The Best Cat in the World

This is Cowboy. As the title of this post might suggest, he’s the best cat in the world.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Cats are evil, right? They hide under the bed when visitors come. They hiss and scratch if you get too close. They sit on your keyboard or book and refuse to move. They knock things off your dresser for no reason. They camp outside your bedroom window and sing at three in the morning or decide to make your front porch their litter box. They leave little paw prints on your car. They suffocate babies. Etc, etc, etc.

Most of the people I’ve met have had horrible experiences with cats. I can relate; I had some pretty crazy cats for pets when I was growing up. But Cowboy is unlike any other cat I’ve ever met. In fact, he isn’t really a cat; more like an old dog trapped in a cat’s body.

He does three things; sleep, eat, and poop. If his litter box is too full, he’ll sit outside the laundry room door (that’s where the littler box is kept) and meow until we change the litter. If his bowl is empty, he’ll do the same. If he wants milk, he’ll follow us into the kitchen and sit by the fridge to meow until we comply. Otherwise, he’ll wait until we sit down somewhere and cozy up next to us (or between us) to take a nap. He’ll fall asleep touching us somehow (with his chin on a shoulder, or his paw on a wrist, or a leg thrown over one of our legs). Like he’s claiming us as his.

When visitors come, he jumps down from the couch and wanders over to sniff their feet. If anyone sits on the couch, he climbs into their lap. He will sit there and let you pet him for as long as you want. He’ll purr and drool and look up at you like you’re his best friend. Even if it’s the first time you’ve met.

If there are any discarded shoes or clothes on the floor, he’ll sit or lay on them. If it belongs to my husband, Cowboy will rub his face all over it. He’ll ask to taste whatever crunchy, salty treat you’re snacking on by pawing at your hand and purring. (His favorites are Cheese Puffs, Wheat Thins, Doritos, and tortillas.)

He used to sleep in my husband’s bed before we got married. He still tries to sneak into our bed when I’m not looking. He’ll look up at me innocently when I catch him lying on my side of the bed. It’s hard to be mad at him, even if he does leave bright orange hair on the sheets.

He loves to sleep in the sun. He’d lay outside in the grass all day if we’d let him. Only problem is, he loves to eat the grass too. Then he’ll come inside and promptly throw up on the carpet. So he lays down by the sliding glass door and looks out into the sunlit backyard instead, waiting for his opportunity to sneak out. He’s big but he can move fast when he wants to. He’ll eat and throw up flowers too. When my husband gets me roses for my birthday or our anniversary, we have to put them somewhere up high where he can’t reach them. It’s kind of funny.

Cowboy’s one flaw? He doesn’t have the patience for small children. He has bitten each of our nephews at least once. He didn’t like our son when we first brought Bennett home from the hospital. He avoided the baby whenever he could and turned his back on Bennett if they were sharing close quarters. But, as you will see in the pictures below, Cowboy has grown accustomed to Bennett. Might even like the boy now.

 

He’s technically my husband’s cat, has been for fifteen years. But when we started dating, Cowboy and I had an almost instant connection. Even though my husband started snuggling with me more than his cat, Cowboy still loved me. Even though I kicked him out of our marriage bed, Cowboy was big enough to forgive me. Even when I put him on a diet, Cowboy refused to disown me. We’re so close, in fact, that we made a pact: he was going to live forever. Our kids were going to grow up loving him as much as I did. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Cowboy took our pact very seriously. He lost weight, he held onto his zen-like attitude despite how many times our dog tried to annoy him, he kept sleeping a ton, and exercised by jumping up and down from the bathroom counter to eat his meals.

Then, about three weeks ago, we discovered Cowboy had a limp. We thought maybe he’d hurt himself jumping down from the bathroom counter so we put his food on the floor and made sure the dog didn’t go anywhere near it. But he didn’t get better. We took him to the vet, who summarized it was a sprain of some kind. He gave Cowboy a steroid shot to help with the swelling (that was fun…not), and gave us additional medication to force-feed him. Even after we ran out of that medication, Cowboy’s limp persisted. In fact, it got worse. A growth appeared seemingly overnight on his bad leg, the one he’d been babying this whole time. His appetite decreased. Drastically. It became harder and harder for him to climb into his litter box. Then he gave up trying to use the litter box altogether. Yesterday, when he hadn’t moved from his spot even to relieve himself, my husband and I looked at each other. And decided it was time to say goodbye.

