Today would have been my Avery’s 21st birthday — and to celebrate, here’s another wee bit of my forthcoming book, Just Another Crazy Cat Lady Story. (Just note that it’s still in working draft form.) I’m sure Avery is happy to know that his big ‘ol heart will soon be winging its way around the world.
A FRIEND FOR AVERY — A.K.A. ZOEY
We don’t last long in Colorado. As glorious as the vistas are, the reality of being a broke grad student in an stale academic world proves too much to maintain. I’m an East Coast girl at heart. Give me moody weather, crowded roads and attitude. That’s where I belong. Besides, I’m too busy trying to be a lesbian. I don’t have time for grad school.
I also have spent many long afternoons with my friends Lonely and Scared, lying on the couch that smells like dog. I dropped out of grad school after the first semester and now search for clues in the stucco to the grand life ahead. I just don’t the way to get there except head East, back to what I know. Back to the only home I have in the fractured relationship with my sort-of girlfriend.
Avery and I tuck up on that enormous gray couch that is missing all its cushions save the ones that cradle us. I stare at the ceiling and wonder how to fill the next day which is vacant of both routine and paycheck. Avery just snuggles down in the curve of my arm, perfectly content to let me suss out the problems of the world while he cat-naps.
After all, we just lived through a frightening month where he nearly died. One minute he’s chasing a felt mouse down the long hallway like a maniac; the next, drooping over his bowl. It happens so fast, I don’t know what hit. Here’s this playful, crazy kitten tearing up the carpet who can now barely stand. I feel every bit the clueless young mother (pre-Google, I might add), terrified that I will lose the one friend who shares the long days with me.
I rush him to the vet, who doesn’t give a very encouraging outcome. It’s meningitis, a common ailment that takes out many a kitten. But I’m not about to lose Avery. They keep him overnight for surgery in the morning. If he survives, we’ll have to go for shots twice a day over 10 days.
Avery makes it through. When I come to visit post-surgery, he seems surprised to be in a cage and brightens up the moment he sees me, ready to go home. I say, I’m sorry, bud – but you have to stay for another day. It will be the one and only time Avery remains overnight at the vet’s. I hate to be away from him.
The vet seems surprised at such devotion, as students are constantly dumping animals at semester’s end. When I tell him I have little money but much love for this tiny kitten, he ends up charging me less than $100 for the entire treatment. (When I send a beautiful card with a picture of robust Avery at 12 years, I thank him again for saving his life. He writes back, saying he certainly did remember Avery and is so pleased that he’s such a handsome and healthy boy.)
After giving Colorado a 9 month audition, a very healthy Avery and I hit the road with a 350 Honda — my starter bike with a fickle carburetor I spent many hours breaking down into little bits, inadvertently filling the entire apartment with the smell of gasoline — hitched to the back of the Tercel and a laundry basket with a comfy blanket on the front seat. If the car breaks down, at least we have another set of wheels — but carrying Avery on a motorcycle without a sidecar is something I don’t hope to figure out.
How we make across the country in one piece under the power of 4 cylinders speaks to the clear presence of angels.