“I made an appointment to take Nipper to the Vet tomorrow,” J. said. The words hung in the air. We both knew it was time.
Last weekend we had been to a Trader Baker’s in Kentucky and they had one of those cat scratchers like you see on TV. The ones that look like a Pringle potato chip and comes with a purple feather toy. We took it home and unwrapped it and stuck the purple feather toy in the corrugated cardboard and for two days straight Nipper played with it, dragging away the purple feather toy and scratching the surface from every conceivable angle. Then she was exhausted.
“I noticed it Wednesday,” J. said. It took me until Friday.
Nipper was spending more time in the kitchen lying near the food bowls. On Friday I noticed she was lying next to the refrigerator so still I stayed there until her ear twitched just to make sure. Later she had moved to in front of the refrigerator and didn’t move a muscle when the door opened just fractions away from her head. Later still I saw her in lying in the dining room and then I didn’t see her at all.
When I told J. this he deduced she was under the couch and when Noon rolled around Saturday he got her and dragged her out from under it. She was limp and had urinated all over herself.
J. put Nipper in her carrier and drove the short distance to the Vet’s office. The Vet had trouble finding a vein. She filled the syringe and pumped maybe a tenth of it in when Nipper was no more.
“She was ready to go,” the Vet said, “Usually that amount isn’t enough to kill a one pound cat.”
J. packed Nipper back into the carrier and left the Vet’s office. Outside he heard meows. He looked around but didn’t see any cats. The meows continued. He looked in the carrier but Nipper was still dead. He looked around some more and tucked deep in the spiny evergreen bushes was a tiny tiger striped kitten.
The kitten wasn’t moving so J. picked up a stick and poked it. The kitten looked up at him.
“He looked sick,” J. said.
So J. put the carrier containing Nipper into the car and went back into the Vet’s office.
“Do you know you have a kitten outside?” J. asked the Receptionist.
“We have cats outside,” the Receptionist ventured, “We feed them.”
“No,” J. said, “It’s a kitten. It’s in the bush.”
He took the Receptionist outside and she fished the kitten out from the bushes.
“You want a cat?” The Receptionist asked, holding out the kitten.
“Not right now,” J. said and left to bring Nipper back home.
At the house J. came in and smoked a cigarette and had a cup of coffee before taking up the task of burying Nipper. We discussed where would be a good place. Buttons, we had seemed terribly freaked out by Nipper’s distress on Friday was meowing at the door.
“Nipper was such an empathetic kitty.” I said, “If she was here and saw how sad we were she would be right up here trying to make us feel better, not wanting out.”
As J. left the house the Receptionist from the Vet’s office happened to be walking by. She told J. that the kitten he had found had been injured and they were treating it.
“Lots of people drop off animals at the clinic,” she said, “Mostly dogs but sometimes cats. Usually we can place them.”
Saturday was Apple Butter Festival Day and crowds lined up at the end of the street to witness the annual parade as J. buried Nipper under the Rose of Sharon, placing a mouse Buttons had killed in the grave alongside her.
“The whole town came out for Nipper’s funeral,” J. said, “and I didn’t even have to break a gas line.”