Susie was part of our family for over 20 years and will have a place in my heart forever - soppy but true.
We got Susie on sports day 1989. I remember: the mother of a boy in my class bringing her into school for us, the jump for joy excitement and taking her to show my teacher Mrs Riley.
We'd had a cat before Susie – Candy - who unfortunately met with a premature and very grisly end on the road at the back of our house (something no 5 year old boy should have to see). Candy's death was hard to take – especially for my older sister who cried non-stop for a whole week – but luckily for us Candy's slutty mother was expecting another litter.
I don't know if it was love at first sight. I've more recently come to realise that I don't particularly like cats. Other people's cats are OK but I can't imagine me ever wanting another of my own. There can only ever be one cat for me. But either way, by the time I was in my teens we were the best of friends. Every night – against my mum's wishes – Susie would sleep at the end of my bed; even though I knew she would wake me up at 6am to be let outside – I really didn't mind.
As though she had never been away
It happened last week – cats like toddlers have no concept of time – when the weather was fine enough for me to stay outside all day and sleep amongst the flowers at the bottom of the yellow tree.
It happened when I was about eighteen, so Susie must have been around thirteen. Not knowing she would live into her 21st year, we all thought that thirteen was quite old for a cat. I don't remember the day she went missing. I'm not even sure what time of year it was. At a push I would say that the air was filled with pink blossom and the bleating of new born lambs, but I couldn't be sure.
I was in the mood for adventure. The mooing beasts I used to terrorize in my youth had long been moved from beyond the wire fence and so I had to go a little farther afield. The black and white devil no longer lived down at the farm at the bottom of the fields, so I ventured past the dopey horse who was all hoofs and no fun and found my way to large wooden buildings, where the mice played amongst the hay.
Susie just didn't come back one night for her tea. It was as dramatic as that. We had breakfast together and when I left for school Susie followed me down the drive, stopping to sharpen her claws on her favourite tree. It seemed as simple as that. When I returned home from school, she was nowhere to be found. Not asleep below her favourite tree or in the gap between the armchair and the settee. She wasn't in my bedroom or at the kitchen cupboard waiting for her tea. But that was ok. She would be around somewhere. Sleeping on a neighbours bed or trying to catch the fish in their pond.
I crept inside. Facing the wind, small quiet footsteps, body low to the ground, as not to be smelt, heard or seen. Edging inside, the barn took on a new darkness and the sharp thud of wood on wood startled any mice. I'd have to find Anthony a present elsewhere.
When she still hadn't returned later that night we were massively concerned. It wasn't something that had ever happened before. Susie wouldn't miss her tea. We went outside and called her name. This always brought her running – but not tonight. So we walked around the neighbouring streets and the field across the road calling out her name. We closed our eyes as we turned corners, hopeful she hadn't met with the same fate as Candy had all those years before. She was nowhere to be seen. But we tried not to worry. She would be back in the morning.
I searched the darkness for an escape route but the only way out
was the way I had crept in. I felt for the door. In the dark all of the wood looked the same. One endless barrier. Nothing moved in the darkness. I pondered my next move. It's not n our nature to panic. It was mid afternoon – a good time for a snooze. I curled myself up into a ball at the foot of a large bail of straw and purred myself to sleep. And the morning never came. I grew more and more hungry, more and more thirsty but there was nothing I could do. No way out I could find unless you were as tiny as a mouse. There was much to do but sleep as the days streamed into one. I have no idea of how long I was in there but it truly felt like an eternity.
Susie was missing for 10 days. Each night we prayed she would be back in the morning but when she had been missing for over a week, we all started to fear the worst. There had been no sight of her and no reason to be hopefully. I think it's true that cats want to be alone when they die. That they disappear off into the night and never return. It sounds kinda romantic but unless they curl up close by, you might never no their true fate and there's nothing romantic about that.
Finally, after facing the indignity of eating mice droppings in an effort to stay alive; light flooded down upon me soothing my aches and pains. Eyes closed, I darted for the middle of startled humans legs. Heading for the fields, I made my way across the yard as fast as my empty body would take me, back past the dopey horse, I was homeward bound.
It was the 10th day. I had just returned home from another school day spend dreaming of leaving and moving away to university. I was stood in the kitchen talking to my mum when she thought she heard a weak meow at the front door. I thought she was imagining it – we had all pretty much given up hope by this time. But my mum opened the door and in wonders a furry mass of skin and bones, that headed past our low slung jaws and waiting cuddles to the corner cupboard where we kept her food, as though she had never been away.(Re-told by Anthony Hett)