Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Twenty-seventh: Regal Red

The Red Kitty's life was beautiful and short when she lived with us. She was the first cat to wander up to the garden after the Hubach's dropped of a few of their strays. This big orange fluff ball, king of the woods, materialized between the trees and under the buildings to rub shoulders with our new watch-cats at feeding time.
He took to my mom from the first. She named him and all day while working, burning up brush and watering, the air would be filled with that name. She'd call it out like an amazon battle cry, with trills on every R. "Da Regal Red. It's da Regal Red. Oh look at him, isn't he so majestic?" She'd say over and over. And me too, it was true. This cat so fluffy like a house cat was more at home in the underbrush and on top of boulders than any of the strays. He looked like a lion and could kill like one too. They felled squirrels, birds, and rats all the time, dragging them around to sunnier spots to gnaw on. We felt bad for the wildlife (well, not the rats), and it was disgusting, but awesome! We couldn't help but anthropomorphize our companions into a band of warriors with Red as their worthy and wise king. He was the biggest and eldest, as all the others were timid young kittens when they came to us. He strode through our property like he owned it. We loved him so much for it. Since my grandfather's house was torn down a few years ago, the place had felt about as live as a doorknob. The cats breathed fresh life into the brush and rock heaps. It was now a home to something and things moved and vibrated with that energy.
There was the saga of Itty Bitty the skinny new kitten that found it's way to us. Some shunned her, some tolerated her, to all she was the whipping boy. Gradually she was absorbed and now sleeps with the rest like a true warrior. Adorable! And there was the never ending crusade to pet their shinny fur. My mother, god it was hilarious and so touching, she got so much joy from every day trying and trying to get closer to them. She would tell me how they followed her when she walked the property, staying just a few yards away and playing or lounging in the sun. She started playing with them, with sticks and her hand like a spider or some pink fleshy beast. If they got closer by just a little bit she'd come home gushing. She would take them to the biggest greenest spot under the big walnut tree and roll around acting like a cat and purring! I saw her do it one time, she tried to get me to join in. It was wonderful fun. We were kitties! After a while of that Red decided he could be petted. It was so slow but eventually we could pet him and he'd rub up against our legs. The others followed his lead, like always, and they would let us put our hands on them sometimes too, but Red always loved it the best. He was my mothers pet. Or she was his. It was such a true and loving friendship. She'd always make sure to pet him first and call and call till he came from across the creek to eat supper. That big fluffy monster of the forest. My wild and woodsy mother. She said she could herd cats and, no shit, she could. She'd call and they'd come, she'd walk and they'd follow. She put her hands to the ground and like a shot her Regal Red would run to be stroked.
Leaning up against the big walnut tree, on the other side from where we used to play, there's these two rocks that look like cats. They're finds from when we used to get dirt from the cemeteries and had to haul out all the big rocks. That was years ago, but everything eventually has a purpose if you look for it. I thought it might make a good head stone and when we walked over there today the big red rock, like a cat seen in profile, was just like Red. I never noticed that before.
Regal Red died running to my mommy, the human he loved so much. I wasn't there but she said he was running to her as she crossed the street. She didn't see it happen, she was turning around, but she was there so close. It's a poor thing. But you know his last thought was of my mommy, and her big wrinkled hands petting all over that fluffy fur.
We're gonna bury him later today, but no cats are invited to the service. Last week when we buried Lori, Red was the only one who showed up. Nobody goes this time. Our garden doesn't need anymore headstones.

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