Because Max and Minx fell in hate at first sight, there was no question of Minx becoming an indoor cat. Fortunately, given her history, she was used to fending for herself, so each morning she would eat her breakfast, then go out to patrol the block and make her rounds. There were many old houses in the area, and every year a couple of them would be demolished. Whenever this happened, Minx became a cat with a mission. She would set out, determined to round up the dispossessed mice. We used to refer to her as the neighbourhood policeman. She would return to nap in Katie’s room in the afternoon, often bringing gifts to the window and being most put out when made to discard them before entering. However, Katie’s room became Minx’s sanctuary as a gate in the stairwell prevented Max from getting down to the lower floor.
Naturally, Max and Minx had to share the garden, but fortunately we had a wide front garden and a gated and fenced back garden with a trellis dividing off the rear section. Max was able to enjoy the large grassy area in the back in safety and security. Minx claimed the front garden and the rear section beyond the trellis, and would either stroll along the high brick wall between the two or neatly slip through the side fences to the neighbours’ gardens and go back and forth through their lots. This, of course, only worked if Sheamus and Max F were not outside in their own gardens, but she seemed to developed radar for which dogs were out when. Her skill in negotiating these three large canines in time earned her the epithet, The Grey Shadow.
Minx also used her fences to tease Max unmercifully. Seeing Max lying in the garden, she would bob under the gate by the trellis, take a leisurely sniff in the flower bed, always keeping one eye watching for when Max gave in to temptation and charged. Then, at the very last moment, she would slip back under the gate, leaving her arch foe panting in fury on the other side. After a couple of years, Max gave up trying to catch her, although he never stopped being jealous of the new acquisition.
On one occasion, Hugh and I were enjoying coffee in the garden. Max was at our feet, lying between our chairs. Suddenly Minx bobbed into view by the trellis. Max made a great show of pretending not to see her. If he couldn’t eat her, he preferred to ignore her. However, Minx continued to sit at the other end of the garden, and after a few minutes, I made the mistake of calling “hello” to her. Instantly Max’s face was transformed. If a white husky could turn green, he would have done so at that moment. He might have learned to tolerate the cat’s presence, but he had no intention of allowing his mistress to talk to the animal. He charged down the garden at such speed we were amazed he was able to brake at the gate. Minx, by then, was gloating on the other side. Poor Max! Such indignity to be outfoxed by the invader to his home.
To our relief, at some point in their lifetime, Minx and Max seemed to declare a truce. They didn’t like each other, but they left each other alone. Each Christmas Day, they looked a little mulish, but they accepted that we all inhabited the same room for present-opening, albeit, in their case, at opposite ends of the room. And occasionally, we even caught a glimpse of collaboration, like the time a big moggy came through the fence and chased Minx across our garden. Max happened to be outside, and as Minx streaked the length of the yard and whizzed out the front gate, Max bounded between her and the visitor, treeing the intruder mid-garden. It was almost as if he and Minx had planned it, so who knows what really went on between those two sets of furry pointed ears.
The ongoing feud between Minx and Max was trying at times, but it inspired several new puppet shows. Hugh made a grey Manx puppet, I wrote some new scripts, one of which included a theme song for Minx, and the dog-and-cat rivalry was transferred to the stage. Rehearsals could sometimes be tricky, for Max liked to hang out under the theatre as we worked, but occasionally, Minx would amble into the area, hop onto the stage to join the puppets, or go hide in the stacks of revolves in the scene shop, and we would have to call a halt while we restored order out of the chaos that ensued. It was also interesting to note that, whenever Minx came to check out the marionettes, it was always the Max puppet that she whacked on the nose.
Still, those two rivals were both much loved members of our household, and in their puppet forms, they co-starred in several shows. Max and Minx always played themselves or their pet ancestors. In shows with modern settings like The Christmas Spirit or The Cinderella Caper, they belonged to a character named Jim McCluskie, but were often in the care of Tilly and her boyfriend, Pete. The Cinderella Caper was the first show for Minx, and as it was a show about putting on a show, she also got to play Thuggerpaws, the stepmother’s cat.
In The Sorcerer Princess, Max and Minx were palace pets in the court of Mad King George and had a wonderful adventure rescuing Santa from the machinations of a villainous bat. The Highwayman’s Christmas starred Max as MaxHeath and was originally produced before Minx’s arrival, but years later it was expanded into a bigger show with a long first scene that included not only parts for Minx the Manx, but also roles for our three grandchildren.
However, it was Max’s final show that provided the best showcase for the two puppets. This was The Christmas Present of Christmas Past, where Max, along with Santa and a variety of other characters, was transported back to Ancient Rome. Minx had a double role, playing herself in the modern scenes and ‘I Clawdia’, the empress’s cat in the Roman scenes. Just as Dwayne Campbell provided the perfect voice for Max, the Ho Hum Husky, Minx also acquired a perfect voice from Isabel Mendenhall, a wonderful local actress who ironically had played opposite Dwayne many times in stage plays. The interaction between the two was as charming on the puppet stage as it had been in the live productions. So like it or not, Max the Ho Hum Husky was linked permanently with Minx the Manx, on stage and off. He just had to learn to co-habit with that darned cat.