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Michelle Close Mills

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Famous Last Words
By Michelle Close Mills
Sunday, May 30, 2004

Rated "G" by the Author.

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           >> View all 44

Sometimes we humans haven't got a clue what we need...




NO! We are NOT getting a kitten!”  I insisted.

“But Mommy, he’s so CUTE!  And he already loves me!!” cried my equally insistent six year old daughter Julie, who’d spotted the prospective adoptee earlier that day.

That’s all we needed. Another fuzz ball to fall head over heels for, only to have our collective hearts smashed to smithereens when it died. 

Don’t get me wrong. I adore cats.  But after losing five of them in a row to feline leukemia several years earlier (a condition very much like the human AIDS virus), I vowed I’d never have another one. It hurt too much to say goodbye. 

I considered the matter settled until my husband Ralph tossed in his two cents worth, also voting to adopt. With both of them chipping away at me I didn’t stand a chance.

To halt the onslaught of propaganda, I went to the animal shelter to take a look at the kitten. Based on reports from his eager spin doctors, I expected him to have the beauty of a pure bred Himalayan. 

Instead, he was a short haired, skinny gray tabby, and not a very cute one at that.

What he lacked in appearance, he made up for in charm. Purring like a riding mower, he nuzzled my cheeks, batted playfully at my curls, and poked my warm nose with his cold one. But what closed the deal were his unnervingly clear jade-green eyes. The moment he clamped his unwavering gaze on me, I was as powerless as an alien receiving a telepathic command from the mother ship.  

“I’ll take him” I said to the attendant, before I could stop myself.

So much for no more cats…famous last words.

On the drive home I collected my wits and coolly informed the kitten that he was Julie’s pet, not mine.  I wasn’t interested in having a cat, or even being friends with one. It was nothing personal. I just couldn’t afford the emotional investment.  I’d dump food and water into his bowls, and change his litter box, but he wasn’t to expect any more out of me than that.

I could have saved my breath.  I was too stubborn to admit it at the time, but he had me at “meow”.

Our newest family member quickly let it be known that despite my little speech that he alone was in charge of deciding who he belonged to.   

 To Julie’s dismay and my horror, he picked me.

He was also quite adept at choosing his own name.  We’d decided to call him “Figaro” after Minnie Mouse’s kitten.

Our selection was not a hit. The first time I tried it out on him, he stared at me as though I’d lost my mind.

“Mommy I don’t think he likes his name.  He looks mad.” 

I tried it again.  No response.

I tried an old standby.

“Here kitty, kitty, kitty!”

He yawned.

Then Ralph hollered out from the bedroom “Here puss, puss, puss!” 

The cat nearly broke his neck scrambling around the corner. 

From that day forward, he was “PussCat”.

A few weeks after his arrival, Julie and I were bedridden with the flu. As much as we tried to discourage him, PussCat kept a constant vigil over his feverish charges. Curling up alongside my neck, he patted my face with his soft little paws, lulling me to sleep with his rhythmic purring. After I dozed off to dreamland, he slipped into Julie’s room, where he managed to keep a fidgety first grader in bed. So long as PussCat was in the bed, she’d rest quietly…a miracle. Florence Nightingale could have learned a thing or two from our four-legged nurse.

Over time our scrawny, non-descript kitten has become a radiant picture of lazy feline health. His idea of exercise consists of wandering fifteen paces or so, yawning, and flopping to the floor like a bean bag. A trip to the litter box and a subsequent self administered bath are usually all the physical exertion needed bring on a three hour nap. My father jokingly remarked that if PussCat were human, his official occupation would be “surface tester”.   

As a result of inertia, PussCat has developed a fuzzy, golden paunch that drapes beneath his belly, swaying to and fro like a pendulum as he walks. Although adorable, and altogether kissable, the additional appendage tends to botch his dismounts from the bed or couch. When he jumps, the forward momentum propels his paunch forward, then backward, where it slaps against the inside of his back legs, often toppling him to the floor like an albatross.  After a staggering fight for balance, he haughtily lifts his chin and assumes a dignified stroll, regally dismissing the peasants who dared chuckle at his unfortunate display. 

Of course there are a lot of mature, pampered kitties who share PussCat’s struggle with pudge. But our kitty’s saggy tummy was special; it possessed healing powers.  

Like many people in their forties, I began losing an assortment of loved ones to death…grandparents, aunts, uncles, even friends. The end of the line is an irrefutable fact of life, but there are some people who are so cherished that they become irreplaceable…like my maternal grandmother. Despite having great parents, Grandma was the center of my world from the day of my birth, my best friend, confidant, and measuring stick for all that I did or aspired to. The day the doctor diagnosed her with probable Alzheimer’s disease was one of the darkest days of my life.

