Tamika Wood’s Birthday Party

& Other Stories by Le Kendall


Last Night

Last night she was here.

She walked, unsteady on her feet, to Andrew’s bedroom, leaving tiny wet footprints on the floor.

I picked her up, and placed her on the end of the bed. And she curled up, the way she usually did, to listen to Andrew’s bedtime story.

She hadn’t always done that. Andrew used to chase her so she used to avoid him and hide under the bed. She avoided him completely; he was her third favourite person.

But last night she was here. She purred as we stroked her.

When I brought Celia and Simon home, it was 2007. I was living in a share house in North Fitzroy. Not long out of Uni, I was a kitten myself. Celia shat in the shower, which was gross. But if a cat is going to shit anywhere that isn’t a litter tray, she shower is one of easiest places to clean.

She killed a bird, once. If she had access to a little patch of dirt she stopped shitting in the shower. I thought she wouldn’t do any harm. But she’s a cat; she killed a bird.

When I moved to a little unit on my own in Essendon, my cats came too; I didn’t get as lonely as I thought I would.

After Suresh and I got married in 2012, I moved to Woolloomoolloo in Sydney. My brother fostered them for a few months, but then he insisted that I had to take them back, because he hated being so hated in his own home.

She mostly ignored Suresh; he was her second favourite person.

The day the cats flew up to me from Melbourne Celia leapt on to my lap and purred. I had my cats back; Celia had her human. You can’t really compare.

Suresh went to sea for seven months in 2013. I had the cats and I didn’t get as lonely as I thought I would. I used to leave them alone for a few days at at time when I went down to Melbourne. I’d get a friend to check in to clean out the litter trays and make sure their food hadn’t got stuck in the feeder.

How are the cats? I’d text.

Fine, probably. I Didn’t see them.

We moved to North Strathfield. Andrew was born in 2016. While I was pregnant she used to sleep in the bassinet. After Andrew was born she avoided him completely; he was her third favourite person.

She brought him half a skink, once.

The cats came with us to Mitchelton in Brisbane, and then to Newtown when we moved back to Sydney. It never seemed to take them long to get used to a new place. It never took me long either. It was already home; the cats were there.

Suresh was away when Simon died.

The vet tried to tell Andrew that she was putting Simon to sleep.

“He’ll wake up tomorrow!” said Andrew.

“We’re helping him to die,” I said.

“When will Simon come back?” he asked.

“He won’t,” I told him, “because he is dead.”

“What is dead?”

How do you explain ‘dead’ to a child?

It was important to me that he not be confused. Death isn’t like going to sleep; when you go sleep you can wake up. Death isn’t like going away; when you go away you can come back.

There’s no way to explain dead to a child. There’s no way to explain exactly what it means. Their body stops working and then they’re not in it anymore, but they are also not anywhere else.

He didn’t understand it. But then, neither do I.

You hold a cat in your arms. The vet pushes a syringe. Then what you’re holding is no longer a cat.

You have two cats, and then you have one.

“Celia won’t die,” he told me.

“She will,” I said, “but not today.”

Andrew became much more attached to Celia after Simon died. He stopped chasing her and she started to like him more. He adored her. She was a recurring feature of his art-work at school. When asked to draw his family he would write the words “Mummy, Dad, Andrew, Celia”. Writing the words is drawing, because you’re using a pencil.

She started to join us, sometimes, when we read Andrew his bedtime story. She’d sit on the end of his bed and then jump off when we were done, and go to my room. Every night she slept curled up against my legs.

She had a UTI a month ago. She got some anti-biotics, and she was okay again.

We went to Melbourne over Christmas, and one of my support workers checked in on the cats.

How is the cat? I texted.

I didn’t see her. She shat in the shower.

Last week she didn’t seem quite herself, so we took her to the vet. She was on IV fluids for three days. There was bacteria in her urine again, but the anti-biotics weren’t helping her kidney levels. She’d gone into chronic kidney failure.

She perked up after being on the fluids. The vet isn’t staffed over the weekend—they just visit twice a day to feed them. If she was going to die as soon as she wasn’t on the fluids, there didn’t seem any point pushing that out.

Suresh had to go away for the weekend.

Celia came home.

It happened much faster than I thought it would. She’d spent most of the time curled up on the bottom shelf of one of the downstairs-again (our townhouse has three levels; upstairs, downstairs, downstairs-again) bookcases. She lost control of her bladder when I picked her up. I took her in to the other vet—the one that’s not just up the street, but is open on the weekend—on Saturday afternoon.

The other-place vet told me that she could give her subcutaneous fluids, and some anti-nausea medication. But we’d only be prolonging the inevitable.

She’d probably only last a few more days.

It was Saturday afternoon and Suresh couldn’t get home until Sunday night.

“A few days is enough,” I told the Vet.

So last night, when Suresh came home, she was here.

We took her to the vet this morning.

You hold a cat in your arms. The vet pushes a syringe. Then what you’re holding is no longer a cat.

You have two cats, and then you have one.

You have one cat, and then you have none.

But last night, she was here.

She spent most of yesterday hiding in Andrew’s wardrobe. I went in to scritch her little head every now and then.

She had spent the afternoon lying down in the sheen of water that always sits in the bottom of our shower.

And then she walked, unsteady on her feet, to Andrew’s bedroom, leaving tiny wet footprints on the floor.

I picked her up, and placed her on the end of the bed. And she curled up, the way she usually did, to listen to Andrew’s bedtime story.

Last night she was here.

I stroked her fur and kissed her head. I told her she was loved, and imagined that she knew what that meant.

Last night, she was here.

It was the last night she was here.

A classically coloured tabby cat sitting on a colourful bedspread

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One response to “Last Night”

  1. Diane Avatar
    Diane

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s brutal and weird and fucked up and I’m glad you could give her love and comfort in her last days.

    We’ve lost three cats in the last year. I worry what it’s done to our poor five year old who’s had to watch this swift procession of deaths. She still talks about them, though, so I’m hopeful she’s taking the good with her and leaving the bad behind. We got a kitten to keep our remaining original cat company, which has been nice.

    I hope your happy memories of Celia carry you through the difficult times of her loss. Hang in there ❤️