L’il Orphant Annie out here?

My friend up the road was surprised to learn that we brought our cat, our beloved little Annie out here to summer with us and with Judge. Of course we did. Annie gets really mad when she is left behind. She hates it especially when we take Judge and leave her. She won’t let us pet her. She flings her tail from side to side. Her claws, usually carefully retracted, somehow get snagged on sweater, or pants, or skin. And we miss Annie. Carrying around a palmful of kitten in your jacket, bottle feeding her, keeping her alive against the odds, creates a bond. So we brought Annie out here. She follows us into the woods.

Merv was up the stream that feeds the pond the other day. He was in pursuit of the invasives that float down the water and seed the bank of the stream. He was after tartarian honeysuckle. It is heavy work and hot. Judge stayed back with me. Merv was alone, digging and prying and pulling and upending the big bushes. He heard rustling. He knew it was a big animal. It wasn’t. It was Annie. She had followed him. She got back fine.

We always brought our cat along when we came here. Our daughter, I will call her Cis, had discovered Abednego in the window well of the Sunday school, wet and miserable and mewling. A good Bible name. She brought him home, and cleaned him off and gave him milk. We couldn’t leave him at the house alone for the summer. So he piled into the car along with Daisy the dog and all the kids, on the 8 hour trip across Pennsylvania and then north across the border with NY to the cabin.

New neighbors had introduced themselves to us. Well, Holly and her girls introduced themselves. They took the long path over the hump of hill and up and down through the thickets, past the tall noisy aspen, past the old apples and the new maples to the new raw one room cabin. I invited them in. Holly had long blond hair she had pulled back into a pony tail, and a long body and a beautiful translucent complexion. She was still. Self-possessed. Quiet. Entirely at ease. Yes she wanted tea. No to cookies or bread. Yes her little girl, I will call her Earth, could have a piece of fruit. Yes she could play with our daughter in the loft. We drank our tea. Holly observed. No questions. No chit chat.

The toddler stayed on the floor at Holly’s feet. But Earth and Cis explored every inch of the cabin. They started to talk. They told stories. They giggled. They raced up the ladder and down again. They crawled under the cabin. They ran around outside with their hair streaming behind them. They held hands and played dolls. They made plans. A whole summer of friendship and adventure together.

The dreaded day arrived. Suitcases packed. The bedding in mouse proof containers. Food packed or discarded. Car packed. Children sad then distracting themselves or us with mischief. Daisy rounded up. But where was Abendego? We walked the woods. We walked the paths. We crawled under the cabin. We filled his dish with food. We needed to leave. An 8 hour trip. The morning was gone. Work the next day. We HAD to leave. We left Apendego.

We stopped at home to talk with Mom. Of course she would go out and look. She would find him, and keep him for us. Mom wasn’t one to wander in the woods calling ‘Kitty, Kitty.” She borrowed a have-a-heart trap and took it out to the cabin. She collected Earth and made the plan. Earth would put fresh cat food in the trap every morning. Earth would check the trap every evening.

Earth’s mother called my mother. The cat was in the trap. Mom drove out. Parked. Walked out past the aspen, the apples, the maples, to the clearing near the cabin. There was the trap, a mewling, frantic cat inside the trap, there was Earth, sobbing and sobbing outside the trap.The two, Mom and Earth, carried the trap and the cat to the road. Mom went to talk with Holly. Mom offered up a lifetime of canned cat food for Abendego. Holly said no. Mom offered up a lifetime of dry food for Holly’s cats. Holly said no. Mom reluctantly took Abendego home.

Mom and Dad wouldn’t give us the cat back. Abendego was happy with them. He liked their kitchen. He wasn’t happy with anyone else. He hid when we showed up. They gave him a new name. Inky. Kitchen cat, lap cat, cat that would purr for Dad, meow to Mom for food. Run away from us.

2 little girls with long blond hair streaming behind their heads as they ran up the path grew up. Moved far away. Got married. Cis was in Earth’s wedding. Merv performed it. Families of their own. Big careers. Elegant page boys. But I think they need cats.