My father the veterinarian brought the kitten home from work. We three kids, too young to be clever, named it Kitty. Kitty became a ten-pound white yard tom; a mottle of black and brown spilled over one eye. We kids loved Kitty and Kitty adopted us, in the manner of cats, as well. The Lancaster urchins were Kitty’s odd pride, in both the human and feline senses.
When I got boyish enough to be so stupid, I caught a ricochet from my BB gun in the right cornea. Interior bleeding clouded my eye’s light canal. Dr. Barclay prescribed two weeks strict bed rest, flat on the back with both eyes covered—a calamitous sentence for eleven year old boys from Dalton Gardens.
Kitty, who sensed my distress, kept vigil over me, as though I might be dying. The protective old nightmare-of-mice draped himself across my neck, rear claws anchored in one shoulder and head plopped on the other. And we waited. Kitty departed occasionally to scratch in the yard or to pick at his bowl, but never for long. Kitty laid his soul alongside my own, and waited for developments. When I was released, Kitty returned to patrolling the barnyard and I to fort building and baseball with the Cuddy boys across the street.
On a gray winter’s morning years later, my vigilant mother found Kitty’s bed cold, his dinner untouched. Mom whispered with my father. Then came the report: Kitty is missing. After searching the usual places, I reached the grim conclusion. I squeezed behind bales, poked under the tack barn, checked the neighbors’ pigeon roost and tool sheds. My own vigil began. I walked the country roads of Dalton, inspecting the ditches for a week before and after school. In the end, fresh snowfalls ended my sad plodding and any hope of finding Kitty’s remains before spring’s thaw.
Socrates of Athens said that philosophers prepare for life by practicing death every day. Kitty knew. When death, or even the fear of it, looms, one lays his soul alongside a friend, and waits for developments.