My wife found three little black kittens in our pony barn last spring.
We bottle-fed them milk replacer and mixed them up a raw duck egg for a treat every few days.
One – the lone male – passed away due to an infected umbilical scar after a month or so. We buried him in our little pet cemetery, underneath a chestnut tree on the far side of the horse pasture.
The two remaining sisters make great mousers. We named them Cuddles and Bites, for obvious reasons.
We never had time to name the male while he was alive. Still, he’s my favorite.
I see him sitting up under the chestnut tree every time a thunderstorm creeps down the valley. I call to him, but he just sits there, licking his paw and brushing it over his head.
He seems to fade in and out with the lightning, so I think of him as Cataract. You know, now you can see him. Now you can’t.
He shows up in the big main barn, too. That’s bad news. The first time I saw him, a weasel got into the quail pen and cleared it out.
The next morning, chocolate-colored dollops of blood and wispy little striped feathers were everywhere. Another time he showed up in the nanny goat’s stall.
She delivered a stillborn kid early that morning.
Lately, though, I’ve been seeing him in the basement. My little black Cataract, just sitting there on the creaky old steps. Lick, brush, lick, brush, lick, brush.
I’ve done what I can. I keep the basement door locked so the kids can’t take a tumble.
I’ve been volunteering to do the laundry in the big industrial washer at work, to keep my wife off the stairs.
But sooner or later, there’s going to be another thunderstorm and the power is going to go out. Then I’m going to have to tip-toe down there and mess with the fuse box in the dark.
I only hope Cataract remembers those duck eggs treats. I hope he remembers how we held his bottle and did our best to bring him in out of the rain.
I hope I stop seeing him on the basement stairs, just licking his paw and brushing his head.