By Patricia Crandall.
Suddenly the hammering in the breezeway had stopped. “Odd,” I thought. Then I heard a high-pitched ‘yow!’ I raced to the breezeway and found my Goliath-sized husband holding a gray and white, mewing kitten in the palm of his hand.
I let out a sigh, relieved it was not a bloody, split thumb which would involve a trek to the emergency room. Gently, I took the kitten from Drew, savoring its softness beneath my chin and the purring vibration. “Where did he come from?” I asked.
“I was laying down floorboards when the animal tottered into the room from outdoors.” Drew clutched a hammer to his side.
I set the kitten down, placed hands on my hips, and watched the small creature wobble across the floor and poke his nose into every corner. “Cute,” I smiled.
“He may be ‘cute,’ and we don’t know who he belongs to, but I’ll find the owner of that cat.” Ignoring my protests, Drew canvassed the neighborhood for the owner with the kitten squirming in his arms. He returned some time later with a forlorn look on his face. “No one claims him. Now what do we do?”
I looked into my husband’s eyes with a no-nonsense stare. “We keep him. He’s chosen to live with us. He won’t survive on his own.”
“May I suggest the animal shelter?” Drew’s mouth was turned down. He knew when he was defeated.
“I shook my head firmly and mouthed the word no!”
Drew reached in his pocket, removed a pipe and filled it. “You have Barclay.”
At the mention of his name, a huge sheep dog plodded into the room and sniffed the air. He thumped lazily over to the kitten and licked his tiny pink ear.
I found my new pet irresistible. Ironically, before I checked for proper credentials, my seven-year-old-niece, Nicola, named our new kitty “Timmy” after her favorite cousin. The name adhered even though a closer appraisal proved Timmy was a very feminine feline. Alas, she would not answer to “Tammy.”
For a long time, I was of the opinion Timmy was a half-breed Angora or Persian. Many folks intimated she was “part this or that,” never a definite “she is a _____ cat.” Everyone agreed “Timmy is a beauty and so good-natured.”
One day, while thumbing through Cat Lover’s Magazine, I came upon a page depicting a look-alike Timmy, imitating the way she slept on her back with paws bent over, the wide-eyed, angelic expression on her face, and the regal manner in which she carried herself. The article described a breed attributed to be one of the first show cats in America’s history, Maine Coon Cats. What a heritage to come by, and Timmy fully lives up to that.
There are two theories on how Timmy appeared at our house on that particular evening. I had yearned for a kitten for a long time; I considered her to be an act of God.
The second theory, since Timmy is a Maine Coon Cat, she possibly came from Maine. Timmy wails from the moment she is in a car until the moment she is let out. It is probable someone from Maine traveled through the community on that memorable evening and, under pressure from her continual howling, let her out on our front lawn.
It was many years later the mystery was solved.
Timmy’s incidents were mischievous and numerous in the years in between. One event occurred during a sixties summer. It is total discomfort traveling in humid, ninety-degree temperatures in a packed Mustang with a four-month-old baby, one panting, drooling dog who needs a bath, and a howling cat. This day happened when we were traveling to our vacation home.
After driving an hour under these stressful conditions, Drew pulled the car off the road to swat a bee out the window. When the bee would not budge, he opened the door slightly, and Timmy darted out of the car. I, Drew and the stinging monster went in pursuit of Timmy.
Even Barclay gave chase. He tumbled Timmy over and over in the gravel. But Timmy frolicked in a teasing manner, eager to have Barclay play games.
Exasperated by the melee, Drew threw himself onto the front seat of the car and, grasping the wheel with white knuckles, demanded, “Let’s go. Leave the damn cat here. She’ll survive!”
Barclay crept onto the back seat, sitting upon thick haunches and whimpered.
Ignoring Drew’s meltdown, I stalked the naughty cat, praying she would not dash into the woods and be lost forever. As if sensing she had pushed her luck too far, Timmy was resigned to be captured, and I swooped her into the car.
Drew surged the vehicle forward, and Timmy wailed all the way to the camp.
After our son, Drew Junior, was born, I needed a babysitter to come to our house one afternoon a week and on Saturday evenings. The perfect solution was Elsie Little, a neighbor who had three grown daughters and a lot of free time. Elsie bestowed her matronly warmth on DJ, Barclay and Timmy.
Years passed, and after DJ went to college, and Timmy and Barclay were now fond memories in a photo collage, Elsie and I remained friends. Over lunch one day, we reminisced about our families and pets.
“I’ve often wondered what happened to my daughter’s kitten,” Elsie said unexpectedly. “One night, the little mite escaped outside through a door left open by one of the girls. The family searched the neighborhood but we never found the kitten.” She shook her head in dismay. “Hayley cried for days. We had to adopt another kitten to soothe her. But I’ve tried to rationalize what terrible fate happened to the one we lost.”
I leaned forward in my seat and folded my hands on the table. “Do you remember what year Hayley lost her kitten?” I asked.
Elsie’s forehead puckered, “Let’s see,” she counted on her fingers. “It will be twenty-six years in October. Hayley was fourteen.”
I gazed out the window at the green landscape dotted by pastel-colored daisies and wildflowers. “How extraordinary. What color was the kitten?”
“She was a light colored, long-haired kitten. Adorable as kitties are.” Elsie nodded her head slowly.
I gushed, “Elsie, you never recognized Timmy as Hayley’s missing kitten?”
Elsie stammered, “Timmy? But there was no resemblance between Timmy and my daughter’s kitty.”
I clasped her hand. “At the time you saw Timmy at our house, she was a full-grown cat. Her fur had darkened and she was unrecognizable as the kitten your family knew.” I related how Timmy strolled onto our porch one Autumn evening twenty-six years ago. If Drew had canvassed one more house on the block…
Elsie leaned back in her chair and looked relieved. “I feel better knowing the kitten had a good home all these years, and Hayley will be pleased when I tell her. She has three cats of her own now.”
“What a strange coincidence,” I mused, “and it could only have happened to Timmy.”
PATRICIA CRANDALL has published numerous articles and short stories in various magazines and newspapers. She has five books in print, Melrose, Then And Now, a historical volume, I Passed This Way, a poetry collection, The Dog Men, a thriller, and Tales of an Upstate New York Bottle Miner, non-fiction, and Pat’s Collectibles, a collection of short stories. She lives with her husband, Art, at Babcock Lake in the Grafton Mountains near Petersburgh, New York. Visit her at authorpcrandall.blogspot.com