Eighteen years ago, I heard my cat Alley meowing outside. So I went outside and got her from the pasture and brought her in.
Problem was, a cat was still crying outside. My daughter and one son, both teenagers, went outside with me. And there, up in the laundry line tree, was a small black and white kitten. She was up high and crying.
I will never know where she came from. She was tiny, certainly no more than 6 weeks old, and we lived out in the country then, acres from other houses. Perhaps, as had happened before, someone saw our lights and simply left her out there, and she then fled up the tree from my dogs. Lots of people abandon cats and dogs near smal farms, thinking they will find homes for themselves.
She was beyond the reach of our ladders and our efforts to get her down only made her climb higher. After about an hour, we left the ladder leaned against the tree. I told the kids we’d have to go inside and just hope she’d come down the tree far enough to get to the ladder. Our trying to help was only scaring her higher.
So we went back inside the house. And once in the door, we heard the baby screaming. To which my son remarked, "Oh, wow, we forgot we had a baby and left her in here by herself." Which was absolutely true. She had only been born a few days prior, and I was really out of practice at having a baby, as it had been 13 years since my last one. My poor little girl had cried herself absolutely red and rigid while we had been outside, intent on rescuing a kitten. Milk soon solved all her problems and she went back to sleep. And I went outside to find a half-stunned kitten on the grass. The little black and white cat had fallen to the ground.
I took her into the house. It was a female. Of course. And the crook in her tail was a birth defect, not a result of the fall. Once she gathered her wits, she hissed at me, bit me, scratched me, jumped away and fled into the house. Feral as could be. Not a cuddly abandoned kitten but one born wild or at least not handled much.
My son’s orange tom cat Ralph took over. He found the kitten and showed her that humans produced food on demand and were not so awful as she thought. By midnight, I was allowed to feed her if Ralph was right there.
In the morning, I discovered that my son had wrapped her in a baby blanket and put her in the crib with the other baby. With the predictable results. An extra load of laundry later, all was well. And Ralph had his own kitten, something he had evidently wanted for some time. She slept at night between his front paws with his chin on top of her. She ate and she grew to a sleek teenager cat, all black with little white paws and a white chest and white whiskers. My husband said he reminded her of a little girl dressed up in a black velvet dress. Ralph taught her to mouse and she was good at it. There were two fence posts by the pasture that gave the best views for mousing. She sat on one and Ralph sat on the next one, and they hunted all day. At night they slept curled up together. She had little use for humans but loved Ralph; she was never a cuddly kitten but always very self sufficient.
Several years later, Ralph died when he was struck by a car. Piwacket, or Pi as she was by then, was inconsolable. She went out and sat on Ralph’s fencepost. She stayed there all day, not hunting, not moving. At night, I went out and carried her in. The next morning, she went out and sat there again. This went on for three days. At night, I would bring her in and put her on my lap while I typed. She was like a dead thing.
Then one morning, as I sat down to do my work, Pi came and got up on my lap. She stayed until I turned the computer off. As the Windows ‘shut down’ chimes rang, she jumped down.
The next day, as soon as I turned the computer on, she came to help me work. Windows welcome sound, time to go to work. Together, we wrote Assassin’ Apprentice. It was her first book, for her and for Robin Hobb.
Today, 18 years later, we celebrated my younger daughter’s birthday late, with lots of family and three kinds of home made cake and flowers on the table, and Pi asleep in the yard. The last year has not been kind to my old cat. Her legs are stiffening. She has lost weight and muscle in her legs and chest, and her belly has become a hard round ball. She has become senile, capable of getting lost in the back yard, or crying because she is thirsty and can’t find her water dish. Stairs are her enemy now. Recently, she has begun to have seizures. I know that we are running out of time, Pi and I.
But she still loves to find a sunny spot and follow it across the floor as she naps in it.. She still greets my grand-daughter with huge purrs. She still loves shrimp. And sometimes, she still comes to the desk chair and yowls until I pick her up and put her on my lap while I type. We still may have a few stories to write together, Pi and I.
I hope she will be merciful to me, and that some night, in her basket by the fire, she will breathe out and not in again. I hope she goes quietly and without struggle.
Thanks for 18 good years, Pi cat.