THE SHEPCAT CHRONICLES

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Requiem for a Chair: A Maow Story #7

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“We’ve made a decision,” my mother announced one evening in late July as I FaceTimed with her and Dad during a Royals game, as is our routine.

“We’re sick of looking at you in that beat-up chair. We want to buy you a nice new chair for your birthday. We’re sending you some money now so maybe you can celebrate your birthday in your new chair.”

Their check arrived in my birthday card a few days later and was more than generous. My birthday came and went, because I wasn’t going to replace my battered old friend with just any chair. I visited numerous furniture stores and searched many websites. I conducted a serious online flirtation with a deep red chair with diamond stitching, broad sloping arms and matching ottoman, similar to my old chair in its construction. But for all its grandiloquent potential as a focal point of my living room, it was upholstered in vinyl, and though I sampled some vinyl seating in my travels, I was never able to test-drive that specific chair in person to determine whether I’d want to spend hours and years lounging in it.

In the end, I settled on a wide, inviting, languorous elephant-gray chair (without matching ottoman), upholstered in real leather, in which I had actually sat during my investigations and which presented itself at a price that accommodated my parents’ largesse.

But this isn’t about my new chair.

Tipped off by a friend from work who had recently bought the same chair at a discount furniture outlet, I purchased my broad-shouldered, coffee-brown, bonded-leather command post in late May 2004. I remember the date because one of our first breaking-in engagements was Bravo’s Memorial Day airing of a West Wing marathon. I watched for 13 straight hours and left the chair maybe twice.

It hasn’t exactly encouraged better posture over the years, and while it’s not by any measure built for sleep, no number of muscle spasms or neck cricks have dissuaded me from slumping, snaking and wedging my frame into the meager space provided to do so. I have sought comfort there in ways that it denied being designed for, whether implicitly or expressly, too lazy or exhausted or obstinate to get up and move three steps to stretch out on the couch.

Since January 2006 the chair has weathered moves from Los Angeles to Kansas City to Sacramento to Seattle (and moves within those cities), with only minor wear and tear. Its slow-motion deterioration began in earnest sometime after we moved into the house we called The Silent J. Eventually the leather became unbonded, so to speak, and began to crack and flake off a little at a time, first along the arms, then the seat back, then the seat itself. Much vacuuming of the carpet would follow, but the chair and ottoman remained.

(Since the move to the apartment two years ago, small tears became larger — note the obliterated left arm in particular — and while I did shop for covers, I found none that would stretch to fit the chair’s especially wide, rounded arms, nor any small enough to conform to the ottoman. Meanwhile, every time I rose from the chair, little flakes of brown polyurethane would be stuck to my arms and calves like prosthetically applied birthmarks.)

A rearrangement of the living room furniture put the chair in a more desirable location from which to view the TV, and despite its ongoing dishevelment, I found myself spending more time in it, my shoulders thrown back against its own, the curvature of my spine tempting fate, my legs stretched out before me on the ottoman.

It is in this disposition of my semisupine form that Maow found her own preferred resting place, and the chair, she and I became one. As I have said before, one of the greatest capacities in which I shall ever serve is that of soft stationary object.


Among my favorite memories are our Sundays spent in the chair, my coffee close at hand, my computer and tablet situated for the week’s proofreading, and Maow insinuating herself atop me against the front edge of my lap desk, rendering the wrist pad moot and finding comfort where none seemed evident (or willing it through her sheer stubbornness, not unlike my own aforementioned attempts to sleep in the chair). Once my work was complete, her patience would be rewarded by the unobstructed expanse of my lap, and hours of intoxicating torpor would ensue. Baseball or football games, movies, immobility. Bliss.

Before our final car trip, en route to our last terrible appointment, we spent most of that long last day together in the chair, in the dim, cool, quiet apartment. She was smaller and weaker than she had been only a month before, and I made a cushion out of a folded bath towel to make her as comfortable as possible before lifting her onto my lap. Had I not determined that morning that letting her go was the most loving, humane thing I could do for her, I could have sat there with her forever.

