By Dan A. Cardoza
In our home, Purdy, our grey and white cat, was obedient to a fault if you count eating in place when ravenous. Imagine an African lioness after a kill, hyper-vigilant of landscape, season and weather. Their hunt of prey a form of cognitive dissonance involving the hunger of death, the famine of life, all by tooth and claw, each cut clean of choice. It is here, in the end, yet the beginning, at the confluence of sacrifice, where the grace and beauty of a cat
Sleeping as sound as a window sill was never an option, nor was sieving through a piquant screen into the pleasant fetor of night. But there was never a trace of her need to escape, our trust was to find her under our bed, in her safe place, where sleeping soundly meant choosing a certain sterilized asylum of darkness.
We are not Siamese, and we don’t do what we please. No lynx, no sphinx, no talking back, no drama, no theatrics, no tension of mind and heart. Though the walk, the strut, and grace were there, that’s a given, something the forest created. But when it came to crunching the head of a mouse like a popped knuckle, Purdy would have needed to be taught. If a fast finned bird chose to hover because of age or distraction, she would only chatter through the window, absent wail and pounce.
There would be no furry boa writhe of spiral around a Tibia or Fibula. Or caracal vertical space launch. No psychoanalytical control, or quintessential human brainwashing, most typically found in feline homes. No purring, or mystical soothsaying, or benefit from assistance in deciding which friends should stay or go. No sentinel secrets, or tactical therapy, or even a best friend to share needs with. She must have known we had a dog for that. There was only silence, and shared loneliness that grew, except for the occasionally uncomfortable meow in front of the vet. And then, just enough chit-chat to prove there was no water-boarding or neglect.
Purdy lived eighteen years and eventually came home in a cherry box, like the one that came with her toys she never enjoyed.
I spread her ashes in my favorite park, at the American River, where the edge between the current and bank is a razor, where danger is death’s only friend. I placed her back in the arms of the wilderness, where she belonged. Not in a home where a stuffy family room chair and comfy couch look brand new. I feel confident, it’s there in the park she will finally learn to hunt, tooth and claw. It’s there she will learn to kill tigers, lions, and bears.
Purdy taught me that guilt is something I will leave behind when I am gone. It can never be bartered away or paid off. And unlike other emotions, the wanting never ends.
Dan A. Cardoza has a master’s degree in education from the University of California, Sacramento. He is the author of four poetry chapbooks, and a new book of fiction, Second Stories. His writing has been widely published, recently in 101 Words, Adelaide, California Quarterly, Chaleur, Cleaver, Confluence, New Flash Fiction Review, and Spelk.