The Man was very sad. He knew that the Cat’s days were numbered.The doctor had said there wasn’t anything more that could be done,that he should take the Cat home and make him as comfortable as possible.
The man stroked the Cat on his lap and sighed.The Cat opened his eyes, purred and looked up at the Man. A tear rolled down the Man’s cheek and landed on the Cat’s forehead.The Cat gave him a slightly annoyed look.
“Why do you cry, Man?”the Cat asded.“Because you can’t bear the thought of losing me? Because you think you can never replace me?”The Man nodded “yes.”
“And where do you think I’ll be when I leave you?”the Cat asked. The Man shrugged helplessly. “Close your eyes, Man,” the Cat said. The Man gave him a questioning look, but did as he was told.
“What color are my eyes and fur?” the Cat asked. “Your eyes are gold and your fur is a rich, warm brown,” the Man replied.
“And where is it that you most often see me?”asked the Cat. “I see you…on the kitchen windowsill watching the birds…on my favorite chair…on my desk lying on the papers I need…on the pillow next to my head at night.” “Then, whenever you wish to see me, all you must do is close your eyes,” said the Cat.
“Pick up that piece of string from the floor——there, my ‘toy.’” The Man opened his eyes, then reached over and picked up the string. It was about two feet long and the Cat had been able to entertain himself for hours with it. “Now take each end of the string in one hand,” the Cat ordered. The Man did so.
“The end in your left hand is my birth and the end in your right hand is my death. Now bring the two ends together,” the Cat said. The Man complied.
“You have made a continuous circle,” said the cat.“Does any point along the string appear to be different, worse or better than any other part of the string?” The Man inspected the string and then shook his head “no.”
“Close your eyes again,” the Cat said.“Now lick your hand.” The Man widened his eyes in surprise.
“Just do it,” the Cat said.“Lick your hand,think of me in all my familiar places, think about all the pieces of string.”
The Man felt foolish, licking his hand, but he did as he was told. He discovered what a cat must know, that licking a paw is very calming and allows one to think more clearly. He continued licking and the corners of his mouth turned upward into the first smile he had shown in days. He waited for the Cat to tell him to stop,and when he didn’t, he opened his eyes. The Cat’s eyes were closed.The Man stroked the warm, brown fur, but the Cat was gone.
The Man shut his eyes hard as the tears poured down his face. He saw the Cat on the windowsill, then in his bed, then lying across his important papers. He saw him on the pillow next to his head, saw his bright gold eyes and darkest brown on his nose and ears. He opened his eyes and through his tears looked over at the circle of string he still held clutched in his hand.
One day, not long after, there was a new Cat on his lap. She was a lovely calico and white…very different from his earlier beloved Cat and very much the same.