12.01.2010

Thanks, again, to everyone who sent me their stories written from my photo prompt. It's been tons of fun reading through them. You all are so very talented.

Here's one from Alison, my dearest and oldest friend. Enjoy!

Ok, so it was only a little death. It wasn’t the kind that makes the news, or lowers flags to half-mast. It wasn’t even the obituary blurb, wake on Thursday, in lieu of flowers sort of affair. Her passing was like the fading of summer into autumn, her final thoughts skittering like the chase of brightly colored leaves behind her eyes. For all that we know she was indeed chasing something as she left us – just as she was chasing things all her life. In fact, our story began when she chased me home after school on a crisp fall afternoon. She stalked me from the bushes for days, until one rainy Saturday morning my plea to sleepy parents was accepted and she darted through the open garage door into her starring role as The Pet of the House. It was a part she soon shared with her three kittens, though none came close to her total capture of the lead. Julia was, as my mother put it, a “cat’s cat.” She was also a “rabbit cat” with a sideways hop-run belonging specifically to the cobby bodied Manx breed. After she’d bounded across streets and lawns to answer my call I couldn’t help but snicker at the awkward way she’d arrive…hindquarters to the side, nearly even with her front legs upon stopping. We were great friends, and we looked out for one another with a simple ease it is difficult to match in human relationships. I’d comb her tortoise-shell fur to prevent mats, and then she’d lay upside-down behind me and return the favor by detangling my long hair with her front claws. I’d feed her morning and evening, and she’d share the spoils of the hunt with me (though my obvious disdain for birds and squirrels did prompt her to adjust to bringing home large leaves and small fruits). Julia and I had an understanding.

When I introduced Keith to my parents, it was supposed to be a quick moment before our first “group” date. I’d been so thrilled and nervous when he offered to drive me from the tournament to meet our friends for dinner. After all, he was a senior, and so cute! We stopped by my house so I could change my outfit, and he offered to come inside to wait for me. Mom and Dad were sitting on the couch, and when I breathlessly explained our plans, hoping permission would be granted sans-drama, they smiled and greeted him and agreed to our date with no questions. In two steps I would have been around the corner and up the stairs to my bedroom to disappear in a clothing tornado, but then Julia entered the scene. She walked right to my legs to greet me, as she usually did when I came home. Then she paused, and looked across the living room at Keith. In a chatty, nervous manner I began telling him that this was Julia, my cat, and…I got no further. With a surprisingly loud popping sound, Julia spat at Keith and hopped towards him with her fur bristled and claws splayed. Everyone in the room jumped. For a few seconds there was silence, but then Julia began a low growling moan as she backed herself against my legs, for all appearances trying to push me backwards out of the room. In the back of my mind, a warning flashed. Julia liked all of my friends. This was strange. I wish I could say that I took her behavior more seriously that night, but in my teenage impatience I shook it off and continued with my plans. Predictably, when the brief, rocky, and painful relationship with Keith ended, I remembered her reaction to him, and I learned a little something about animals and their judgment of people. It was one of several lessons from Julia that will stay with me the rest of my life.

Though each season has its special joys and memories, it is hard not to associate the autumn with my Julia. From the orange and gold dapples on her black fur to the endearing way she would tag along and Trick-or-Treat with me every Halloween (imagine the surprise of the neighbors that first year when a black cat sat watching at my feet), it was her time of the year. Though sometimes I dislike the ending of summer, when the air starts to cool and the days to shorten, I do try to remember this…that it’s only a little death.

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