The Cat That Always Came Back
Copyright 2004 by Stacey-Anne Bistak
The coincidence of dreams and reality was something we had never experienced at that level in our lives before. It was mystifying. But our cats Tootsie and Trixie, the protagonists of this story gave credence to the super powers that be.
Tootsie had a litter – yet again. She nestled them in the little hideaway underneath the staircase leading up to the terrace. This little cloister had a door on hinges that Tootsie could easily nudge with her mouth to get in and out. The door swung open a foot above ground level.
There were nine of the little rascals this time – a gift from the neighbor’s cat for sure: the motley brood told all. Eyes shut and squirming towards the teats, the newborns seemed to be growing every minute. There was only one that was pure white like the mother. He was the biggest and strongest of them all. Tootsie seemed to favor him too – you could see it as she licked him long and hard, closing her eyes and taking his every taste in. It was not so with the others – she used to get impatient with some of them and brush them aside with her muzzle.
I did not name any of the kittens even though I had a tendency to – only because with identities, it would be heartbreaking for me when I had to give them away. And, give them away we always did.
We lived in a coastal village, a cat’s delight – what with all the fish being hauled in every few minutes by the fishermen. And, it seemed that our neighbors and even those far from the sandy shores always wanted a kitten.
It was such a delight when the kittens’ eyes began to open. They seemed so much more alive. They became frisky and playful. But, they stayed within the bounds outlined by their mother, except for Mr. Biggie, as we’ll call him now.
Mr. Biggie took the chance when his Mamma was napping to clamber up the wall and peek through the swing door. You could see the mischief in his eyes.
The procedure for giving away kittens was Mom would reach into the "nest" while the band was asleep, and most often when Tootsie was away, close her eyes and pick one up. That would be the one to go when its future owners showed up on our doorstep.
About a month after they were born, eight of the kittens had found new homes. Mr. Biggie was the elusive one, always slipping away from Mom's grasp. Surprisingly, no one else wanted kittens at that point. So, he stayed with us. Tootsie was still nursing him though he started eating on his own too. Another three weeks passed with no request for him. And, he was still a suckling babe. Stronger and longer now, and more than half Tootsie's height, Mr. Biggie at the teats was the most ridiculous sight.
One of the neighbor's, Mr. Brown, suggested that he take Mr. Biggie to a friend of his who lived an hour's journey away from home. He would take him by a taxicab. We offered to pay his fare. We jumped at the idea though it was rather hard to part with our big kitten too. Mr. Biggie being a force to reckon with now, Mom had to say goodbye to her cat-catching technique. Mr. Brown said he would venture to capture the sucker. We left him to his devises. He armed himself with a jute bag, locked himself and Mr. Biggie in one of the rooms, and went to work. After many a thump, a screech, a thud, a yelp, an "eeeeooow" and some muffled hissing, Mr. Brown emerged, cat in sack, with scratches by the dozen on his arms as souvenirs.
The bundled cat was whisked away--to another home, another place.
We were sad as well as happy for Tootsie. She started her wailing and looking for her little ones in all the odd places. But, by the next day itself, she seemed less exhausted than she was when she was constantly nursing. Her pining was only occasional by Day Two.
As night two gave way to Day Three, I dreamt that Mr. Biggie was back.
I made my way to the dining room, and I just sat down to my cup of morning tea, when it looked like my dream was continuing. I saw a white half-grown cat, just the size, shape, and looks of Mr. Biggie, seated outside the barn, watching for any signs of movement within the house. I had to do a reality check. As soon as I stepped outside, Mr. Biggie ran toward me, sidled me and purred like he was so glad to be back. I couldn't believe it. And, where was Tootsie? She was just returning from her morning pursuit of the dogs, a habit she had got addicted to from her pre-mother days. Sensing one of her own, she leapt towards us just as Mr. Biggie, darted towards her and nuzzled her.
