Thursday, June 01, 2006

Winston’s Story (Or “The Amazing and Miraculous Thing that Truly Happened to Us”) (PART 4)

(Just to warn you, I’m about to get all religious on your ass. So atheist and agnostic readers can just sit on your hands for a bit or stick your fingers in your ears and sing the theme song to Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi really loud. Or, if you like, feel free to read on.)

I spent a good twenty minutes putting the live trap together and figuring out how to set it. It was a simple design, but proved quite effective when tested. All it needed was to be baited and placed. I chose our last remaining can of tuna for the bait. I’d nearly eaten it for lunch, earlier, but had decided not to at the last second. I opened the can, then placed the trap in the grass near the deck’s support post and shoved the tuna to the back of it. I then said a little prayer over the trap, but didn’t put much effort into it.

Before bed, Ash asked me if I wanted to pray together. I decided it was a good idea, since I feel like Ash has more bars on her connection to the man upstairs than I often do and I figured she could maybe act as an antenna booster for me.

My prayer was a meandering one over the course of several minutes and with many pauses. I began by thanking God for giving us Winston. She’s been my constant companion and friend through times when I had no one else around. As irritating as she can be, she’s been there with me, and later with me and Ashley, through good times and bad. Winston didn’t deserve the death in store for her. It would be one thing if we knew for certain that the cat that attacked her had rabies, for I would have no problem putting her to sleep to spare her such a fate. It seemed wrong, though, for her to have to die when we didn’t know for sure. This line of thought, however, lead me back to the whole I didn’t get her vaccinated like I should have and am a horrible person line, which just sent me off into self-pity land, mid-prayer. So I apologized to God for not getting her vaccinated and admitted that it was fully my fault. While I didn’t actually say it aloud, I was kind of hoping God would see fit not to allow Winston to die for my mistakes.

While I was on the subject of giving thanks, I thanked God for my family—in particular my step-mother, Myra. A month and a half ago, Myra learned that she has ovarian cancer. By the time it was discovered, it had already metastasized and spread to her colon, which is where they first discovered it. So Myra underwent surgery to remove the masses in her colon and then, three weeks ago, had her first session of chemotherapy. It’s not been a very pleasant experience for her thus far, but she and my dad seem to be dealing with it pretty well and they have a huge chain of people praying them some backup. Earlier on the same evening Winston was attacked, Myra and my dad had phoned to let us know that she’d been in for some tests and had learned that her body seems to be responding very well to her chemotherapy. Her doctors are already suggesting that so far she’s exhibiting progress similar to what they see in patients who go on to have lengthy remissions. She’s not out of the woods by any means, as her chemo sessions are to continue through August. But it’s a very good sign. At that moment, I realized I’d not yet thanked God for Myra’s progress. Quite frankly, I felt very guilty that here I was boo hooing over a cat when my own step-mother was fighting off cancer. At the same time, it also seemed to me that we should use a prayer technique for Winston similar to one we used for Myra.

On many occasions in the past, I have recognized that my control over a given unbearable situation is little to non-existent. On some of those occasions, I have chosen to go to God and offer that situation to him to deal with as he would see fit. There’s something very freeing about this, but admitting powerlessness and actually giving a situation into the control of a being who might say, “No,” is one of the most difficult things you can try to do prayer wise. It sounds easy enough on paper. It seems easy to just say, Oh, well, I can't do anything about this so I may as well give it up to God. However, truly giving something to God is far more difficult. It means you’re not allowed to keep worrying about it. It’s completely natural to want to keep worrying about it, but doing so does not show the proper degree of faith. Sure, you can express your preferences, but once you’ve given it into the creator’s control, it’s time to step back and trust him.

So I prayed then that God would take the situation from me. I had no control over making that cat go into our trap. I hadn’t even used particularly good tuna for bait. But I didn’t want to bear the thought that Winston went to an unfair death because of my negligence to get her shots updated and the only way to prevent that was for us to trap this cat. I had done all I knew to do and it was probably not enough. I therefore prayed that God would lay his hands on the situation, to take it from me and, hopefully, see fit to accomplish what I could not.

