lonely
girl’s wish to wake up one day to discover that Chiapao had
become a prince overnight, like the frog in the children’s story.
If Chiapao were a boy, he would surely treat me very well.
Shortly afterwards, an unforeseen event befell my friend
Wuzang’s family. He was an air force pilot on active service flying
the F-5E. Since there was no one to look after a newly
bought Borzoi hound, he gave the dog to us. The day before the
puppy was brought over, my younger sister and I had agreed that
whoever saw him first would be his mom. Since I was the one
who saw him first, I became the mom of puppy Tuotuo. Tuotuo
was just over a month old and weighed five kilograms at the
time. Now a year later he weighs forty kilograms. The extra thirty-five kilograms he gained cost me just about all my pocket
money previously used for snacks and flowers. And there was
no way to even measure the time and energy I spent.
After the arrival of Tuotuo, the time I used to spend with
Chiapao was naturally all taken. Since my family had found
Chiapao slapping Tuotuo’s face behind our backs more than
once, I had to tell Chiapao seriously that Tuotuo was the baby
and he had to act like a big brother. Chiapao was simply glad
that I finally spoke to him after such a long time. He jumped
onto my shoulder immediately with such familiarity that, ....