I’m reading a letter written by eight-year-old Bentley, from South Carolina. The letter is written with superb penmanship:
“My mom said to ask you if I can have a cat,” says Bentley. “…I’m nice to animals and they all like me… And my mom says they are work and please tell my mom I can have a cat!”
Bentley, thank you for the letter. We had a cat once. Her name was Rascal Lovebug Sassy Martin Dietrich. She had white and gray fur, green eyes, and the disposition of a cynical rattlesnake.
Long ago, my wife found her as a kitten on the side of the road. The thing was small enough to fit in someone’s palm.
Rascal took a long time to warm up to humans. In fact, she used to hide beneath our bed during the daylight hours like any normal, domestic vampire.
She’d hiss at those walking by and attempt to draw blood from anything entering her line of vision.
Finally, she’d traipse out of the bedroom around suppertime. Then, she’d sit on our dining table and stare at our dinner plates.
I would feel sorry for her. So, I’d offer her food. She’d thumb her nose at it, prance into the bedroom, and relieve herself on my pillow.
So we can see cats are unpredictable. In fact, for a long time, I wondered whether Rascal liked me. I know she did.
She was not a bad cat. She was merely a unique creature.
Eventually, Rascal became my friend. She’d even watch football games with me. She’d sit on the sofa. When I’d scream at the TV, she’d whip her tail along with my hollering.
And, each morning when I’d write at my desk, she’d sleep on my lap, curled tight. I came to love that.
I loved it so much, I found it hard to write without her.
Rascal lived for twenty years. That’s a long time for a cat. And to tell you the truth, it was not fun watching her age.
She lost her hearing, her eyesight was bad, and when she got hungry, she’d make a hoarse howl.
Her legs were too old to jump, so she’d stand at my feet, fussing until I picked her up. Thus, I’d carry her with me around the house. She’d lay in my arms, looking at the world.
I even learned to do dishes with her nestled in my right arm.
She died peacefully. On the day my wife and I took her to the vet we cried. The doc gave Rascal an injection while my wife held her.
“It won’t be long now,” the doctor said.
My wife kissed twenty years of our life goodbye and said, “Ssshhh, Rascal.”
Rascal closed her eyes.
We drove home, I held her still-warm body in my arms, wrapped in a sheet. I dug a hole in the backyard and felt sick.
The house was hollow without her. I didn’t write for weeks. I couldn’t. Not without my friend sleeping in my lap.
I’m sorry, I got off the subject. I don’t mean to make you sad.
So. Do I think you ought to get a cat?
I absolutely do, Bentley.