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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Animal · #2238058
What kind of impression does a cat leave behind?
CW: Deals with the death of a cat

The cat fled out the back door wriggling between my mothers leg’s—before dashing off into the darkness.

“Milo! Come back!” She yelled. But nothing came out of the darkness of the early morning. I went out the back door to look for him. School held no fear over me today; I could only think of raccoons with glowing green eyes, and coyotes with glistening teeth and what they would do if they found him first. I walked past the pump house white siding tented green from the long summer of grass blown up against it. I shivered as a breeze sprang up, and made the leaves rattle like the applause of a crowd watching this whole spectacle.

“Milo, where are you?” I asked quietly. As soon as the breeze had passed, silence fell, and I could hear a car zooming far away down the state route. I walked past the maple tree with the knotted climbing room still swinging from the breeze. I stopped before the patch of flowers all in a line that marked the orchard. It was much too close to the woods; its trees cloaked in darkness—where all my fears lay hidden.

Something had disturbed the flowers. Flower stems bent and stamped into the ground, and one flower broken in half. The top half was still hanging on by a single thread. It crossed the last upright flower.

***


Milo was marked for death from the beginning. He was my aunt’s cat, diagnosed with FIV; he only had so long to live. But he out lived my aunt in their tan room with tan flooring that always smelled musty from the ages of cigarette smoke that had sunk into the walls and carpets and permeated them. There he was always allowed to come and go as he pleased. When my aunt died, we took the cat. By then, we knew he had a non-deadly disease.

He was a warm ball of fur that loved everyone almost as much as food. He also really wanted to get outside. We kept him strictly as an inside cat for his safety. If there was any hint that anyone was going to the door he would zoom out and sit in front of the door, and we had to juggle with one hand on the cat and another on the door, and squeeze through the narrowest opening we could safely create.

At first, the yowls of pain came few and far between while he ate. But soon a small patch of skin became visible on his side, and like a flame it slowly grew out in a circle into a large bald spot, and then every time he ate he yowled. We took him to the vet and he gave him steroids and for a while he got better.

Then it happened again. He developed diabetes because of the steroids. We gave him insulin shots everyday. Until the day, he clung to me while I was setting in my chair—usually he wanted nothing to do with me there.

“What’s wrong?“ I asked, but he only looked at me with glassy eyes. And then he started twitching until I had to put him on the floor, and he was outright running on his side. He came out of the first seizure, but not the second. The second happened when my parents where at work. All I could do was clean him up, and wait.

When I said goodbye at the vets, he was laying there as if sleeping. And when they put him down I had to watch for him. I don’t know why.

***


And years later, when home was no longer home, I lay in my old bed in the quiet house. There was no scratching, no zooming around at odd hours of the night. No plaintive meows asking for food. Nothing jumped up into my bed and lay against my back, and when I woke up in the morning there was no impression that there ever was a cat.

I walked out through the long hallway, through the kitchen, and into the linoleum room until I reached the back door. I opened it and instinctively reached down to stop the cat, but there was nothing there. I walked out past the pump house yellowed with age, past the maple tree where the climbing rope hung on by a few strands. And over to the flower beds. I looked across the orchard into the woods; bright sunlight shone upon the boughs, and birds flitted back and forth among the smaller branches.

In the flower bed there was an old wooden cross the letters long worn away, the cross crooked in the soft ground. And I set down there in the grass wet from the mourning dew.

***


And I was standing in the cold dark morning again fear gripping my throat till I felt I couldn’t breath.

“Milo! Where are you?” I yelled, but the silence swallowed it whole. And then a nearby flower-bush rustled. The hair on the back of my neck stood up.

“Milo!? I called not daring to hope. It rustled again; then something orange shot out and ran in front of me. I lunged forward and grabbed him, picked him up, and held his warm fur up to my face.

“Where were you?” I asked him, but he kept his secrets to the end. “I was so worried for you” I carried the purring cat into the warm light of the house happiness swelling up inside me.
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