I wanted to do something special this Halloween that did not involve putting on any more costumes! So I told my human to write you a short story about a ghost cat. It has been a while since she wrote anything that was purely fictional, and she has never written a spooky story (at least not that she can remember), so it was a stretch for her. And the catch — she only had 24 hours in which to do it! I think she did all right, even if the story is only mildly spooky. I hope you like it!
The Ghost Cat
“I’m sorry, Sammy, but Buster isn’t going to get better. You don’t want him to suffer, do you?”
Sammy shook his head. He had known Buster for all his eight years and the cat was his best friend. But Buster was old now. In fact, Buster was 10 when Sammy was born, so he had never been a young cat to the boy. Like a big brother or uncle (although furrier), Buster had always looked out for the youngster, and stuck by him during happy and sad times. Especially when Sammy was sad. On those days when Chuck, the class bully, shoved him around, or when he did poorly in school in spite of his best efforts, Sammy knew that when he got home, Buster would be by his side, rubbing against his legs and purring to be held close.
Sammy’s mother, Karen, was as sad as Sammy. Buster came into her life as a kitten during her first year of college. In a tiny but piercing voice, he had called out to her as she was heading back to her dorm room late one rainy night. He was nothing more than a dripping black-and-white bag of bones. Karen picked up the shivering kitten, and as she tucked him inside her hoodie, she promised she would take care of him always. The strange thing was, something inside of her felt that the kitten, curled next to her heart and sputtering into purrs, was returning the promise in kind.
Buster had befriended Karen through every step of her adult life, from college to her first job, as an associate editor for the local weekly, to her relationship and marriage to her husband, Sam (who met with Buster’s approval, unlike several of Karen’s previous boyfriends). When she became pregnant with Sammy, Karen was worried that Buster would become jealous or stressed out, but instead he immediately accepted the infant as a new family member. He seemed to know that he was a part of Karen — in fact, the best part of Karen, because the baby was the purest expression of love. Buster often curled up near the baby’s crib, and as the boy grew up and began exploring, Buster joined in. Buster did not even mind when Sammy pulled his fur or tail. The few times he pulled too hard, Buster let out a yelp and looked so hurt that Sammy started crying as if he was in pain too. That’s how close the two of them were.
Now Buster was 18 and dying of chronic renal failure. Over the past few months, his normally robust frame had grown bony. His fur became dry and matted. His purr was louder than ever, but it sounded like he was making an effort to prove he wasn’t really hurting. Most of the time he slept, curled up in the sky blue cat bed in Sammy’s room, his black tail covering his pale pink nose. For the past week, he had resisted Karen’s efforts to entice him to eat. Karen knew it was time for Buster’s last trip to the vet. That was the easy part because she knew that she was doing what was best for Buster. The hard part was telling Sammy.
“Sammy, you know that Buster will always be watching over you,” Karen offered gently. “And he will be waiting for you so that someday you can be with him again.”
“No, that’s not fair!” Sammy blurted out with a sob. “I don’t want to wait a jillion years until I’m old to see him!”
Karen didn’t know what to say. Sammy was right. It wasn’t fair, just like much of life wasn’t fair. But this was one of times when it was almost unbearable. She touched the boy’s sandy hair as he cried.
“I am going to miss him too. As much as you.”
Sammy looked up at her. “Can I say good-bye to him?”
“Of course you can, sweetie. You didn’t even have to ask.”
Sammy went to his room to the sky blue cat bed where Buster was snoring fitfully. Karen left the two of them alone. She and Sam had decided the boy was too young to take to the vet clinic for Buster’s appointment, so this was Sammy’s time to spend with his best buddy.
When Sammy came back into the living room, his eyes were still wet, but he was smiling a little.
“Buster said he didn’t like leaving either, but that you were right, he would always look out for me.”
Unlike many adults, Karen believed animals had the ability to communicate with the humans close to them, so she nodded. “Of course he will,” she said, meaning it.
Later that afternoon, when she picked up Buster to take him to the clinic, she held him against her heart, the same way as when they first met, and that promise echoed inside her.
The week after Buster was put to sleep, Karen and Sammy were planting spring flowers in a corner of the front yard – a little memorial garden. It had rained two days before, and the air was still fresh.
“Would you like some milk and cookies, sweetie?” Karen asked.
Sammy nodded. “Can we have them out here in the garden?”
“Of course we can.”
Karen was only in the kitchen for a moment when she heard the barking. She rushed to the front door and saw the mean dog that lived across the street rushing at Sammy, who was frozen in fear. Even though there was no way she would reach him in time, Karen sprinted towards her little boy. But before the dog got to Sammy, he skidded to a stop and began growling. He seemed to be attacking thin air. Suddenly the dog’s eyes got huge and he yelped in pain. He rushed back across the street screeching. Karen hustled Sammy back inside.
A few moments later, there was a knock on the door. It was the dog’s owner.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” he said, “I had no idea the fence was broken.”
Even though Karen was still shaking, she glared at him.
“That dog could have killed my son.”
“But he’s okay, right?” Karen nodded curtly and the man sighed with relief. “It’s a good thing your cat was out there. He really scratched up the dog good. Oh, your cat — is it okay?”
Karen felt herself go cold.
“Our cat died last week.”
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