So I will confess to a brief pang of defiance in the moments following my parents’ generous offer (how dare they?), precisely because this was Maow’s and my chair. The suggestion that I part with it after all we had been through together was a momentary affront, like being slapped with a gauntlet or having a glass of water thrown in my face. Had Mom and Dad not announced their gift when they did, there’s no telling how long I would have continued whiling away my downtime in the dilapidated, slowly eroding wreckage of the chair.

On delivery day I sank into its embrace for one last, lingering cup of coffee as I began writing this chronicle, before upending it and pushing it toward the exit to make room for its successor, before dragging it downstairs, pushing it across the parking lot and behind my building’s dumpster, where oversize items go to await their final journeys to the landfill. I will no doubt see it there several times in the intervening days or weeks and feel sadness and longing for the past. If you’ve read these chronicles at all, you know by now that this is who I am.

I carry Maow everywhere in my heart and still have physical reminders of her close at hand, but that chair was an island that we alone inhabited (I Crusoe, she Friday), and even though a fairly magnificent piece of furniture now occupies the space where it once stood, where we spent that last day together, it may be a while before it stops feeling like an absence, a hole in the room where something is missing.

Sometimes when I entertain thoughts of an afterlife, I imagine that a suitably perfect one might be spent in that old chair, restored to its former glory — whether situated in a meticulously re-created living room or suspended in an endless void; it doesn’t really matter — stroking Maow’s fur as she naps and purrs on my lap for eternity, like one perfect never-ending Sunday.

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Written by Shepcat

August 25, 2019 at 10:21 am

Posted in Continuing Series, Life, Love

Tagged with

A Madeleine 2.5

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As long as I’m on the subject of The Untouchables

My sophomore year at KU I was a desk assistant at Oliver Hall, where I lived, and in addition to working a few three-hour desk shifts each week, I worked one or two half-shifts a week sorting the morning mail, working alongside whoever was manning the front desk.

There was one girl — let’s call her Angie — whom I found especially grating to work with, particularly in the morning when I’m more people-averse to begin with. She was flighty and chatty and prone to insipid conversation, and I usually tried to power through the mail as quickly as possible so I could be done with her and get on with my day.

One spring morning the hall’s daily mail arrived — two or three big canvas drawstring bags that we’d dive into and separate before filing it in the residents’ mail slots. I happened to first open a bag full of magazines and catalogs, near the top of which was the May issue of Gentleman’s Quarterly, as it was still commonly referred to back then.

costner gq

“Hey, Kevin’s on the cover of GQ!” I exclaimed.

I have always been an avid follower of the movies, even when I didn’t yet live in an industry town, but Angie didn’t know that. And while it was certainly not unlike me to say such things, I was immediately struck by how overly familiar I must have sounded to her, so I just ran with it.

“I know him!”

Kevin Costner had appeared in a dozen movies in five years — and had semi-famously not appeared in one — but to date the only role in which he had made a strong impression was as the high-spirited gunslinger Jake in Lawrence Kasdan’s Silverado. If that had been his breakout role, then The Untouchables, coming in June of that year, would be the film that made him a star.

Angie was into hair bands and would ramble ad nauseam about Jon Bon Jovi and David Coverdale and David Lee Roth and whose ass looked best in spandex, so I was sure she wouldn’t know any of this, and I decided to have some fun with her ignorance and gullibility.

On the fly I spun a magnificent tale about a friend in L.A. whose father was an entertainment lawyer. I had visited a few summers back, and while I was there we had hung around a party his parents had thrown at their house in the Hollywood Hills. Mingling among assorted industry types, I had met Kevin — really nice, engaging, down-to-earth guy — and in the course of our conversation he mentioned that he’d found out the day before that his entire role in a movie he had wrapped was going to end up on the cutting-room floor. This was Kasdan’s The Big Chill — Costner would have appeared in flashbacks as Alex, whose funeral had brought his college friends back together — which surely Angie was familiar with, if only for the popularity of its soundtrack album.

“Worked out OK for him, though. Kasdan felt bad and cast him in Silverado. Now look at him,” I said, referring back to the magazine cover.

