He was the boss; the animals knew it. The cow never kicked over the pail when he milked; horses never kicked the barn door when he held the halter as he walked the big mare back to her stall; and, even my mother came when he called, as did the other barn cats. Like I said, he was the boss.
It was cold in the barn. He picked me up and then it was dark, and warm. I could see the whole thing unfold, tucked inside his quilted work overalls. He walked me from the barn to the house.
I could tell he wasn’t the boss here.
She was standing in the kitchen,
working creamy white gooey stuff with a long smooth stick thicker than my middle. She was rolling it back and forth across the table, sprinkling it with white powder, handfuls from a big crock shaken over the surface, some of it puffed up into small clouds. Sun beams through the east window highlighting clouds of white powder in shafts of light, clouds that drift, settle and disappear back into the table.
This must be the kitchen boss, I thought to myself. She stops rolling to look up. Yes, in here, she is boss.
“And what are you doing?” she said looking right at me, or was it just above me.
“She won’t make it if we leave her in the barn,” says, barn boss, pulling the silver zipper of his overalls down a bit more to give me a bigger view of the place where kitchen boss is rolling something that smells delicious.
It’s warm in here, smelling different than the closed air of the barn. The floor is clear, clean and smooth. Where does everybody sleep? I wonder.
“I was thinking,” he said, “all four of the older kids are going to Alberta for Christmas and I think a kitten would be good company for our youngest.” “A ten year old needs a friend over Christmas, don’t you think?”
Misty, that’s me, I am Misty. She named me saying I was a blend of grey, tan and white. The barn cats didn’t get names. I am special.
I lived in the barn with my own busy mother lying on her side in the prickly straw, my brothers and sisters climbing over me and pushing me out of the way to get mother’s milk. I am constantly hungry, and I can’t push my way in anymore. I am hungry now.
Boss unzips his coveralls and sets me on the smooth floor. It feels slippery. He sets down a bowl of cream as big as I am. I put my head in past my whiskers and lap cream till my tummy is full.
I pause and look up from my cream.
There she is. The girl. She’s the one with the foxtail that visits me in the barn. The one that takes me away from the tumbling competition for dinner. She was there the day we were born. I remember her hands, the smell. Days before her face stopped blurring and the world came into focus, I remember her.
The delicious food I licked out of her hand was nothing like what the other barn cats ate.
The barn door cracks open, yellow sunlight backlighting her poker straight, cow-licked shoulder length hair in the dim light. Foxtail. She twitched the foxtail slowly, moving it further away until I couldn’t help but pounce. Before I hit the ground she twitched the fox tail,a bit further, just enough for me to miss the mark. Frustrating. Me pounce: her twitch. It was cat and mouse but nobody got hurt. Foxtail twitch is my favorite.
The kitchen boss smiled. “Oh, alright,” she said, “but make sure she doesn’t smell like barn when she comes in here.”
I sleep on the girl’s bed. She shows me how to use the litter box in the basement by taking my front paws in her hands and digging in the box. Like I didn’t know how to do this. But, I much prefer the Saskatchewan sand above the cinder-crete basement foundation blocks to dig in but that makes kitchen boss nearly lose her mind. Life is good here, I use the box.
I watch the big yellow bus swallow her up every morning and spit her out when the sun was high just starting west. We played then. That was our daily routine for a long long time
Then the girl packs a zippered bag to put in the mouth of her four wheel chair that rolls down the gravel on the other side of the hedge. Sometimes she goes away for a long time. But barn boss and kitchen boss were good company. I couldn’t sleep on the bed anymore.
I has been a long time since we played with foxtail.
The phone rings. She picks it up.
“Hello, it’s Mom. Misty died last night.” The phone receiver said.
“Oh, Mom. She was a marvellous cat. Thank you for letting Dad bring her in the house a cat lifetime ago. Love you, Mom”
It was a marvellous cat-lifetime ago.