We walk through the brush on the hill, mosey through the prairie, visit all the neighbors to hand them flyers, and whenever we open a door, we first call out, “Akio!!!” as loud as we can, hoping it will charm our beloved kitty back home. Akio, our 11-month-old male tabby, disappeared Thursday at dusk, around the same time a feral long-haired reddish beast of a cat showed up. We shooed the beast away, but from that time on, our kitten hasn’t come bounding like a dog (as he was apt to do) onto the porch whenever we call his name.
I know that life in the country can be like this for cats, especially ones less than sterling in their intelligence and speed. Unfortunately, Akio was such a cat. Within the last week, I saw him take a swipe at our other cat (who, in all fairness, has been attacking him since he was the size of a beanie baby), and then sit down beside her and stretch out on his back. So I have good reason to worry about him roaming this land where hungry hawks and owls patrol the skies, a packet of coyotes roams the woods, and occasionally, a cougar leaves her tracks. Although his name meant “Bright Boy,” he was bright mostly in his loud, clear purr and his dark eyes (and who knows how much of a boy he was after that fabled visit to the vet months ago). But he was a light of joy verging on ecstasy for my family.
My daughter’s cat, a gift for surviving junior high school with her humor intact (although a little darker), she would walk in the door after school, singing out “Baby!” as he speed-ran from wherever he was sleeping to leap into her arms. He leapt to poetic heights to catch and eat moths. He slept next to the dog, his best friend, and the two of them followed each other inside and out, room to room, sleeping couch to sleeping bed to sleeping floor.
What I loved best about Akio was how, in the middle of the night (when I’m prone to wake for no particular reason), he would suddenly make a sound like a cross between a meow and purr, which signaled me that he was about to leap on the bed, walk up to my chest, lie down, reach his paws out to hold my face between them, and tuck his purring head under my chin. During this longest-of-years winter when I’ve experienced the loss of a dear friend, and from a distance, my step-father’s serious illness, there was nothing I needed more than a sleeping, purring cat on me at 3 a.m.
So I steer the car up our long, muddy drive, hoping against hope that Akio will spring out of the cedars and run alongside me to the house like he used to do. Or I open the back door in the middle of a cold night just to see if there’s a meow that morphs into this kitten. Mostly, like my daughter, I ask impossible questions: Is he alive? Does he have a new home? Is he trapped somewhere or lost? Will we ever see him again, or know what happened?
The answers don’t come, just the sudden drop in temperature back down to the cold, pewter sky. Just the sun suddenly. Just the wind toppling over trash cans. Just the dog asleep, surprisingly not as depressed as I would think to lose her good friend. Just some of us who live here sad and still for a moment, then back to whatever we’re doing without Akio, the bright boy of a kitten we love. If, beyond reason, there are blog-reading angels with specialties in kitten whispering out there, you know what I’m asking. Please.