I’m sitting on the brown loveseat under the double windows, pen in hand, listening to the persistent scratch-scratch of The Beast’s back leg against her neck. Experience tells me it could go on for hours, but this time the sound suddenly stops. She comes over for a purposeful visit, pointedly prodding my bare hand with her large damp nose. That’s Beast speak: “I have to go potty, please.”
I sigh. Does she deliberately wait until I’m otherwise occupied to make the request? Yes. But she’s so exceptionally civil about the whole situation, that I really can’t complain…
“Hey, Beast?” She freezes when she hears her name and those gorgeous glittering dog eyes eagerly meet my gaze. “Do you want…OUT?” At the all-important final word, her ears perk up. She bounds to the back door, toenails tap-dancing across the kitchen tile, and emits one loud yap: “Yes!”
As she performs the ritual potty prance, I slip a bowl of food into the bathroom for Mr. Kitty and close him inside. As usual, the door refuses to click completely shut. I fiddle with the knob for a moment, but distracted by the dancing dog, I leave it as is. It’ll be fine. He’s hungry; the food ought to occupy him for a while.
Cat contained, I open the back door for The Beast and take the opportunity to carry a cache of old wine bottles to the recycling bin.
On my way out, I sense more than see a blur of cat fur flying past my feet and sailing off the steps into the back yard. My first inclination is to chase Mr. Kitty down— the 3:30 am sky, though dark, is clear and starry enough to see a little— but several steps into the yard change my mind. Frozen grass blades and fallen leaves crunch loudly underfoot announcing my approach and undoing any hope of a sneak attack. The cat streaks to the back of our property line, then slips under the car. I harbor no hopes of emerging victorious from this inverted game of cat and mouse—where I am, ironically, the cat—so I turn back to the warmth of the house, The Beast at my heels.
Filling the dog’s food and water dishes, I keep an eye on the cat through the glass pane on the back door. Mr. Kitty emerges from under the car…wanders a few feet towards the house…crosses the backyard…and seats himself at the bottom of the small set of cement steps leading up to the back door. I let him sit for a few minutes before I nonchalantly crack open the entrance. The Prodigal Cat saunters up the steps and slips his slender frame through the narrow opening.
He shivers daintily, then sideswipes my leg in a vague show of appreciation for being allowed entrance back into the warm room. “Thanks for coming back, Mr. Kitty,” I croon casually as his cold coat contacts my skin.
Inwardly, however, I cheer. I could have chased our cat furiously from one edge of our yard to the other and all around the neighborhood, every step fueling his energy and my anger. Instead I let him make his own decision, and he made a wise one, all on his own! This small satisfaction must be a tiny taste of how parents feel when their children make good choices. Welcome home, Mr. Kitty. Welcome home.