I’m tearing up as I write this. I can’t believe it. I never thought I’d become so attached to a pet. He’s just a cat, right? Wrong. He’s been there since my husband and I started dating. He has been sitting next to us on the couch since we came back from our honeymoon. When we wake up in the morning, he greets us. He sits on the carpet and keeps me company while I’m getting ready for the day. When we come home from work, he’s there. When we go to sleep, he tries so hard to join us. When we go out of town, he stress-eats until we come back and then cries with joy when we walk through the door. He’s our furry roommate. He loves us and we love him. He tried so hard to live forever, just like I asked. But his body has given up on him. We can’t let him keep going like this.

The appointment has been set for this evening. Isn’t that horrible? I had to call the vet to ask if we could schedule a time to put our beloved Cowboy to sleep. Permanently. My husband says it hasn’t hit him yet, but when it does it’ll hit him hard. My heart is heavy. I’ve been mourning all week. I don’t want this to be the last time we see Cowboy. For the first time ever, I find myself hoping animals go to heaven. Whether it’s true or not, I want to believe he’ll end up there. I want to believe he’ll find the mansion that’s been made for us, jump up on the couch, settle into his favorite spot right up against the armrest, and wait for us. It might sound silly, but that’s how much I love this stinkin’ cat.

Maybe someday we’ll get another cat, but I’m pretty sure Cowboy has ruined cats for us forever. After all, what feline could compare to the best cat in the world?

Goodbye, old friend. Don’t tell the dog, but I love you more than any other pet I’ve had. Keep that heavenly couch warm for us. We’ll see you again soon.

Another stab at poetry

She sits in the corner, quietly, meekly

Listening, seldom contributing to the

Conversations, crashing, roaring like the sea

She speaks and all listen now

Patiently, reverently, as she plods

Through an analogy or brings their attention to

Another point of view.

Sweet, kind great grandmother, white-faced

And weathered by time, docile as a doe

But stronger than bullet-proof vests used

By soldiers, and brave as any of their

Commanding officers. We played in her yard,

Drew on her sidewalk, ate ice cream under the

Porch, walked down the street to the waves

And stretch of beach there. She followed along with

A smile and a cheerful heart, despite being weary

With age. She crawled over the floor on knobby knees,

Joining our dolls in adventures, enticing us to come

And play together, despite disagreements. Back

Oh, I’d go back if I could, fleeing from

This world without great grandmother’s

Driveway, a path through rose bushes tall as hills

Leading to sanctuary, leading to a place of

Laughter, food, and fun. Now she lives high

Up in the sky, away from the water,

The people, the places she loved.

She’s at peace, although, we all

Live with our grief, large

Ever-present clouds looming above.

Still, day by day I find

Those clouds dissipating.

Steadily they make their reluctant retreat,

Lightning seething across a sky after a storm.

And the memories, precious, heartbreaking,

Lovely, remain.

To love and to kill

Detective Victor Curnble leaned back in his swivel chair and rubbed his eyes. He’d been staring at his computer screen for hours, trying to wrap up the paperwork for this case. He was ready for this gruesome chapter to be over with, but the words wouldn’t come.

The detective sighed and lowered his hand. It was eerie, sitting among a sea of abandoned desks and chairs in the dark. His lamp and the ghostly glow of the computer screen were the only sources of light. Still more haunting were the contents of the evidence box sitting beside him. Detective Curnble peeked down at the three deceptively innocent teddy bears, each holding a giant red heart. The words, “I love you,” were written across the hearts in swirly white script. It all came back to him then, like a wave of dark images and grief-stricken voices.

 

“What have we got here, lieutenant?”

