By Hali Morell
“Can I ask you one more thing?”
It’s the last three minutes of my psychic reading, and I have been saving it for last…out of both fear and denial.
My hands are clenched, and I’ve stopped inhaling the fresh summer air blowing through the coffee shop. A home for the writing regulars who plant themselves and their laptops at the mosaic-tiled tables filling the eclectic space.
“So…I have a cat. He’s nineteen and a half and…”
The psychic closes her eyes, tosses her head back, pulls her hands to her chest, and smiles.
Okay, what’s happening? My brain is trying to go into “worst-case scenario mode,” which is its default, but I’m thrown by her reaction.
“Oh! I love him! You’ve been through so much together!” she says, opening her eyes.
“Yes, yes, we’ve been through the majority of my adult life together! So…what’s…I mean…how long—”
“Will he live?”
My eyes are locked into hers, my jaw is hanging open, and the saliva has drained from my tongue. My head begins to slightly shake back and forth into a “no” stance. As if to send a message to both of us that I may actually not want to know the answer.
“He’s your guardian angel and he’ll always be your guardian angel. He’s stayed on this planet to help you, and once he sees that the second half of your life is on course, he’ll transition.”
I can feel my eyes welling as the dark-haired woman wearing all white channels my boy. Not yet from the other side, but from my bed, where he’s probably been stretching and bathing all morning.
I have to admit it. I am one of those people who refer to their cat as their child. No, I don’t wheel him around in a stroller or strap him to my torso in a BabyBjörn, but after almost twenty years of living together, we have an uncanny connection. My cat and I have seen each other at our best and at our worst. He was there with me on the bathroom floor as I suffered through pancreatitis. I was there for him when he hurt his back from a fall down a tree. And the unconditional love we have for one another is very real.
I picked Louie out of a litter of Maine coon cats. Having just left a four-year relationship with yet another guy who had no direction, didn’t seem to care that he had no direction, and spent his days smoking weed out of a six-foot bong while handling multiple joysticks playing multiple video games, I had to get out. And I knew I needed a cat to do it successfully.
Out of the four remaining kittens in the laundry room of a friend of my mother’s, I knew immediately that he was the one. With his little gray, white, and black puffball coat and assertive yet loving disposition, I fell in love with him right then and there. I had decided on the name Louie because I wanted to be able to yell, “Hey, Louie!” in a Brooklyn accent. I believe this desire came from watching episodes of Taxi as a kid.
I looked up the characteristics of Maine coon cats on the Internet: “Maine coon cats don’t constantly pester you for attention, but prefer to ‘hang out’ with their owners, investigating whatever activity you’re involved in and ‘helping’ when they can.” So true! He is truly the most helpful boy.
Having met my now husband when Louie was two, the cat was quickly adopted as we made our way into establishing a happy and healthy, intact family.
My husband and I both being only children, preferring and requiring a life laced with immense quiet and ample time to reflect on our emotional states, decided within the first few months of meeting that we were not interested in having children. But we were both Cat People! See, cats don’t have tantrums. Cats are self-sufficient. Cats are self-cleaning. Cats are low maintenance. My cat never wakes up from a nap screaming and demanding for me to pick him up. I don’t have to worry about him stealing someone else’s toy or putting things in his mouth that he could choke on.
Of course, we’ve had our moments.
“He’s got a bird. He’s in the bathroom. Oh god!” I yell, covering my face with my hands and pacing like I’m waiting for a bathroom that has a line of twenty people.
Quickly earning the title of “Bird Rescuer” and starting his own bird rehab facility out of a rustic birdhouse we had in our garden, my husband had a knack for nursing them back to health and then setting them free.
“He’s only trying to make you proud,” my husband would tell me.
“Proud? Why on Earth would I be proud to find a half-eaten bird on our bathroom mat?”
“He’s a hunter. Right, pal?” he would say, picking the cat up and giving him a kiss.
And that’s when it hit me. How many times I had kissed Louie full on the mouth! Numerous! Numerous times I have put my mouth on his. I immediately brushed my teeth.
I awoke one night to a ruckus. It sounded like an elf was dancing in our bathroom.
And then my stomach sank to my feet. Oh no. Oh please no. I leaned over to my husband and could tell he was in REM mode. I was on my own.
I slowly peeked in and saw my cat up against the wall by the toilet in the process of stalking our plunger.
“Why are you doing this?” I whispered to the cat choosing to ignore my presence. “Dad says you’re trying to impress me, but believe me, I am not impressed.”
Again, silence. And that’s when I realized I could either spend three hours in the bathroom scolding my cat or I could just tackle the situation and get some sleep.
I grabbed the cat and threw him out of the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.
“You just go think about what you’ve done!” I yelled.
There it was…a mouse. A tiny gray, terrified mouse. I picked up the plunger with absolutely no plan, which is when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, a crazy woman holding a plunger in the air.
I took a deep breath and held it as I managed to get the mouse inside the plunger. Once I had him, it took me a half a second to fling open the bathroom door, run through the apartment looking like I was carrying the torch for the Toilet Olympics, unlock the front door, open it, and toss the entire plunger, including the mouse, out onto our front porch.
Despite the hunting nightmares, Louie is the best nonhuman friend I’ve ever had. The way he pushes his lightly striped face into mine and purrs like a lion, or buries his little body under the covers in our bed, leaving only his tail visible to the outside world, his is the first face I want to see when I get home from a long day.
As we’ve inched our way into Senior Cat Mode, it’s been tough. A simple visit to the vet for his lower back arthritis left him on death’s door when the painkillers we were told to give him acted more like a poison. Six hundred dollars’ worth of medicine out the door.
“Fuck this. Let’s stop giving him the medication. I mean, he’s dying!” we each took turns saying.
And our most recent scare, total incontinence, a word I learned when I typed in “cat peeing everywhere all the time” on my iPad. Each day for a week, we received urine-proof blankets, pet wipes, and pads from Amazon. I became a mother obsessed with finding the perfect solution for a pee-covered cat and home.
“Is this it? I mean, how do we know if this is it?” I squeak out to my husband as we lie in bed one morning. The tears are like a broken fountain that won’t shut off.
“I don’t know, sweetie. I guess he’ll let us know when he’s ready.”
With us both wiping our eyes and climbing out of bed, I find him curled up on the sofa and pick up his furry pee body and hold him. I don’t care about the smell. Well, let’s be honest, it is pretty disgusting. I wipe him down with the lavender and green tea pet wipes and hold him close as his long white whiskers tickle my lips. Another trip to the vet and two weeks of antibiotics later, he’s back once again. The Bionic Cat. No more pee, at least for the moment.
We currently spend our days organizing ourselves on the sofa, the cat always in the middle. He still climbs up to his water fountain, a blue ceramic bubbler that we bought in Arizona. He spends his time mostly inside on “Bed” or “Chair” or “Sofa,” and when he chooses to venture into the great outdoors, he stays close by. Sometimes he yells at nothing in particular, and his hearing is a little faded. But everyone still loves Louie.
And as I venture into the second half of my life, as scary as that sounds, I can’t believe how much it warms my heart to hear from this woman in white, this psychic who knows nothing of my life, that Louie is on this planet to help me and to see me through to this next chapter. That he’s hanging on to make sure I’ll be okay. To make sure that I make some kind of a dent in my goals and dreams. That I’ll be happy. And to know that he’ll always be with me, even after his physical furry body is no longer here…well…it just makes me want to be with him and cherish him even more.
Category: Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing