We found her mother in the curb one day when it rained. I was throwing the football with my little brother, I think, when we heard the meow meow under my car. My brother asked if I heard it, and I did. So I got down on my hands and knees, crawling like, and looked under the car with wet and dirt gathering on the knees of my jeans. The shadow figure of the tiny cat bobbed in the road behind the tire. This is something I remember very clearly: this little cat curled up with her tail dappling over her side and face, and tiny tiny little rib-bones jutting out her side. This gave me that same twinge I’ve had my entire life when it comes to cats. When I see one that has been hit by a car, I make sure to get him or her out of the road and buried. It’s indecent, I think, to let a living thing spoil in the road with flies circling about its eyes in indignity just because we have to be at Taco Bell to meet Kevin for lunch and we can’t stop to at least get something we murdered out of the road. Shit, you have things to do right? Who cares about just another dead cat?
And there, under my car there sat a tiny calico cat with a little white belly, orange and white wrapped around her face and black stripes down her slender stomach, bones protruding like. If not for finding her then, if my brother failed to convince me to throw the football, we would have never found her and she would have died like the thousands of cats that are cold and hungry now, huddled scared under cars not knowing where they are or if they will live to see another bowl of food given to them by the charity of some old woman or a young man pathetic enough to ruin good jeans just to help a cat.
She was a wee wee baby cat, meowing, wet and wanting food. I went inside and filled a bowl with food for her, brought it out, and placed it by the car. I called her, saying, “Come on kitty, come on baby. I’m not going to hurt you.” After an hour or so, she crawled out to get the food, and I scooped her up in a towel, took her inside to dry her off, rubbing her head saying, “It’s going to be alright. I have you now.”
We had just lost a cat of ours named Buck due to a neighbor poisoning him, and every time I heard a cat meow all I could feel was the empty space that Buck left when we buried him under our pecan tree. There’s a small rock with his name on it still near his grave, I believe, and when we pick pecans from off his grave in the summer I always think of him kneading on my shirt, or curling up in my dirty clothes. This cat was just another cat, and just another cold and wet and starving cat, but there was no way we’d let her go hungry. We fed her and fed her often. She started to come around more often and we got to know her. After a while, we named her Calico Kelly and she was our cat. I nicknamed her Seymour after my grandmother that died when I was three.
She was a timid cat but prissy and hyper, but loving to those she knew. She spent most of her time on top of the shed around back or teasing our dogs. My little sister Jennifer loved her Calico Kelly and despaired when she disappeared just like the rest of us. She loved her with a real type of love, not the vain type that loves based on convenience and benefits. The real kind. Love comes in all shapes and sizes; sometimes it’s shaped like a little cat wrapped in a towel, sometimes by a brand new DVD for Christmas, but the real sort of love is always formed when there is no advantage in loving except the love itself. That’s the love she had for Kelly and the love we all had for Entae.
We had her for almost a year before she had her first litter of kittens. There were five: two yellow tabby cats (Tiger and Tigger), a white and black one (Felix), a white and yellow one (Zero), and the runt: a little black kitty with one little white spot on her nose. Her name was Entae.
My brother loved her at first sight and picked her of the litter to be the cat we kept inside. “I called her first!” he said. “I want the little black one.” He named her Entae and we all loved her immediately. She was passive and responsive and never scratched or bit anyone. She never meowed or whined as a baby, but we loved on her ridiculously. By the time my grandmother died, Kelly (her mother) disappeared; one of the other cats in the litter had been killed by a dog, and the rest wed given away. We were left with one cat, our only cat for almost four years: Entae.
When she was young, one night when I was 17 or so, she got into our dog pen to try to get a sip of water. By then her black coat showed patterns of white, auburn, yellow, and a little mask of color built around her eyes: she was transforming into new colors (something she did all her life, getting more and more blonde and tan as the years went by.) She snuck into the dog pen that day for water and the dog attacked her, ripping her stomach lining open in the process.
Our neighbor, who lived right beside our dog pens, saw it, jumped the fence, opened the cage, and saved her. To this man, we’ve always been grateful. He gave us four more years to spend with her, four more years I’ll cherish until I’m in the ground like her, cold, wet, alone inside a tawdry box.
We brought her inside and put her on a towel. Her little back was broken, it seemed, and every time she tried to meow nothing but a wheeze came out, soundless air. My brother and I probably cared about her the most, and we demanded she be taken to a vet.
The ride to Laurens that day, with the dying kitten on our lap, seemed to take forever. When we arrived, the vet told us there was little chance that she would live, but we could leave her there over the weekend to see if she survived. It would cost us over a thousand dollars, but we agreed without question. A living thing is more important than money.
Miraculously, the vets said, she pulled through. She would always walk with a sly sort of gimp like a jaguar, and she could never have children, but she was alive. And she was just as loving too.
The most telling thing about her was the fact that, even while being torn open, she didn’t claw or bite our neighbor when he tried to save her. She never clawed or scratched or tried to hurt anybody. Anyone could approach her and pick her up, kiss her and love on her. Even friends of the family got to know her and grew to love her and her habits. She had a strange way of meowing. It sounded like she was saying brrrow, row, brrrrrrrow like a little squirrel, especially when she ran.
She was as spoiled as a cat could be. If you wanted to feed her a piece of ham, you couldn’t put it on the floor in front of her. Shed look at it, look at you, then look back at it, and then look back at the ham. You’d have to pick it up and hold it for her, or she wouldn’t even touch it.
She liked hot fries, hot wings, lasagna, and spaghetti but wouldn’t touch plain potato chips. She loved ham and turkey, but wouldn’t touch baloney.
She spent most of her nights in my room with me, sprawled out beside me on the bed, purring and rubbing her face against mine. Going brow, rrrow, brrow while I rubbed her little scarred up stomach (from the dog.) And we spent four years together, great years, years I hope to die remembering. Each morning when I woke up, I went to get her. I brought her back to my room and laid her down beside me and we went back to sleep. Whenever I saw her, I never just walked by. I stopped to pet her and kiss her and tell her I loved her. I did, she was my friend. A real friend that could feel and love. It’s pathetic to think of a grown man crying about a cat. But I loved her, and I miss my friend.
She was always fond of getting in peoples cars when they came to visit. She got in them and went to sleep, and sometimes shed spend entire days in the woods and fields behind our house playing (as my mother called it) with grasshoppers or moles, or laying under the shade of the tree she would one day be buried under.
Entae was a part of our family. She had her odd habits, personality traits. She almost turned into a person, to me. And to me she was just as good as one.
At seven every morning she’d be at the front door to go outside to use the bathroom. She didn’t use a litter box she shit in the neighbor’s yard and never ours, and slept behind the freezer on the parasol.
The last time I saw her alive was yesterday. It was almost seven in the morning when I brought her in my room with Jennifer. She curled up beside me and I put my head on her stomach to hear her breathe. She wanted to go out of the room, so I let her out, and I never saw her alive again.
When I awoke, Jennifer told me that Entae was missing. My mother and my grandmother had walked around for nearly two hours looking for her and calling for her. My sister and my cousin had ridden down every street in town looking for her. When I woke, my brothers and I took flashlights and walked around the block calling for her. Nothing, we didn’t find her. We couldn’t find her. I had that sick feeling in my throat that you can’t swallow no matter what.
At three in the morning, I went out and stood on the porch for thirty minutes calling her, throwing ham on the walkway, and walking up and down the road. I circled the house at five AM, calling her name, shaking her water bowl. She didn’t even come to mother whom she loved more than anyone else. She preferred her lap. Shed jump off me just to jump on mothers lap. She even slept on the pillow beside her some nights, and my mother loved her as much as she’s ever loved me, that I’m sure of.
At seven, I went out and started calling her again. But it was in vain: we found her around the back of the house, behind the pool, dead in the high grass. It’s the saddest feeling I’ve ever felt, to picture such a beautiful thing, alive and moving, animate, cold and lifeless, stiff and inanimate. I’ve never cried so hard in my life as I did once Entae was wrapped in a towel and put in the ground, under a place where she loved to go for shade. I came back into my room to find something to put on her grave. I walked by the recliner and saw she wasn’t there. It hit me again; this sick sense of negation, that something was gone. Everything felt wrong. She’s supposed to be curled up in her little ball, asleep and hurting no one on the couch. I feel it now. I spent the next three hours sobbing like a little bitch over a cat that you probably wouldn’t even get out of the road if you saw her ran over. Just a cat, right? And a grown man is pathetic to sit around and go on and on about it. Every time I walk by her water bowl in the kitchen, I picture her with dirt caked in her little nose and eyes, her little tail no longer bobbing like it did when she came to eat, and it hits me again. It hits me and it hurts.
But it’s my fault. I’m the one that let her out. If I had kept her in as I always did, she wouldn’t be cold and alone in that little hole right now with only a little porcelain angel to look over her. I just want to pet her under her chin like she enjoyed so much, or kiss her little forehead and tell her that I love her. And I did. I loved her as much as I’ve ever loved anything in my life. Every single day I got up and went straight to the front door just to look for her. Every single god damn day for five years I had the chance to spend time with her. And now she’s gone, and all the tears I can produce won’t bring her from the ground. There are humans that deserve to die, such as myself for the things I’ve done. Everyone has done something ill-natured, spiteful, cruel, ill-intentioned, or just plain nasty. If I die, I’ll deserve it. Entae didn’t deserve to die alone in the tall grass behind our pool. And the thousands of cats and other animals like her that will die today won’t deserve it either. Human beings are the only animals that think they’re going to Heaven and the only animals that don’t deserve it.
You can say, it was just a cat, or, stop being such a little bitch about it. She wasn’t just a cat. She was a part of our family and we all loved her. And we will all miss her, as much as I do right now. Standing in the shade we buried her in, under the shadow of a long dead apple tree, it made me want to rip my teeth out. She was cold and in a dark place, wet in a wet ground in a towel covered by two feet of Earth. She’s alone under there, and wants some lasagna, maybe some hot fries. And Ill take them to her every day for the rest of my life.
I guess I just miss my friend.
We loved you, Entae. We always will.
Rest, Entae – like you did on the umbrella on our porch, in my closet or at the foot of my bed. Rest like you did under that tree in the summer time, or at the foot of mother’s bed when it got cold.
And I hope, wherever you are, I hope you’ve found some shade.