Pumpkin the tiny, two-faced Tortie came into my life very unexpectedly, but in the most genuine way imaginable. I live in a loft apartment above a specialty plaster studio where I happen to work. One day, my boss, Kathy, received a phone call from a panicked friend, telling her he could no longer care for his cat because of his demanding career. Unbeknownst to me, this friend of Kathy’s happened to have lived in my current apartment years before me. Kathy decided that she had already taken in too many rescue pets at home, so our shop could use a new addition: a plaster-shop mascot.
When Pumpkin arrived, I was drawn to her striking features. She has the lightest green eyes and a distinct line down the center of her face, creating the look of a two-faced mask, left side orange, right side black. She has a split personality to match—sweet and sassy. After she sniffed around the dusty shop, I placed her on the chair I usually sit in while I work. For the job at hand, sanding capitals to be installed over architectural pilasters, I chose to stand as she sat and watched me. During my breaks I snapped photos of her and sent them to my then boyfriend Brett, who is now my fiancé (and who is a cat person as well), saying that I could not wait to introduce the two of them.
By the end of the workday, Pumpkin was sitting on my lap while I finished up my tasks. I scooted her off and back onto the chair as I clocked out and headed upstairs to my apartment. Dinner came and went, and I could not stomach the fact that this cat was all alone in the dark shop and would have to spend the whole night there. I told Brett I wanted to bring her upstairs, just to play with—and maybe have a sleepover. I headed down the spiral steps to the shop to find Pumpkin exactly where I left her, curled up on my chair. I took her in my arms and brought her upstairs. I didn’t find out until later that she had lived in the very same apartment as a kitten, but it made perfect sense because she acted like she owned the place. She remembered how to use the built-in cat door from the living room to the bedroom and how to escape to her favorite lookout spot, the loft. This was her home, and we were just paying the rent.
She quickly adapted to the space and to us. She now spends most days sunning herself in the front of the apartment and most nights curled up next to our heads on the pillows while we sleep—when she’s not being playful. Sometimes we are awakened by low snarls and Pumpkin carrying her latest catch (usually her mousie or ghostie toy) to us in bed. When Pumpkin gets extremely happy, she purrs so loud and so hard that she makes a quacking sound. At first we were alarmed by it and took her to the vet for an exam, which ended up being completely normal. Her quack is a mere case of excitement and postnasal drip.
Pumpkin has never gone back down to the plaster shop to live, only to visit Kathy and her dog, Ida May. She’s been such a key aspect of my life here. This apartment was the first home Brett and I picked out together back in 2015, and it’s where Brett proposed to me. Pumpkin is our first pet to care for as a couple and was very much involved in our engagement. The night Brett proposed to me, Pumpkin wore a custom tag around her neck that read: “How About Forever?” She missed her cue to come out of the bedroom, but the message was still received.
Jacqueline Nowakowski is a working artist living in Philadelphia, Pa. She works for a fancy plaster company, specializing in an old world plaster-marbling technique called Scagliola.