Recently my brother, Nick (not to be confused with a Brother Nick who might be heading to a monastery or a commune) moved to Louisiana, a transfer from his Indian Point gig here. With it closing, Nick, not quite being done with his time, sought out a new place for the continue.
He dotted and crossed, sold old places and secured new ones, sent his stuff forward as stuff sent forward is always the best of plan if you can, as opposed to having have it be carried if it were a me as I’ve never been able to afford the send forward in any of my too many moves.
“U-Haul … friend … man … back … sore”
He made plans for the trip from here, New York, to there, Louisiana, a one intended to be as stress free as possible, planned to take himself three days to do it. The main reason for this was that he has a Cherokee and a Smokey, cats he adopted and who are his “be” and would be his rock when finally in a new land where he could stand with this cat or two.
My sis and I kept up with him on his trip in the early goings, that first weekend as he left on a Friday, via group text.
“How’s it going Nick?”
“Where you at Nick?”
“How are the cats Nick?”
“We’re sure you’re good Nick”
“How are the cats?”
“What state are you driving through now Nick?”
“How are the cats?”
“Oh, Mississippi now, cool, how are the cats?”
“You’re not dead yet and you’re still driving how are the cats?”
Obviously, Nick’s welfare was our most pressing of concern but his two cats did enter the conversation.
He had even taken special note of the situation as to his furry charges, getting them checked and doc approved before his move with doc questions answered as to how to handle multiple days in a car/jeep stress that might come with a big, long ride move.
He found pet friendly places along the way and planned accordingly.
Eventually our work weeks caught up with us though, Beck with some stuff that is pretty important as she does pretty important things and me with … ummmmm … hey! I have important stuff too … ok … well … and our group text faded into a Monday …
It became a no news good news thing, I guess, but we were lax.
Beck broke the silence, on a Tuesday, almost 9 days since the last text. You need to prod Nick by the way, he’s not one to reach out first as opposed to me and Beck who will wear pics and stories of ourselves in this group text at any time, anything that seems pertinently silly, like proud new clothes for the preening.
Nick: I can’t find Smokey
There was a collective pause. An air let out. I know you can’t really tell such a thing from a group text, but it was definitely an air letting, it was there, you could feel it, more than just a pause for my air fryer making an air fryer potatoes done sound and me just taking an extra minute or two to set my dinner and grab some ketchup, or Beck being distracted with nephews and cats and a Mom and a dog but there was a palpable pause. It was a pause that comes with a something you don’t want to acknowledge.
Nick: He’s been gone since Thursday … and there have been tornado warnings and it’s raining a lot … a lot.
My parents bought their first house at the top of a curved driveway’s small hill in Mahopac, NY, a somewhat long driveway to an above that gave you the feeling of not being one of those houses in the development just down the road where everything was flat and driveways didn’t exist, just mere parking spots with basketball hoops, where houses were all the same just uniquely populated, sometimes attempts made to differentiate but still the same flat two story things with nothing driveways that, though they stood alone in their plot, were really just the guy next door.
But we had our place. A longish driveway that went up, didn’t sit flat, but went up and found a house tucked into some woods and rock with a front door that, though it opened the same as any of the front doors down the road, opened just a little bit differently.
For Mom and Dad that house came with 3 things. A mortgage, a five year old and a dog, a one named “Lady”. Seems whoever my parents had bought the house from had only one real stipulation, the dog comes with it. Now I’m sure that there are many examples of home purchases that come with strange caveats. You have to preserve the lake your house sits on, you can’t shoo away the crows on your roof or turn off the creepy music, your neighbor’s wife might occasionally search your basement with a flashlight when you’re not at home, but a mortgage and a dog?
Maybe they couldn’t take pets where they were headed and were forced, heartbreakingly, to leave her behind. Probably the best of scenarios to remember such a thing, though it was surely more they just a didn’t want the bother.
But Lady was a sweetheart and the doggiest of dogs, no matter her ownership and she became my best of friends, my first step into a humans suck, pets not so much world that I would eventually gravitate to and live in.
Lady was an outside dog, not that she didn’t come in, mind you, and grab a comfy sleep spot, it’s just that that outside was her best of place . She loved our semblance of a lawn, patchy in spots or overgrown in others, dad was still navigating it to show friends on Saturday afternoons at Mom’s insistence (he would have preferred otherwise), she loved the woods the house sat nestled in for the nosing of leaves and staring down assorted squirrels and chipmunks and the rest, loved her place in the world that allowed her to chase things, to bark at things, ignore things that didn’t meet bark standard, loved a grabbing of some sun in the summer, she opened my eyes to an individual pets need to have their spot. And I didn’t even really know what a pet was.
