Saturday, February 11, 2012

Jack Bauer's Cat

“I don’t want to freak Jackson out,” Carrie said setting the cat carrier in the middle of our bedroom floor.  I closed the door to the rest of the house to shrink this new space for him.  Carrie swung open the carrier and out slunk a long, full-grown white cat with a black saddle patch.  He crouched so low to the ground his legs looked like stubs.  His eyes, wide yellow orbs, darted about taking in the room, Carrie, Mr. Wonderful and me. 

“Hi Jackson,” I said gently petting his shedding coat.  “Welcome to your new home.”  He twitched with fear under my hand then stretched his nose to the bed and sniffed it. 
 
“He likes beds,” Carrie said.  “The past five months, since Peggy’s… passing, he’s spent hiding under the bed.  I think it’s depression.”  I understood how the cat felt.  We all missed Peggy. 

“We’ll cure him of that,” I said looking at Carrie.  “Our bed is only four inches off the ground he won’t fit under it.” 

“Think again,” Mr. Wonderful said as we watched Jackson flatten to the floor and wiggle under the bed.  And there he stayed while we gave Carrie a tour of the house, shared a bottle of wine, discussed home ownership, debated the slate of new TV shows, chatted about her volunteer work with cat rescue, sung the praises of clumping cat litter, filled the domed litter box, loaded her car and she drove off. 

That evening Mr. Wonderful and I tried coaxing Jackson out from under the bed.  “Come out, kitty-cat,” I said shaking some kibble in my hand.  Sandwiched between the bed springs and floor he remained frozen in that uncomfortable position while looking around with fear.

“We should rename him,” Mr. Wonderful announced.   “I don’t like ‘Jackson’.”
“He lost everything he’s ever known," I said, "and now you want him to lose his name, too?  No way.  Besides Jackson is part of his origin story.”  Mr. Wonderful kinked an eyebrow at me. 

I explained how I’d met Peggy, the cat lover, while we were both working on “24”, the TV show starring Kiefer Sutherland.  As one of our Emmy-winning Casting Directors, Peggy was responsible for finding the next bad guy for Jack to chase or the new female love interest for Jack to pine for but not kiss.  Although “24” was a Fox production we didn’t shoot on the studio lot but in Chatsworth, a remote part of the San Fernando Valley not far from where, in the golden days of Hollywood, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had a sprawling weekend ranch looking out over the Valley’s lush acres of citrus groves.  These days Chatsworth was known as the center of the porn filming industry and, for a couple years in the aughts, as the home to “24”.

The “24” studio consisted of a former pencil factory that our Production Designer transformed into Jack Bauer’s Los Angeles, the CTU and innumerable safehouses.  The show’s construction crew had cut a two-story high doorway into the wall complete with a barn-sized sliding door to facilitate building and tearing down sets.  Often during the 9-16 hour workday, this huge door was left open.  Entering through it one morning Peggy heard a soft mewing.  Crouched among the set decorations she found a lone black and white kitten so tiny she could hold him in the palm of her hand.  Clearly hungry she set out a bowl of milk hoping to tide him over until his mother returned.  When after two weeks the mother cat still hadn’t appeared, Peggy brought the kitten home for the weekend and the rest was history.  She said it took the kitten about 20 minutes to adapt to her cozy condo in West Hollywood where she spoiled him along with two other cats. 

Not wanting to forget she’d found him on Jack Bauer’s set, she named him Jack’s son. 

“So we can’t change his name,” I said.  “Jackson is all he knows, right Jackson?”

Still crouching under the bed, the cat turned his head toward me, his yellow eyes locked on mine.  Nope, he hadn’t forgotten his name.