Short Stories - That Damned Cat

That damned cat, Roo thought to himself.  That damned cat.  That damned cat lay lifeless before him, eyes fixed on the dusty floor beneath.  Roo put a gentle hand on her back to feel a faint rise and decline, the only measurable evidence of this animal being alive.  It was just four weeks previous that Roo had stopped by his parents’ place on the hilly outskirts of town, he calculated; she seemed a lot better then.  OK, her walking may have appeared laboured to the unknowing eye, but overall the old battle axe still had some battle left and she was still able to climb into her favourite basket and look thankfully at Roo when he stroked behind her ear.  But that was four weeks previous and this was now.  A now in which she couldn’t walk a few steps without resting for air and in which she struggled to complete the simplest of tasks.  Roo hadn’t thought much of the growth in her hind leg some months previous but now it was at the forefront of his thoughts as he did his utmost to comfort her.

Other members of the family had started to hover nearby as Roo did his best to get some response out of her.  But nothing.  The tears were building behind Roo’s face and he didn’t want to speak as he knew this would force them to the surface.  Roo hated upsetting people and especially hated seeing his mom cry as she so often did when he was younger, for reasons unknown.   So he tried to hold them back and almost did but for the faintest weeping sound as he realised that this was goodbye.  The exponential deterioration of her condition would prevent another visit and the realisation then started to set in for Roo.  He hastily got up off of all fours so that the others couldn’t see the tears and then ran outside.  In his own company Roo wept, he sobbed, he lost control of the emotions he had tried so purposefully to keep in check.  Just a damned cat he thought, just fur and skin.  It was more, though, for Roo, this was another part of his childhood going, another constant disappearing against the persistent march of time affecting us all.  He wept uncontrollably for the cat, for the memories of that period in his life when she was well and for all the other things he had lost through the passing of years.

He heard some scurrying movement from indoors; it was time for him and K to leave.   Roo quickly focussed in on his breath as he drew in a handful of deep gulps to help steady and relax him.  He took off his scarf, dried his eyes on the tartan pattern and then hastily put it back on as the rest of the family came outside to wave them off.  Roo’s interactions were brief.  He knew that opening up his vocal chords to normal speech would set him off again and he didn’t want to impart that on everyone else who seemed to be dealing with the sadness so well.  So with relatively impersonal goodbyes, Roo jumped into the car, pulled out of the drive and onto the road, keeping a regular eye on the rear-view as the individual lights of the house began to merge into one blurry orange fireball, before disappearing behind them entirely.  

Piers McEwan3 Comments