This is a ghost story about my cat.
It’s also a love story. And a story about events that happen under your nose while you aren’t paying attention.
Life is everywhere.
Back when I lived in a little one-bedroom apartment in Richmond, I had my best buddy by my side. He was a big tuxedo cat named Zippy. We all called him Zippy the Wondercat, because he was, well, wonderful. He was big and fluffy and very, very sociable. If there were two or more people in a room, he was guaranteed to be sprawled on the floor right in the middle, where you couldn’t ignore him. Not that you’d want to—he was exceptionally handsome, with a belly that just called out to be petted. And he’d let you—he enjoyed a belly rub.
He was my first cat, my first pet that was all mine, mine only, after I got a divorce. He and I drove my raggedy-ass Ford Probe up from Key West (that was where I got the divorce and the cat) to our new place in Richmond, where I knew one person and one cat. I lived on the third floor, and one of the best things about this apartment was it had a fire escape/ slash/ balcony. Living in Florida for most of my life, there was rarely a second floor, and never a balcony. So to my eyes, this was the height of chicness and luxury. Zippy and I spent loads of time hanging out on the (in retrospect) rickety wrought iron landing with its excellent view of the parking lot and, in the distance, the traffic on Grace Street.
One afternoon, I was getting ready to head to work. I was a traffic reporter at the time, and my shift was 6am to 9am, and then 3pm to 7pm. (Split shifts are the devil, but that’s another story.) I was locking things up, and I noticed Zippy wasn’t in his usual spot on the couch. It didn’t take me long to find him. He’d fallen off the balcony.
This part of the story is sad and I’m going to skip over it. My poor sweet baby didn’t survive.
I obviously didn’t make it to work. My best friend Anne (my one person) came over with a big bottle (BIG bottle) of wine and we drank and I cried. When I heard a cat meowing, I ignored it. Other people have cats, right? Even though I’d never heard one in the hallway. But it kept crying, and it kept getting louder.
By the time the cat was howling and scratching on my front door, we were both frozen, wide-eyed. Anne tells me I was white as a sheet.
“I’d better get that,” I said.
I opened the door, and a big tuxedo cat raced past me, through the living room and on into the bedroom, still wailing.
Once my heart started beating again, I went after it.
Well, it wasn’t Zippy. This cat had a bright pink collar. Her name, it appeared, was Alice, and she lived upstairs. I picked her up (she was very friendly, if upset) and went up, and knocked on the door. Her owner was absolutely shocked.
“She has literally never left this apartment before,” she said. When I told her what happened, it was her turn to go pale. “That was your black cat? He came to visit Alice every day. They would both sit in the window—her inside, him outside. I think they were in love.”
We realized Zippy had lost his balance jumping from the windowsill back to the fire escape. How Alice knew that it was my apartment door she needed to bang on, we will never know. But she loved him enough to try and find him when she knew something had gone horribly wrong.
He had a girlfriend, and a whole life I knew nothing about.
I’ve had other cats since Zippy, and I’ve loved them all equally, because all cats are perfect. I try and honor his memory by being an excellent cat parent to each of them. But Zippy was special, I think, and it eased the pain of his loss just a little by knowing it wasn’t just me that mourned him, that day.
And if I ever hear a wandering spirit scratching at my door, you better believe I’ll let him in.
Kim Alexander grew up in the wilds of Long Island, NY and slowly drifted south until she reached Key West. After spending ten rum-soaked years as a DJ in the Keys, she moved to Washington DC, where she lives with her cat, an angry fish, and her extremely patient husband. She began writing when she ran out of authors to interview.
Kim was in her twenties when she finally read a book not prominently featuring spaceships and/or wizards. Turns out Jane Austen was pretty funny!
Her husband tells her she needs to write at least ten more books if she intends to retire in Thailand, so thank you for your patronage.
About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”