One day, long after I had moved out of my parent’s house, I received a phone call from my mother.
“Pumpkin has gone missing again. This time he’s been gone for two months straight. I don’t think he’s coming back this time.”
Pumpkin was our fat, orange cat. He was known to leave the house for weekends or weeks at a time for one reason and one reason only. He was a whore and had sexy cat business to attend to with the other kitties of South Berwick. We never knew where he went or what made him come back, but every so often he’d leave, get himself a good amount of tail, and then strolls back into the house innocently and starving, looking at us like, “What? Can’t a cat get a little ass once in a while without being looked at like a whore?”
I always found it amusing. I liked Pumpkin’s priorities in life, his inability to conform to society’s cat dwelling rules, his love of female cats of every flavor. If we could all have the life Pumpkin was leading, we’d probably all be thrilled.
A few weeks passed and I received another call, this time peppered with tears and sadness. It was confirmed. My mother had found Pumpkin by the mailbox, at the end of our driveway. His vacation filled with adventure and sex was over. Apparently, on his way home from bedding his latest hussy, probably that of the Calico or Siamese variety, he was hit by a car. Poor thing.
And so in realizing she had to bury our cat pumpkin, our mother did what seemed logical. She pushed a wheelbarrow a quarter mile down our driveway, out of the woods, out to the mailbox. She picked up Pumpkin, surely brushing him and talking to him while she placed him in the rusty, old wheelbarrow and pushed him back to the house. I know without even being there how traumatic and dramatic this one-woman processional back to the house was, as my mother is a feeler of all emotions, one of those Empath people, though her acceptance of feeling others’ emotional also extends to animals. Fucking bizarre talent to have, but she has it. I myself do not have such a talent. I can barely feel my own fucking feelings, forget those of other people and certainly not animals.
A bit later, she took the time to gently bury our resident bad boy in the backyard, with the other animals that expired early for one reason or another. We all felt badly, but since none of us had seen him in a while, I think we all preferred to pretend he was just out chasing tail. That and we didn’t live at home anymore and I think Pumpkin was at least ten, meaning we were over it.
And then I got another call.
Katie called me one day to update me on “a family development you will find very interesting.” There are very few family developments that are actually more interesting than disturbing, sad or fucking weird, so I was ready for anything.
“Pumpkin is back. ”
“I’m sorry, what? Pumpkin? Mom buried Pumpkin a few months ago. How’s he back?”
“Don’t know. He’s just back and you’re going to love this.” Oh, I knew I would. I live for these stories.
One day, while washing dishes in the kitchen, my mother sees Pumpkin, ten pounds lighter, ragged and crazy looking, prancing out of the woods toward the house. I think any other person on the face of the earth would have thought, oh, jesus, is that our cat? Or, Good god, I hope that ragged ass stray cat doesn’t think he’s coming towards this house. But no, no, that was not the reaction. Instead, my mother lost it, and called my sister to tell her that Pumpkin’s ghost was back, and that it waltzed right back into the house through the sliding glass door, as though the sliding glass door was a gateway back into the here and now. And so then he was Pumpkin again, not the ghost of.
“Woah, wait. So the real Pumpkin is back, and she buried Pumpkin’s doppelgänger? She buried the wrong fucking cat?”
“Yeah, someone else’s dead cat is in our backyard.”
Pumpkin ended up living a few more miserable years. That was his last whoring expedition, and the rest of his days were filled with stalking the front yard, hissing and spitting in the nastiest of manners and generally showing us all how ugly slow cat death can be. My sister ended up having to put him to sleep on day while my parents were away. It was about six months overdue, but we won’t ask her about that. That little story tends to cause a lot of family fighting, even though it is another great story. Maybe for another rainy day.
Rest in peace Pumpkin. You were always one of my favorites.