Today's blog is written by Elizabeth
Scout lived in the home of the Dominguez family. She was an unusual cat, basically white with great orange-red splotches splashed over her body. Roger, Wendy, and I had gone over to Karen’s house one day to visit. Karen’s mother impressed us with her story-telling abilities. She was a huge woman with flashing black eyes, dark skin and long wavy flowing, heavily silver-streaked black hair. We were sure she was a witch. She giggled and cackled appropriately when she caught on to our suspicions. She also thrilled us by showing us the newborn kittens that Scout had presented her in one of her file cabinet drawers. We fell in love with the “pink” twins.
When it came time for the kittens to have a home, I was hard pressed to decide on just one. Since Dad was not fond of cats, bringing a furry critter home would be touchy. I brazenly brought “Pinky” home and hid him in my room. We were all pretty ecstatic about him. Even Mom readily accepted Pinky, but warned us that Dad wasn’t going to be happy about it. He wasn’t. But, he didn’t insist that we return Pinky. Maybe he let us keep him because Pinky was the nickname given to Dad’s brother, Oliver, back in their high school days. Maybe, because he couldn’t face the revolt we kid’s hinted at producing.
So, Pinky stayed and became the center of our adoration. A week later, I couldn’t stand it anymore and went back over to Karen’s house to fetch Pinky’s other half. We promptly named him, “Stinky”, although both kitties could have gone by that name at times!
We spent the next week carefully hiding one kitten in the bedroom while the other one came out to eat, use the litter box, and play. Mom was the first to catch on and just laughed at our conniving cleverness. She also kept a promise not to tell Dad. But, we grew careless and didn’t discover our mistake until we heard Dad’s voice booming.
"Wha....? TWO CATS!!”
We all froze and glanced guiltily at one another. There was a certain tone to Dad’s voice that made the word, cat, come out sounding as though it meant a slimy thing crawling out from under a rock.
I began talking fast as I could, as the kittens were quickly grabbed up and held cuddled tightly in Roger and Wendy’s arms. I kept trying to talk convincingly, ‘til I realized the big teardrops forming in my little sister’s eyes could have more sway than anything I could say. So, I signaled her to come over to be with me in front of Dad. She picked up my cue and as she looked up at Daddy with her big blue brimming eyes, I played my card, in my most convincing wheedle.
“Please! Can’t we keep them both?
Of course Dad caved in. Pinky and Stinky became regular members of our household.
A few years later, we were supposed to be helping clean up the yard. Half-heartedly I got out the rake, then left it lying in the grass as I noticed the picnic chest which had been left out in the yard under a bush. I opened it only to discover Pinky, asleep forever, inside. Suddenly a vision of my little brother locking the cat inside the picnic cooler formed in my mind as clear as watching a movie. And I firmly believed that I knew exactly what had happened.
I turned on him, shouting, “Murderer!”
Roger stood facing me innocently widening his eyes refusing to admit having any knowledge of what happened to Pinky. I knew he was not telling the truth. Grief and rage overtook me as I threatened to force a confession out of him. I picked up the rake, shaking it menacingly in his face. No amount of denial on his part could remove the certainty from my mind that Roger had been responsible for Pinky’s demise. Then, I chased him with the rake, promising to smash his brain in for “killing MY cat”. We ran in and out of the yard and house. I’m sure we worried the neighbors. Roger was sufficiently wily and swift. I never got much chance to do serious damage. But, I’m sure the experience was doubly traumatic for him. To discover the consequences of his actions resulting in the death of our beloved Pinky was sad enough, without having his big sister turn into a screaming harridan.
As time passed, I learned to stop muttering, “cat killer” in my little brother’s ear every time I went near him and eventually stopped shooting arrows at him with my eyes. Nonetheless, he continued to deny having been responsible and I continued to see the picture in my mind as clearly as if I had been present.
An uneasy peace settled between us as the years went by. I eventually forgot my anger and, as a young adult, remembered my cruelty. I went to Roger to apologize for abusing him so unmercifully for the unfortunate death of Pinky. He, in turn, was free to confess to me that, yes, he had been the one who innocently closed the lid upon finding Pinky snoozing within. It had not occurred to him that it would cause any harm.
After all, it had not previously caused any harm the time he had put Pinky inside the birdcage with Pretty-boy, our parakeet, and then put the cage inside the refrigerator and shut the door. It was only luck that I discovered them in enough time. Pinky had not been so fortunate and I had not been so swift the second time.
If we could live the experience over again, I wish that I could have been able to allow myself to grieve properly. I wish that, as a family, we all could have been able to comfort each other in our loss. At the time, we didn’t know how. But, now, when I think about it. I replay the experience in my mind two ways.
First, we discover Pinky and our quick thinking big brother, Dave, bravely resuscitates him, as we all gratefully cheer, hug one another, pet the cat, and learn to be more careful.
Second, Pinky is beyond our help and we all cry and hold each other for comfort and plan a quiet ceremonial for Pinky. Roger and I understand each other, (beyond our years), and we all heal ourselves of our loss.
But, of course, those scenarios are only another fantasy in my wistful mind. Speaking of which, it was uncanny, Roger told me, that what I saw in my mind’s eye so many years ago when Pinky died was exactly the way it happened.
What about Stinky? One may wonder. Stinky didn’t appear to miss his pal, twin, and lifelong playmate much. After all, he gained the total undivided attention of an appreciative family of six. Yes, Dad did come around a bit where cats were concerned.
Stinky was last seen the winter I was fourteen, one evening crossing the ice at Eighteen Mile Creek near Roosevelt Beach when we lived in Wilson, New York. Since he was a full-fledged gentleman cat, he was off on an amorous adventure. I hope he got to meet up with the lady cat of his dreams that night before the ice-melt came upon him by sunrise.