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The Cat With No Name

by Tim Tobin

dedicated to my wife MaryAnn, this is her story

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Tim
holds a degree in mathematics from LaSalle University. He retired from L-3 Communications after a career in software engineering. The Knock on the Door appears in A Fistful of Horror, an anthology from Cruentus Libri Press. Cramer appears in I’ll Never Go Away, an anthology from Rainstorm Press. The Legend of Christmas Past, Fred the Christmas Dog, A Soldier’s Christmas, The Winds of Winter, The Blood Donor, and Revenge on Mummy Mountain have been accepted for anthologies to be published in late 2012 or early 2013. He is a member of the South Jersey Writer’s Group.



Jim Tobias knew it was Thursday night because he was lugging twenty-five pounds of cat litter to the curb for Friday trash pick up. And then he lugged a fresh twenty-five pounds into the house where he dumped it into the freshly-lined litter box.

Jim sighed and was happy that it wasn’t the first of the month. That’s when the upstairs litter box had to be changed too. Then he lugged another twenty-five pounds down and the up the stairs. Jim decided years earlier that he could live without the cats but his wife loved them.

If the cats went, she went. Marie made that point crystal clear to good ole Jim.

So he lugged cat litter and pretended it was just another chore to be done.

Marie and Jim had three cats at that moment, Puff, Sam, and Peanut.

***

The cat with no name probably touched the lives of the Tobias family more than any other. The January the cat came was bitter cold, in the twenties. A skinny grey cat just appeared on their patio one day. Marie and Jim never knew for sure if he had been abandoned but he did not wear a collar. He was probably attracted to the patio by the sight of the other three Tobias cats.

Marie spent days just staring at the little critter through the patio blinds. He was so cold and so alone that it just broke her heart. Jim was moved too. But he pointed out they already had three cats in a small condo where pet were forbidden. If the Association made an issue of it, they would have to move or give up the cats. And Jim knew which way that call would go.

Finally Marie could no longer stand watching the cat slowly starve and freeze. She opened the door and put out food and water. Marie desperately wanted to name the cat but again Jim pointed out that if they give him a name, he was theirs.

Of course that’s what Marie wanted.

The cold of January gave way to a blizzard in February but still the cat with no name came to the patio. Marie made a bed out of a cardboard box. She lined it with a blanket and put a few used toys in it. She placed the box on the patio and turned the opening away from the snow and wind. The small creature slept in the box.

Marie finally ventured onto the patio in boots and coat with a blanket in her arms. She picked up the cat still with no name and held him to her warmth. The animal purred his thanks but he also coughed deeply.

Mr. Softy watched from the patio door.

“Oh, okay, Marie, you win. But he goes to the vet before he comes in. We have to protect the others.”

Marie agreed and they took the cat to the vet.

The news was awful. The doctor was sure the cough was caused by a cancerous tumor in the throat. He would have to do a biopsy to be positive and even with expensive surgery, the prognosis was very dire.

So Jim and Marie paid to have the poor little cat put down. Marie held him close to her chest and Jim stood behind her and watched the light just go out of the beautiful yellow eyes.

The vet asked it they wanted to leave a name for the cat.

“No, No,” Marie whispered. “He was just a cat with no name.”

Mr. Softy wiped away his tear and sighed. $500 spent and this cat was never in their house.

***

Jim and Marie Tobias grew old, of course. And along the way there were five more cats.

Jim continued to lug the litter to the curb every Thursday night. But now he carried two ten-pound bags. It took him more steps but the strain on his heart was not as great.

Marie, naturally, would have had more cats but Jim finally prevailed.

“After all, Marie,” he had argued, “we don’t want a cat to outlive us and force the kids to put him in a shelter”.

Reluctantly Marie agreed. She grew old with her husband and Muffin who would sit on her lap and purr. And now Jim had only one bag of litter to carry.

And when he carried the litter out he would swear he felt a cat rub against his pant leg. He would look down but nothing was ever there. Yet, he was sure he heard a faint meow drifting away on the spring breeze.

Marie left first to find her beloved cats. Jim was devastated, of course. Their small condo suddenly became as big as a cavern and just as lonely. He was glad for the company of Muffin. Although she sat next to him she would not sit on his lap.

Jim was sure Muffin was looking for Marie. 

***

Jim finally left one day to find Marie. Their daughters and grandchildren were there to see him off. Jim’s last thoughts were whether or not there was really a cat heaven. The family was astounded when his last sound was a chuckle.

“It’ll be just my luck,” he had been thinking.

***

Jim and Marie Tobias lie next to each other in Angel of Mercy cemetery. Family and visitors are certain they see the shadow of a cat evaporate into the brush. Others swear they see the tail of a cat disappearing around the head stone.

No one visits a cemetery at midnight. But if anyone ever did, they would see a shimmering grey cat with brilliant yellow eyes sitting on top of the headstone.

The cat with no name guards the people who had loved him, even if it been for only just a day.


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