I marveled at my own audacity but knew that I’d soon run out of plausible details to keep the lie going. I was trying to think ahead and wondering about cutting bait and confessing, when Angie interjected.

“Hey, wait a minute,” she drawled, her suspicion evident in the way her words hung there in the air. “You’ve never been to L.A.”

Of all the details for her to get hung up on …

But then: “No, wait, that’s right — you told me one other time about a trip to California. Was it this one?”

At which point any compunction I had about lying to Angie evaporated. “Possibly. I mean, I’ve been out there to visit more than once.”

I have no idea what became of Angie after KU, but maybe once or twice over the last 32 years the subject of Kevin Costner has come up among friends, at which point she may have said, “Hey, did I ever tell you? I went to school with a guy who met him before he was famous.”

Written by Shepcat

July 14, 2019 at 2:29 pm

A Madeleine — #2 in a Series

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My friend Colleen traveled to Chicago this week, and Thursday she posted a picture of the façade of Union Station on Facebook. Which took me back in time.

In the summer of 1987 or ’88, my best friend, Andre, and I made our second weekend trip to Chicago together (our first having occurred in the summer of ’86, after our freshman year at KU). This time we crashed on the floor of a friend’s family home in Wilmette or Winnetka — one of the W’s, very confusing, as they’re both northern suburbs, right next to each other along the same rail line — and took the commuter train into the city each day.

Our first day, after we hopped off the train, we made the short walk to Union Station, which recently had figured prominently in The Untouchables — most notably in the shootout in which director Brian De Palma shamelessly but masterfully cribs from Eisenstein’s Odessa Steps sequence in Battleship Potemkin.

I am virtually certain Andre and I entered on the Canal Street side, at the entrance nearest Jackson Boulevard, and once inside we might have walked around a bit surveying the other entrances as we tried to single out the actual staircase on which the shootout took place.

We found it. Or thought we did, anyway. Certainly the layout looked correct, even if all the contemporary touches like advertising and modern signage clashed with spare, elegant period setting of the movie playing back in our heads.

U Master

So I went into director mode, and began blocking the scene.

“Costner’s standing here …” after he clunkily drags the baby stroller up the steps one-handed, refusing to relinquish his hold on the shotgun under his trench coat, spotting the bookkeeper and several Capone henchmen as they enter the station.

U Three-shot

“He recognizes the henchman at the entrance, pushes the mother out of the way as he raises his shotgun to fire. He lets go of the stroller …”

U Costner

I went down the steps, tracing the stroller’s downward trajectory as bystanders fall amid the crossfire. Costner follows it down, having first thrown down his shotgun and drawn his sidearm, which he quickly empties.

U Mid-Stairs

I’m at the foot of the staircase now. “Enter Garcia. He crosses into frame, tosses Costner his spare pistol, and slides in right here to catch the stroller before it pitches off the bottom step …” (For the record, I did not slide, notwithstanding my enthusiasm. … Enthusiasm. … Enthusiasm.) “… and he trains his gun on the henchman holding the bookkeeper …”

U Garcia

I aim my finger gun upward and to the right before crossing back up the steps to the third point of the triangle.

Here. … Garcia shoots.”

U Accountant

And this is the point in the story when I cross my heart and hope to die. Because as I looked at the wall there under the balustrade, that’s when it caught my eye.

Blood spatter.

Not much. Nothing like what you see in the photo above. So little, in fact, that you’d miss it altogether if you weren’t on that staircase at that time for that very purpose. But spots of pinkish red, many no bigger than the head of a pin, that could plausibly — in my mind, could only — be squib blood that didn’t get completely cleaned off the wall after filming. Filming that the Internet Movie Database informs me took place in August 1986 — not long after our first Chicago trip, as it happens — meaning that spatter had persisted a year, maybe two (again, my memory) waiting for us to discover it there.

Coincidence, you say. Some kid could have knocked his cherry Slurpee off the top of the balustrade the day before, you say.

Suspension of disbelief, I say. The magic of motion pictures.

You could never convince me otherwise.

Here endeth the lesson.

