A Canticle for Roadcat(originally published in The Des Moines Register, February 14, 1988)
I had a friend... and his name was Roadcat. He was young when I was young and old when I was middle-aged. Still, our lives overlapped for a while, and I am grateful for that.
He was more than a friend, really. Friend and colleague is perhaps a better image. In fact, I sometimes introduced him to strangers as my research associate. We worked together on cold, gray afternoons poring over books and papers, while the wood stove quietly crackled its way through another Iowa winter.
He came from a field of long grass behind our house in Columbus, Ohio. Just a few inches in length, he walked along the cement of one of those smarmy subdivisions that make your teeth curl.
A neighbor's child abused him. He fought back, as any of us would, and the child's mother screamed something about rabid cats. My wife observed that the child deserved something more than he got and brought the kitty home for the customary saucer of milk.
I set him on my lap an said, "This is going to be a fine-looking cat."But we were on the move in those times and had already promised our daughter one of the kittens from a littler down the street. So the migrant was fed and sent along.
I sat down to read the paper, glanced up, and he had reappeared on the opposite side of the house at the patio screen door. He looked in at me, and I looked back. He coughed continuously and badly, tried to cry, but the effort was soundless. I picked him up, looked him over with a modest expertise gained from years of living around animals and said I was taking him to the veterinarian's office.
The examination was lengthy. He had worms, ear mites, fleas, and a serious case of bronchitis. I asked the vet, "Is this a road cat?" The doctor smiled, "This is your genuine road cat."
We drove home together, he and I and, of course, four kinds of medicine in a brown paper bag. He sat on the car seat, small and uncomplaining, watching me, bright face hopeful. The nursery opened. Roadcat had come to stay....
This is only the beginning of a great essay about a favorite pet by Robert James Waller...
but I loved it because I immediately thought of our own little "road cat..."Achilles...