He's gone. The most beautiful, wonderful, happiest, most loving cat in the whole entire world, is gone.
"No longer with us." That's the phrase Julie, his owner used. She called me at work today to let me know. "I've got some bad news," she said. I immediately stiffened. "Are you ready?" "I don't know," I responded, holding tight to the phone. She went on to tell me anyway in a voice resigned with sorrow. "Mugsy's no longer with us," she said.
I knew when she said it was bad news it had to be one of the cats. Mugsy or Bruno, his brother, but I suspected it would be Bruno. With his more adventurous habits, we had more than once commented that he was in danger of being hit by a car as he crossed the road.
"You're joking," I said. She was not. She proceeded to relate the story. February 11, one day after her birthday, a woman came to the door crying and asking if they owned a gray cat because she had just hit one. It was Mugsy.
Julie said that he had looked perfect, completely unmangled, as if nothing had happened to him. They laid his still-warm body down on a grassy knoll and prayed over him for a long time, but he didn't revive.
Mugsy. "The joy of the farm, the most wonderful cat in the world," Julie called him, and it was true.
She hadn't wanted to tell me on Sunday when she saw me in church (I was in Canada the day that it happened). I had asked after Mugsy and she'd said, "He's fine, as ever," with a nervous laugh. And I'd asked how Bruno was. "With his habit of crossing the road, I keep being afraid I'll hear bad news about him," I remarked. I now wonder how she kept a straight face.
I can hardly believe that he's gone. I can hardly believe that when I go back to the farm (and I am afraid to now), I won't be able to call, "Here, kitty, kitty," and see his smiling gray face bounding toward me as he runs full tilt to throw himself at me, in the rapturous way he had that made you feel like the most special person in the world. I won't feel the gentle pressure of his wet nose and soft cheeks as he "kisses" me cat-style by rubbing his face against mine. I won't feel his sturdy squirming body cuddled in my arms, or hear his thunderous purr, or feel his ever-active claws pricking my skin as he kneads my arm. I won't feel the softness of his long fine gray fur, or watch as he jumps on his brother, tackles him, and bites his neck. I won't be able to see him crazily whirling and jumping after dragonflies or leaves, the former of which he rarely if ever caught. I won't hear his "miaow" from somewhere in the rafters as he wends his way through the tangle of the barn roof, or the scrabbling and thud as he falls off something. I won't hear his frantic and rapid paw-scratching on the glass door as he stretches himself up and works away in a desperate bid to be let in the house. I won't be able to watch the funny way he jumps off my lap and runs to investigate the sudden water stream released by the bathroom pipe outlet. I won't see his intense and love-filled green eyes staring into mine. He was always smiling, always happy, always totally in the moment, always the clown, always loving. The most wonderful cat in the world is no longer with us.
Julie said they kept him for a few days while they waited for warm weather to bury his body. She didn't want to burn him. She hasn't yet found a good stone to mark his grave.
Why is it always the best ones that go? And why did it have to be by car? Mugsy always (I thought) stuck close to the house. He was terrified of cars. If one started up while he was in the vicinity, he would run. If you were holding him and a car went by on the road, he'd tense to flee. If it was in the driveway, you'd have a very tough job holding him as he scrambled desperately to escape. Bruno, his gentle brother, was the one who crossed the road. If either of them got hit, we thought it would be Bruno. In fact (ironically now) I always consoled myself that at least if we lost one, it would be Bruno (not that I didn't love him but I had a fiercer affection for Mugsy).
In the end it doesn't matter. Mugsy's gone, I hope he did not suffer and never knew what hit him. He will never adorn the farm anymore as its liveliest and lovingest denizen. Its smiling sunny fields and (to him) endless possibilities for amusement and play will be emptier and sadder now.
And I have lost a dear and wonderful friend.
I do hope cats get to heaven. Because if they do, the first one I want to see there is Mugsy.
RIP, little friend.