Wednesday, June 13, 2012
R.I.P. Needy Cat It had rained during the night. I had awakened several times disturbed by the memories of images from yesterday and I heard the downpour. It roared on the roof of the house and water cascaded from the gazebo in the backyard. I stood at the backdoor staring out at the rain through the screen door and my heart was broken. The willow dripped. It was weeping too. Yesterday morning, the twelfth of June, was bright and sunny. The first day of summer was nigh. I had walked to the car and glanced to the end of the driveway where I saw our tuxedo cat lying on the hot pavement like an old hound dog. Her back was towards me and her legs stretched out as if she had just rolled over to scratch her back and was resting. It was quiet on the street where children often rode their bikes laughing and ringing bells and mothers chatted pushing strollers as they exercised. Then a magpie landed just a few feet from her with a flap of the wings and a squawk. That was when I knew something was wrong. The sun glistened on the bird's black shiny feathers, its white shoulders were bright in the sunshine. It looked at me and took a tentative step towards the resting cat, but the cat did not move. I hurried to her, shooing the bird away. It would not have been so brave if things were right and normal in the world. She had appeared wide eyed and desperate in our garden eighteen months ago, looking lean and frightened. Her expression prompted Eileen to name her Needy Cat. She was black with a white chest and belly and four white feet, a spiffy tuxedo cat. Her tail was long and expressive, a lovely animal. No collar, no tattoo that I could see. She was about a year old and let me pick her up without complaining. When she hadn't gone away after a day or two I put down a dish for her. We had had a beloved outside cat who had died a year before Needy came to us, a ginger named Bailey. I put kibble out on the stoop where previously I had placed food for Bailey. Sometimes life seems so circular. There was a large metal bowl under the outside tap at the rear of the house to catch drips. Sometimes it harboured a frog. Needy Cat found a safe place to sleep among some boxes in the carport and before long I had put out a basket for her with an old blanket. The nights grew shorter and though we didn't let her inside - we had an older, inside cat named Ellie, she hadn't left. Then I put her basket into a large cardboard box on top of the others where she could have a good view of things, maintaining the high ground, and I draped a blanket partly over the front to keep out the draft. When the snows came I put a small lamp with a 25 watt bulb into the box. She had passed two winters that way and on a summer's day she would rest in my lap purring Now, she was gone. I knelt beside her on the edge of the roadway. She hadn't even managed to make it to the safety of the driveway after being struck, so it must have been instantaneous. She was still warm and soft when I got to her. I had still hoped she would get up when I stroked her, and follow me into the house, but her eyes were lifeless and she was not breathing. I picked her up and carried her to the carport. The magpie lurked. I told Eileen that Needy Cat had been hit by a car and had died. She was horrified. "No! It can't be,” she protested. “I was just petting her ten minutes ago!" I put my arms around her, and we consoled each other. I had played with Needy myself half an hour before as I did every morning when I put out her kitty kibble. She showed me the bright wide-eyed look that had earned her her name, then she was face down in her breakfast. The suddenness of it was what shocked me. One minute a loved pet, part of the household plans when booking a trip, an undeniable element of our daily lives, was there, a complex life with moods and attitudes, an object of adoration, then, abruptly, she was absent without warning, never to return. We held each other, knowing in some part of our hearts, that we were just as vulnerable. I tried to sleep last night but the images of her, lying in the road as the magpie arrived remorselessly, dispassionately, to peck at her, her limp body slumped in my hands, the trickle of blood falling from her mouth, disturbed my dreams. The rain I saw at 5am, bouncing off the metal roof of the shed in the gray of pre-dawn, completed my misery. I wanted to tell someone what a rotten cat she had been, all the nuisance she had caused, about the scratches, the expense, the trouble I had gone to, in making a bed for her, heat lamp and all, to make me miss her less. I started writing it down, and here at the keyboard, was where Eileen found me this morning, tears dripping onto my fingers.