Is that the cry of a baby?
Of course not! Then again, it may be.
It was yesterday, wasn’t it? The cry drove Paul out to the parking lot. He glanced around. Nothing.
About to reenter his building, a movement under the bushes caught his eye. He edged closer. An orange and white kitten, damp, dirty and terrified, skittered away. Paul took a step forward. The kitten dashed along the foundation.
Another step. Another dash.
So began my husband’s attempt the catch the creature, who stayed just beyond reach. Eventually Paul grabbed a twig and leaned forward to brush it lightly along the kitten’s back. It stopped and arched against the stick. A mighty purr arose, much too loud for the size of the little thing. One gentle touch and the kitten decided to trust.
Inside, Paul cleaned him off and comforted him. All the while, the kitten’s eyes and nose ran, yet he continued his throaty purr.
What to do? Paul couldn’t leave him to his fate in the parking lot. We had our twenty-fifth anniversary party the next day. There was no time to care for a sick kitten probably not litter box trained. A friend took him for the weekend, even offered to deposit him at the Humane Society on Monday.
Paul said, “No. He’s going to the vet instead.”
The kitten’s haphazard spots of orange tabby cause the appearance of caramel spilled on a white coat. Caramel became ‘Carmi’, making him the fourth cat in an already full house.
We soon realized we had a cuddler. He enjoys a serene lap and most of his nights have been spent under the covers, curled against me, his head on my arm.
Like all of us, Carmi has his quirks. If he goes to the water bowl in the night and finds it empty, the ceramic bowl goes bouncing across the kitchen floor. Thud! Thud! But if it’s the food bowl that’s empty, things on our nightstands become disarrayed. Framed pictures wind up on their faces. Small items drop into a waste basket. The alarm clock lands on the floor.
He has a voice like a Siamese. Sitting in a window, he reports what’s outside. Usually, it’s nothing. So what does he see? A mouse in the brush? A chipmunk up a tree? One day, Carmi had his eyes glued on the back woods trail. Paul pulled him off the window ledge. He went right back. Paul took him to another room. Insistent, Carmi went back. Paul even put his shoes on and walked the trail. Nothing! Does Carmi see angels? Has God given animals that ability?
Before housesitters, the cats all went on vacation with us. One time we boarded a ferry and parked our motorhome as directed. Paul went out to shut off the propane. I grabbed essentials, preparing to go above, then counted noses. Mr Meows. Miss Kitty. Tiger. Where was Carmi?
Oh, no! Had he slipped out the door? Paul searched under vehicles on the car deck while I searched inside, even in overhead cupboards. Due to arthritis, Carmi isn’t a climber anymore. But I was desperate. Working myself into a panic, I noticed the three-by-five inch space leading behind the couch. I clawed the fabric forward. There he was, crouched in a corner, trembling. The pulse of the ferry engines beneath us must have terrified him.
Years ago, he developed obsessive-compulsive overgrooming disorder. Medications made him a zombie, even in smaller doses. So we threw out the pills and created a thick, ruffled collar. He sometimes manages to get his collar off and licks big patches of fur from his belly, tail and legs. He looks like a mangy outcast but we still love him.
It was yesterday, wasn’t it, when Carmi joined our family? His ‘siblings’ of that day are all gone and we have four more. Now, twelve years later, Carmi is the alpha cat. But his mobility is stiff. A cancerous tumor has opened on the side of his face – a black, smelly mess. Eating is difficult. Yet through it all, he still purrs and rubs our legs.
For everything there is a season, a time to be born and a time to die. Carmi’s day is ending. Through tears, I made the appointment to say “Goodbye” to our sweet boy. Breakfast table beggar. Mouser extraordinaire. The only cat we’ve ever known to bark.
In grief, we both shall weep
when Carmi goes to sleep.
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