Tuesday, August 30, 2011


A decade or so ago, a small, scrawny, scruffy little gray cat showed up on our doorstep.  He was sort of pathetic.  We live out here in farmland, so seeing the occasional random cat is not surprising.  But this one seemed so needy, and unusually comfortable around us.  Hubby is so horribly allergic to cats that he has been known to say he thinks the world should be heated with cats.  But he for some reason took pity on the little guy, and put out something for him to eat.

And that was that.  He became our cat.  Of course, because of the allergies we couldn't have him inside, and we never wanted a cat, but he didn't give us much choice in the matter.  And for a long time we didn't want to admit any attachment to him.  We called him "Gray Kitty" for years.

The hubby dislikes cats so much that he bought a big bin of cat food to keep inside the back door, and would put out milk for Gray Kitty on cold nights.  The cat would thank us by bringing us dead mice and chipmunks, and occasionally just pieces of his catch (ew) or a coughed up hairball (ew).  We became family.  He was endlessly patient with the boys as they grew up, letting them pull his tail, sit on him, tug his fur, and doing nothing but purring at them and rubbing their legs.  Sometimes we wondered where he came from because he seemed so unusually docile.  People would come over and instantly fall in love with Gray Kitty.
Over the years, we fell in love with him.  The kids renamed him "Item", and it stuck.  Every school morning Item would come down the drive way with us to wait for the bus with the kids.
  And every day he would wait on the back step for us to arrive from wherever we'd been.  Item was always under our feet.  It was irritating much of the time, but also comforting.  It gets VERY dark out here at night, and there's a comfort to him trotting along with you as you walk around the place at night.  He put up with our chickens, he put up with draft horses, he put up with gatherings and small children wanting to hold him all the time.

Occasionally Item goes on what we call "walkabouts".  I can only assume that this is something farm cats do.  He would be gone for several days at a time, and we would have no idea where.  We never worried about it, he always came back.  I like to think he was checking out the other farms and realizing he had it good here.  And sometimes it would be a relief to not have cat food sprinkled all over the back step, or chipmunk parts coughed up on our sidewalk, or a cat to trip on every time you go back and forth to the car to unload groceries.

But people, he's on a walkabout right now.  And he's been gone for over two weeks.  I don't want to admit how much I miss him.  How worried I am that he's gone.  How I hope he's alive and not hurt, but worry that I won't see him again, won't know.  AND I MISS HIM.  We all do.  Now I can barely stand the clean back step.  I look for the glow of his eyes every night when the car drives up the driveway.  I check the porch to see if he's sleeping in the chair.  I walk around and make sure he's not locked in a building.  I call him.  He has never been gone this long, and I know in my heart he was getting older.  And a bit less active lately.  I don't know what to think, but I really want him to come back.
I don't have a good feeling about this, folks.  I want my Item to come home.  I want him to sit on my lap on the porch in the morning and swear at him for digging his claws into my legs.  I want him to stand guard over my family.  His family.  If his walkabout was up to Cat Heaven, I hope it was a painless one. But I want him back.  On the back step.

Where he belongs.

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