Thursday, June 23, 2005

Too Many

In my freshman year in college, we had to read Jude the Obscure. I'm hazy on the details of that book, save for one: I remember wanting to hurl it across the room at the moment that Jude's children hang themselves to relieve their parents' desperate poverty. "Dun becos we was too meny," writes the eldest boy on the suicide note.

Oh, how I hated that book! And yet I find myself thinking of it lately when Adam and I discuss the problem of cats. We have three of them. (We used to have four, but one of mine went to live with my brother, where she has thrived as an "only cat.") Three cats were fine when we had a house. But, now that we are in a smaller apartment, near a busy street, and (still) trying to start a family, we are getting the sense that three cats are a little much.

Not that we could countenance giving up any of our boys (especially not G.!). Or I didn't think so anyway. But then a particularly blunt, and cat-loving, neighbor asked if she and her husband could adopt Love, our vocal Siamese. Adam consented with shocking alacrity; it was I who resisted and mourned, even though Love was technically Adam's cat. For three weeks, we guiltily lavished Love with all sorts of extra attention and treats. Then our neighbor's oldest cat became deathly ill, and she abruptly rescinded her offer of adoption. Love stayed in the family.

Love has a lover. Of sorts. A feral kitty roams the meadow behind the house. She (he?) has a tatty marmalade coat and watery green eyes. She was at first a ghost figure in headlights. From the edge of the meadow, she observed us with cool reserve.

Now she comes to the window. She stares up at our Love, who sits comfortable and well-fed on the sill. We were sure Love would howl, but, instead, he is silent. His blue eye starts to quiver as he watches Marmalade Cat watching him.

We worry that she is sick. We suspect she is some careless student's discarded pet. Imagining her as an abandoned animal makes me ache.

Adam sees what I am thinking. “It would be a bad idea to put food outside,” he says slowly, deliberately. “We can't adopt a new cat, because we already have too many.”

Yes, he is right. But I think of Jude's kids and say, "Shh."


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