11:14:18 "A House Divided," an essay

It seemed a reasonable idea. My close associate felt our eight-year-old cat, Hannah, was bored. She slept a lot. So a "little playmate"--as in kitten--might help.

rosko ready to leave

So one morning at the rescue shelter, we ”interviewed” a kitten called Winston. At six months, he was older than the hold-in-your-hand kitten who would be perfect. Nonetheless, he seemed alert, not needy. She said, “Why don't we take him? He's a red cat after all.” We left, and Winston came along.

He was mute as we drove away. We'd gone a quarter mile, and I noticed my chest muscles tightened. Was that from the cat?

At home, we set up Winston in his room. Not a meow. Hannah, though, was vocal. She growled and hissed. Winston stared vacantly, as if studying a nutcase.

I decided Winston was ready for a new name. I settled on Rosko. When he finally spoke, it was like a gusher. Before feeding time, he was as insistent as an air horn.

For weeks, we'd keep the two apart, a squirt bottle at the ready. Rosko must have thought Hannah a bluffer: He'd slowly approach her, as if testing. But once, she made a big mistake.

She ran away. The two tore up the stairs. We heard blood-curdling ye-owls from Hannah. When we finally separated them, loose fur was everywhere. And Rosko--seemingly demonic--calmly ate the gray fur he'd ripped off Hannah.

Meanwhile, I noticed I couldn't spend much time near Rosko: My chest muscles would tighten.

In the next few weeks, more cat fights, more ye-owling.

Maybe I'd had enough. I told her a return made sense for all of us. As a youngster, he'd be adopted in days. A return was simple. We filled out a form online, mentioning the intractable behavior problem. I also called and confirmed Rosko's special green doggy toy could be brought along in a Ziploc bag.

I was leaving at twenty of ten. During the half hour or so I had to get ready, I took pictures of Rosko. He was as passive as when we first brought him home. The dozen or so "last" pictures were all the same. I put the stuff on the front car seat. His papers and the green, Ziploc'd doggy. I went back in the house to get Rosko.

Then an odd thought hit me: I can change my mind! I had no appointment.

I called her to say, “We're going to make it work.”

Yes, two cats--bitter antagonists--would have a home. Even if it were split in two by a doorstopped sliding door.

I sat down with Rosko. We spent something like half an hour enjoying each other's company. My sensitivity to Rosko? Gone in a blink of an eye.

The next day I saw a bumper sticker on a car. Beside a cat pawprint, the words: WHO SAVED WHOM?

Image credit: author photo


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Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection [and feel free to share with a friend] The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

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