Puppy Love 4


Mochi sat in the tall grasses at the edge of the field waiting. For what? For Nibbler and Babe to come romping up the hill? For Majora to flush out a mouse? Whomever she waited for never came.

She had the saddest eyes I’d ever seen.

We had to do something. So when Tanvi took Bosko for his evening walk, I rode along on the breeze.

You’ve always wanted a cat, I whispered to her. We have room now!


When we spied a fine tuxedoed Tom following her, I whispered to Bosko, Kitty! Go make friends!

He stopped and turned towards the Tom.

“What’s this now, Boskie? You like that cat?”

Bosko woofed.


I liked the cat, too. He had a long tale to tell of fishing boats and salmon heads, lobster traps and bait, wharf mice and cans of beer.

“Would you like to come home with us?” Tanvi asked, but he turned and trotted off, too fond of his scavenging days to trade them in for a full dinner bowl and a quilted bed.


Head on down to the wharf, I whispered to Tanvi.

Near the fishmonger’s stall, she met a white Cornish Rex.

“You’re beautiful,” she said.

But the Rex hissed at her and arched his back at Bosko before dashing under the stacked crab pots.


A beautiful Himalayan trotted by.

Quick! Introduce yourself! I whispered, but it was too late. She’d passed us by.


Beside a pile of yesterday’s bait sat a white-faced Maine coon cat.

Oh, he’s lovely, I whispered to Tanvi.


Bosko seemed to like him, but the cat gave Bosko the stink-eye.


Look, trash! I whispered to Bosko, to distract him from the cat.

“Oh, aren’t you something!” Tanvi said. “Yes, you like me, too, don’t you!”

And the coon cat did seem to like Tanvi, unlike the Rex, who had come up behind Tanvi, growling quietly under his breath.


But the coon cat, too, trotted off before Tanvi could suggest that he might follow them home for a proper meal and a fur-brushing.

I blew home before them to do some thinking. There’s nothing like slipping inside of an object, especially one that carries symbolic significance, like a supper bowl, to do some serious pondering.


She would just have to try again. It was that simple.  I realized that this would take an actual conversation, not just my subtle whispers.

By the time I slid out of the bowl, Tanvi had already gone to sleep.

But Lucas was awake. He would deliver my message. I joined him for a midnight snack in the front garden.

“How is Tanvi?” I asked.


“She’s all right?” he said. “Well, not really? The doctor says she’s got something with her heart?”

“Oh, but she seems so strong!”

“She is!” Lucas said. “I think she’s OK really? What do doctors know.”

“Did she tell you she always wanted another cat?” I said. “But we didn’t have room. We have room now.”

Lucas brightened at that.


“I’d love another cat!” he said.

“You know,” I prompted, “she might not feel like she should get one, if she’s worried about her health. But, personally, I think a household cat would be the best medicine!”

“Of course it would!” Lucas said. “And Mochi’s lonely, too? And I miss Majora? If we got a new cat, we’d all be happy! Bosko and Bartie, too!”

“There are so many cats down at the wharf,” I said. “Maybe you should suggest to her that she take a walk down there tomorrow.”

“That’s a great idea!” Lucas said.

“And maybe,” I suggested, “this time Bosko should stay home.”


When the sun came up, I hovered, formless and unseen, at the edge of the breakfast table.

“Mochi is lonely,” Lucas said. “She misses Majora.”

“I do, too,” said Tanvi.

“Maybe we could get another cat.”

“Really?” Tanvi perked up. “I’ve always wanted another cat.”


So after breakfast, leaving Bosko, Bartholomew, and Mochi at home with Lucas, Tanvi walked back down to the wharf, and I followed on the breeze.

We found a beautiful spotted cat. I fell in love. But she trotted off before agreeing to come home with Tanvi.


I suppose some cats like their freedom. They may like pets and kind words, but they also like the big sky, the sea breeze, the seagulls’ call. They like the tall scaffolding and the empty crates, the moonlight and the night prowls.

