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Lounge Socks

July 27, 2011

Lounge Socks

I was abandoned by a cat today. Actually, a kitten, a small black ball of fur we named Lounge Socks for his white paws and a joking reference to the socks I wear around the house. He arrived on a Monday courtesy of Socks, so named by neighborhood kids, a grey mother cat with white paws like her offspring, deposited in the garden outside the front window of our kitchen. But today, Friday, the first day of my summer vacation, Lounge Socks is gone. A sadness that I would not have anticipated hangs over me as I occupy myself with my chores, stopping often to look out the front door hoping to get a glimpse of this little kitten sleeping or hunting bugs or swatting merrily at the leaves as he did all week long. But he’s gone.

Several weeks ago we started seeing Socks in and about the yard of our recently deceased next door neighbor’s empty house. I saw her one day with two kittens at the end of the block in the shade of some trees. I then discovered that her lair was in a wood pile under the deck of my neighbor. It seems the people on the other side (whose grandchildren named her Socks) had been leaving milk out, a good reason for staking claim to that spot along with the relative solitude.  I watched her hunt, gracefully stalking the plentiful chipmunks who populate the area.

I was drawn to the little guy from the start.  I was in the process of trying to finish up all of my end-of-the-year-pain-in-the-behind paperwork for school, but I would get up every few minutes to see how the kitten was doing; one time curled up napping under the young evergreen, another chasing after bugs in the mulch under the lilac, another nursing in the shade of the peony when mom had returned from a foray. Bernadette was also entranced. Each night when she would call telling me what train she was on, the first question would be “How’s Lounge Socks?” followed by “What’s he doing?” and “Is his mom there?”    Each evening, through supper and up until bedtime, the both of us would look in on the little life that had taken up residence under our noses. We worried when mom seemed to be gone for too long (“Should we leave him something to eat?”).  We fretted when a rain storm rolled in. We obsessed over his well-being, his choice of sleeping spots (“Oh, no! He’s on the edge of the retaining wall!”) We took such pleasure in seeing him, head nestled on his little white paws, snugly settled in for the night under the drain pipe at the corner of the garden.

Last evening, the last time I saw Lounge Socks, I was going to the car to pick Bernadette up at the train station. Socks was sitting halfway to the street on the retaining wall with Lounge Socks next to her, his content little head resting against her side. She eyed me warily as she always did, poised for flight, Lounge Socks oblivious to the “danger” of my presence, but Socks seemed to relax again as I pulled out of the driveway and departed. My last glimpse was of them together in that spot.

When I arrived home again later, black storm clouds gathering ominously, he was nowhere to be seen. Bernadette wanted to conduct a thorough search under the other plants; I wanted to leave him be, convinced that he’d simply found another spot for that night. Soon the thunderstorm struck, a booming deluge that had us constantly peering outside. The storm finally passed, but still no sight of the kitten, a fact confirmed this morning when we looked all over for him. My heart jumped at each blotch of darkness, falling again when it was not a black furry kitty, but merely a shadow.

Bernadette is at work. I am puttering about, getting my summer life organized. I go outside, hoping against hope that it was only a temporary move because of the storm, but I’m wrong. He’s gone. I am hard pressed to explain the tears that well up as I stand alone in my front yard. It was only a wild cat. It was only here a couple of days. Why should I care so much? But there is no mistaking that this tiny creature stirred up something deep within me, some connection with life or hope or wonder. I suppose this is a good thing. But I know each time I leave the house, I’ll have my eyes peeled for a small black cat with white socks who captured my heart.

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