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January 05, 2006

Zoom is in the moon

Some nights he would meet us in the driveway. He recognized the sound of the 1981 Civic's engine as it groaned over the curb, and he'd come out through the old drier vent I had uncapped for him. I'd roll down the driver's window and he'd hop in, ramming my chin with his forehead.

He was dusky orange with darker orange stripes. He would knead my lap through the seat belt as I kissed the M between his eyes.

That yard had an old persimmon tree, two trunks and a hundred feet tall, its lowest branches thirty feet off the ground. No one save the possums ate the persimmons. They ripened on the tree before they fell, bursting onto the clay soil, pale ghosts among the dandelions and Korean onions. Zoom had a corner of the yard, a tangle of kudzu and poison ivy. The mice were there, and in the old shed I'd cleared of the previous tenant's carpet. He would sit for hours staring at the baseboard.

I dug a patch of soil for daylilies. Zoom was entranced. Four feet by ten, and soil musty a shovel's depth down. He did some digging of his own. I clucked at him and he slunk away, slaloming through the rose of Sharon stems. And then returned and purring. I knelt and kissed his M.

He was a good cat and did not howl when we took him to the vet. He was patient with the subcutaneous fluids; he suffered my fumbling with catheters. When Elissa called me at work and said it was time, he waited until I got home. All he wanted was a comfortable dark corner in the closet, and yet when he realized Elissa would never let go of him, he gave her what she wanted.

Between our house and the nursery I worked in there was a small bridge over the Potomac. Trees lined both banks. The river was in flood as I crossed that day. Whitecaps caught the winter sun, already falling to the horizon. I burst from shade into a light that singed my ragged eyes, and then was swallowed up again across the flood.

Twenty-one years ago tonight I looked hard at Zoom, kissed his M, put him in a cardboard box and shut the lid. I drove his body to the vet. Coming back along Columbia Pike I watched the moon come up out of the Chesapeake. It was a brilliant dusky orange with darker orange patches. It was two days short of full.

Posted by Chris Clarke at January 5, 2006 06:44 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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awww, zoom. what a beautiful, sad memory -- mostly beautiful. thanks.

zoom reminds me of an orange cat in my distant past, moose. someday, maybe i'll tell you the "moose is in the refrigerator" story. but i can't tell it as well as you tell zoom's story. or any story.

Posted by: kathy a at January 5, 2006 10:49 PM
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I remember going with you to take zoom to the vet and she was injecting fluids and had said that it didn't look good for him, and he sat there purring... she sadly said "oh, zoom!" and I think she was on the verge of tears.
Nice vet.

Posted by: craig at January 5, 2006 11:41 PM
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Their impact is so disproportonate to their size.

Posted by: Hal at January 6, 2006 12:38 AM
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Darn it, Chris. You keep making me cry.

Posted by: Ancrene Wiseass at January 6, 2006 04:57 AM
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My sweet little M is sleeping right here, next to the computer, right now, wondering why I am suddenly so all over her.

Posted by: coturnix at January 6, 2006 05:57 AM
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Oh, Chris, I don't have words, somehow I recognized my own cat in all of this. Zoom sounds pretty remarkable. I'll go out and check the moon for him.

Posted by: Trope at January 6, 2006 05:58 AM
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That makes me ache for you. Thanks for posting it.

Posted by: Orange Mike Lowrey at January 6, 2006 07:38 AM
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You made me cry, too, Chris. Such a beautiful memorial for Zoom.

And aren't orange tabbies the best? Always good and sweet in my experience.

Posted by: Dr. Virago at January 6, 2006 11:16 AM
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I have to stop reading about dearly departed cats. Do we *ever* stop missing them?

Posted by: Space Kitty at January 6, 2006 12:28 PM
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Oh, Chris. So beautiful, and so sad.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 6, 2006 02:02 PM
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Such "GOTHIC" info :). Thanks for posting! I've read with pleasure.

Posted by: Nataly at January 7, 2006 12:51 PM
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I'm crying, too, for you and Zoom, and for myself and the cat I still miss.

I kiss the M on Sasha's black and tawny head almost every day. The next time I do so, I know I'll think of Zoom, and of the small tuxedo cat who lived with me 21 years ago.

Posted by: Kimberly at January 8, 2006 02:15 PM
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