It was Easter Monday, and we had been away in Brisbane for the long weekend, spending time with Mum and our manchild who has moved out (so he’s probably just “man” now).
When we have small stays away we have an amazing young girl- Little A- come and mind our cat. She comes and stays for hours, forcing pats on Woofa The Shitcat, and just hanging with her. Sometimes in life you meet people who are true animal whisperers, and cats know them, and know them well. You see, this little sunshine came to live next door to us when Woofa was spending one of her 482748972957892759 lives. In those weeks I was feeding her Ziwi pellets like they were tablets and giving her water in a syringe. Little A was right there with me much of the time. Cheering Woofa on, and sending her the good juju.
Once Woofa recovered (no one fully knows how) Little A was there to give her ear rubs and toe tickles. Woofa was a cat who loved very few, and Little A was one of them, and for that I am grateful. For the next part of this story is not so nice.
Warning: Not nice stuff to follow.
When we got home from our trip, Woofa did what she always did- as we bought in the cases, she shot out like a bullet to make her ablutions. She would abide the shitty-litter when needed, but she always preferred a fresh air toilette. Before too long she was back inside to spread her fur over as many of our black clothes as she could- marking our legs with her scent and making us angora-like. I used to find that annoying, or at least the depilation that was always required after a Woofa encounter. I would take that annoyingness now.
As I was starting on the washing, Woofa decided she needed another run outside. It was nearing dark, and I usually wouldn’t have let her out, but she had been inside all weekend, and I thought, “Why not?” Why not indeed. Sometimes in life you have to be cruel to be kind, and other times you think you are being kind when unbeknownst to yourself you are actually being cruel. This is my guilty cruel.
I let my cat out for some freedom and to let her breathe the cool night air, and within minutes the massive cat-killing-listed-dangerous-dog next door; the one who is not allowed to be unmuzzled or in fact off its lead, EVER, had my little mate in his mouth, crushing that night breath right out of her.
Crushing her little lungs until they couldn’t draw in one more ounce of air.
Crushing her and crushing us at the very same time.
We got Woofa at a time when life was tricky. My Dad had died earlier that year, and I had a gaping maw in my insides that didn’t feel like a hole at all, but a lump of bluestone; just as heavy, just as cold, just as grey. I didn’t know quite how to grow around grief back then (oh what a thing to know:
joy not joy) so when I looked into the blue eyes of that tiny kitten and I felt a little chip of bluestone fall away, I had to have her. Don’t get me wrong: I pretended that she was for the children (MOTY, me) but I think we all knew she was for me.
And so she was.
She was the one who sat with me through the long nights of worry about Coco. I would sit on the couch in Coco’s room, watching the rise and fall of her chest in the eon-nights before the horror-relief of transfusion day, trying to decide if she was doing the “puffy breathing” that constituted an emergency (what the hell is puffy breathing anyway?) and Woofa would purr a rhythm of a normal life. Some nights I could even believe her song.
She was the one who sat on my feet and kept me warm all the nights when Hayls was crook and I didn’t have the words to cheer her on in a way that she would feel buoyed. And then after. She was there with that same warmth in the after, when she cajoled me to believe that one day I would feel warmth in my blood again. And she was right, that cat of mine.
Or perhaps I was hers.
I guess that’s more true. I was hers. She owned a piece of real estate in my cells in exchange for all of the things she gave me.
By and by and through the years my life got easier and less grief filled. Less death, less fear, more life, more fun. Things got easier and harder and easier again, and all the while, any time I had sleepless hormonal nights, or early morning wakings, she was there and there and there with me. I’d open my lids and there she’d be, right up close and staring at me with those blue eyes saying, “It’s okay. You’ve got this. You’ve always got this. Now get me some food. And by the way, I don’t really give a shit about what ails your mind, give me the food. Now would be good.” I would raise myself from the bed and the so-familiar-it’s-almost-unnoticed ba-dumph of her hitting the floor would follow me to the kitchen.
There’s now been a little time since the Cujo next door killed my mate. Enough that you’d think I’d be used to going to the pantry without being accosted for “meo-ore food, meo-ore food”. But I still reach for the bag.
Enough that you’d think I would have stopped dream-thinking there is a little warm comfort weight on my feet at night. But I still feel the heft of her.
Enough that you’d think that I would have stopped half waiting for the ba-dumph. But I hear it in my mind.
Death is a strange and cruel thing. It allows your brain to leave you with things added: guilt that you let your cat outside to be picked up by a monster, fear that you might lose it like George at the murderer’s owner if she dares come near, anger that some deaths can be so so simply avoided, and yet they are not.
But the reaper? He leaves you not with things added, but with things taken away:
your little friend,
and perhaps most of all the ba-dumph as she follows you, to salve your heart.
RIP Woofa Shitcat Butterball Popsicle Asher. You were a Goodcat after all.