Written by Shepcat

July 13, 2019 at 9:59 pm

Posted in Continuing Series, Life, Movies

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Pay It Forward: A Maow Story — #6 in a Series

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A little after 10 a.m. Friday I received the sad news that Burns had passed away that morning, and right there in the breakroom at work, with a dozen or so co-workers milling about nearby, I became teary-eyed. Not crying exactly but just lachrymose enough that if someone glanced my way, they might have asked whether I was OK.

I pushed a tear away with my thumb and a moment later another arrived in its place. It persisted, and on my way back to work I had to will myself not to think of Burns so I could hold it together in front of customers and co-workers and get on with my day.

Burns was a 15-year-old orange tabby I followed on Twitter.

One of four, to be exact, whose human is a political writer I follow. A world-class journalist whose fine work is somehow overshadowed by the four (now three) orange tabbies with whom he and his wife share their lives. The Garfields, he calls them.

There’s a well-known science-fiction writer I follow primarily because of his four cats, the youngest of whom was a stray tuxedo kitten his family took in a year ago, who has blossomed into as charismatic a troublemaker as you would hope to find on social media.

Yet another cat I follow, on both Twitter and Instagram, this one a tortoiseshell — one of two rescue floofs who belong to a writer and criminologist in New England — is about to have surgery next week, and I have nervously awaited news of her health as her sad saga has unfolded. The surgery will cost her humans about $3,500, and they are rallying to raise the money however they can. And I feel that, because we’ve been there.

When Adriane’s Big Cat (aka B.C., whom I referred to affectionately as Suitcase) was ailing during our year in Sacramento, I was in no position to tell Adriane not to spend $1,200 or so on the surgery we hoped would save this creature who had been her companion for a decade or more. Sadly, the surgery revealed a larger underlying issue that would have required another surgery to correct, but ultimately we couldn’t justify the additional trauma that second surgery would cause him, with no promise that it would improve his quality of life. That second decision wasn’t about the money at all — though again, I couldn’t have said no — which is how you want it to be, if only for your own peace of mind.

When Maow became weaker and began to fail in the fall of 2017, I was fortunately in a position to throw money at the crisis — about $1,700 all told, after I took her to the emergency veterinary hospital. All it bought me was a few more days with her and the peace of mind that her regular vet had denied me, but it was worth it. And I would do it again. I can’t imagine not doing it.

That Friday night, when Maow was taken from me to have her vital stats collected and to be assigned her kennel, I stood at reception as other humans checked in their pets — I remember a bulldog and a golden retriever, though I can’t recall their names or illnesses now, but in particular I remember an older gray tabby who experienced so much pain when he pooped that he would leap straight up into the air. Which is hilarious for about three seconds, until you look into that poor cat’s eyes and see the concern etched into its human’s face, which was exactly as troubled as my own. And though my entire weekend was a sad, slow march toward letting go of Maow, I worried about all three of those pets and wondered about their care and progress all weekend.

That’s one of many final gifts Maow gave me: affection and concern for the pets of people I don’t even know.

Rest assured, then, that if I do know you — even if I’m unable to express it adequately at the time — I am standing beside you in spirit as you care for a sick or dying pet, and I’m very likely an emotional wreck about it. Because I’ve been there, and every minute of that harrowing last weekend still plays inside me on a loop.

Written by Shepcat

July 12, 2019 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Continuing Series, Life, Love

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A Madeleine — #1 in a Series

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Friday afternoon as I waited in the chair for my oral surgeon to arrive for my follow-up, U2 played over the sound system of the dental practice.

In that moment I was transported back nearly 31 years to the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, where I celebrated my 21st birthday with my brother, Dustan, and my friends Andre and Michele. The evening’s main attraction: Bobcat Goldthwait.

Bobcat was in his prime in 1988, at the height of his popularity and the peak of his distinctive and singular comedic prowess. On this night he is characteristically manic, his screeching, howling, wailing voice playing to the back of the house. (We’re at a table somewhere in the middle, on the main floor.) Bobcat is rabid and hilarious, and you can barely catch your breath from laughter before he ricochets off in another direction. Then more laughter, more struggling to breathe, glancing at your friends to confirm that they’re experiencing the same giddy disbelief.

