Guest story-tribute by Michael Arnold
Tab was a green-eyed stalker of all small things that slipped into the woods of that cat. The surrounding forest was silent as creatures would stay safe from the circles he prowled.
Two young girls found the collared cat with a tag-stamped Tab. If the White House can be named with so little thought and be glorious, so goes the frame and spirit of this wild creature.
Tab did not know fear nor had not met a human that did not love him. He crept with the same silent feet preceding murder through the edge of the woods and toward the girls. Upon a visit from their furry friend, they would sit in the front yard or the front driveway and spend hours. Grandma Jane Morar had a distant knowledge of the cat. “Cute, even sweet,” she thought. “But, I do not want a cat.” Full stop.
Young Makinley and Montana with eyes and hearts begged for Tab’s entry into the house. Tab lived next door, across the lake, outdoors, and as we would learn, made the rounds and was fed by the good-hearted handouts offered to the large-hearted cat.
Tab was a bit of a local legend and loved as one might an old tree, but Tab would approach and lean into the hand that would scratch the head. Noble, fierce cat with a purr. Never outstaying the welcome, Tab would slip into the forest and if no longer seen, no trace of sound would follow or issue forth.
“Can’t Tab come in; it’s raining,” Makinley begged.
“No,” Jane said. “I don’t want a cat.”
“Can’t Tab just stay on the back porch? It’s raining!” Montana would pull on the exposed strings of my mother’s heart. What is a grandmother to do?
“Well, okay. But just the back porch,” and the screen door slid open and Tab stepped a paw, and another, and another, and another into the porch and into the life of Jane Morar.
“Grandma! It’s so cold out! Can’t Tab just walk through the house on the way to the back porch?” Montana would ask.
Makinley walked over, gauging the hesitation in her grandmother’s eyes. What is a grandmother to do? Acquiesce and move a line in the sand which is commensurate to the cute being bartered. The front door opened and Tab stepped a paw, and another, and another, and another into the house and was ushered toward the opened sliding glass door leading to the porch.
“Can’t Tab just sit with us on the floor while we watch the movie?” Makinley asked, pointing over to the round face that watched among the fading light at the sliding glass door. He was patient and sure that the house within was to be his and soon. The head of Jane tilted but did not shake a “yes” or a “no.” Montana stood, and walked over, a smile tempting the corner of Jane’s mouth. A light hissing sound as the door slid and in walked Tab, onto the tile floor a paw, and another, and another, and another into the house and to recline surrounded by the ladies that would come to know another warm light in a constellation of hearts and souls. However, when the credits began to rise and the movie was over, the cat had to go back out. Was Jane Morar expected to let the cat stay? She was not going to have a cat in her house. Maybe to visit, but an entire evening? No, no, never.
A storm from the north was headed to St. Johns county. There would be wind and rain. Should a cat, the quality of Tab, be cast from the warmth of a home and beset upon by the angry forces of nature?
“Grandma?” Makinley begged with voice and eyes as The Weather Channel rattled off the warnings for the evening to come.
“Grandma?” Montana said pointing to the running banner at the bottom of the screen: “extreme wind, some rain.” Montana’s open palm directed at the television was all the evidence needed to counter any dismissive argument concerning the need to harbor this cat. So, the slider hissed open, and the cat entered with a single paw upon the floor, and another, and another, and another.
But, a grandmother must draw some line upon the sand, yes? “Okay,” she said, “but Tab cannot sleep on the furniture.” The door closed, with the cat inside. Rain tapped upon the glass and a gentle breeze pressed the palm fronds to and fro. Tab slept in a peace that surpasses human understanding.
Upon waking, pancakes and fruit while the cat stretched upon the forbidden sofa. “Okay,” Jane said. “But, Tab will never sleep in my bed.” Montana and Makinley looked at each other and smiled. Elves among the tall grass at play.
The day after Tab’s passing, my mother sent me a text.
“I miss him so much. Every day I would say ‘Come let me hold you like a baby and he would look up at me with those big eyes, and then, when he wanted to go, I would let him go. I think that is what we did today.”
Our pets are not entities used to fill spaces whereupon a family gathers to take a picture. Tab was a family member, loved by many, and now grieved by many. We are a party to moments and places that for us exist only in the mind of those still living.
Tab is out there somewhere, stalking creatures in the woods but also waiting to be someday, from the evermore, called home so that he might share a pillow on a bed where my mother rests.