by Henny Penny
My aunt loved cats and this her story of how she and rusty became friends.
Miss Fanny called him "Rusty" the first time she saw him because his yellowish fur was the color of rich, ripe rust. Once used the name stuck, long before Rusty came to her. Miss Fanny's heart went out to the small alley creature because someone, thinking it sport perhaps, had cut off his tail about four inches from his body. Later it was discovered that the tail had been broken in two places once, close to the body and again near the end. Such unwarranted cruelty to a tiny innocent animal was beyond Miss Fanny's powers of imagination. "You poor little thing, what you must have suffered." she said in his general direction. "If you'll let me, I'll try to make it up to you."
Miss Fanny lived alone and greatly missed the children she had taught for so long. Having a deep interest in each boy and girl feeling that in some way they were hers. She found it difficult to live without that relationship now that her health would not permit her to teach. Her great need for somebody or something that needed her love now drew her to the little yellow cat.
Rusty came to Miss Fanny's one morning from the vacant lot across the street and down into the back yard. Miss Fanny had seen him many times before, he had appeared skittish. Having heard his plaintive little meow several times, he sounded as lonely as she felt. So it was delightful when Rusty came in the broad daylight, crossed the road and came on toward the back porch. Quickly turning to the kitchen and her refrigerator, she got out a small package of raw liver. Cutting off a piece tossing it out into the yard.
The cat ran to it, grabbed it up in his jaws and hurried around to the north side of the house where he devoured it greedily. Miss Fanny went out calling, "kitty little kitty." She saw him run under the wood house. "Let him come in his own time." she thought and returned to her small tasks. Her quick knowing eyes had discovered something though that made her all the more eager to gain his trust. His yellow fur was rough and coarse looking. Along his backbone the short hairs stood up and she saw him vigorously scratching.
Miss Fanny wasn't sure but nearly so, that Rusty had a bad case of cat mange and if he wasn't helped soon it would kill him. Miss Fanny's compassion embraced the little fellow as it did all helpless things in trouble .But she couldn't do anything for him, she mused, until he would let her. Miss Fanny knew just what she would do off to the drugstore to get a tube of the medicine that was effective for cats and dogs with mange. Luckily it didn't even cost a dollar and would be enough for several treatments. Suiting the action to the thought she set forth and soon returned with hope for Rusty.
A day or two passed with no signs of the little animal, although Miss Fanny watched for him often. Then one morning there he was right at the back door. She was shaking with delight. Propping the screen door open with the broom she went to get some more liver. Placing it on a piece of paper on the porch floor then went back into the room closing the door. As before Rusty took the meat and left with it. Miss Fanny hardly knew how it happened, but there was Rusty right in the kitchen. Miss Fanny left both doors opened so he could leave as soon as he wished, but he didn't seem to eager to go. Still Rusty wasn't completely at ease he sat by the stove eying Miss Fanny's every move. Before long Rusty got up and ran outside.
After this Rusty definitely became Miss Fanny's cat. It reached the point where he would permit her to stroke him and appeared to enjoy it. "Soon, soon." she thought. "I must begin the treatment, but not until I've gained his complete trust, because of course he won't understand." The medicine wouldn't hurt him, but would make him feel nasty and uncomfortable and cats as you know like to be clean. Rusty ate his food near the kitchen stove now and the friendship between them grew.
The morning came when Miss Fanny felt she had waited long enough. She placed a newspaper on the kitchen floor, called Rusty to her and laid him on the paper and began smearing on the medicine. It was a vile smelling salve. At first Miss Fanny used a small cloth, but deciding she could work more effectively without it, discarded it for her fingers alone. Rusty protested in his own way, rumbling in his throat and even scratching a little bit, At times Rusty was hard to hold, but Miss Fanny was more stubborn than he and won out. The first treatment was over and hadn't been to bad. He acted quite wild and scared and Miss Fanny was afraid he might not come back, but when his next mealtime came, he was on time.
