My Wobbly Bicycle, 160

Posted by on Nov 28, 2018 | 11 comments

On the seat in front of me on the plane, a young woman is splaying her fingers to admire again her long pointed nails, sparkly blue claws. We should have trimmed Wally’s claws before we left, I think. When we rolled our bags out the door at six in the morning, he was sitting perfectly still, forlorn, I might imagine, eyes large, knowing it was useless to try to follow. This had happened before, he knew, all to no good.

 

Travel is like a dream. You see where you are, but you are also back there, where you left. You travel through the years, too, but you are also back there, in that body that seems like this one, but you know it used to be a lot more agile. We are on our way to D.C. to spend Thanksgiving with our children and grandchildren. It is a hard journey for Jerry, who walks very slowly, with a cane. He needs a wheelchair for distance. I’m nervous because we have a short connection-time in Chicago. If the wheelchair arrives late, we’ll miss our flight.

 

Back to Wally: I was beginning cancer treatment when we got him. He’s comforted both of us during the last six years.  He came to us, the most gorgeous stray you could ever imagine, huge, obviously with Maine Coon blood in him, long white and gray fur, a ruff at his neck. Well, he wasn’t huge when we got him. He wore the evidence of his sojourn, however long it was, in the wilderness, fighting to survive. When he was taken in, he weighed half his normal weight and for several days had been reaching for the doorknob at the Civic Center, in the dead of winter. He was offered to us on a trial basis, which lasted until the second he emerged from his carrying case.

 

Our Wally has a crooked smile because we had one of his large canine teeth extracted. It was broken and we imagined it caused him pain. Who knows? He’s probably an old guy. He’s a bit un-cat-like, the opposite of aloof. He follows us everywhere, rolls over to have his stomach rubbed. He costs us money. We hire a cat-sitter when we travel. He would be devastated if we boarded him, we speculate.

 

 

 

But who knows? There are cat-signals: tail in the air for happy, tail tucked under for unhappy or scared, but beyond that is guesswork. How old does Wally think he is? Whatever, he’s been good for Jerry. When Jerry’s been in pain, he’s had his living lap-rug. Whatever door Jerry closes, Wally stands outside it and waits for his dear one to emerge. In the mornings, when Jerry’s reading the Times online, Wally perches precariously on on the narrow ridge at the back of his desk chair to keep in touch. And he helps him do his exercises. 

 

He is our house-spirit. Cat-spirit is not like dog-spirit. It’s silent, for the most part. It gently animates the surroundings; it reminds us that the universe is alive, beyond us, but it does this by sleeping most of the time. Cat-spirit-sleeping is a visual of peace in the valley, a sign that there is no point making a fuss over things you can’t fix. That the warmest place to be is near another spirit, or on top of it, getting your ears rubbed. Cat spirit knows it is worthy of being rubbed, and is content to collect its due.

 

Spirits arrive unbidden, always, it seems, from somewhere out in the cold, and make glad our temporary lives. We can’t create them, but we can take care of them, as long as they can stay. Wow, I guess that sounds like a Christmas story.

11 Comments

  1. <3 <3

    • Thanks, Tara!

  2. Beautiful piece, Fleda. Cat spirits take up more space than I think we often imagine, at least, I found that to be the case when mine died. Now, I’m waiting for a time with less travel so I can get two cat spirits and hope they keep each other company when I am back on the road.

    • I know. We wonder if we’ll get another when Wally is gone. It’s the travel thing.

  3. And the cat spirts make us feel chosen and cared for. At least sometimes and those sometimes are well worth it.

    • Chosen. Yes. Those sometimes are definitely worth it.

  4. These lines: “Cat-spirit is not like dog-spirit. It’s silent, for the most part. It gently animates the surroundings; it reminds us that the universe is alive, beyond us, but it does this by sleeping most of the time. Cat-spirit-sleeping is a visual of peace in the valley, a sign that there is no point making a fuss over things you can’t fix.” So dear.
    BUT.

    Dear Fleda, I will think of these lines as I listen to our Boots yowl her multiple-pitched, elongated, tirelessly painful existential howl at least three times every morning, staring at her full-of-fresh-water bowl, and letting loose that cry several times through the day and before bed. We can see nothing wrong with her (nor can the vet) so have decided she has refused to be silent about the state of world, though what exactly in her world initiates such a ruckus is beyond us. I think she has little in common with your Buddha Wally. I’m so glad you have Wally and not Bootros Bootroskitty.

  5. We have three cat spirits. All of them came to us unbidden. All of them offer themselves in different ways in what, it seems, is needed at the time. Wonderful piece, Fleda.

  6. Ours are the thoughts between the lines, the wake up call, the thoughtful caress of purr when its needed most, the lick on the hand that pets, the welcome paws at the door, the company-keepers, the hungry morning criers, but mostly the purr on the lap–the sign that all is well for a while. Mostly that.

  7. Love your piece, Fleda! We have a dog spirit at our house but I love cats & yours is wonderful. Happy holidays to you & Jerry.

  8. So sweet! I love the photo of Wally and Jerry on the bed.

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