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Ash’s Last Night

You can delay it. You can ignore it. You can alter the terms of it, but it’s going to happen eventually. That’s the idea of inevitability, you can’t stop it. People die. Every hour, every minute, every second of every day, people die. It’s never been that big a deal to me. Death happens. Sure, they’re gone, but there’s nothing you can do about it, so I made it a point not to get very bothered about it. But there’s a big difference between death and dying. I’ve lost both my grandmothers, but I just heard vaguely that they were dying. No, one of the most painful losses was that of my late cat, Ash.

It was like any other night. I had returned from a two-week vacation out of state just a few days ago. The veterinarians had detected cancer in Ash’s lymph glands several months back, but with some medication they gave us, he seemed like new, and lasted a lot longer than he naturally would have. It was around midnight, and I was getting back into the swing of things by getting ready to give Ash his pill. He was always real good about taking it, just sat there and let me give it to him, and he didn’t even run away when I got it. I guess he knew it was good for him.

I called for him repeatedly while I loaded up the pill popper, but he didn’t come. Silently swearing at my brother and mother for letting him out at night, I approached the back door.

Ash was always so sweet. Every time he was outside and I called to him, he always came running. He loved me so much. Every time he was frightened while I was holding him, he got up on his hind legs and hugged my neck. He did that every time we went to the vet, so we never even needed the cat carrier.

“Ash!” I yelled into the quiet night air. Nothing. I called again. Still nothing. I stepped onto the porch and looked around.

As I looked to the right, I saw him. You couldn’t miss him. You never could. He’d crouch down in the grass as if he was hiding, but even in the middle of the night, you’d see a solid white cat, no matter what.

I called once more, quieter though, as I began approaching him. He was hiding under the barbecue pit. Still he didn’t come. Something was wrong. Seriously wrong.

I pulled him out from under the barbecue pit, and he was limp in my grip. He was in pain, and meowed plaintively as I pulled him out. I gave him his pill, but it didn’t make any difference. It didn’t make any difference that he didn’t get his pill for two weeks straight because I was out of town. Fate was catching up to him.

He ran to the back door and inside, collapsing soon after, wailing in pain. I followed him, petting and talking to him, tears gathering in my eyes. He told me in his laboured breaths how his stomach was wracked in pain, how he hardly had the strength to move, how every breath agonized him.

My mother emerged at this point, hearing the commotion. She could tell something was wrong; he was never this loud.

Ash struggled to his feet again, his breath heaving and his body shaking, and staggered his way across the kitchen. He was at the doorway to the living room, right by the trash can, when he lied down, never to start moving again.

I didn’t want to believe it. I was now crying like he had been a moment ago, and my mother was, too. I knew what the truth was, but I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to believe something else, I wanted to believe he was just feeling sick, and taking him to the vet would make him better again. I started crying twice as hard when I heard my mother’s words, verifying the horrible truth:

“He’s dead.”

© Catherine Fitzsimmons

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