But some cats like a warm bed and a dry house.

A beautiful cat, with the face of an otter and the thick fur of a coatimundi, slowly approached Tanvi.

“Aren’t you sweet?” Tanvi said.

And the cat mewed back in echo.


Oh, Tanvi, she loves you! I whispered.

And it did indeed seem that she did.

“Would you like to belong with us?” Tanvi asked. “That is, we would belong to you!”


The otter-cat mewed back and pawed at Tanvi’s knee.

“You want to be picked up, do you?” Tanvi asked.

Otter snuggled into the crook of her arm and batted at her hair.


“Then it’s a deal!” Tanvi said.

Before turning back home, I saw sorrow’s shadow behind Tanvi’s eyes. It’s a look I know well. She’d be joining me soon, and right then, she was taking it all in, believing it possible that this might be the last time she would see the wharf with her own two eyes.

We have different eyes, in the After, eyes not of the body but of the soul. And they see even more true. They see through it all to beauty. Tanvi didn’t know that yet, but she would soon.

And Otter? Otter had eyes of love, the happy eyes of a cat who has finally found a home.


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Whisper 2.18

Hey, Shannon.

Got your letter. Thanks. I like your response to the Stray Dog story–I sort of had a feeling you’d identify with him.

What you said about not wanting to be part of a dyad, though, surprised me. I mean, I get you on being an individual. But for me, I like being an individual within a series of domestic dyads. I mean, think about it: a dog and his girl. That’s an awesome dyad. A brother and his sister. Also awesome. An IF and her person. Very cool.

And then there was my mom and me. That’s maybe the most significant dyad I’ve ever been in–that’s the one that lets me connect with everyone now.


Are you saying that you never were part of a secure parent-child dyad, and that’s why you like being independent and, as you put it, “an individual I” more then “being half of a we”?

I remember what you told me about your mom. I guess that must have been hard. My mom was always there for me.

Well, not my birth mom. And I guess if I hadn’t been adopted–or been adopted by Mom–then maybe I might feel the same, too.

I wonder if that’s why it’s so important to me to adopt this stray cat.


I want him to get to feel what it’s like to be “part of a we,” and not just a solitary “I.”

I remember my birth mom. I never told you that before, did I. I never told anyone, not even Mom.

I remember breast-feeding. Funny thing to remember, but my fingers remember holding onto her. I remember softness. I remember how she smelled: like Vaseline, breast-milk, and cinnamon. I don’t remember her voice, but I know if I ever heard it–like on a recording or something–I’d recognize it immediately.

I can’t really compare my having lost her to what you experienced, for I had her, before I lost her. And then, after that black time I hardly remember at all, I had Mom. And, just the first look in her eyes, and my whole world fell into place. I had a happy childhood from then on.


I think I understand what you wrote about having to always fight to keep your solitude.

I might know what you meant about the pressure to be part of a couple. I felt that when the paparazzi started making a big deal about me and Chet when there was nothing between us but a few nervous flirts and one skittish dance. He was cute, and I went along with the hype that we were an “item.” But a dyad, we weren’t.

There were a lot of times when I just wanted to be me, without any pressure from the gossip columnists to be in a couple.

I can’t really imagine what it’s been like for you, all your life, to have people wonder what’s wrong with you that you’ve stayed single. What a weird awkward burden it must always be to be asked, “Why aren’t you in a relationship?” Like that’s the only normal.

I’m glad you were with me, when I was at college. I loved the private universe we spun around ourselves. I’d love it if you came–and I know you won’t and you don’t even want me to bring it up–but I’d love it all the same. And at the same time, I feel something like awe of you and your way of approaching life as a solitary.

I want to adopt Stray Cat–just like I wanted to adopt Stray Dog–because I want to give every individual a chance to have that closeness that I got when I was adopted by Mom. I want to be the one who provides the home, and I want all the single ones I love to be brought into that home.

I’d adopt you if I could, you crazy old lady!

