Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)
TITLE: Raining Cats and Dogs
By Marlene Bonney
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They were wrong, and missed the obvious.
I did it because I was lonely.
Before I did it, I would watch young mothers with their charges in the park. I tried to store up the children’s laughter for later enjoyment.
Before I did it, I would watch young couples sharing date nights at my favorite restaurant, my singly occupied booth stuck in a corner. I remember a fellow there, proposing to his girl down on one knee, her tearful, smiling face staring down at him with such tenderness, my heart leapt.
Before I did it, my factory co-workers seemingly only tolerated my attempts at conversation, so I spent my breaks in the restroom lounge. The alternative was to conspicuously sit alone at a lunch table.
Before I did it, books were my best friends. I would spend hours sharing various identities, the heroine’s sorrows and victories becoming mine. When the story ended, the character I had been playing died and the drapes of my heart pulled shut again, much like a theatre curtain at the end of a play.
The first time I did it, plaintive cries at my doorstep beckoned me and once I saw the tiny baby, I was hooked. Only a couple of weeks old, that little mite was left shivering in the cool morning mist.
“Where’s your mama, little one,” I had asked, scanning my back yard. A wail was the only response and I cuddled the little one in my arms, trying to ease it’s shaking. I decided not to report the incident to authorities, knowing how often the system failed. I would NOT release my charge into their care, leaving him twice abandoned.
“There, there, you’ll be safe now.” Fortunately, I had some fresh milk on hand and the poor little thing speedily lapped the bowl dry.
That was the beginning. I named the kitten Monty and we became inseparable. I even made a basket into a soft nest for him next to my bed. After I returned home from work, I told him about my day—I could readily see evidence of what he had been doing in my absence. It was quite a responsibility, knowing I was the sole provider for his survival.
My life became fuller, happier. People who had never spoken to me previously, now carried on conversations with me, Monty the central subject.
The second time I rescued a cast-off, I was out walking. The twins had been carelessly tied in a holey canvas bag and Mandy was fruitlessly trying to push her head through an opening. Mattie was weaker and listless, requiring immediate nourishment. Monty reluctantly shared his turf with two new sisters, but as time went on, he grew fond of them, still enjoying his status as Big Brother.
The third time, a woman at church approached me. Her child’s cat, Slinky, had birthed a litter of kittens and the little girl, told they could only house one of the babies, was only consoled at the suggestion that I might parent the others.
Thereafter, this child began visiting my front porch with her friends, all of them clamoring to entertain the kittens and picking out their favorites. I didn’t mind. I soaked up all the attention like an oasis-starved desert. After Monty, Mandy & Mattie and the quintuplets (Spunky, Horace, Lady, Trouble, and Lassie) Jerky, Blackie, Silky, and Smoky each arrived. It kept me hopping, keeping them out of trouble!
The more time I spent with these little miracles from God, the more I saw certain traits I recognized in people: the twitching of a face muscle, the staggered walk of another, the frantic energy of somebody else. (I wished I had the courage to rename the cats with those of what I saw as their human counterparts!)
It wasn’t until much later on that I realized I had become something of a celebrity in our area. And half of the people didn’t even know my name!
I was labeled and forever known as “The Cat Lady”! And, I was actually flattered!
I will also be forever grateful, because across town there was a lonely old gentleman who had heard about me—he had a fondness for stray puppies. We met one day at the animal park, me accompanied by six of my cats and he walking along with four frisky puppies at his side.
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