“Looks like a date gone horribly wrong. The victim was found tied to a chair before a dining room table set for two. There were flower petals, candles, and full wine glasses left behind, untouched. Along with this bear…”

“What seems to be the time and cause of death, Dr. Yang?”

“Liver temperatures suggest the TOD to be approximately six hours ago. The COD is definitely strangulation, although, these bruises along her forearms and hands are indicative of a struggle. Perhaps we’ll be able to find DNA under her fingernails.”

“Anything else to report?”

“The satin gown she’s wearing shows no signs of wear. The shoes also appear to be new and slightly larger than the victim’s feet.”

“So the killer dressed her in new clothes after he killed her?”

“It’s a likely theory I might be able to prove upon further testing.”

“All right. Let’s get her back to the lab. I want everything in this room bagged and tagged. Maybe our killer unintentionally left something behind for us to track him with. We’ll go door to door and see if anyone heard or saw anything peculiar last night.”

 

“Detective Curnble. We’ve found another date victim. Same MO as the young lady we found three weeks ago.”

“This guy was in the wind. We found no conclusive evidence to make an arrest. Why would he risk exposing himself by killing a second time?”

“I don’t know, but we can only hope he left us something at this crime scene.”

 

“Nothing. Just the same damn teddy bear and other useless props. How is he doing this? Why is he targeting these girls? What do they all have in common?”

“Vick!”

“Gina? What are you doing here?”

“It’s Chelsea. I-I think she might be in trouble. She said she was going to meet someone for a first date last night, but she promised to call me after to tell me how it went. I fell asleep while waiting up for her, but when I checked my phone this morning, I didn’t have any missed calls. It went straight to voicemail when I tried calling her. I went by her apartment and she wasn’t there.”

“Calm down, sis. Did she tell you where she was going to meet this guy?”

“Y-Yes. It was a bar. The Golden Mare.”

“I hate to ask, but is there any chance Chelsea went home with this guy?”

“After one date? She would never! Vick, I raised that girl to have more respect for herself than that.”

“I had to be sure. I’ll go check out the bar and see if anyone saw her.”

 

“Yes, I recognize her. She was sitting in that booth last night. She kept checking the door and the clock, like she was waiting for someone. She received a phone call around midnight and left. She looked relieved. I thought it might’ve been the person she was waiting for.”

“Did you see where she went?”

“She took a cab around the corner. That’s the last I saw of her.”

“Did you catch the cab number by any chance?”

 

“Yes, hello. My name is Detective Curnble. I’m with the Seattle Police Department. Last night around midnight, you picked up a twenty-year-old girl with dark hair and green eyes from a bar called The Golden Mare. Do you remember? Good. She’s gone missing. Can you tell me where you dropped her off?”

 

“Open up! SPD! Hello? The door’s unlocked. I’m letting myself in. Hello? Anybody home? …Oh, God. Chelsea.”

 

 “I’m sorry, Gina. I’m so sorry. I’m going to find who did this and make sure he never sees the light of day. I promise you.”

 

Victor gruffly wiped his eyes and turned back to his screen. He had fulfilled his promise. The serial killer, nick-named The Romantic, was serving a life sentence at a maximum security prison. No one else would die at his hand.

A door slamming shut caused the detective to leap to his feet and reach for his gun. A light had come on in a room across the way, probably while he’d been reminiscing. Abandoning his desk, Victor crept around the empty desks to the light. It was coming from the interrogation room. His eyes flickered from side to side as he reached for the doorknob. Just what in the world was going on? He pushed the door open. The gun shook in the detective’s hand.

The table was set for two. The wine glasses were full, the candles lit. There was a woman dressed in a satin gown tied to a chair. Her head lulled to the side, her foggy, unblinking eyes seemingly fixed on the floor. Sitting across from her was a little teddy bear holding a heart in his paws.

The door shut behind the detective. He spun around with a curse and twisted the doorknob. Of course, it was locked from the outside. He tugged with all his might, but the door wouldn’t budge.

