catOne Last Decision

by Bill Adler Jr.

I knew this day would come, when you could no longer jump onto the bed. I’ve known for a while that we’d have to make the decision on that day about which of us must die.

You’re too weak to jump up two feet. I’m barely able to lift you onto the bed so that your bones aren’t pained on the hard, cold floor. I won’t be able to lift you much longer. We have to decide, Kinmo. We need to decide today.

I don’t know if you remember the park. Six months is a lifetime ago.

I rescued you from the park near my apartment building. I had thought that the life of an outdoor cat was adventurous—birds to stalk, mice to dine on, and assorted lizards to chase, but it’s hard. In rain your fur was soaked and your face saddened. When other cats came to the park, your territory shrank. Dogs were your Godzilla. Mosquitoes turned you into a meal in the summer, and in the winter you wandered the park on a futile quest for warmth.

I visited you there every day. During winter, I’d wait for you on a park bench, and when you saw me, you would hop into my lap and stay for as long as I would let you, which was much longer than my toes and fingers could stand. During the summer, you jumped on my lap even though you didn’t need me as a heater, because we had become inseparable. You licked my hands and face before curling into a cat ball and falling asleep on my lap.

When it rained, I’d carry an oversized umbrella to the park, sit on a bench, open the umbrella, and you would snuggle on my dry oasis.

I named you after a small orange flower, kinmokusei, that blooms in Japan in October, the month that we met. In July, the day before monster Typhoon Nangka struck Tokyo, I adopted you. I couldn’t leave you in the howling winds of an indifferent storm. I was surprised when the brown and gray cat I brought home turned into a brown and snow white cat after a couple of weeks of indoor life.

I hope you have had a good life, Kinmo. I hope that the past six months have been the best of your few years. I know that my life has been enriched by you, the good moments and the cat crazy ones both. Purring in bed as you fell asleep beside me; waking up and playing the catch-the-mouse game even before my morning coffee. I love that you never stopped greeting me with face licks every time I returned home.

I’m sorry about the earthquake. I wonder if you would have been okay in the park. After the ground heaved and ruptured, you might have found water and food outdoors. But here we are, stuck on the 42nd floor. There’s been no electricity for three weeks. No other humans are around. There’s no heat to battle January’s bitter cold. The stairs are blocked. And we’re out of food.

My arms and legs belong to some other person. I know you are frail, too. I am so sorry, my sweet kitty, that I have no more food to give you.

Over the past three weeks your meows have become fragile, as if one more cry would shatter your bones. Your once coral green eyes are mud and your soft fur has hardened into clay.

It’s not poetic that we should have to die together. It’s wrong. One of us can live a little longer until a rescue that may yet come. Through the window I can still see fires consuming Tokyo, but I believe that somebody out there is saving our anguished city. And that person may reach us in time if one of us survives long enough.

I would make it quick and painless, a knife to your heart as you lie on my lap one last time. Your meat would sustain me for another few days, I think. That would be the ultimate sacrifice of your love. You won’t last until tomorrow, I’m afraid.

Or if I kill myself, your instincts will kick in and you’ll dine on my flesh. You’ll live. There’s enough meat left on my emaciated, human-sized body to sustain a cat for weeks or longer.

When I move my head, the room is a merry-go-round of incoherent shapes. I see a little girl with long black hair, wearing a lavender dress and pink suede shoes, who finds you in the ruins of our apartment building. She is holding you on her lap like I once did, petting your brown and white fur, smiling as your purring soothes her.

If I swallow all of the sleeping pills in this bottle, maybe I’ll see more of this little girl who cares for you in her happy, safe home.

Do cats dream, Kinmo? Will you remember my warm lap in your dreams?

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Bill Adler Jr.’s  books include Outwitting Squirrels (Wall Street Journal: “A masterpiece”; Boing Boing: “One of the funniest books I’ve ever read”); Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relations With Gadgets; Tell Me a Fairy Tale: A Parent’s Guide to Telling Mythical and Magical Stories; and How to Negotiate Like a Child. He lives in Tokyo.
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