After a wild hourlong set, Bobcat, sweat-soaked and seemingly exhausted, bellows a thank-you to the crowd and exits the stage. The lights dim.

Long, sustained applause, catcalls and whistles from the audience. As an encore some comics will come out and do a little crowd work or have another tight, self-contained 3 to 5 minutes of material to reel off before they say a final goodnight. But you can’t imagine a comic of Bobcat’s vocal intensity and erratic physicality having anything left in the tank after the set we’ve just witnessed. Still, the crowd roars.

A minute passes, maybe more. The crowd won’t relent. Then suddenly a blue spotlight faintly illuminates the mic stand at center stage.

The crowd roars louder.

The familiar strains of a song begin to play over the sound system.

Enter Bobcat, first in silhouette, then bathed in the blue glow. He has removed the shirt that he sweated through during his set, and above the waist he is wearing only a tight black leather vest, his bare arms exposed. His stringy shoulder-length hair is now slicked back into a tight, precise ponytail. The stage lights come up a bit. He begins to sing.

See the stone set in your eyes / See the thorn twist in your side / I’ll wait for you …

The crowd goes insane.

Sleight of hand and twist of fate / On a bed of nails she makes me wait / And I wait, without you …

He is no longer pudgy, sweaty, frenetic Bobcat, the guy from One Crazy Summer and Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol. Right there in front of our eyes, he has become Bono — brooding, magnetic, self-assured — performing a dead solid perfect “With or Without You.”

And you give / And you give / And you give yourself away …

And he’s not lip-synching, either. He is fucking nailing it, every note, his voice crying out, hitting every crescendo. It’s beautiful, heart-wrenching, an absolutely mesmerizing 4 minutes of performance art.

I can’t live / With or without you / With or without you …

And then the music fades out. And he’s gone. And just like that, the house lights come up, and a thousand or so people are left to disperse toward the exits, puzzling over the transcendence of what we just witnessed together.

Written by Shepcat

June 7, 2019 at 7:07 pm

Posted in Continuing Series, Kansas City, Life

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365 Days: A Maow Story — #5 in a Series

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One year today.

And a quiet, lonesome year it has been.

Maow was the soul of our home, the mouthy, furry, opinionated, playful, scornful, purring, napping still point of my turning world, and not a day passes that I don’t miss her like an amputated limb. She was the long-suffering object of my constant affection, my greatest gift, my sidekick, my backup, my office manager, my supervising editor, my not-so-silent partner, my confidant, essential to the machinery of daily life — and the gears of our little operation have slowed to a grind in her absence.

Because I tend to anthropomorphize and project, and because I had scant prior experience with cats, I used to fret that Maow’s world was so small, confined to the walls of whatever space we lived in or the backyard we occasionally allowed her to roam and forage, that she was a hostage, a prisoner. Then over time I shrank my own world down to fit into hers. Her world became mine.

And before you think it or say it: Yes, I know that was probably unhealthy. That doesn’t mean that it — that she — wasn’t the best thing for me at the time. You can’t convince me that human contact had anything more to offer me. I mean, you’ve met people, right?

In many ways my world is still as small as the one I shared with Maow. I am branching out a little at a time, gradually re-expanding the sphere of my experience, but I am still waiting for the catalyst, the inciting incident, the course-altering event that will point me toward the undiscovered country of who I’m going to be without her.

Of course, Maow is still with me every day. Literally. The tiny pine box that holds her cremains occupies a shelf not 20 feet from where I spend most of my time — which is to say where we spent most of our time together those last two months.

She pops up frequently in Facebook and Instagram memories, and rare is the day that Adriane or I don’t have a picture of her to share with each other. I admit to feeling cheated on those pictureless days, but I have also had at any given time as many as 16 open browser tabs in which I’ve saved various ones for quick reference. (Never mind the voluminous archive of Maow photos that is effectively just a few extra mouse clicks away.)

