Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Caretaker

via Magic Ketchup on Flickr
A faint whiff of Vicks VapoRub drifted across the stale room as her Mistress exhaled heavily and dispersed the scent. Even a cat could sense the thick medicinal smell. Moogie, a long-haired Calico, lay on the rocker’s seat next to the bed and lifted her head to sniff, sniff, sniff the air as felines are apt to do.

Moogie was originally called Mookie, regardless of being a female, after her favorite baseball player who’d helped the Mets beat the Red Sox in that “Buckner Play” during the ‘86 World Series. Her Mistress hated Boston. One of her favorite memories was listening to ball games on the radio back before her hearing failed. With her slurred speech following the stroke, nurses thought she called the cat “Moogie” instead of “Mookie,” and it had stuck.

Now the Mistress spent most of her days reading the paper, even though she may not remember what news she’d read minutes after setting it down on the night stand, or slowly rocking in the chair her late husband had built out of oak boughs. Moogie spent many afternoons on her lap in front of the window, resting in a supine position enveloped within an irresistible splay of sunlight. Her Mistress’s gnarled fingers still endlessly stroked the cat and immersed them both in joy. Such happiness had been hard to come by since the Master’s death several years prior and the failing health of her Mistress after that aneurism somewhat incapacitated her. Regardless, they still had each other.

The attentive companion realized a sudden absence of the sharp vapor aroma and crept from her perch on the rocking chair and onto the resting place of her Mistress. Moogie padded softly across the bird’s-nest patterned quilt, ironically named for the only other place the cat would rather be than with her beloved Mistress. The cat stepped gingerly to ascend the woman’s body and onto her regular nesting spot atop her chest. But her ears immediately perked up, as something was amiss upon her arrival there.

Moogie noticed the lack of a rhythmic tempo, the normal rise and fall usually present when she sunk into repose, and how the body of her Mistress seemed flat and absent of breath. The night nurse was in the other room and, unfortunately, had no way to know if anything was wrong. A growl emerged from Moogie’s throat at the possibility of that woman not paying attention.

Magic Ketchup on Flickr
She sprung into action and leapt into the hallway to gain the nurse’s attention. Of course, the lazy woman sat with a pile of knitting in her lap in front of a static-filled screen in the living room and her head lolling onto the back of the sofa. The white noise emitting from the television muffled any sound from the adjacent bedroom where her Mistress might lay dying.

Forming a tight figure eight around the dozing woman’s legs, Moogie intently rubbed on her calves and mewed as strongly as possible to rouse her from slumber. She ambled onto the sofa when those caresses seemed too slight to do the trick and alit on the back of the couch beside the nurse’s head. Moogie positioned herself strategically by the woman’s ear to let out a yowl loud enough to stir poor Mister, long since six-feet-under. The cat mustered all she had, for an aged being such as her, to wail at top volume.

It wasn’t actually the caterwauling that awakened the nurse but an annoying tickle from Moogie's long, white whiskers and a perpetual tinkle of the round bell hanging from her red collar that did it. The nurse bolted upright and rose to her feet, frightfully aware of her dereliction of duty. “Silly, cat,” she said. “What are you doing ... trying to steal my breath?”

As she strode toward the bedroom, the nurse called, “Missus, are you alright?” There was, of course, no answer. No stirring whatsoever came from within the confines of the room. A startlingly loud snort broke the silence just as she reached toward the Mistress to check on her odd state of still reticence, and the nurse let out a heavy sigh of relief. In her twist to find a comfortable position, the Mistress made several other snuffling sounds indicative of her persistent sleep apnea. The nurse retreated to her knitting once she’d pulled the mussed coverlet back up to her charge’s chin.

Already back up on the bed, Moogie wound her body in several circles before settling down once again at her Mistress’s side. She closed her still sharp green eyes and lost herself once again to repose amidst the familiar yet calming current of menthol breezing past her whiskers.

*This post was prompted by tinkle at Studio30Plus.


  1. This is one smart cat. I've heard of many stories similar to this one...

    1. She's quite a conscientious companion, eh? Kitties are the best, young or old!