It’s Always Darkest

Early Snowy Morning

Sometimes I think my cat is better than my doctor at prescribing what I need.

Early Wednesday morning, Devil Cat woke me at 3 a.m. wanting to play, as he does every morning when we’re in Connecticut. It was our usual dance number—he leading, me following, of course. First he used his claws to pull himself across the rug—I guess you could call this his floor routine. Then he jumped on the bed and kneaded my chest with his lethal weapons, which he just honed on the rug. When I couldn’t take it anymore, we quickly two-stepped to the bathroom, dancing on each other’s feet, where he figure-eighted between my legs while I winced bleary-eyed into the mirror to see how much blood he’d drawn from my chest.

With only a few hours of darkness left to enjoy, I lured him into the hall with my naked foot as bait, then I slammed the bedroom door shut. Not 10 minutes later, he was crooning a plaintive, distinctly Irish-sounding ballad that I’m pretty certain featured feline lyrics along the lines of “Da ole son of a bitch locked me outta me room while all I was tryin’ to do was love ‘im.”

The One was completely oblivious to this performance, given that he was 80 miles way in New York, wiped out from having to care for our little Persian, Chloe, who is terribly sick. The situation with Chloe has flat out exhausted us. We’re both running on fumes what with toting her to the vet; trying to pill her; coaxing her out from under the bed so Emmy, the vet tech, can administer fluids under her skin to keep her hydrated—all four pounds, five ounces of her; and tag-teaming back and forth between New York and Connecticut so one of us can be with Devil Cat.

Now fully awake, I opened the door. But instead of bounding in and bouncing on the bed, not unlike Sylvester in Loony Tunes, Devil Cat looked up at me then ran downstairs lickety-split.

Please, God, no! I screamed to myself, visions of a closed basement door, his only route to the outdoors—and piles of pussycat presents throughout the house flickered on the screen of my sleep-deprived mind.

Turns out Devil Cat was hungry. Again. So I opened the fridge and fished out one of the cans of tuna that we use to mask the antibiotics Chloe has to take if she’s to have any chance of beating this infection. I slid down to the floor, back against the cabinet, can and fork in hand. One bite for Devil Cat, one for me. One for Devil Cat, two for me. And there we stayed, Devil Cat eventually ending up upside-down in my lap, paws twitching to some dream sequence samba that surely involved rodents now that his belly was full.

After an hour or so, I extricated myself from beneath him and figured I might as well work since I couldn’t go back to sleep. I sat in my studio with its five large windows looking out onto our property and realized it had snowed. I’ve already told you how much The One and I adore snow. The backyard was beautiful, but dark. I could barely make out the knuckles and crooked fingers of the old oak’s branches. Way in the back was the hammock–still hanging between two trees–always looking to me like a gentle smile, though today it sported a John Waters-thin mustache of white.

I don’t like predawn. It’s feels empty. Mournful. And it makes me feel out of sorts and awkward, like being the first one to arrive at a party. But yesterday was different. I watched as the sun, from behind a quilt of clouds, began to light the yard with a lovely blue chiaroscuro.

Devil Cat jumped up on my desk. I expected him to do his other routine, the one where he circles between my arms while I type, me dodging his tail and kitty parts until he settles in and falls asleep. This time, though, he leaned his head against my arm and extended his paw into my hand as if to say, “Stop working, poppie. Just sit here and breathe and watch.” I was flabbergasted.

So I looked out the windows. And I wondered why it is that I like snow so much. It’s undeniably pretty, at least when it first falls. And it’s cold, of course, and I like the cold. But beyond aesthetics and temperature, there’s an emotional component to snow for me. When it falls, I feel safe and protected–as if no harm could ever come to me. It’s a salve that soothes the ache of pain, a white gauze that covers the scars of loss that would–very soon–be ripped open once again.

That’s when the gut-shaking sobs came and came and came. But instead of jumping down with a feline equivalent of a disgusted grunt, Devil Cat did the most remarkable thing: He rolled over in my arms, placed one paw on my cheek, and just looked at me. It was a simple gesture, unblinking, undemanding. A tangle of gratitude and guilt knotted inside me. We were so lucky, blessed even, to have rescued this marvelous animal–as we had rescued Chloe and Raja–yet I wasn’t with Chloe when she needed me most.

Eventually Devil Cat leapt off the desk. Several minutes later I heard the thwack and metronomic squeak of his cat door opening and closing. I watched as he ran to his favorite tree and filed those damn Edward Scissorhands blades that constitute his claws, then Iooked on as he terrorized a few sparrows that dotted the snow like ink dripped from a fountain pen. I knocked on the window and he froze, seemingly sniffing the air for the origin of the sound. He saw me and I waved. He sat down, watching me, almost as if he were making sure I was okay. Then he turned and walked away with that gunslinger walk of his through the brush on his rounds, and I smiled.

Morning had begun.

David Leite's signature

Comments

  1. Oh, that exquisitely beautiful moment when a pet reaches across the species. It truly is a magical thing. I am sending you all the comforting thoughts I can muster for all your family.
    Once years ago when we were in the midst of a failing career venture, our then female became desperately ill. She pulled through, but I will never forget the knife edge of pain in Bill’s voice when he said,”The bad stuff can bang and crash at our door, but it cannot disrupt our family or our home.” through sobs and anguish. It was so raw and vulnerable. So I know how deep and basic your feelings are. Keep each other close and warm. We will all surround you in thoughts and prayers. Bless you, David.

        1. Donna Rose, thanks for asking. At the moment she’s feeling better. She must have had some terrible infection, which the antibiotic has cured. She’s gained 4 ounces, which may not sound like a lot, but she weighs about 5 pounds! She’s also running around more, chasing the laser light. Today she starts a new regime of medication for her digestive system. So we’ll see how that pans out.

  2. I read this post last Friday when it was published and have not stopped thinking about it since. When it popped into my e-mail again this morning, I simply had to re-read it one more time. I’m not easily moved to tears by writing, but this piece did that. The beauty of the prose and the way you paint images with phrases draws me in again and again. But, more than the writing itself, I felt drawn to offer comfort to a friend (if I may be that presumptuous). The anguish you feel over your dear Chloe is evident in every word. Even though I’m not an “animal person,” I do understand the depth of the relationship with pets. I wish only the very best for Chloe and am so glad to know that you have Devil Cat to help keep your spirits up.

    1. Lana, you may indeed call me a friend. And thank you for your thoughtful words. Animals do have an amazing way of getting into our hearts. And Devil Cat has continued to keep my spirits up and Chloe is resting peacefully with The One. So we’ll see….

  3. David, I can never get enough of your story telling. You have a sheer elegance with words. I understand about your concern with Chloe, but cats are very resilient animals. I have had them all my life up until 3 years ago. I am sure that she will be fine and that Devil Cat is trying to take your mind off of her since he knows she’ll be fine as well.

    They really know how to get under your skin one minute (or in your case into your skin) and into your heart the next. Devil Cat was just showing you all will be right with the world.

    Have a blessed day.

    1. Pat in NC, from your mouth…. I hope that is indeed the case with Chloe. She does seem a little bit better, but she’s finished one medication so no vomiting. She’ll be starting another later this week. So we’ll see.

  4. Loved, loved, loved reading this. Such a colorful depiction of a familiar “breed” of cat that we both love and loathe (but mostly love) and the peculiar beauty of pre-dawn. Especially a snowy New England one. Good, speedy, healthy thoughts to Chloe! Thanks so much for sharing!

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