Maybe they left her behind though because Lady had a penchant, no, an obsession with chasing cars and became too much the worry. This one I could understand if such were the case. Lady viewed, in my smallish mind at the time, cars to be the greatest of evils, things that needed to be runningly nipped and barked at, things to be stopped at all costs, things that tore at her very being of dog. “You’re faster than me, larger than me, angrily louder than me and you must be stopped. You are intruding on my ability to bark at what I would like to bark at or not to bark at.”
We/she were Ok with this as long as she stayed up top around the house and didn’t venture down the driveway. I though, as some years went by, discovered some friends from school lived in that flat development with those nothing driveways and basketball hoops, discovered them on my bike once I learned how not to fall off this new found independence. When Lady realized that this was happening she took to following her boy but of course that took her off the hill and down to the road which, well, was just not a good thing. I can’t tell you how many times myself or me and my best friend, Ricky, who lived in another development just around the corner, had to turn around to shoo Lady back to the house before she tried to go another round with one of her rolling demons while tagging along. And I so would have loved her company on occasion for my idyllic rides around a wonderful suburban cliche but I couldn’t chance her obsession with her loud motorized windmills.
This obsession did not end well and I will tear up as I write this, do tear up as I write this as large trucks, all wheels on the right hand side of a tractor trailer, with a Ricky in tow on our way to his house, will always prove to be the greatest foil to a car chasing dog, who we noticed too late had followed us again, and who wouldn’t allow the monsters to disturb her view of the world or come between her and this boy of hers, possibly even cause him harm.
I’ve never cried as hard since. Not even for my dad.
Nick: My neighbor tried to grab him but just missed.
Me: Oh shit nick!!
Nick: Have flyers out. Downloaded the neighbor app and am keeping the faith.
Beck: Ok, so you have some word around?
My mother was never a one to have a cat be an inside one. Not really quite sure why. Maybe her English sense of order and proper wouldn’t allow, or maybe it was just the hair. All the hair. There were couches you weren’t allowed to sit on that you knew well “living room” being quite the misnomer but cats? Not so much on the knowing.
Sixpence the cat though? The large short haired Tiger who ruled our place? He was given a pass and well, if you were a cat in this house Sixpence was the one who you modeled yourself after. Would you ever live up to him as cat? No. But you modeled nonetheless.
He was the only one who navigated my parent’s second house, and my mother’s “house cat” reticence (though a Marmalade would come and hold her own) not up a slightly tall curved driveway hill this time, but a one on our own flat now of a road right out in front. A busy one. A one that gave me a lot of practice at my new found cursing, in this case at the cars that often went by way too fast. A busy one that, sadly, worked out poorly sometimes for the cats that didn’t model Sixpence well enough.
You never worried of whether Sixpence would eventually jump into your lap at the end of the day though, he just would.
“Long day being a cat Steve”
“No cars it seems?”
“No, apparently not. Lucky today”
Sixpence was the IT when it came to being a cat.
He died of natural cat things, no unseemly end courtesy of Lady’s monsters.
But he sits large in laps, has sat large in laps in our memories ever since and is the real reason (as well as Lady for me with a heart pull) why we harbor fur.
Still commiserating via text as to Nick’s lost Smokey, Beck and I feeling the dread after six days.
Nick: Smokey is back!
Nick: A neighbor just pointed out a cat in a bush. I put my hand forward and he came to me.
Me: Ahhhhh Jeez Nick! Right now?
Beck: Oh man that’s great!
Nick: He’s rubbing up all on me and won’t stop. I’m feeling a bit emotional.
Me: Cry the fuck emotional away! (damn that some projecting huh as I went for a full t-shirt tissue).
Beck : Yay!
I don’t really know where it came from with my Mom and Dad back then but my sister and brother and I are pet folk, specifically cat pet folk, though with my sis you have to throw a big ol’ Razzy dog in the mix. But maybe it’s just because Mom and Dad never WEREN’T. I’m sure there was a Fluffy or a Snowball or a Dino somewhere in their past, a one that survived busy roads or a one who just wanted to be, just wanted to be, nosing leaves and minding varmints and her boy, damning the cars.
But Nick has a Smokey all loving him back up.
Maybe the universe has an ear for a trio of sibling pet kindreds in a group text’s communal hope. At least this time.
I’ll check back with ya Universe.