She turns up in my dreams occasionally, as recently as a few weeks ago in fact. And I hope she continues to do so, even though my febrile unconscious mind too often busies itself with improbable architecture and casts of unknowns staging impromptu one-acts cobbled together by whatever’s playing on TV when I fall asleep and whatever I happened to eat or drink that night.

She lives in my waking imagination as well, which is to say I often consider an alternate timeline in which Maow is alive and well and factoring into my decision-making, however unmoored from reality those big-picture considerations might be.

When Adriane and I finally listed the Silent J on the market, I scrambled to find Maow and me a new place to live. The house had been at least twice as much space as we needed, and had I not required the use of the master bathroom, neither of us would have had any reason to climb the stairs.

For the short term, we were downsizing to an apartment, but I had for some time fantasized about — was frankly mildly obsessed with — an unconventional dream house: a converted Quonset hut with a mostly open floor plan of about 1,000 square feet, no stairs to climb, a domain whose breadth Maow could survey with a single sweeping glance. Never mind the unlikelihood of finding an extant one locally or the unreality of my buying a plot of land and commissioning the design and construction of one — if people can live in yurts and igloos and tiny houses, I saw no reason why Maow and I couldn’t have a Quonset hut to call home.

It was not to be, of course, but even now I find myself on walks about town judging the merits and drawbacks of various small ranch homes and ramblers I encounter, considering their suitability for Maow and me. Not some prospective feline to be rescued, adopted and named at a later date, mind you. Maow.

Earlier this year, when I read for the first time Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley: In Search of America, I indulged the equally ludicrous fantasy of hitting the open road with Maow in a Rocinante of our own. Never mind that Maow loathed and distrusted the implications of car travel. I imagined that, appointed with appropriate creature comforts, as it were, a homey enough vehicle would grow on her, and she would gladly divide her time either comfortably ensconced in our cozy living quarters or curled beside me on the front seat as I drove. (Much like my Quonset-hut pipe dream, I imagined cutting a hole in the back window to accommodate a Maow-size airlock connecting the truck’s cab to the camper.)

At one time or another, in one way or another, I’ve failed everyone I’ve ever loved. So when Maow and I became two against the world, she became my last, best hope to love someone without fail or regret.

Over what we did not know at the time was the last year of her life, I left Maow on a few occasions — a fishing trip with my dad and brother; back home again for Christmas; a family wedding in Texas — and I dreaded every departure and hated our every minute apart. Even though the neighbor kid was a kind, attentive and reliable pet-sitter, even though Adriane had bought us a Wi-Fi–connected camera so we could look in on her, I hated the thought of Maow alone in that big house, with no sense of the passage of time, no certainty that I would eventually be coming home to her, even though I always did.

All told we spent about five weeks apart that last year, and even though I spent that time in the company of people I love, I wish I had it all back. I wish I had never left her.

That’s exactly the kind of monster I am. Now you know.

Because with an unhesitating degree of certainty I can claim for no one else, I would have run into a burning building for Maow. And at the end, as she became weaker and smaller and the inevitable drew nearer, I would gladly have traded her failing health for that burning building, because it would have meant that I could actually do something for her.

In the end, all I could do was let her go. I hope but will never be entirely convinced that I didn’t fail her in some way. I will never believe I entirely reciprocated all that she gave me. I will always have debits in the ledger. I will always wish I could have done more. I will always wish we had more time together.

Maow was my whole heart. She still is.

Written by Shepcat

November 14, 2018 at 4:05 am

Posted in Continuing Series, Life, Love

Tagged with

A Maow Story — #4 in a Series

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The hardest part is letting go. Still.

As of this writing, it’s been over four months, but I still find myself forced to let go of Maow in moments that no one else would notice, in ways you’d need a microscope to observe. Which on its face is a ridiculous notion, because she’ll never be gone from my memory or my heart. There’ll always be something to remind me of her.

I have a couple thousand pictures of her on my phone and my computer. I have a little wooden keepsake box that contains her ashes. I have a tiny stoppered bottle that contains the little gifts of dropped whiskers and shed claws that she used to leave around our house, for God’s sake.1 I have one of her squeaky-mouse toys that I withheld from the cache that I gifted to Nani in Hawaii; an ornament bearing her likeness, one of two that a dear friend made and sent to Adriane and me last November; the “It’s All About Maow” sign that my niece gave us one Christmas.

