For many years now we have been a three cat family.
This is Big Louie in 2008.
He's the elder statesman.
He is named for poet Robert Louis Stevenson, on account of the obvious name for a gray kitty is Shadow, as in
"I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see...."
which is a poem by Mr. Stevenson that my Mama used to recite to me. A Whole Lot. I have tried not to take it personally, lo, these many years.
This is Dusty Cat, in 2007.
We usually name our cats after people, but we made the mistake of letting one of the boys name her, and this is what whichever one that was came up with.
We signed whichever one that was up for some Creativity 101 classes shortly thereafter, and he has turned out just fine.
And this is Weird Uncle Gus, circa 2009.
He earned that name by being like the guy at the family dinner that sort of stands in the corner and just observes in a way that borders on the creepy. Everybody knows he's harmless, and he has never been anything but gentle and kind, but, well, he's just weird, is all.
Yesterday morning I went out for my walk, starting off down Crawford as usual. It was a really pretty morning, nothing out of the ordinary at all save a Squirrel Who Had Seen Better Days laid out in the middle of the street.
I was gone just a little more than an hour, and as I approached my starting point I spotted something out of place in the yard that's catty-corner from ours.
It was a black and white cat. It was very, very still.
I called out, "Gus! Gus?"
Inside my home, fast asleep, was my son, Thomas, who leaves tomorrow on his way for Columbus, Ohio for a year. Thomas is the only person Gus really has ever had much to do with. In fact, I've only ever met one cat in my life who didn't prefer Thomas to every other person on the planet. He just has a way with them.
I just knew I could not send Thomas off on such a sad note, so I started taking a series of deep breaths and thinking about what in the heck to do to insure he wouldn't find out.
Normally, my husband is in charge of this sort of thing, but he was already at work. I didn't think it would be prudent to ask him to come all the way home to take care of what needed taking care of.
I also could not bear the thought of calling the city agency that removes such. I just didn't want Gus handled by people who didn't care about him.
Time was ticking away. I began to worry about kids walking to school, and hated for them to see sweet kitty Gus like that. I realized that I was going to have to do What Needed to Be Done -- and quickly. I thought that if I really hurried I could get this done, figure out what to do with Gus before Thomas got out of bed, and then I would just spend the next couple days avoiding answering the inevitable, "Mom? Have you seen Gus?"
I figured I could answer truthfully. "Why, yes! I have!"
There was just one little hitch in my plan.
Thomas made an unexpected appearance, and plopped his fine self down in the den. All my Cat Corpse Recovery gear I'd have to sneak by him. I managed to either escape his notice, or he wasn't entirely with the program yet, but I got by him with no problem.
Picture now, if you will, a raggedy looking, sweat-soaked woman crossing the street busy with school traffic, garbage bags stuffed under her arms, bright latex gloves on her hands, then stooping down and picking up a dead cat and then running back across the street with it. It is a vision I feel certain some passers-by will never fully eradicate.
I hid the evidence (not very well), then came in the house, grabbed my cellphone, and went ALL the way to the back of the house into my closet, and called my husband to ask him where in the world I could hide Gus until he could get home to HANDLE IT. We settled for the area behind his workshop: even if Thomas took a notion to cut the grass or something, he wouldn't see anything back there.
Back out I went, grabbing the now triple-bagged Gus, running across the back yard with him lest Thomas started to wonder where in the world I'd gone and come out there.... and then hid Thomas' sweet friend in the shade.
I came back in the house, and needed desperately to unload all this raw emotion on somebody and decided to contact a couple of folks via e-mail to let them know what had happened. Here's what I sent.
As I was returning from my walk this morning I saw our kitty, Weird Uncle Gus, dead in a neighbor's yard. He is Thomas' baby, so I knew there was no way I was going to tell him before he leaves (it's not unusual not to have seen Gus for a day or so).... so I decided to steady my nerves a minute and then head over across the street to pick up his body and figure out what in the hell to DO with it before Thomas would wake up.
EXCEPT HE GOT UP.
Geez, Louise. I just snuck out, scooped Gus up, and he is hidden behind Henry's shed (wrapped up), and then I went back in my closet to call Henry, who will come do something with him as soon as he can.
If I weren't so sad about sweet Gus, I'd probably have to laugh.
You can probably tell right away that there was room for some misunderstanding, what with that whole "he got up" thing.
One of my friends wrote back, in part.....
"...can I share something with you that I think will make you smile? When you said up above "and then he got up" the first time I read that I thought you were referring to Uncle Gus, and that this story was about to go in a whole nother direction! My heart is still racing!"
The other wrote this back, which made me fairly well bust a tear duct.
"If that's not a true vision of a mother's love to protect her son from sadness, I don't know what is."
E-mails continued back and forth, and we all had a good laugh about the misunderstanding, and I was ready to face the day, Gus-less.
I spent the day thinking about Weird Uncle Gus, but satisfied that I had done the right thing. We went out for a family dinner at our favorite restaurant so Thomas could make his goodbyes to his brother, sister-in-law, and niece. I was a wreck, watching him hug folks goodbye.
It was nearly 9:30 when we got home.
I hadn't seen Big Louie nor Dusty Cat all day, and so to my great relief, Big Louie was first in the door, followed closely behind by Dusty Cat. My gray babies were safe and sound.
I held my breath, waiting for Thomas to wonder where Weird Uncle Gus might be, turned around and saw THIS:
Answer to your first question: Yes. That's exactly who you think it is.
Answer to your second question: I have no idea.
Some days just bookend better than others. I'm sorry for the owners of the Cat Who Looked Just Like Gus, but I really needed the deep, hard, snorting-through-my-nose laughter that I got at the end of the day.
I'll just leave you with this....