BRATWURST AND RUMBLEGUTS
When I was a wild kitten I was chased by that old pit bull Rumbleguts up into a great pine tree in Aden Park. I didn’t need to climb as high as I did but I was terrified.
I cried out for days and nights to Saint Francis, afraid to climb down. People left food at the base of the tree to entice me down but I was more afraid than hungry. One of those nights a coyote appeared, saying with his eyes, “Come down little friend, I will catch you.”
That dawn an old man appeared. The nice old man leaned his face against the tree trunk looking up at me and patted the bark, saying with his mouth, “Come on, come on, you’re keeping me awake every night,” fixing his eyes into mine. It was then as if the way down became horizontal and I was compelled to clutch bark, branch to branch, all the way down to him.
The nice old man then carried me exhausted to his house near the park.
He named me Bratwurst.
Otherwise it was a good situation. My mother had told me to find a human.
The old man’s neighbor owned the old pit bull Rumbleguts. At first Rumbleguts would get all agitated when I sat on the fence, well out of his reach. He was blind in one eye and he was missing pieces of his face from his fighting days (he would tell me later), and he got himself rescued by our neighbor before they could kill him when he couldn’t fight anymore.
Humans. Killer Angels.
My human took me to a veterinarian at the Cornell Feline Health Center for a “routine checkup and shots”. The veterinarian said, “Bratwurst has Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). It is a viral disease of cats caused by certain strains of a virus. Most strains do not cause disease but in a small percent of infected cats (5 to 10 percent), either by a mutation of the virus or by an aberration of the immune response, the infection progresses. With the assistance of the antibodies that are supposed to protect the cat, white blood cells are infected with the virus and these cells then transport the virus throughout the cat’s body. An intense inflammatory reaction occurs around vessels in the tissues where these infected cells locate, often in the abdomen, kidney, or brain. It is this interaction between the body’s own immune system and the virus that is responsible for the disease. The disease is progressive and is almost always fatal. The way clinical FIP develops as an immune-mediated disease is unique, unlike any other viral disease of animals or humans.”
The veterinarian suggested “putting me to sleep” but I sleep just fine. My human said that as long as I had an appetite he would keep me alive. When would I not have an appetite?
My mom told me that the lifespan of an outdoors cat was 12 moons so I wasn’t worried. Twelve moons is a long time.
Then one night I met Katalina, a golden long-hair cat. She was from the next neighborhood. We climbed up into “my” pine tree in Aden Park and we talked all night, talking of our three moons so far and imagining the moons to come.
At dawn Katrina left, saying that we would meet again someday. Occasionally after that I would think I heard her far away crying to the moon. I might have been dreaming.
Rumbleguts and I became friends, which was lucky because he could dig under his gate any time he felt like it (that’s how we first “met” when he chased me up that pine tree). We would cruise the neighborhood together. He took me under his tongue. People would point and be amazed and take videos, yet they would always stand aside. Ugly old Rumbleguts was my protection and I was his lost eye and ear and nose.
One day when we came back to Rumbleguts’ house there was someone at the front door talking to Rumbleguts’ human. When Rumbleguts and I squeezed under the gate into the backyard we saw another human opening a window and trying to climb in.
Rumbleguts charged and jumped and chomped onto the foot of the intruder human slipping through the open window. The human screamed. Then there was a loud bang. Rumbleguts fell down onto his side and stopped moving. I heard Rumbleguts’ human shouting and the intruder human jumped out the window and ran across the backyard and climbed away over the fence.
Rumbleguts’ human picked up Rumbleguts and cried out again and again. He put Rumbleguts into the front seat of his automobile and he crashed through the closed gate and he drove screeching away down the street.
My fur stood on end for a long time.
Then I was lonely.
That night I climbed back into “my” pine tree in Aden Park and I sang for poor old Rumbleguts who had first chased me up there.
It wasn’t the same without Rumbleguts. I had to be a lot more cautious. I spent more nights up in “my” pine tree just watching the stars creep.
One moon I saw Katalina at the edge of Aden Park. She was coming toward my tree, singing. I joined her song. She was still far from my tree when I saw the coyote emerge from the bushes. My fur stood on edge. How often had he been there? I wanted to run farther up the tree.
Katalina saw the coyote and began to run to “my” tree. I could see that she wouldn’t make it. Without thinking I leapt from the tree and charged at the coyote, hissing and crying out. The coyote became confused for a moment and stopped and stared at me. Katalina would be almost at the tree now.
I was jumping and hissing and crying out, a whirling aberration, but the coyote now could see I was a dead cat leaping and he charged at me. I could see Saint Francis as my few moons passed rapidly before my eyes. But then…
I heard the hoarse bark, the savage growl, and I saw the charging form of a dog startle the coyote. The coyote turned and fled across the park. It was Rumbleguts! Rumbleguts chased the coyote until I saw Rumbleguts halt wheezing and coughing. I looked back at Katalina up in the pine tree and then I dashed toward Rumbleguts in disbelief.
Rumbleguts was weak and shaking from his exertion. It took me a minute to see that Rumbleguts now had only three legs.
I rubbed on Rumbleguts wet face. He licked me. Katalina joined us and we stayed with Rumbleguts until he could hobble back to his backyard, where his human had not replaced the shattered gate. We stayed with Rumbleguts there until he fell asleep.
Rumbleguts got to see my children before he died. That made me happy. I don’t care what the barking dogs say, Rumbleguts was ahead of his time.
Now my moons are waning. I have become skin and bones but I haven’t lost my appetite yet. I lose my balance sometimes but I still enjoy the sun in the backyard, even if I can’t jump up on the fence anymore or climb “my” pine tree or even dare to venture all the way to Aden Park anymore.
I died in my sleep, dreaming of Rumbleguts and Katalina, and now we run together in Aden Park where even the coyotes eat only apples.
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