I was tempted to do one of my song list posts, but one of the songs, “Within You Without You” by George Harrison (yes, when he was with the Beatles, but he was responsible for all the Indian music) was blocked by UMG, whoever the hell they are. So that’s out.
Over the years, most of my cats have been indoor cats, but I had one who liked to go out. She was a stray that I named Mouthwash, and I tried but couldn’t find any pictures of her. She was a gray tabby, who had a big white spot on her mouth, and she kind of looked green in certain kinds of light, kind of like Scope mouthwash, hence the name. A few years later, we took in another stray, Judy, who was pregnant and gave birth to five kittens. One of them, Lovey (also known as Spike, because she liked to hit cats and people) had a similar spot on her mouth, but the other side. We think there might have been a common relative.
I was never sure if Mouthwash actually belonged to someone else in the neighborhood or was actually a stray, but she liked us and would come in and sleep with us sometimes. We would feed her on the back deck, and with her a family of raccoons. We didn’t intend on feeding the raccoons, they just sort of came along. It was a mother and four kits, and they would eat the cat food we had left for Mouthwash. We had put a double dish out there with food in both compartments, and when the kits would eat, two would eat out of each bowl, one facing the house, the other facing the yard. Mom raccoon would sit there and watch the kits, and Mouthwash would sit a few feet away. They got along with each other. She got along well with our cats, too, never getting into fights with them. She left them alone, they left her alone.
When she wanted to go out, she’d stand at the front door and wait for one of us (usually me) to let her out. When she wanted to come back in, we’d hear her making noise on the porch and let her in. Occasionally she’d be standing out there yowling, and we knew she had brought us a gift. Sometimes it was a little bird, other times a mouse. Once she brought a little mole. We learned that you always accept a gift that the cat brings you, because they think, because we don’t hunt, we can’t feed ourselves, and that it’s best to thank the cat profusely and accept whatever they brought you, no matter how gross it might be, and dispose of it quietly.
She got to where she wanted to come and go about ten times a day. I’d let her out, and in, and out… We joked that the way she was going to get into heaven was to walk in and out the Pearly Gates until St. Peter said “Come in or go out!” Then she’d go in. When she slept in the house, she would sleep on the bed, at my feet. I had to be careful not to kick her out.
After a while, she took her meals outside, and we moved the food dish to the front porch, since she was going and coming via the front door all the time. In the morning, I’d go out with the food in the morning and she’d be waiting for me, and I’d feed her.
One morning I went out and didn’t see her there. I put some food in her bowl, figuring she had gone out exploring, but I was a little worried. I got more worried when the food remained untouched for several days, and finally realized she wasn’t coming back. Had she belonged to one of the neighbors, who decided to keep her inside, or moved? Had she wandered off and gotten hit by a car, or eaten by a hawk or owl? Had she gotten into a fight and died of her injuries? Had she wandered into the natural area behind the house and had a heart attack?
A couple of days before she disappeared, I was working in the yard and she came and wanted all kinds of attention and was climbing all over me. It wasn’t typical for her to do that, and it struck me that she was saying goodbye, telling me she loved me. She might have known she was headed for the Bridge soon, and wanted me to know that before she passed.
There are days I walk out the front door and expect to see her there, wanting to be fed. I know it’s impossible; this was almost twenty years ago and she was a grown cat. But we can always hope.
from The Sound of One Hand Typing