I’ve been playing with Stray Cat every day. She and I have become BFFs.

And still, at the end of the day, when I head inside to make supper, she doesn’t come in with me. She walks across the street and into the frosted meadow.


You lonely tigers. Is it any wonder that I love you?


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Whisper 2.17

Hey, Shan.

Thanks for writing. OK. I get it. You don’t feel like traveling, and you’re not coming to visit. I’ll stop asking.

Just as well, I guess. Our house is crowded.

I don’t just mean with two adults, two teens, a dog, and a cat–but with spirits. Some nights, our home is so full there’s hardly room to sit!


It’s a weird feeling. You ever been around ghosts? Sometimes, it feels like an air current or change in air temperature, hot or cold. Sometimes, it makes me feel queasy. It always interrupts what I’m doing or getting ready to do.


I guess it’s not the worst thing. Keeps me feeling close to Mom, Dante, and Uncle Frank. It makes me feel like there’s some kind of continuity and that all that’s come before isn’t lost. We’ve got ways of remembering, like taking a picture, but a picture that we store in our spirits. Eh, didn’t mean to go all metaphysical on you.

Speaking of forgetting what one’s doing… you won’t believe what Riley did. Or rather, forgot she was doing.

She was grilling hotdogs, when Zoey came out to play, and she started playing with him.


And the next thing you know, we had a fire on our hands. Zoey tore outta there as if the Reaper were on his tail!

Riley started screaming and waving her hands.


I came out with the fire extinguisher. I’ve done this before. Lucky thing, too, for I was able to put it out and everybody was OK.

I had all this adrenaline built up, though, so I went for a long jog all through town. So much for spending the afternoon working on my novel, which is what I’d planned to do!


I was glad, though. Running home, in the soft rain, with the mist kissing the mountains, I realized again how much I love it here. It’s beautiful like nowhere else.

Do you feel that way about your town?

I think we develop a sense of home-aesthetics; at least, I do. Wherever I go, I measure it by home. Has it got mountains? If not, it might be beautiful, but it’s not capital-B beauty.  Is it raining or snowing? Do clouds soften the light of the sun? If not, maybe it’s bright, yeah,  but it’s not Beauty. Are the trees covered with green leaves, and does frost make the meadow sparkle? If not, it’s not got the beauty of home.

This day was home-quality perfect beauty all the way.


It was really pouring by the time I reached home.

There, standing in the rain, looking at our house, was a stray cat.


Seeing the cat there brought back so many memories. Did I ever tell you about Stray Dog? That was my first true love. Stray Dog was this cute old gray fellow with a curly borzoi tail. He showed up at our place on a rainy spring day.

We always wanted to adopt him. In fact, my mom spent hours every day while I was at school out playing with him until he’d let her pet him, and then brush him. And then they became friends. And then best friends. And then, he wandered off once more, and we never saw him again.

I looked for him for weeks. We even cut our vacation to the desert short because I wanted to get home, in case he was waiting for us.

I learned a lot about love then. I thought, at first, that because we loved him so much, he’d have to live with us. Doesn’t love require that it be returned in kind? When he left, I felt so forlorn. I was convinced he didn’t love us, after all. And so, then what was I to do with all the affection I felt? Was I wrong to love him, if he didn’t love us back? My mom said that love is never wrong, and that love comes in all sorts of ways. Just because he wandered didn’t mean he didn’t love us. Just because he wanted to live as a free dog, who belonged to no one, didn’t mean that he didn’t also love us. It just meant that he had to live free.

I remembered all of this while I played with the stray cat. But I can’t help that I also felt growing in me this strong desire that it turn out differently with Stray Cat.

I’m sure once she gets to know me, Riley, Bo, Patches, Zoey, and Roxey, she’ll want to live with us. After all, we’ve got organic gourmet beef kitty chow!


You know what else we’ve got? Organic veggie burgers! Sure you don’t want to come visit?

Be well, Shannon. I love you. I miss you.

Wish me luck adopting Stray Cat!


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