Mr. Biggie was back. But, how had he managed to find his way back? He was some extraordinary cat.
Outside our household, Mr. Brown was the first to know of Mr. Biggie's return. He came up with another offer. He knew a friend even further away and offered to take our trickster there. Surely, Mr. Biggie would never be able to find his way home after a two-hour taxi ride.
This time Mr. Biggie was wary of Mr. Brown. He looked at him like he never could trust him and hissed even when Mr. Brown was well away from him. We had to make Mr. Brown attractive. We garnished him with Mr. Biggie's favorite fish: king fish to trap the king of escapes. Mr. Brown lured the knave into the shed outside, and we raced to shut the door on them. I passed the jute bag through the window, shut it leaving a narrow gap to peek through, and waited. Mr. Brown looked like a gladiator in the ring; Mr. Biggie the ferocious lion. The feline arched his back and grazed the wooden shelf, snarling, and ready to pounce. They went around the room in circles, each one never taking his eyes off the other. This ceremonial dance continued for about 15 minutes. Then Mr. Brown resorted to a trick. He let out a shrill whistle. Mr. Biggie looked paralyzed for a moment. Mr. Brown sprang forward, the mouth of the sack aimed at Mr. Biggie’s head. Mr. Biggie just cowered but soon he was wrestling with fate inside the sack. Holding his prize catch at arm’s length, Mr. Brown emerged from the shed. We called for the taxi, which came in about five minutes. Mr. Biggie could not be left unattended during the wait though. He was using all his might to struggle free from the sack. But, his claws got in the way. They got stuck in the jute weave and kept the captive quiet for sometime. We bade farewell to the cat in the sack and retired for the day.
Tootsie missed her son again and started her moaning and wailing when she remembered her brood. But, by the third day of their absence, the heartbreak seemed to have subsided.
As Night Four of their absence gave way to Day Five, Dad dreamt that Mr. Biggie was back. He recounted his dream while we were at breakfast.
After getting dishes done, I aimlessly walked out into the yard through the back door. I noticed a white object out of the corner of my eye, on the boundary wall. I thought it was Tootsie. I paid no attention and continued my dreamy walk among the mulberry bushes. And, then I heard an animated purr. Glancing toward the wall, I spied Tootsie lavishing her son with her tongue. Mr. Biggie was back? Was I dreaming? I walked over to the wall. And, there he was indeed. With eyes that said he was guilty to be back, he glanced up at me. And Tootsie had a smug look on her face, a look that almost said, “Watch out for my son – he knows how to come back to Mamma.”
I ran inside to break the news. We were totally baffled. How did this tiny being know its way back? Surely, he was a super cat.
Mr. Brown visited us that very evening and he was the one to spy Mr. Biggie prancing around his Mamma. “Don’t tell me he’s back!” he almost screamed in fear.
But, Mr. Brown took pity on us, beset with the trickster again, and he came up with another idea. He had yet another friend who lived on the other side of the canal. The canal had to be crossed by ferry – there was no bridge. Taking Mr. Biggie there would be the definitive solution. Cats hate water. He would not dare swim across the canal to get back. We agreed. Mr. Brown had a scheduled visit to his friend the following week.
Seven days later, we were stocked with Mr. Biggie’s second favorite, tuna fish. King fish would remind him of his previous trap. And, we set up a different rendezvous: the outhouse next to the boundary wall. Mr. Brown readied himself for the task. He spruced himself up--face clean-shaven and hair neatly combed back. He even sprayed on some different cologne.
Around 2 p.m., when Tootsie was away surveying the neighbor’s yard, I went out with the tuna fish, Mr. Brown, and Mr. Biggie meowing and hastily following the scent that he could not resist. Into the outhouse, I set the tuna on one of Mr. Biggie’s favorite plates. He made a dart for it. I shoved Mr. Brown in, and jammed the door. This outhouse had no windows – only ventilators near the roof. I had to witness the scene. I had already set up a stepladder against the ventilator and that was my perch for the next half hour.
