23 2011

Shemp is a bad old cat.

Shemp is also a friend.

I don’t have many friends in this world. It’s sad when a grown man has to cite a cat as a friend, but this is a sad sentiment for a sad day. Shemp has cancer.

We got Shemp a lifetime ago. I lived in a big house in the middle of nowhere with a front yard ending with a highway guardrail and the busy road beyond.  Shemp, an orange-and-white mix and his black-and-white brother, Elvis, were there to help a scared, lonely, and shy boy feel less scared, lonely, and shy. They were tiny kittens, and it was just me, and them, and a roommate, a house we’d later learn was infested with squirrels, and the rushing traffic. And as they became more adventurous, it seemed a foregone conclusion one, or both, would escape the house, go wandering, and meet a terrible end. It was no way for a friend to go. So the cats went to live with my parents. The cats went home.

When I think of Shemp, I’ll always remember him climbing on my bed, muscling me to one edge or the other, or plopping down right on my legs and making it so I’d have to sleep with my legs splayed apart while he took the prime real estate in the middle. Then, when it suited him: To the door, scratching to be let out, to be fed, to be allowed outside to eat grass. When it suited him: Scratching on my door to be let in, relentless. He tore the hell out of our couches and coughed up hairballs on our rugs. He was our bad old man.

When I was unemployed and back at my parents’ home, I was his best friend. He’d wake me up at an ungodly hour to be fed and let out. He’d scratch on the door to be let in. He’d nudge me while I sat at the computer writing résumés. Get me food. You haven’t let me out in the last 20 minutes. For the love of god, you haven’t paid enough attention to me. Shemp got big and fat, and used his bulk to become king of the house. Meanwhile, his brother is, and was, the sweetest cat ever. At least that’s what mom says. And mom, who dotes on the cats, is the foremost authority on these matters.

Now I am a world away, and my friend is dying. I need to get back home and see my friend, and tell him it is all right, and that I love him dearly. And I will say this with tears in my eyes, because the toughest things in life always involve tears.

And then, at the end, a silent prayer, the best I can muster.

Take me where I want to be. Please take me from this misery.

Categories: My friend Shemp

Leave a Reply