He was a scrawny little thing, white raggedy fur, sitting in an orange crate in a bead shop in a little New England town. He kept staring at me with his light green eyes, a funny colour, like jade diluted with milk. I left with two bags of beads and an orange crate full of staring kitten.
The vet declared him unhealthy...a grade three heart murmur...he would never see his first birthday, never mind survive the flight to Iceland. He signed the travel certificate, I bought the little guy his own seat on the plane. He cuddled up in my sweatshirt and stared at me for hours.
An odd cat people would say. When he was big enough to go outside, he would make the rounds. Door to door he would travel, and sit and stare. Never meowing, just staring. Like he was reading your mind.
He learned everyone's routines, he knew when to visit, who would give him a treat or let him in for a nap. He became a snowcat, he grew and grew till he weighed 18 pounds on his first birthday. A tall cat with big bones, muscular, strong, leaping from the ground, to the car, to the roof in a blink of an eye.
"He'll only live a few more years with that murmur,"said the vet. "He'll just drop one day. Keep him indoors, it will be less stressful for him"
Louis stared at the vet with his funny, spooky eyes, then winked, as if to say "Yeah, whatever"
Indoors didn't last for long, he ripped out screens, learned how to slide open the window and turn the door knob. Who needs opposable thumbs. He would disappear for days, stay out in snowstorms,come in when he felt like it. He was the king of the snow. When he returned from his adventures, he would eat a bowl of fish, then sit and stare at me as if he were waiting for me to entertain him. When he tired of me he would open the window and go off to visit the neighbours and stare at them.
The last trip to the vets, vaccines, checkup,bad news. His heart is getting worse. He has a tumour. Let him enjoy his last days, let him make his rounds and visits. We watched him fade away, his appetite never faultered, he still had that regal stare over us, his subjects. He grew slower these past few weeks, losing the spring in his step, growing thinner and thinner despite his good appetite, despite the meals cooked for him by Rain, and the fancy tinned cat food from Frieda.
He made his rounds on Saturday. Eating and napping at the five houses he called home. His last visit was to Rain's, roast beef and a sheep skin cat bed. She called to say he was staying the night. He died Sunday morning, curled up in his furry bed near the heater. His poor little heart finally gave out, the traveling cat came to the end of his journey.
He was seventeen years old.