The striped stray first visited us the week I painted our red shed. Thin and curious, it buried its face in the herb pot on the back deck, deeply inhaling the fragrance of rosemary and basil.
When the cat noticed me watching, instead of slinking away, it sat down and stared back. Hoping it wouldn’t spook, I slowly opened the door. As I expected, the cat ran, but not away. It galloped to me. Rubbed its long body against my leg, and began purring like the Preacher’s scooter.
Here’s the problem: Ever since the loss of our great white cat, Moses, The Preacher has insisted we not get another. He reminds me that he never wanted a cat in the first place. So I’ve contented myself with patting other people’s felines, and enjoying his choice of pet: Ernie the watch-parrot.
The stray didn’t stray far. For days it hung around the yard as I worked, leaping ahead of me when I walked toward the house, as though it had made up its mind where home was.
I mentioned that to my mother over the phone. “Oh, Kathleen,” she said. “Can’t you keep it?” Her comment echoed others words, including our daughter’s. “Mom,” she said, “you and Dad are never happier than when you have pets.”
I wish we could, I told my mother. But it’s not the right season. Rick’s not eager. I’m gone too much. It may not appreciate the grandbeans. Anyway, we enjoy our parrot. What if the cat got it? I can see how that would play out, I said. “The cat killed the parrot, the Preacher killed the cat, I killed the Preacher, and that was that!”
She giggled at my silliness. “You wouldn’t want that to happen,” she said. No indeed, said I.
But what happened next amazed me.
“Perhaps we should let the cat in the house tonight,” said the Preacher, wandering outside as I completed the final coat on the shed. The cat supervised from the raspberry patch.
In four years of almost-country living, we’ve never had a mouse in the house. With comedic, perhaps divine, timing, one had just, he said, dashed under his recliner. He thought the cat may like a hunting trip.
I couldn’t have predicted that. Nor his subsequent trip from the store a few days later, bearing cat food and litter box. Nor the conversation in the kitchen that followed — after a trap had dispatched the mouse.
Me: Honey, are you saying we can keep the cat?
Me: But… why?
Him: Because I see how much enjoyment it brings you.
Of all the gifts the Preacher has given me — this is his best. Oh, not the cat. But this willingness to bend his will, to shift from a staunch preference, simply for love. Simply to bring me delight. In that, I spy a beautiful reflection of God. A grace called cat.
We’re trying to find the grace-cat’s owner. If none appears, Ernie had better watch out.