“Skeeter II”

That old cat was born

on my childhood bed, owned* me

and I helped it die.

  • (Like her mother, Skeeter I, the below-pictured cat and I got along famously.  I trained her to be a dog: fetch, sit, roll over, and from the earliest days when we met – I just released on 30-days survivor’s leave from Jacksonville Naval Hospital after being med-evaced from Vietnam with a week-long stay at Yokohama Naval Hospital – came home all a-bandaged to a locked door and no mom or pop about to fuss and fidget, but in my old bedroom was Skeeter I proudly showing off her progeny. The pair of kittens – one a Sealpoint Siamese like her mom, and the other a Blue like his dad, were all that remained of the first and only litter.  The parents were off to Colorado and my younger brother Storm was in town from college taking care of the dog, the parakete, the cats, and, yep, he had his guinea pig in-tow too.  I broke the door to get in: he was out. Where, I never learned.  I had a buddy take me to the hardware place and he loaned me the money for a new door and we put it in.  I put a stolen USMC poncho liner over the made bed and got into the proper attire – skivvies – and reclined before I noticed the cats in the box.  But Skeeter changed all that: she hopped up on the bed and made a nice hello, head-bumping my chin to wake me fully and then jumped back down and twice came back with a kitten-in-mouth, so to introduce the remaining pair to me.  The little, feisty one, was Skeeter II by unanimous consent – mine.  We got on famously, and in time II became my constant companion.  Her mom some years after got killed in a car-driveby (they had paved the road in front of the house and some young kid whacked ‘I’ hard).  I buried her by the North-facing azaleas by the carport, just a few feet from the massive podocarpus hedge that made that little alcove shaded and quiet year-round.  And over the remaining near two-dozen years I’d come by quite often in my newspaper reporter/editor/photographer travels with schools interspersed, and there’d by the yellow cur dog Tiger II (not much for original names for our pets – the parakeets all were named ‘Keetie”), and Skeeter II waiting for me.  Tiger, I used to find waiting patiently a mile from home along the State highway leading to New Smyrna Beach just after sunrise – he and I were basically doing the same thing out cattin’ around pre-Siamese days and during my high school senior year – and he’d hop in my dad’s newish Ford Custom 500 and sit stock still by the shifter as we rode home for breakfast.  He liked pancakes, well mapled, too.  Years later Skeeter II balked at pancakes.  She did insist on the offer.  She even took a polite bite of a sliced apple, which she then spat out and I’d hand her share to Tiger.  Despite the fact it’s supposedly counterintuitive to feed a cat cow’s milk products, both she and Tiger would await patiently their turns when I purloined some cheddar and we’d three sit outside under the shade of huge Camphor tree which Tiger often insist on being carried up to a huge lower limb with me while we’d await a “trolling” Skeet to fetch us up a dog chasing her around the gardenia hedge, whereupon Tiger’d jump down and join her pal in a rousing round of Chase-The-Dog.  And people wonder why both dogs and cats seem to want to taste my hands anytime it’s offered.  Time passes.  Tiger died in another prophetic sleeping-in-the-road runover and he went to the azalea patch.  Then Skeeter II got old.  She got cancer.  I had taken her mom to the vet’s those many years ago before I left for Vietnam, and the veterinarian said she had feline distemper and it was – usually – fatal. To keep her alive I had to spend my last two weeks before going off to war letting that darn cat scratch and claw my hand and arm – to the elbow! – several times a day as I stuffed the medicine horse-capsule down her mouth and with my mom massaging Steeter I’s throat to ensure a full swallow, we got her healed in time for me to go get heeled.  Well, I was thinking of all the times inbetween – the scratching and the introduction a year later – and now, with the injections for cancer of the jaw (again I was elected even though dad by then was giving himself insulin shots) to see if we could extend Skeeter II’s life.  It didn’t work.  I took her to the Vet’s that final time for her euthanasia.  She was perched on my shoulder before The Doc and an assistant came into the exam room and by then she had walked from my shoulder down my back and stood there stoically, kneading my back with her love-claw motions as I cried quietly and dryly.  As the attendant scooped up Skeeter to take her away, the cat reached out to my face and gently patted my cheek for one final time.  “Have a good ride, honey,” I blurted. She, too, went to That Azalea patch. And for years I’d walk by those three depressions in the shaded walk between Azaleas and podocarpus delineations on the side yard whenever I was home and munch an apple and a chunk of cheese.

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