Maow’s carpeted tower still stands in a corner of my apartment as a monument to her absence, atop it her blue harness and leash, and the litter scoop that hasn’t made it into the storage closet with the litter box. There’s even one-third of a bag of litter in the office closet that I haven’t figured out how to dispose of yet. To the casual observer, the existence of these durable capital resources might appear to be evidence that I’m thinking of getting another cat, but I have no such plans for the immediate or even distant-ish future. There is no particular imperative for my holding on to them.

But again, there is the occasional instance or moment that drops on me like an emotional anvil.

I finally got around one day to clearing some things off the dining table that had been sitting there since November — detritus, really, was all it was. Plastic bags that had contained items the emergency veterinary clinic had sent home with me. Medication that she had never been administered that I needed to dispose of. Paperwork of absolutely no importance.

The thing that broke me was the small, flimsy cardboard box which had protected the tiny wooden box for her ashes. I was about to break it down for recycling when I saw the label on one end that read “Maow Shepherd” — printed entirely for logistical purposes by the crematory, to clarify to whom her cremains were to be returned — which was all it took to unglue me. The idea that she didn’t merely belong to me (though in fact it was the other way around) but that she was a part of me, that she was family, left me flailing in a pool of tears for the rest of the afternoon. I ended up cutting out the labeled panel of the box before recycling the rest.

Later I found in the office a makeshift toy Adriane had made for Maow — a small ring of twine at the end of a string, attached to a long stick, literally a small, straight, sturdy branch snapped off a tree. There seemed no point in keeping the toy, so I dismantled it and decided to toss the stick outside, back into the wild, as it were. Instead of just heaving it off in any random direction, though, I placed it in the grass directly in front of my assigned parking space. I suppose I thought it might be appropriated for fetch by some dog walker who happened to spot it or transformed by the imagination of a child in need of a wand. In any event, I checked for it every time I parked my car or vacated the space, and there in the grass it remained for a month or so, until one day recently it was gone. Not merely relocated, as was revealed by a scan of the immediate area, but gone. And while I’m not emotionally distraught about its sudden absence, I am nonetheless wistful. About a stick.

Finally, I was taking the train into the city last weekend to meet the guys for drinks, and for the first time in a long time I had worn my herringbone topcoat, sort of dressing myself up a bit even though I was wearing jeans and boots. Anyway, I was sitting there with nothing else to distract me when I happened to spy a hair standing out along the hem of the coat. So I plucked it, and even though it could have come from anywhere, it seemed irrefutable to me that it was a cat hair — a Maow hair — that had somehow clung to the wool of the coat for God knows how many months and survived the move and clung there still as the coat hung in the closet in my apartment until this very evening on which I decided to wear it. I held the hair between my thumb and forefinger for the longest time, holding it up to the light, thinking of Maow but marveling at the resilience of the hair itself, that it had somehow arrived at that moment with me.

I knew I couldn’t hold onto it forever. It was too small and the moment too fleeting. I could put it in a pocket or rub it back onto the hem of my coat where I had found it, but the odds of it holding on were even slimmer than my ability to hold onto it in that moment. Even as I held it, I could lose sight of it in the light just by turning my hand a certain way. I knew that my train ride was brief and that I couldn’t will my fingers to remain pinched, and I wasn’t thinking of all the pictures and all the keepsakes and all the evidence of Maow back in my apartment, but only of that moment and that single hair, until I relaxed my hand and suddenly it wasn’t there anymore.

The hardest part is letting go. Of anything.
 
 
 
 
 
1 I’ve always joked with Adriane that I was holding on to Maow’s DNA on the off chance that she could one day be cloned. And wouldn’t you know it — a recent story alleges that Barbra Streisand did just that with one of her dogs that passed away. So maybe now I’m just waiting on the big break that results in an influx of crazy, ultradisposable Streisand dollars.

Written by Shepcat

March 9, 2018 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Continuing Series, Life, Love

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