The box weighs in my arms and the corners bite into my skin. Spying the appointed place, the one I chose between the flower bed and the maple tree, I begin the slow procession of one.
The grass is soft beneath my bare feet. The flowers are fragrant and the sun shines down, kissing everything it graces with golden rays. Everything, that is, except me. A shadow hangs over my head.
I hug the box to my chest, ignoring the pain in my arms. Thinking of Cesar pushes a sob from my lips, and finally, I let the tears flow.
At the place, I set the box down. From the flower bed beside me, I pull a rusted spade and start to hack at the ground. I barely scratch the surface; it has not rained for days.
Cesar used to slink through these flowers, breaking the stalks and tramping the blossoms into the ground. I would shout, ‘Cesar! Stop that or else–!’ and every time I said those words, I was reminded of days long past. Days when the front door slammed to admit a line of chattering teens, and then, young adults. Days when at six o’clock sharp, he would come home and we’d sit at the table, all four of us, to dinner. Now I only use the side and back doors, and the dining room table is cluttered with stuff I don’t need but collect anyway.
Then one rainy night, Cesar came to the back door. I took him in and cleaned him up. He sat on my lap when I watched TV, kept my feet warm while I drank my tea, and purred when I rubbed his belly. And in return, when he destroyed my garden, he let me holler after him as I used to do with my own children. He let me feed him scraps from the kitchen table. And he slept next to me in bed, warming the place where a different sort of body used to lie.
The hole is dug. I set the box gently inside and then cover it up.
‘He was only a cat,’ whispers the wind in my ears.
I gently pat the earth and smooth away the lumps. I set a rose on the freshly turned dirt and sit back on my heels to take in the sun. Then I stand and take a breath before turning to face the empty house.
Just a cat?
No. Cesar was so much more than only that.
Copyright@ 2013 by Dyane Forde