We used to play with our stuffed animals when we were little girls. The cats, the puppies, and the one mouse who married a bunny (she was the only one his size), they all had lives of their own. Sometimes, they chased each other around the mother’s house (I or my sister), and other times, they were getting dressed up in beautiful boas and ill-fitting doll dresses and going to lunch or buying expensive costume jewelry…
As we got older, Cat City, for the cats, elected a mayor, and then there was an underworld gang of dogs and cats working together that the mayor could never get to… Robby’s Boys, run by the meanest Dalmatian ever, wearing a sharp fire engine red suit.
Then, we got the cat-tracks races where cats were starved to see famous mice run and have their favorite cat mousers chase them.
As a teenager, I was drawing Franchesca F. Kitty raising her arms up in snowy spotlight, singing her heart out as a raging crowd swatted grateful paws into the air.
I called it the Catpollo (obviously, when I was once a little Black girl).
In my twenties, I tried it out as a story, and it was good… but the problem was, I had been drawing Cat City for years. Franchesca’s face over and over and over again, in so many different wigs and brilliant natural hairstyles, pairs of earrings, crazy outfits dyed to match her purses and even her limousines…
So, a few old housepet stuffed animals got their own, drawn lives.
But one thing was always consistent with Franchesca, whether I was seven or seventeen: it was about her journey and her friends’ journeys to learn how to be grown up and do things for themselves. The fantasy was never a cat so rich you got sick on the thought of it and felt kinda bad about yourself… the dream was of a kitty so clever, she was able to mesmerize the world with her strange passion. Franchesca always dreamed of giving cats the same wonderful things people had. She felt cats should believe in themselves more. Franchesca’s wild sweetness turned out to be her great strength.
Eventually, Franchesca figured out how to get things done, how to outwit the mob, and get her Catpollo off the ground with the help of funny friends. F.F. Kitty started out silly and ended up sassy.
I’m actually… relieved, to be finally sharing Cat City with you guys. Franchesca has always been one of my very best girlfriends.