One True Kitten by D. A. Houdek
The One True Kitten came to us on a Christmas eve, seeming ordinary enough at first. I don’t know what prompted us to open the door, for her cries couldn’t be heard from inside the house. Maybe it was our big Siamese, Angel, circling around the entryway like a shark on patrol that compelled us to open the door. Or maybe — I can’t remember for sure — it was to turn on the Christmas lights, or to look to see if we’d been left a package. In any case, there she was, huddled in the snow shivering and crying. A miniature white fuzzball, she couldn’t have been more than four weeks old. Her kitten voice was pitched to shatter glass, or rupture eardrums. Who abandoned her, or why, we never knew. Perhaps it was her momma cat, though we couldn’t imagine any responsible mother cat sending so young a baby out on her own, so maybe it’s some human person who’s going to have some serious explaining to do come judgment day.
We didn’t want another cat. We didn’t need another cat. We were determined not to keep her. That determination must have lasted nearly a full thirty seconds.
We named her Tasha.
Tiny though she was, it took both of us, Husband and me, to give her a bath. The fleas on Tasha were so large Husband thought they were ticks. Her thin, white fur virtually disappeared when water touched it. Naturally, Tasha let the world know she was being murdered. Her shrieks brought Angel out of hiding to make it clear we were to stop killing the kitten. The big cat reached up the counter, stretching to her full length, extended her claws, and carefully laid them on Husband’s arm. Then she yowled the guttural, but unmistakable, Siamese “cease and desist” command. She didn’t scratch him, just made it clear that she could.
That should have been our first clue. But, then, we were just mere humans and didn’t share the Siamese’s hyper-perceptions.
Once she was clean, dry, warm, and fed Tasha decided she liked her new home, and her new mommy and daddy. Tottering about, she explored, pounced, and played. Angel followed her around like a worried old nanny. I think we’ve never had a better Christmas present that what we got with that kitten.
We surrendered to Tasha’s demands to be let out her box and into our bed about three a.m. letting any fleeting thoughts of discipline give way to the hope of a little sleep. She climbed Husband as though she was scaling a mountain using her kitten claws as pitons. When she reached the summit her luminous eyes radiated love toward me, toward him, toward the universe as a whole. Tasha insisted on sleeping under my face the rest of the night.
Most of the time Tasha was just a kitten, full of fun, frolic and a fair share of destructiveness, but there were other times, times when Husband and I looked at each other and asked, “Did she just…?”
I suppose it was the flying we really noticed first. Well, maybe the kitten wasn’t really flying. It might have been levitation. We’d find Tasha in the darnedest places; the top of the cupboards above the refrigerator, the top shelf in the closet, the highest bookshelf. “How did she do that?” we’d exclaim and try to create a rational explanation for how she got there.
As Tasha grew we saw her make impossible leaps, ones far surpassing our Siamese’s prowess. Tasha tried to make it appear she was just jumping then pulling herself up with her claws, but watching closely we could see that she took the highest leaps in two moves, the second of which involved her pushing off of empty air.
Then there was the invisibility.
When Tasha was about six months old her tail developed from a skinny, rat-like switch into an extraordinary, fluffy brush of immense expressiveness. And she started to disappear. From the first Tasha slept between Husband and me, by preference stretched out so she could touch both of us at once. Sleep, of course, was preceded by the inevitable Tasha love-fit. She loved our hands best of all, maybe because they loved back, stroking and scratching. Or maybe she was envious of our opposable thumbs. With a purr loud enough to be heard in the next state, Tasha went from one to the other nuzzling, cuddling, and licking. Her eyes shone like gemstones with an inner glow that lit the darkness. Such love in so small a package I have never before known.
Then we’d all fall sleep, Tasha with her back feet against Husband and one front paw nestled in my palm. She was a big kitten now, big enough to fill the gap between us, and big enough that I no longer fretted that one of us might roll over and crush the baby in our sleep. When we woke one morning Tasha wasn’t in bed. That wasn’t unusual; sometimes she got up to eat or play, or to cuddle up to Angel, who had decided she was the kitten’s guardian. This particular morning, when I put my hand down in the empty place where Tasha normally slept it encountered fur. I jerked, blinked, and Tasha was there. She lay in her place as always, stretched out white and fuzzy. When I told Husband about it he responded in the loving, supportive way husbands have; he informed me I was nuts.
The next morning he saw her appear.
Always we held the shade of doubt as to whether we’d really seen the kitten materialize where she hadn’t been a moment before, or whether it was just a trick of our eyes. Surely our kitten — now a big girl almost fully grown — was a normal… well, moderately extraordinary, fuzzy white cat. To be sure, she was a mind reader, but so was Angel and every other cat I’d ever met. When she stared at the air and spoke to things that weren’t there – erring and murping in long, detailed conversations with nothingness – we thought it was just one of the many psychological experiments cats are so fond of conducting on their people.
Christmas was coming again and with it the end of our first year with Tasha. She greeted the Christmas tree with a destructive gleefulness, pulling down ornaments and unstringing the lights. Then when she saw me diligently putting the colored balls back on the tree she decided to help. Every day Tasha devoted hours to decorating the tree. Taking her foam toy balls in her mouth, she pulled down a branch with her paws and deposited the ball in the branches. Always her golden eyes looked proudly to her mommy and daddy for approval.
On Christmas Eve Tasha was oddly quiet. Angel spent the evening pacing by the big living room window, occasionally mrowing in her guttural Siamese voice. Tasha lay quietly under the Christmas tree, a look of sadness on her face such as I’d never before seen. I didn’t understand it. Worried she might be sick, I tried coaxing her with choice tidbits of the dinner turkey. She politely licked them, nuzzling my hand, but didn’t eat. All evening she lay there, her eyes reflecting the lights on the tree, looking always at Husband and me.
We went to bed early after opening gifts for ourselves and giving new toys to Angel and Tasha. Husband had already gone into the bedroom when I went toward the window, bending to unplug the tree. What I saw I’ll never forget. Arranged on our snow-covered lawn like statues were a dozen or more cats. In a half-circle they sat, all facing our house. When I pulled the plug on the tree lights, Tasha jumped up on the sill. She sat erect in the window, calmly looking out at the cats who all stared back at her. Over Angel’s loud mrowing, I heard all those cats howl once. Then they slipped away into the night.
Tasha came to bed carrying her new toy football in her mouth. After loving us thoroughly she lay down to sleep, the toy held between her paws, her furry cheek resting on my hand.
I don’t know what woke us. Perhaps it was Angel jumping up on the bed, or maybe it was just a feeling that we needed to be awake. In any case both Husband and I woke at the same time to a bedroom faintly golden. It was midnight, I thought. Christmas.
Tasha lay between us, purring quietly. Light and love beamed from the glistening orbs that were her eyes. Together we reached to pet her, both Husband and I stroking her silky fur. She nuzzled our hands, licking them gently, talking to us in low errrrs. She mewed once toward Angel. Reaching down Tasha picked up her new toy in her mouth, dropping it into my outstretched hand. I squeezed it hard.
Then as we watched her, beautiful white wings unfolded from Tasha’s back. The One True Kitten flexed them once, and slowly dissolved from our sight.