Spring 2007 Volume One Issue Two

The Cat Lady - Jeremy Schneider

Mrs. Dempsey saw the cat lying dead on the side of the road.

"Oh, poor thing," she said.

It was a Calico cat. It couldn't have been more than 2 years old.

"Such a waste," she said sadly and shook her head.

Mrs. Dempsey was walking on Route 219 on her way to the Post Office. It was early afternoon, and not many cars were on the road. Mrs. Dempsey did not own a car. If she needed to go somewhere, she walked.

Mrs. Dempsey reached the spot where the body of the dead cat had come to rest. The cat's orange and black forepaws were resting on the white line while its back legs were pointing to the sky at a right angle. "You poor kitty; you poor, poor, kitty," Mrs. Dempsey said. Mrs. Dempsey loved animals of all kinds, but she had a special affinity for cats and it broke her heart to see them like this.

She looked to her right across 219 to the development of pre-fab houses that dotted the once lush farm land, and then left to the dense woods that lined this side of the road. The autumn color was high in the trees and some of the red, orange, and yellow leaves had blown onto the side of the road. Some of the leaves were stuck to the poor kitty's fur. "No. This won't do. This won't do at all," Mrs. Dempsey said.

Joints straining, old bones creaking, Mrs. Dempsey knelt beside the dead cat. Using her cane as leverage so she wouldn't tip over, she brushed the fallen leaves from the cat's lifeless body. She found the fur and the body beneath warm to the touch.

That meant there was still time.

Each second counted if what she planned to do was to be successful. She needed both hands free for the work ahead; she placed the cane on the ground by her feet and spread her hands out, palms down. Starting at the head and ending at the tip of the tail Mrs. Dempsey moved her hands over the cat's body about two inches from the fur. Back and forth, back and forth, Mrs. Dempsey petted the air above the cat. She closed her eyes and the cat's final moments were presented to her in a kaleidoscope of colors, sounds and scents

The cat sits in the shade of an azalea bush gazing into the deep woods on the opposite side of 219. Cars rush past in her field of vision but she pays little attention to them, the hunt is on and her prey is in those trees. Suddenly the cat's ears prick as she hears the clawing of a small animal descending a tree not three feet from her current position.

She looks to her right; the clawing and the accompanying twittering belongs to a squirrel. It has no idea she is hiding beneath this bush because it drops to the ground and passes directly in front of her Its bushy tail twitches as it makes its way hither and thither on the lawn, picking up nuts as it goes. She waits for the appropriate time. Her claws are extended. Her muscles are tensed in anticipation of the kill. The time is right.

She leaps.

But the squirrel must have heard the rustle of the bushes when she pounced because it sprints across the lawn and she has no choice but to give chase. The squirrel darts off the grass and onto the blacktop. She follows heedless of the danger, more concerned with the thrill of the kill. The squirrel suddenly stops half way across the road and changes direction, coming back toward her. This sudden course correction confuses the cat until she hears the blaring of a car horn . . .

Mrs. Dempsey opened her eyes and blinked away the image of a hunter green Jeep Cherokee barreling down on her. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. She knew it wasn't very nice of the cat to want to kill that cute little squirrel, but she also knew that the actions of cats are sometimes as inscrutable as the actions of men and besides the cat didn't know any better. It didn't deserve to die.

Mrs. Dempsey saw an opening in the sequence of events that might alter the outcome for the poor cat. "Yes. That'll do nicely," Mrs. Dempsey said. She closed her eyes again and rhythmically moved her hands -- front to back, front to back -- over the cat's body.

The cat waits patiently under the azalea bush. The squirrel unknowingly gathers its nuts on the lawn. The time is right to attack. The cat is about to leap, but movement from the corner of her eye distracts her. The squirrel is spooked by the sudden movement and darts across the lawn and up the tree from which it came. An old woman appears out of nowhere. The woman hobbles over to the cat. Startled, the cat backs further into the azalea.

"You leave that squirrel alone, you naughty kitty, and stay off the road."

The woman vanishes.

Even the cat knows that was pretty weird.

A semi roared past Mrs. Dempsey, rocking her in place. She picked her cane up and stood with considerable effort. She looked across the road and saw the house with the azalea bush. She pointed at the bush with her cane, "You mind me now."

Mrs. Dempsey walked on to the Post Office.

The cat watched her go.

- END -

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