The hissing, the spitting, the baring of teeth, and the snapping out of claws took center stage. Mr. Brown was on a far-from-merry-go-round. He was sweating and huffing and puffing, and exhausted of techniques to distract the cat. Then, I had an idea. I leaned into the ventilator, poked two of my fingers through the cement filigree and wiggled them while I called out, “Puss, puss, puss, puss, pss, pss.” It worked. Mr. Biggie’s attention was diverted and Mr. Brown swooped him up in time. It was a writhing bundle that I last saw before I climbed down from my seat of distraction.
The taxi was summoned again, and we were generous with Mr. Brown’s reimbursement. This time it was an extra long journey with the ferry ride too.
Surprisingly, this time, Tootsie’s pining did not subside in a few days. It took a week. And then, everything was back to normal.
Exactly two weeks later I awoke to a vision of Mr. Biggie, back at our house again. This can never be, I thought to myself. He’ll definitely not come back this time. I brushed it aside as just another trick of my mind and got on with my day. Staring out of the dining room window, while having our first meal of the day, Mom put her fork and knife down, peered out at something and then yelled, “Surely not him!” I almost spewed out the mouthful of milk I had just taken. I had to stand up to see over Dad’s head and out of the window. There was Mr. Biggie, characteristically licking his right paw! We could not believe our eyes. This was no ordinary cat but a cat that would brave water, weather, hunger, and the worst storms to come back home. He had journeyed 14 days this time. Tootsie soon entered the picture, licking her son and delighting in maternal reverie.
We decided that a cat this extraordinary had to be part of the family. He was here to stay. He began to sense that we accepted him. He grew closer to us as the days went by, imitating his mother as she sought our attention, brushed us with her tail, and cuddled up near our feet. He grew playful and competitive. He was his mother’s son. We renamed him Trixie. He was now much bigger than his mother. He had a sturdier build and slightly coarser fur. Tootsie was the "soft" ball.
Exactly a week later, it was a Saturday morning when I missed Tootsie’s usual purring and scratching on the backdoor. I went out to have a look. I called out to her. She did not come. Trixie wasn’t around either. I ventured among the tall grasses that grew at the back of our house and noticed a patch that seemed trampled on. Stuck to one of the bent grass shoots was a clump of Tootsie’s fur. Yes, it was hers--soft and white and just the right length. Dogs’ paw marks studded the muddy areas of that patch. A little further away, there were other bigger clumps of her fur and one of them was bloodied. She had had a battle with the dogs. My heart fell. I saw yet more bloodstained blades. Beyond that, there wasn’t a trace as to the direction they took.
I scoured the entire neighborhood with Dad and Mom and some of the neighbors, hoping to find Tootsie, injured but alive. The search was in vain. One of our neighbors said that they were kept awake that night by the howling of dogs. But we had heard nothing. The dogs had done a dandy deed with the disappearing deal.
We were standing in a circle, talking, when something gently nuzzled me and purred meekly. It was Trixie. His face was scratched, a bit of his ear torn, and he looked battered and sad. From that moment on, he stayed closer to us than before, never venturing beyond the wall. But soon his lively spirits came back. He was a replica of his mother again – so much that the neighbor’s tomcat mistook him for Tootsie and started courting him.
Tootsie must have known her nine lives were almost done. It must have been the strong bond with her son that most resembled her that drew him back every time. Tootsie had protected Trixie and braved the canines. It looks like she had wanted to live on with us through her son. In a way, she always came back.
A writer since childhood, Stacey-Anne is adept with words that she weaves into the rich tapestry of her works. Her pieces in both the fiction and nonfiction categories range from light-hearted and entertaining to profound and uplifting. Loving variety, she has written short stories, articles, reports, travelogues, and amusing verses and limericks besides poetry.
Stacey-Anne Bistak resides in Toronto, Ontario,
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