Okay, I know this is not a great follow-up to that terrific series with Ed Greenwood, but life brings wonderful things followed by terrible things.
This morning, my cat Merlin died.
Eleven years ago, a gray tabby kitten followed a 32-year-old man who was taking his three-year-old and one-year-old boys on a walk in their wagon. The kitten walked half a mile behind them, looking them in the eyes and yowling the whole time. This man and his boys had recently lost another wonderful cat, run down in the road because he had followed them across the highway in front of their house. The 32-year-old decided if this little gray creature followed them across the same road, he–the man–would have to adopt him–the kitten.
He–the kitten–did, and he–the man–did.
Merlin arrived while I was writing my novel Mad Merlin.
Merlin was a remarkable creature. He looked humans in the eye. He spoke to them. We had a neighbor that we rarely spoke to but that Merlin often did because he saw the man through the window and struck up a conversation. Merlin even consoled the heart of an eighty-pound border collie who was still mourning her last cat.
And later, when the collie was gone and we adopted another cat, Merlin became a father to the new creature. Three years later, Merlin did the same for a third cat–Sherlock.
Sherlock arrived while I was writing my Sherlockian novel, The Shadow of Reichenbach Falls.
Yes, authors measure their lives in books and cats.
Two days ago, the eleven-year-old Merlin was avoiding us. One day ago, I held him in my lap as I worked on a novel, and he endured my touch only a couple minutes before leaping away and withdrawing beneath the dresser. This morning, Merlin was having seizures. An hour later, my wife and I stood beside a stainless steel table while a vet shaved Merlin’s arm and found a vein and put in the juice that would kill him.
Merlin died this morning.
This was the kitty who followed me home. This was the one who looked me in the eye and spoke to me. This was a living soul.
Some would balk. They would say the death of this cat shows how nobody really has a soul. Cats and people are just bodies with consciousnesses riding them. When the bodies fail, the consciousnesses are gone. Souls are simply wish fulfillment.
But there’s another thought here. It’s not that animals prove we are nothing but meat. It’s that we prove that animals are more.
Merlin knew how to speak to me. Maybe it was because he was a writer’s cat. He spent so many hours on my lap as I wrote novel after novel. He had no one to talk to except me and my bereaved collie, so he learned to talk to us, both. Merlin proved that he and all cats have a soul–or none of us does.
Rest in peace, my friend, Merlin. My life was richer that you were in it and is emptier that you aren’t anymore. And when it is my turn to be lying on the towel, gasping, biting my tongue, I will take some comfort to know you have done this before me and found out what awaits us all.March 10th, 2010
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