Simone searched the attic, the bedrooms, including under the beds, the backyard, full of tangled weeds and untended grapevines left over from more industrious seasons, but came up with nothing. She looked under the sink, since it was a favorite hiding place, even though she’d checked it three times already. Rascal, a well-loved but sociopathic tomcat, was nowhere to be found. She sighed, and as a last resort, turned to an old classic. She went back into the kitchen, grabbed a can of cat food, and began opening it with the noisy electric can opener. Bribery was beneath her, but there was little choice. Rascal was due to go to the vet for his check up and annual rabies vaccine. He had always had a sixth sense about such things, and tended to make sure he was difficult, if not impossible, to find.
After an hour of continued searching and waiting, She called and cancelled the appointment. She began to worry, and went out to the back porch to gaze at the tree line, about 100 yards from the house. Rascal could just be off hunting, she pondered. Or, maybe he had found a few friends to… no. Rascal was anti-social, even among his own species. Simone paced the back porch, not bothering to call Rascal by name, knowing him well enough to realize he would avoid her all the more for degrading him in such a way. He wasn’t a dog to be called to heel. She finally gave up, and went inside to watch TV. Maybe he would show up tomorrow before the vet closed and they’d squeeze him in.
The next morning, Simone awoke to a beautiful spring day. Surely Rascal would be sunning himself in front of a window, or in the warm rays cast across the wood floors. She kept a pet door for his use, and although he abused it in these types of situations, she didn’t want to deprive him of it and make him feel shut in. She padded through the house, trying to look casual in case he was watching. There was no cat in sight. Simone’s heart ached. It had been a rough year, and the cat’s company, however aloof and hands-off, was better than the empty loneliness of her existence before she’d adopted a tiny kitten on a whim. He’d grown into a large cat at nearly 15 pounds. She saw Rascal in her mind’s eye, missing him intensely; his plain tabby coat with a notched ear. His extra fluffy tail, the fur so much longer than that on the rest of his body. She’s had him for years, ever since her husband had had a heart attack and died. Simone was nearing 80, and a companion animal was such a blessing.
Simone ventured back outside, this time to walk through the overgrown yard and down to the trees at the far edge of her property. She rarely walked outside by herself’; she was afraid she’d fall and get hurt, but desperation compelled her. What if Rascal himself was injured? What if an animal or another cat had attacked him and left him bleeding? She needed to find him and make sure he was OK. He was her only friend, more like family really. She and Peter, her late husband, had never been blessed with children, so cats and the occasional small dog had been her “babies”. Until she’d adopted Rascal, it had been nearly twenty years since she’d kept a pet. Peter had thought that since they were getting older that they needed less to care for, but Simone had always thought that it had been the opposite. Having someone to care for gave her a sense of purpose and made her feel necessary, a tough illusion to hold onto once they had both retired. When she’d walked into the local shelter, Rascal had gazed up at her with huge kitten eyes and she’d lost her heart to him. When she’d asked to hold him, he’d hissed a little, but she’d paid it no mind. He was nervous, that was all. As he’d grown up, his social skills were still not what they could be, but Simone had consented to love him from a distance. He had never been fond of lying on her lap, but since her arthritis made her legs hurt so much, it had been fine with her not to have a heavy animal perched on her. They’d been a perfect pair.
As Simone drew closer to the trees, she saw a feline shape. Ah! That must be Rascal, coming back from a hunting adventure! It wasn’t moving, which was a little odd. The cat was standing in a proud pose, tail held high, inquisitive ears perked. Simone squinted to see better and as she did her heart began to break. The cat was a statue. It was the statue she had bought months ago, to mark the grave when poor Rascal had breathed his last. Now she remembered why the year had been so rough. Crying silent tears, she remembered.
Laura Austin has been previously published in Better Than Starbucks Magazine, Czykmate Productions, Poet’s Choice, The Haberdasher, and more. She has proudly served as a judge for Ageless Authors and has self-published two children’s books.