the story you can’t tell

Today’s Life In The Swamp highlight involved three guys with shovels and ladders climbing onto my roof to rid it of fifty thousand pounds of snow, kept firmly in place by that glorious plague of modern life known as the ice dam. Whenever you see beautiful rows of icicles hanging off the side of the roof, just know that inside the home there’s probably corresponding water damage. As I’ve found out.

So today we’re not telling that story because I don’t want to think about what’s been taking place inside my walls where I can’t go with a thirsty towel. Instead we’ll talk about my cat. The cat we rescued almost two years ago after someone shot her in two places. That cat.

Although her past is a mystery, I’ve taken a guess. She was previously owned. (Spayed.) She was previously tossed into a closet or a bathroom for long periods of time, proven because she’s only recently dared enter the bathroom while I’m in it, even though that’s where we keep her food and litter. She was previously sprayed with water for discipline. She was not allowed on the bed. She may not have been allowed on the windows either: she never sits on the sill. She was not given proper medical care and was thrown away by her previous owners.

She hates the sound of the lawn mower and will huddle, terrified, in the very center of the house until the mowing is done.

Today, when three guys climbed onto my roof with shovels, the cat freaked out. Wide-eyed, she fled downstairs only to realize there was someone else shoveling on the deck. I called her, and she fled upstairs again. But half an hour later, she crept back down. She looked around the corner. She kept edging closer to the glass doors.

She can’t tell me her story. But the novelist in me wondered if she didn’t recognize one of the roofing guys. If she maybe heard his voice through the roof and then fled downstairs, and later, when they all clustered at the back to chip off the ice dams, if she didn’t sneak down, hiding where she could just barely see the deck and they couldn’t see her at all — trying to see her previous owner.

I can’t tell that story. I wouldn’t be able to get into her head, or render the backstory, or show any change. It’s just not fiction, and that’s a shame because sometimes I resort to fiction to answer the questions life never will.


  1. Wyldkat

    She is a beautiful girl.

    Can I tell you something that might ease your mind a little? My sister has a black domestic short hair that we found on our porch 6 years ago. The cat has never been abused, lived outside for, at most, 4 weeks. (She was 5 weeks old when we found her) and has had a loving person taking care of her. She is terrified of the out-of-doors and strangers. She cowers at any loud sound, seriously dislikes her adopted cousin (my cat), the sound of a plastic bag rattling will send her running for “mom’s” bed and she is claustrophobic. The last two are the result of one incident as a kitten involving her, a plastic grocery bag, and getting trapped under a bed. In short, Darlington is a naturally skittish cat.

    While it sounds like she has had a rough road, your doll may not have suffered as much as you fear. It may also be possible that, like Darla, she is naturally skittish. (And getting shot may have a lot to do with her skittishness.)

    No matter the past trauma, she is safe and sound with a loving family. That is what is important. Bless you, and your family, for giving her that home.

    (And I hope the ice damage isn’t too bad.)

    1. philangelus

      Thanks. She might have been skittish regardless — there’s no way of knowing. But in an open room, she doesn’t mind if you walk up to her and pet her; she’ll come close to you. She prefers it. But in a small room like the bathroom, she won’t come in if you’re there, and even if she’s eating, she’ll fly out of the room if you enter it. When we fed her in the kitchen, by contrast, I could pet her while she ate.

      She’ll get the same way if she’s in the hallway and I shut the bedroom door. She’s got the full roam of the house except for the bedroom, but she’ll start digging at the door and meowing to get that door open. I haven’t come up with another reason why closed doors would be such an offense to her.

      My guess is the previous owners shouldn’t have had a cat. That whenever they thought the landlord might be around, they left her in a bathroom so she wouldn’t be discovered. And then, once she got discovered, she was thrown out in the big field nearby our house, and she was young enough that she was able to survive for at least six months (based on the first time I saw her) until she turned up injured in our back yard.

      But she can’t tell us, so I don’t know.

    2. Anon

      Closed doors are an offense to cats everywhere. I’ve never met a cat who didn’t insist on knowing what was on the other side of a door, even if they’ve been in that room dozens of times.

      I have a 13yo cat who’s lived with us since she was a year-and-a-half, who is utterly terrified of the flyswatter. I can’t imagine why; we’d never dream of hitting her with it. Maybe she was abused before we got her, or maybe she’s just dumb (well, I know she’s dumb, but I don’t know if she was ever abused).

      Cats have strange ideas rolling around in their little walnut-brains.

  2. hthrb

    Poor kitty! Our second dog was abused and abandoned before he came here. It took a long time for him to grow into the confident(ish), happy puppy he us today. I hope your cat keeps getting braver and more secure, she’s certainly in the right kind of home now.