catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 13 :: 2013.06.21 — 2013.07.04


Animal instinct

One day in June

When we first lay eyes on her from our windows a story above, we wonder if there is something wrong — she’s lying so still under the overhang of my potted sage.  But we meow and she meows back, rising up skinny and expectant as if she has faith we’ll cast down manna from above, and she is right.  When Rob brings down a dish, she can’t decide if she’s more starved for affection or food, and she alternates between gorging herself on ear scratches and stuffing her face.

Two years earlier, another cat appeared in exactly the same spot and we waffled for weeks before she worked her way inside.  Perched next to me in the second story window, Zuzu glares down skeptically at this new arrival — a rival?  I’m not ready for another cat, but my caretaker instinct is kicking in.  And it helps that this stray is quite precious and precocious.


A later day in June

Lily, as a friend has christened her, is still an outdoor cat, though a better fed one than she was before.  She stands by curiously on the deck while I pack a homemade garden cart with seedlings, vegetables and fliers with candy stapled to the corners.  It’s parade day, the annual Water Festival ritual that draws over 10,000 people out to a mile’s worth of curbs in our small town.  A group of us are walking in support of the summer activities at the Huss Project.  It’s a good day, in many ways.  The weather is fine, and we’ve just raised enough money to pay off the mortgage on our property, and we’re closing in on a secondary goal to get a bit of working indoor plumbing.

It’s a bit nerve-wracking for a bunch of introverts to get in the spotlight of a parade, but we do it anyway, and we have a good time.  As we’re nearing the end of the route, I do a double-take: one of our gang is handing a flier to a man I was sure was in prison.  He had stolen thousands of dollars’ worth of stuff from us — among other households — four years ago.  I’d never felt as exhausted, overwhelmed and just-plain-finished as I felt in the weeks it took us to narrow the thefts down to someone we had trusted with a key to our lives.  He never confessed and we never pressed charges, though we found out later he was on the hook for several other offenses.  Occasionally, I imagined having a conversation with him, of the healing sort, but in my version, he was on the other side of bullet-proof glass.  Now, here he is on the street, enjoying the parade and gladly accepting an invitation to participate in the work that is nearest our hearts.

On our way back home, he recognizes us and runs us down.  He wants to talk.  We were good to him and he was not good to us.  He hopes we will sit down with him sometime.  He’s been doing some coaching and would love to get involved in our new project.

I don’t know if I’m ready for this.  I don’t know what forgiveness requires of me.

This day in June

A cat and a man.  Something ties these two creatures together when I consider this issue’s topic, which I expected to be about animals, and it mostly is, but the more immediate question for me is how I love and forgive a human being.  Lily is an easy one for me: if she hadn’t found a good home with another friend, she’d probably be upstairs by now, bonding with Zuzu.  She’d scratch up our furniture and get hair everywhere and maybe even miss the litter box, and she’d just be doing what a cat is inclined to do.  But what do I do with the human creature who took such cruel advantage of us when we let him in the first time and now asks to be let in again?  I can forgive what happened in the past, but how do I forgive what I fear might happen in the future?  Is he just doing what humans are inclined to do?

I don’t have any answers for these questions at the moment.  I know that Lily is safe and sound, and that he is out there somewhere, up to good, or no good.  I know I want to be a person of grace, even as anger and fear well up again.  Perhaps my best hope for now is that someone will take care of him in a way that makes him want to take good care of others.  I hope that he will find a home that doesn’t just tolerate, but embraces both stray cats and stray humans — all creatures, whole selves. 

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