someone stopped.

You know how a bad surprise can leave a pit in your stomach for hours?

I’ve had one since this afternoon.

I spent the weekend in Columbus, mostly to see a Picasso exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art. After a couple of beer-related stops this afternoon — and a White Castle lunch in the car — I hit the road back to Pittsburgh, anxious to see Mrs. Crappy and Mr. Charlie, both of whom I missed like crazy since I left on Friday.

There’s an odd stretch of I-70 between Newark and Zanesville where the freeway balloons to three lanes in each direction … for no apparent reason in a sparsely populated part of central Ohio. It’s great when you’re trying to make good time, but there is, inevitably, a brief bottleneck when the highway narrows back to two lanes.

And that’s why I was stuck in the passing lane just after the merge. When I spotted a tiny moving thing right on the far shoulder of the freeway.

It was a kitten.

Traffic was heavy. I couldn’t get over to stop. If I had pulled over on the left, I would have had to run across the freeway to get back to the tiny cat.

I sped up. There was an exit just ahead. I turned around there and headed back to the west at 120 miles an hour, looking for the first cut in the jersey barrier so I could turn around again. After that illegal U-turn, I eased over to the right lane and plodded along the shoulder, looking for the kitten, while other cars passed and honked.

I didn’t see it again.

Part of that is good; I didn’t see a dead kitten on the shoulder of the freeway, and that’s a whole lot better than the alternative. But I hate not knowing, and that’s the stone that sat in my gut for the rest of the trip home.


It’s easy to not stop. I’m sure I’m not the only one who saw the baby cat — and maybe I wasn’t the only one who tried to do something — but we’re all on the interstate because we’re going somewhere: Zanesville, Cambridge, Wheeling, Pittsburgh, someplace further east. We’re interested in making good time, getting to where we’re going, seeing the people we haven’t seen all weekend while we were away. I can’t blame anyone for that; I was thinking the same thing when I left my folks’ house this morning.

But I’m so grateful for the people who stop. The ones who notice. The ones who see the strays and leave a dish of food outside. Or the ones who grab the strays from an overgrown yard in front of a vacant house or from a sidewalk along Penn Avenue or from the shoulder of the freeway and take them to a shelter.

FullSizeRender (10)

We shared our homes with Miles for 14 years because someone in Indiana County stopped. We share our home with Charlie because someone stopped somewhere in the East End, grabbed him and his brother and dropped them off at ARL. I’ll never know the circumstances. I’ll never know who it was. But I couldn’t be more thankful that someone did what they did.

It’s going to bother me for a long time that I won’t know what happened to that kitten. Maybe it ran back into the woods along the highway. Maybe its mother grabbed it and hauled it back to safety.

Or maybe, in the six or seven minutes it took me to get back to the spot where I saw it, someone stopped. I’ll never know for sure, but that’s what I’m hoping for.

Advertisements

13. being who he is.

Bringing home a new roommate is going to mean there will be adjustments for everyone involved.

Charlie is working on that from his end. But he’s also found ways to assert himself; that’s presented Mrs. Crappy and me with the challenge of making adjustments of our own.

In the time between when we adopted Charlie and when we returned to the shelter to bring him home, we did the best we could to kitten-proof the house.

Note: The term “kitten-proof” is something of an oxymoron. Especially if the kitten is determined to do whatever he wants to do.

Example: If the kitten determines that the window sill that had been home to some meditation tools should be free of such items, that’s what is going to happen. And if one of those items is a small Buddha figurine whose head could break off when he is knocked to the living room floor, that’s probably what is going to happen as well.

We’ve since reached the framework of an understanding of a few of these challenges, and the aforementioned window sill has since been left undisturbed. As far as we know.

And don’t be too upset for Buddha. He would probably say that even in knocking his fragile likeness to the floor, Charlie was simply being who Charlie is … and that’s all we can really ask of him, right?

the four

Besides, with the help of some Gorilla Glue, Buddha has since been repaired and has a new home that’s less slightly fraught with danger: on my desk at work, with some great company. That’s Buddha with Budai (the one we usually know as the Laughing Buddha), the Pope and the dancing hula girl that has graced my desk since Mrs. Crappy and I returned from our honeymoon in Hawaii 16 years ago.

He looks happy there, doesn’t he?

12. wonder.

In the last week, chances are good that if I look down while doing stuff in the kitchen, that’s what I’m going to see.

Charlie watches. He studies. If he’s awake, he wants to know what we’re doing and how it might fit into his new life.

Sure, I’m aware of the thing about curiosity and the cat, but think about this: He has literally never seen any of this before.

The notes from Animal Rescue League didn’t say where he came from, but we know Charlie was picked up as a stray. In his five-ish months, has he lived inside a house? Has he lived inside at all, besides in his time at the shelter?

Let’s assume that he hasn’t. And that means everything — absolutely everything — he sees in here he is seeing for the first time. Today was a great example. I made the full production family spaghetti and meatballs, a process that actually started on Thursday night, when I made about 30 meatballs. On that night and today, Charlie frequently checked in to see what I was up to. He’s not yet as vocal as Miles was, but he’s learning to, uh, ask when he wants something; today, those requests came when wanted tastes of whatever I was working on. The verdicts: A little taste of meatball was good, as was a small piece of pasta with some sauce clinging to it. Salad? Chianti? Not so much.

But remember — this happens with everything he sees. Alarm clocks are weird. We’ve caught him watching TV several times. He has learned that heating vents equal heat … and man, that feels good. The bathroom — with not one, not two, but three sources of running water — is especially fascinating, and Charlie is wide-eyed and underfoot every single morning as we get ready for work, because he wants to watch every single thing we’re doing. He’s not uptight about any of these new things, but his big eyes and his nose are always there, taking in everything they can.

Because it’s all new. All of it.