Devoted – a short story

The following is a true story about my first kitty Scarlett and my very unpleasant eye surgery. Caution — tissues might be useful.

Kitty Scarlett the First had been my boon companion since I rescued her as a scraggly kitten from a Humane Society shelter. Like the ugly duckling evolved into a beautiful swan, Scarlett’s rag-tag baby appearance slowly transformed her into a lovely, silky-coated Maine Coon, a most special breed of cat that I’d never heard of.   

As she matured, Scarlett met me at the door upon my return from work. She snoozed on my lap as I watched television or worked on the computer. She curled against my body as we slept at night. Her world was divided into two distinct groups: my mommy and not my mommy. Her disdain for “not my mommy” individuals couldn’t be missed. She wasn’t unkind to others; she simply didn’t require them. Scarlett was fifteen when fate presented
me with a nasty eye surgery. The recovery required eight weeks face down. That meant nose to the sheets. Chin to the chest and eyes down when I became able to sit up. In preparation for the operation, my husband and I searched online and ordered a foam wedge designed for such face-down recuperation. It had a hole in which I’d rest my face, and air holes around the sides for obvious reasons.

I don’t remember much about the first couple of post-op weeks. There were salves and drops to apply and pills to take — all with great regularity, but with different schedules. Mike, my husband had to keep a log of when he needed to do what. There was pain and just plain discomfort from the face-down position. It was weeks before I slept for more than two hours at a time. And about that long before I was aware enough to ask about Scarlett’s whereabouts. Mike said that her food and water were provided and regularly disappeared, but he hadn’t really seen her.  Her usual household napping places had been vacant. She must have been hiding under or in something during that very confusing time for her.

Time passed, and pain lessened. I tolerated the days and weeks of lying on my stomach with my face stuck in a foam wedge. I began listening to books on CD. I learned to reach out my arm to the bedside table, and locate the proper buttons to listen to or stop the book. Blessedly, it sometimes put me to sleep like a child listening to a bedtime story.

On one of those afternoons, I heard Scarlett jump onto the foot of the bed. I felt her sit down and pause, most likely processing the unfamiliar scene. I spoke her name. Scarlett considered, and then carefully walked up my legs to lie down on my back. She covered me from waist to my left shoulder. She didn’t weigh a lot, but gave me warmth like a familiar shawl. Scarlett stretched her right forearm over my shoulder and forward toward my chin. I’ve seen her in that position, so I knew that she crossed her left paw over her right, and rested her head on the extended arm.

I could feel her sweet, steady kitty breath along my jaw. Because her head was just below my left ear, I could hear her soft purring. I don’t know how long we lay like that, but I know we both dozed off and on, and enjoyed our renewed closeness. I also know that she was there as much to give comfort as to receive. It was perfect love.

Three years later, at age eighteen, there was a night when Scarlett became partially paralyzed and must have known she was dying. She managed to crawl up onto the bed and curl up against my tummy so she could be close to me for her last night on earth. My precious Scarlett the First passed away the next morning.

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