The treatments continued every few days and before long Miss Fanny could tell that Rusty's legs were healing. Too, the sores along his backbone were becoming less noticeable. It was getting difficult to catch him when she wanted to doctor him for he disliked it so much, having the mess on him. But still she kept on. She wanted her little pet to get completely well and soon, for she wished to cuddle him and to show him all the love her lonely heart had to bestow.
The first tube of medicine was used and Miss Fanny got another. In a few weeks it too was gone, To the delight of the little woman, Rusty's fur was becoming soft and sleek, all the sores had disappeared and he was now, quite playful. The series of treatments had been a struggle, for as time advanced, Rusty had grown wiser and wiser. When he caught a whiff of the medicine he would run and hide under a bed or the bathtub and would have to be dragged out growling and spitting. Miss Fanny noticed, particularly, his quick reaction to the smell of the salve and she didn't blame him at all for running away. If there was ever anything foul-smelling, it was that mange cure. How she would have hated having it all over her.
The two became fast friends. To Miss Fanny it seemed she had always had Rusty. She hoarded her pennies to buy canned cat food for him, of which he was inordinately fond and she pampered him in every way she knew. In the evenings she liked to sit by her little heater and sing. Rusty would come and jump upon her lap as soon as she was settled and curl himself up in a little ball for a comfortable nap.
So the weeks and months passed and the two were happy together. Then the mange broke out again. "Oh, no." wailed Miss Fanny. "Not a repetition of treatments." But so it had to be. More medicine was bought and this time the disease was quickly and completely cured. Rusty disliked it all as much as ever, but he went through with it, or perhaps one should say, Miss Fanny went through it. It didn't take but about half of the tube and the rest was carefully put in the cupboard.
Miss Fanny indulged Rusty in his play. She tied a spool to a piece of string and fastened it to her rocking chair arm. This toy amused him no end. A friend of Miss Fanny brought him two catnip mice and he promptly chewed both the head and the tail off one. He liked to reach up and catch at Miss Fanny's arms when she sat in her chair and sometimes he would scratch her slightly. Then she would slap at him, all in fun and the game would be on. Finally with a little rumble he'd run off and set down by the stove, both ears laid flat to his head. He had a special cushion in a chair he slept on at night in Miss Fanny's bedroom. If in the middle of the night he wished to go outside, he'd jump down and manage in some way to awaken her. Then she'd get up and turn him out. In the early morning he'd be at the front window which she'd raise enough for him to come in.
They were happy those two. The neighbors all knew how much the little cat meant to Miss Fanny. Her aunt worked in town and came to see her about every week, remarked, "I declare, I don't know what Fanny would do if anything happened to that cat, She's so wrapped up in him." "I pray the good Lord to take care of little Rusty for Fanny's sake." Time passed and Rusty and Miss Fanny were thoroughly happy and each one dependent on the other. Each knew the other extremely well by now. Miss Fanny thought Rusty understood every word she said to him and indeed it sometimes appeared that he did.
The days of the mange were so far in the past that even Miss Fanny seldom thought of them. When Spring came again she ran across the old half used tube of mange medicine. "I'll throw this old stuff away." she thought. Then a playful idea entered her head. She'd have a little fun first. She'd see Rusty's reaction to the medicine. Could the cat possibly remember after all this time. She called him and he came. She unscrewed the cap and held the tube close to his nose. The result was far beyond Miss Fanny's expectations. With a wild "meow!", Rusty leaped away and ran as fast as he could, his feet skittering across the linoleum . He didn't stop until he had hidden himself in Miss Fanny's closet, the door to which happened to be open.
She looked and looked and called and called, but she didn't find him. At last she gave up. That was before noon. He didn't come for lunch and it was when she was washing the supper dishes that Miss Fanny, hearing a small noise, looked around and saw a very scared little animal crouched low to the floor, slinking toward the food dish by the stove. "Well," said Miss Fanny aloud, "I don't think an elephant has anything on you Rusty." Later she added with an indulgent chuckle, "Maybe, you knew you didn't have the mange and thought I was a big enough sap to believe you did."
word count 1796