I have a new cat. His name is Zathras, and he's fine orange neutered male, a friendly soul. And boy do I wish he were not mine.

The reason Zathras joined my house is that I lost another friend. In December I lost Ted. On Friday I served as pallbearer for Helen. And now Tom is dead.

Tom Newton had been my friend for 22 years. We we're roommates, played in a garage band together. When I needed a favor, Tom came. When he needed a catsitter for Zathras, I came.

It is difficult to sum up long term friendships in few words. Tom was quiet man, a bit shy, who worked to live but really wanted to be an artist. He went to business school because his parents wanted him to eat. He studied jazz guitar. For a while, I was his Mac guru, then he got started and became mine. He was one of the first people doing digital transfers of art images, but because he wasn't one of the money men, he didn't make it with the business.

Tom hardly ever dated. It wasn't that he didn't like girls. Partly it was becasue he was shy. Partly it was because of guilt. HIs father died from congenital polycystic kidney disease when Tom was in high school. The death was slow and agonizing, and affected my friend deeply. Years later he would only date self-destructive women, the kind you don't bring home to mother though he was a big believer in family. He told me once, and only once, that he didn't want to put any woman through that. You see, Tom had the disease as well.

That was like him. He didn't complain. He just helped people, laughed and made them feel good. I was stunned when his family shared some of the nice things he'd said about me.

So now I have Zathras to join Boris and Virgil. He's a good cat, and I'll give him a good home. But it won't be better than the one he left.