When we lived at the Palmer place on the Beach Loop Road, the home of the infamous ‘Cedar Tree’ incident with Billy Barker, among the many animals that shared our rural slice of heaven was a large black Tomcat that I named, ‘Blackie.’
When I say large, I mean that Blackie probably weighed in excess of twenty pounds. He was surely the bastard offspring of an escaped or abandoned domestic cat and whatever wild feline species that lived out in the fierce green Irish Gorse. He had a sleek jet-black coat over his powerful haunches, sloe hazel yellow eyes and sharp claws and fangs larger than anything I had seen on a cat beyond the bars of a cage in a zoo.
Blackie didn’t live with us so much as he tolerated the fact that we seemed to have taken up residence in his territory. He shared no affinity for any other member of the family. No one but me could get close to him.
He would wander in, every other month or so when he was hungry or injured or both and I would feed him and tend his wounds until he was sufficiently healed and then he would disappear only to re-emerge from the wilds again several weeks later.
One day, Blackie came limping in. He was bedraggled, beaten and bloodied. His right ear was torn, his fur ragged and clumped; he was thin and emaciated and had a hole over his shoulder I could stick a finger into. Blackie had tangled with something bigger than him and had come out on the losing end.
He sidled up to me and mewled in a low rasp and then looked at me as if to say,
“I’ve had a rough day, got anything to eat?”
I retrieved a half a can of dog food, spooned it onto a plate, grabbed a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and some gauze and met him outside. While he ate, I attended to his injuries.
Blackie hung around the house for several weeks that time. It took him a while to heal, gain some weight and strength, for the hole in his shoulder to close over. During that time, I brushed the clumps out of his fur until he was his old sleek and shining muscular self.
One afternoon, after school, Blackie was waiting for me at the back porch. He wanted to be fed and stroked. I got him a plate of scraps and after he ate his fill, he lay in the sun with his big oversized head in my lap and allowed me to love on him like never before. As I ran my hand down his dark fur, baked warm by the late summer sun, he purred roughly like a diesel engine and slapped playfully at my fingers with his tiger sized paws. He seemed happy and contented and I wondered if he would finally stay and allow himself the luxury of a human home; of regular meals and a warm place to sleep; of the love of a little boy.
Suddenly, as if he had heard something, Blackie sat up, his ears perked into the wind, his whiskers twitched. Blackie eyed the distance with diligent intent. I turned toward the setting sun but did not see or hear what had called his attentions away from me.
Blackie stood erect, straightened his front legs and arched his back as he brought his chest low to the ground, stretching languidly as he gripped the dirt with his razor sharp claws. He turned several lazy argumentative circles around me as he rubbed against my legs affectionately and marked his scent on my clothes.
He stared toward the distant fields and stood still as if he were momentarily undecided and then, he trotted away a few steps and stopped; turned to me, his soft hazel eyes glowing and mewed softly as if to say,
“Come with me.”
When he saw that I wouldn’t or could not, he padded purposefully away into the thick Gorse, pausing only a moment to look back at me one last time. Fall was coming on.
I never saw him again.