Sunday, May 22, 2005

So last night I went out back to collect the eggs from the henhouse. Me, my little basket and the flashlight. It was cold and damp of course, because I needed to mow the lawn and do garden work, so naturally the Trickster thought it would be funny for me to hurt a lot, I guess. Or maybe the plants needed watering. Never assume you can ever assume.

I had a chat with the girls, reassuring them and explaining why I hadn't been able to fix their house much even though I had promised last week to clean out the crap and build new roosts. Big Red wasn't sure, but she told the others to "wait and see" and for that I thanked her. I stepped out to the gate and paused. A couple of days ago I might have had a black and white friend waiting for me. Furlinghetti likes to follow me around and see what I'm doing and I always collect the eggs late, just before bedtime and so when I have my basket and flashlight in hand she knows it's almost time to go to bed. So she waits for me by the gate and follows me inside. The last couple of days, though, she has been too sick and waits for me in her basket by the bedroom door. But not this night.

Tonight if she waits somewhere it is somewhere far away and right nearby. Maybe Teddy is stroking her, or maybe she is stroking Teddy, I don't know, but I know that I paused and felt a tightening of my throat, stopping me from saying, "Time to go in, Furball, let's go."

She was in her box the other day, looking pretty bad. She barely had the strength to lift her head when I approached. Her eyes were 'wrong', not her eyes at all. I noticed that she didn't seem to be forcussing on me. Her tumors had started breaking through her skin and one had gotten infected. She was hot with fever. I spoke to her, telling her that I was willing to take her to the vet and there she would get a shot and go to sleep and never wake up. I asked her if this is what she wanted. She seemed to focus on my face and then she folded her paws and laid her chin down, closing her eyes for a minute, as if taking a nap. Then she lifted her head and stared at me, calmly. I took this to mean she wanted to sleep and I knew that with the probable pain from the sores and the fever that there was only one way to get a good sleep anymore.

She didn't protest when I lifted her and placed her on her feet, but she sagged down immediately. No chance for her to rise up and go listen to the birds. No chance to sleep between us on the big bed. No chance to chase a chipmunk out of the herb garden.... she was done with all that. There was only one thing she wanted now, and that was a good sleep.

On the way to the vets I told her that Janis Joplin died of a drug overdose and that she was going to do pretty much the same thing. No comment from Furball. No protests over the box or the ride. I signed the papers and opened the box and stroked her dry hot fur. I touched her head softly and told her goodbye.

I'm so damn tired of saying goodbye to friends.

No one is left to chat with during the day, to listen to me, to play with me. My sweetheart has a job 50 miles away and I wait for her at the bus stop like a kid waiting for desert. But she's heard all my jokes and needs to think about what needs to be done the next day, maybe even tonight by laptop linked to the office. My stories of woodchucks, herbs and new birds at the feeder are interesting, but not that important, not really. She listens as best she can while she writes down notes for tomorrow.

Furlinghetti never worried about tomorrow and she always listened to my jokes, laughing rarely, but still purring when I stroked her head and chuckled to myself. She liked to be on her back and watch the world go by upside down. She would turn over on her back with her toes curled up tight as if someone should tickle that tummy. She was the only cat I ever knew... and I have known hundreds.... that liked me to make raspberries on that exposed tummy. Such a funny beast.

So once again I got to be the Angel of Death and it never fails to hurt my head, but I suppose that being the one to decide is a duty and a hard one, but one that should be taken by someone who cares. And I do care for my friends, even the furry ones.

Now we have ten chickens, some with names, and one cat: Starr. Starr is a serious cat and stays inside most of the time. She is almost as old as Oona was when we put her down because of cancer. A serious calico of advancing years, Starr likes to sleep, eat and occasionally step out onto the porch before running back in if a car drives by. She seems a bit subdued now with no friends around but me. I hang out with her, I listen to her stories and I try to be a good companion, but I'm just not the same as Furball was. I don't understand the point of view.

I like to think of Furlinghetti, Oona and even old fRed cat sitting on a distant hillside with Grand dad Riley and Teddy, watching a celestrial sunset and talking philosophy. Furball will feel right at home with Teddy. He was a cat lover and even had show cats, siamese mostly.

I'm looking forward to being able to join in those talks, it's so rare I can ramble on about my funny ideas, except for here and for you. And I look forward to tickling that tummy and watching her toes curl with pleasure.

Such a good friend. Such a hole in my life.

See ya later, Furball.

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