Occupie the cat
In which a cat joins a coffee shop knitting group, with the obvious results.
Occupie the cat was a tortoiseshell yarn terrorist.
She showed up at the local coffee shop one day, a fuzzy little stray, much to the surprise of the shop’s owner, Fred. Tall and lanky with a shock of disheveled dark hair and a bushy mustache, Fred spent his days turning green coffee beans into some of the most delicious custom roasts in New York’s Capital Region. It didn’t take him long to develop a soft spot for his new feline mascot.
It was autumn, 2011, and the Occupy movement was at its height. Tent communities were popping up in capital cities across the country as the self-proclaimed 99% gathered to protest the opulent riches they claimed were lavished on the 1%—as if being a nuisance could somehow overturn a centuries-old power structure. True to his stoic sense of humor, Fred named the cat “Occupie” and set up a tent on the stage at the far end of the shop to serve as her personal hideout.
But Occupie didn’t have anything to protest. She was warm and well-fed and enjoyed an endless stream of love from the shop’s patrons—including the group of knitters, crocheters and spinners that met there on Fridays for coffee and conversation. Her friendly presence was a welcome addition for she wasn’t one to cause trouble…most of the time.
As part of the fiber-obsessed Friday crowd, I tossed my knitting bag in the car at the end of every week and took the 15-minute drive along winding country roads to rural Dunham Hollow where the shop sat, ready to welcome me with the rich aroma of roasting coffee.
The carousel horse in the entryway greeted me with its ever-vigilant painted eye as I pushed the door open, bringing with me a blast of chilly October air. Its fiberglass gaze hinted at the eclectic setting beyond: a bright and comfortable room with a lofty ceiling, mismatched furniture and an atmosphere that swept away any notions of hurry.
I made my way between the “take one, leave one” bookshelf and the pool table, past displays of sugar-stuffed treats and glass containers of whole roasted coffee beans to the tiny kitchen with its equally tiny order window. Once I had my customary cup of dark-roasted “Indo Noir” decaf in hand, it was on to the couches and chairs where the others were perched, soaking up ambient heat from a small black wood stove as coffee beans tumbled and clanked inside two giant drum roasters by the windows.
Colder days called for a move to the stone behemoth of a fireplace at the other end of the room. Fred stocked its expansive interior with logs that looked like they would have been right at home among giant redwoods, and the roaring flames were welcome to hands that spent the better part of the afternoon wrapped around metal knitting needles.
We were a diverse and eccentric group, as knitters tend to be. There was Marty, who owned llamas; and Martie, who could be found either knitting or spinning depending on the week. Alison brought her Scottish accent and abrasive sense of humor. And there were the three Lauries: one was a nurse who owned horses, another was Jewish and seemed always to be working on something intricate and the third was warm and friendly with a bubbly personality.
Stephanie owned the small local yarn shop around the corner from the grocery store. Monty’s unreliable memory gave her a tendency to tell the same stories from week to week, but she had such a sweet personality and interesting history that nobody really minded.
For Occupie, our collective fiber obsession was much more entertaining than our conversation. It didn’t take her long to earn the title of Yarn Terrorist. Those foolish enough to bring spinning wheels were met with a flurry of paws eager to bat at dangling lengths of carded fleece. And any yarn that dared peek out from a knitter’s project bag was fair game for attack.
Sometimes, though, Occupie just wanted to be loved. I’d be minding my own business, zipping through rounds of a sock or rows of a sweater, and suddenly she’d be on the couch next to me, pressing her warm little body up against my thigh. Yarn terrorist or not, it was hard to say no to her demands for attention.
But unlike her namesake movement, Occupie wasn’t completely fixated on what she could get out of her coffee shop vigil.
One day, nurse Laurie arrived in a state of quiet distress. Her voice subded, she explained that a young victim of domestic abuse had died during her shift at the hospital. While the rest of us wrestled with the human awkwardness that comes from trying to figure out how to respond to such tragedy, Occupie abandoned her attacks on our projects and curled up near Laurie’s feet. Just like that, the Yarn Terrorist became the comforter. Somehow, she knew her quiet presence was what Laurie needed at that moment, and she stayed there for the entire afternoon.
We got used to that presence as a fixture of our knitting time at Fred’s. The weather grew colder, and law enforcement ousted Occupy protestors from their respective locations—but Occupie remained. It wasn’t until spring that she traded her tent on the stage for an adoptive home in nearby Averill Park.
Maybe there were knitters in her new family. Maybe not. But in my mind, Occupie will forever be the fuzzy, friendly yarn terrorist.