With that said, I wiped my eyes and took a deep breath. I tried to release all the anxiety I had over the matter and truly let it go. It must have worked, because I was asleep within minutes and slept remarkably well.

Around 4 a.m., it began to rain very very hard. The roar of the rain alone woke me up, but I probably would have known something was going on because Ashley, as usual, had to get up to go roll up her car windows. Hearing the rain pouring down began to worry me anew. To me it sounded the death knell of my efforts to trap the cat, for the tuna can had surely filled up with water, possibly flooding the tuna out of it entirely and certainly masking the smell. And what kind of cat was going to come out in the rain for wet tuna, anyway? I quickly began envisioning the week ahead—for surely the vet would only give me a week to accomplish my capture before punching Winston’s ticket—during which I would continue to set the trap, night after night and then wait in vain for the sound of it snapping shut. Ashley was right: there was no way this cat would return.

I lay there for several more minutes, unable to sleep, my mind whirring. Shortly, though, I realized that I was becoming ensnared in my own trap. I wasn't behaving at all like someone who had given the matter over to God, for that someone would have given the matter little thought and gone right back to sleep. Instead, I was allowing the hour of the wolf to creep in and stir up dread in my mind.

Once again, I took a cleansing breath and tried to clear my mind of all worry. I lay there for perhaps a minute when through the screen of our open bedroom window I heard a *SNAP * and my eyes shot open.

I wasn’t sure it was the trap, but that was definitely what it sounded like. Part of me didn’t want to believe I’d really heard it, because I didn’t want to be disappointed if I was wrong. But I got up anyway, put on my glasses and went to fetch a flashlight. Ashley woke up as I was doing this and I told her what I'd heard. She didn't seem to understand me and said that she'd checked the trap when she went down to roll up her windows and it had been empty.

“No, I just heard it,” I said.

I went to our bathroom window, opened it and shone the light down onto the ground where I’d left the trap. Staring back at me were two glowing eyes.

“There’s a cat in there,” I said.

“Are you sure it’s not a skunk?”

I was momentarily chilled at the ramifications of trapping a skunk. I’d not considered that possibility.

“No, it’s a cat,” I said.

I put on clothes and flip-flops then went outside into the now light rain and descended the deck steps. Ashley watched from the window above as I turned my light on the cage itself, revealing a large, medium furred cat growling at me. And while its fur was wet, I could see that it was primarily of a sandy color.

“I think this is it,” I said.

I carefully picked up the cage by its handle and held it at arm's length as I started moving toward the steps. The cat growled and thrashed itself against the ends of the cage, throwing it off balance and showering me with tuna water. I held on tight and made it up to the deck itself, where I set it down. Ash came outside and we turned on the floods for a better look. The cat was very wet and much of his fur was dark as a result, but there were actual streaks of dark hair along its back too. Several of his darker streaks were actually sandy colored hair with dark tips. On his underside was a thick layer of soft sandy-colored fur.

“That’s a big cat,” Ash said.


“The fur looks like a match, though.”


“Is it the one?”

I stared at it for a long time. I was firmly aware that I was now in a situation where I was prone to want to say yes to save my cat’s life. However, if I was wrong and Winston had been bitten by a different cat infected by rabies, we could be in huge huge trouble down the line. It was very important that I was certain this guy was the cat; I couldn’t allow my emotions to rule this decision; I had to rely on the evidence. From the size to the coloration to the attitude, though, the evidence pointed to this cat being the one. And that wide noble face certainly looked familiar. Was I just conjuring that, though?

“I think it’s him,” I said.

We left the kitty in the trap on our deck, but put a large umbrella over the cage so that he wouldn’t be rained on anymore. We then went back to bed where we lay crying with relief for a long time and thanking God for answering our prayer. Eventually we fell asleep.


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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.