She was already stiff when I found her lying dumped beside a ditch not twenty yards from my home, her beautiful white fur marred only by a spot of red at the temples, those unforgettable green eyes forever shut to the living world. I got a sheet from the house to wrap her in and pleated it round her carefully so that she was safe and wouldn’t fall out. Her corpse was surprisingly heavy for a cat but I did not want any help and would tell the children later in my own time.
They say that when something dies a part of you goes too and I believe it. I believe it when I see any dead animal on the road. And I say a little prayer. I doubt the person who ran her over feels the same.
She wasn’t even ours. She just started to appear at our back door and of course we fed and watered her. A white cat with green eyes, skinny and bedraggled. None of us could resist. It began with titbits now and again but inevitably there were tins of cat food and a little bed made for her in the empty stable. Fatter and fatter she became. Well rounded, healthy. And of course, finally, pregnant.
She had her kittens on the back doorstep. Four tiny rats before she licked them dry and let them suckle at her fat belly. When it was time, we moved them to the warmth of the stable and left her to it. She was a good mum and I am sure she missed her kittens when they were finally found homes some time later. I don’t know if she ever really forgave me for it.
We had her spayed. A stray cat, not even ours – fifty pounds. But necessary.
Her fur had only just begun to cover her scar when she was killed. I had been thinking how close she was again to being perfect.
I told the children after lunch and let them see her one last time. And then I got a spade and dug a hole. I dug it very deep and thought of nothing save the brown earth and the red on white of her bloody temple.
When I began to cry I do not know. I think it was when I finished the hole. I know I stood there sobbing for perhaps half an hour and I let it happen as I knew I must. Tears for a cat. Tears for a friend. Tears for four friends. At their funerals I could not cry my uncontrollable tears for them. So I stood, only me there in the garden, burying my cat and so much more.
I marked the grave with a cross and covered it with stones. Only later did my daughter come and, standing with me, say her childlike prayer of thanks.
Thanks for giving us Whitey. She made us happy and she made me smile.
She gave us lots of nice things and made us feel good.
Please look after her.
And Amen to all that.
Lynda Tavakoli’s poetry and prose are widely published.