“Oh, crap,” said a bored voice over the intercom. “You’re in a bit of a situation, aren’t you?”

Victor shuddered and looked over at the two-way mirror. For a moment, he could see himself reflected there; a middle-aged man with blonde hair, wearing jeans and a polo shirt, gun drawn, blue eyes wild with fear. Then the lights in the interrogation room shut off, and a light behind the mirror turned on. A young man in a flannel shirt and jeans stood there with his hands in his pockets, brown hair askew, amber eyes half-lidded.

Victor gripped the gun until his knuckles ached. Rage and terror churned within him. “How?”

The young man shrugged, the tiniest of smiles pulling at the corner of his mouth. “Doesn’t really matter, does it? What matters now is that Detective Curnble is trapped in a room with a dead body that appears to have been murdered by the same serial killer he put away.” His eyes widened in false surprise. “Could it be that you were The Romantic all this time, and you arrested an innocent man to avoid prison time?”

Victor let out a harsh laugh despite his trembling innards. “No one will ever believe that.”

The Romantic tilted his head to the side, his eyes traveling to the ceiling. Suddenly, Victor heard it; the sound of cars skidding to a stop just outside the building and doors being shut.

The young serial killer flashed a devilish grin. “Are you sure?” He gave Victor a lazy salute and began to saunter out of the room.

“Why don’t you stick around and find out who’s right?” Victor shouted.

The young man chuckled and kept walking. “Good luck, Vick.”

The charred stump

We visited my grandparents in Mexico for New Years.

My family has done this every year for as long as I can remember, and my husband supported the tradition even after we got married. New Years in Mexico is a time of eating tamales and sugar cookies, sipping hot chocolate by the bond fire, playing Mario Kart and Super Smash on the Wii, watching well-loved movies with Spanish subtitles, and waking up with a jolt when the firecrackers start sounding at midnight. (For those of you who can stay up until midnight, I envy you. I haven’t been able to stay up past 10:30 pm since I got married. I think it’s made me officially old.)

The first time I brought my husband to Mexico to meet my extended family, I took him on a walk around the village. I spent the whole time pointing at landmarks and telling him stories of my childhood, all of which he patiently listened to and chuckled at. The second time he crossed the border with me, we found ourselves taking another walk. This time there was more silence between us as we each breathed in the moist air and simply enjoyed the scenery. It became our own little tradition of sorts. This New Years was no different. Despite the fact that it had been raining on and off for the past three days and the dirt roads had turned into mud rivers, we headed out of my grandparents’ house to uphold tradition.

We tried to stay on the drier parts of the road, the parts that were made up of more sand than dirt. But after a while the mud began to stick to the bottoms of our shoes and accumulate. We slid several times, reaching out with desperate hands to grab a hold of each other and steady ourselves before we could end up on the ground. Slowly but surely, we made our way around the fields and to my old, old, tree. (See previous post). Instead of the welcoming sight of pine-like needles and wrinkly, old bark, I saw a partially demolished hill and a charred stump. I stood there for a minute, blinking at the sight and trying to understand. The hill literally looked as if a giant had taken a bite out of it. The black stump and withering branches sat off to the side and at an angle, as if they had been carelessly shoved aside.

I can’t explain the grief that suddenly struck me between the eyes. It was just a tree, just a shady spot I used to escape to whenever I needed a quiet moment to myself. But it was also the place where I did all my deep thinking and dreaming as a kid. It was the place I always retreated to when I came to visit as an adult. After greeting the aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, and spending some time indoors…I came here. Now it was gone. My husband took me in his arms and said he was sorry. All I could think to say was, “Many of these trees were my friends, creatures I had known since nut and acorn. They had voices of their own…” (Lord of the Rings reference, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about.) Only a few tears escaped but the sorrow remained. This place, this village that was always supposed to stay the same, was changing. It had been for years but that change had been subtle. There was nothing subtle about this.

Where will this introvert go to think and reminisce the next time she visits Mexico? I guess she’ll just have to find another tree to sit under. But it will never be the same.