When Thomas calls to me to “come outside now”, I guess I already know. We always knew this day would come, but she seemed so happy and healthy lately, so I wasn’t really expecting it today.
“Oh Puss,” I say, sitting beside her. I stroke her stiff, cold little body and am surprised that she is stretched out on the hard boards of the veranda, not curled up on her chair beside the door. It never fails to surprise me that once life leaves, the body is so familiar and yet so foreign.
I need to tell the children.
“Hey… boys I have some sad news,” I say quietly. They look up from playing ‘Angry Birds-GO!’ and the room suddenly stills. “Has one of our fish died?” Mr 5 asks.
“Um… no. But we have lost one of our pets. Puss.”
“Oh. Where’s she gone? Has she run away?”
“Ah… no. She died, honey,” I say sadly, “Would you like to come and see her?”
“Nothankyou.” Mr 5 says abruptly. “I don’t actually want to.” I blink at him, a bit shocked.
“I will!” Thing 1 and Thing 2 say in unison and follow me out to where Puss is still lying. Mr 5 reluctantly lags behind with The Baby, who is coming along to check out the action.
They lean over her, and I suggest that they might like to pat her. Mr 5 looks absolutely revolted by the idea, but the twins pet her nervously. The Baby toddles over excitedly, claps his hands with delight and says “Pu!” before sitting down and giving her body a happy rub. Then he suddenly stops, smile flattening out and extends a finger, gingerly prodding her tummy. “Pu?” he asks.
“Is there anything you would like to say to Puss?” I ask them all.
“I LIKE GOLD!” Mr 5 blurts out and runs off, leaving the adults staring at each other and wondering what the heck just happened.
I begin digging a hole in her favourite sunny spot under the cherry tree. There are so many roots that I am relieved when Thomas offers to take over. I go inside. On the phone I fret to my friend about what to put Puss’s body in, seeing that she is stiff and inconsiderately stretched out. We settle on the idea of fabric and once I have wrapped her I sit with the children in the winter sunshine.
“Do you want to pat her now she is wrapped?” I ask. “Her favourite thing was a good pat, and we won’t be able to do it again.”
“She DIDN’T like pats,” Mr 5 says scathingly, “She always ran away.” It’s actually true, she hated the children and their noisy, fast-moving ways. But she loved adults, and was really very sweet.
I rub her through the cloth, and talk to her. “Thank you for choosing us, Puss, I am really glad you found us. You have been a lovely, sweet cat.” Thing 2 softly settles beside me, his hand on her also. “When you die, it is just your body,” he tells me quietly, “PUSS didn’t die, only her body. Her spirit just… left.”
“I saw her tongue hanging out,” Mr 5 states bluntly, “I saw her tongue hanging out and she had a gold tooth in there.” Not to be outdone, Thing 1 says “Well, I saw her bones all sticking out. They were all crunched and sticking out of her skin.” A blatant lie.
The children have collected flowers and Thomas has finished the hole. Against his will, I make him carry the little body to its final resting place, the rest of us silently following. With the family paused and waiting, Thomas starts to lower her earthly remains when we realise that there is a fundamental problem: The hole is too narrow. The children wait with their flowers while he digs once more, through the damp leaves and the earth and the roots. “Look at your flowers and pretend to be sad,” the child-boss instructs the others.
Finally the hole is sufficient, and Puss is lowered, catching on some of the roots and tilting like a plank. “Put her in NICELY!” I whisper. “Fucking rigor mortis,” Thomas whispers back and we try not to laugh. Then he kind of bends her body into position and I feel a little sick.
The hole is filled, and flowers placed. I suggest a little song before we leave. Thing 1 begins to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, much to his brothers’ horror. Thomas and I join in, feeling a bit weird and dorky.
“That was a stupid song,” Thing 2 says at the end, “Twinkle Star is a sleeptime song. I know a better song, it’s the Angry Birds-GO! song.”
Mr 5 agrees, and together they attempt the theme music, out of tune, to the word of ‘Dun’ as they happily run off into the house, “Dun dun duuuuun…. duh-duh….. dun dun duuuuuun….”
I guess she really was more of an ‘adults’ cat.
Goodbye Puss, you sweet girl. I’m really going to miss you xx