Little by little she drifted further and further into a world where I couldn’t reach her, and I tried steeling my heart for the inevitable. Yet it wasn’t until after she passed away, that I realized the enormity of the void in my heart, one that no one else could fill but my grandmother. I was acutely depressed, barely able to put one foot in front of the other, sleeping long hours, missing work, and avoiding family and friends. I couldn’t find the strength to rise above the suffering. Despite medications, and grief therapy, I was drowning.  My family was frustrated, and scared.  They weren’t alone.

So was I.         

Then one afternoon I was napping on the sofa, when a streak of clanging gray tore by me, nearly startling me to death.

What the?

When my heart resumed beating, I threw off my quilt and followed the shrieks of laughter emanating from Julie’s room. Demanding an explanation was a waste of time as she had collapsed into convulsive giggles, all the while the wailing streak burned tracks around the living room. 



My daughter had tied a huge sleigh bell around PussCat’s belly so as he ran, it whacked against his back legs and paunch like a triangle. No matter how he moved, the offending racket chased him like a pack of wolves. After I managed to corner and free my poor traumatized baby, he shot under the bed to safety, and I cackled until my sides ached.  

Laughter, a sound that had rarely passed through my lips for weeks bubbled up like a fountain, bursting through the thick fog of pain that had enveloped me like a shroud. I’d forgotten how wonderful it was to feel good…to allow myself to feel something other than misery. A small, silly animal and an ornery kid unwittingly gave me the jolt I needed to swing the bat again, and work harder to rejoin a world I’d all but given up on…to heal.

It’s clear that PussCat didn't just wander into my life. Someone knew I needed him. PussCat is one of my greatest blessings, one I can’t imagine living without.

And to think, I didn’t want a cat. 

Famous last words.





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Reviewed by Shelley Patten-Forster 4/9/2008
This was wonderful! Beautifully written with a humor that brings the laughter to the surface and keeps it there until the very end. I loved it!

Reviewed by nancy weston 11/18/2006
I adore cats myself so can read this and appreciate EXACTLY what you are saying, make sure you give pusscat hugs for mexx
Reviewed by Patrick McCormick 10/28/2006
I enjoyed this story. You found a friend, but I think the cat also found a few friends. Very interesting and well writen story.
Reviewed by Mary Grace Patterson 9/24/2006
I have also been in the same situation,, and we did keep the cat. My husband kept saying he was going to throw her to the gators, but that was his way of saying "NO". We had her fifteen years. She became our household friend, especially his . She was named "GATOR" !!!!!!Great story........M
Reviewed by T. S. 8/10/2006
I have a similar tale. This story made me chuckle with recognition and pleasure.
Reviewed by Tracey L. O' Very 4/2/2005
A fun loving heartwarming and chuckling story. I can just see all you write in your stories. I love them Thanks Michelle.
You have a Neat family. This is really a nice story.
Thanks and give Puss cat a hug and a kiss for me make sure you get some back too from me.
The name picking I know about that one.
Tracey (c:)
Reviewed by Regis Auffray 3/4/2005
An absolutely delightful story, Michelle. Thank you for sharing this beauty. Love and peace to you. Regis
Reviewed by Nordette Adams 8/13/2004
Well told, Michelle. I have a cat and a dog. Grew up with dogs. That pic made me laugh, fer sure. Our cat won't let me ignore her either. LOL. I keep trying to tell her that she belongs to the kids. I grinned through this entire story.
Reviewed by Sandie Angel 7/12/2004
Hi Michelle:

Thank you for directing me to this wonderful story. What an adorable pic of PussCat. Heeehee! Yes, he sure knows who he wants to be his parents.

Like my new baby Pride, my daughter brought him home from PJ's pets, but he picked us over her. He sleeps in our bed, or on my hubby's lap; or on my chair sitting together with me while I type.

Cats make their own mind who they want to be their pals, and who they want to be their parents.

Lovely pic and wonderful write indeed! I enjoy both.

~ Sandie May Angel ~

Reviewed by Carol Chapman 6/27/2004
Michelle, there is no such thing as just going to look at cats *grin* Glad you got picked by that darling baby! You have painted a wonderful story about PussCat, I can hear that bell chiming in counterpoint. Well done, and well loved through every word.

Reviewed by Tami Ryan 6/16/2004
Isn't it amazing the powerful healing cats are able to offer us if only we allow it? I enjoyed this story. Thanks for the smile.
Reviewed by Michelle Kidwell Power In The Pen 6/11/2004
I loved this story, the reason why we now have four cats and two dogs LOL indeed famous last words, but we just can't seem to say no...
God Bless
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 6/5/2004
*purring contentedly at this write!*

delightful story! well done, michelle! enjoyed much!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your cat lovin' texas friend, karen lynn (former owner to "friday", "ouizer", and "cajun"--i still miss them all!). :D

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