Bumper was cross-eyed and a little off, like a quality cat should be.
We adopted him on a whim in the spring of last year, when he was just 10 weeks old.
"Should we get a cat?" I asked Rye from the front seat, rolling past a strip-mall Petsmart.
"YES!" he said, eyes big like planets in the rearview.
No more than 42 minutes later we walked out of the store with a cardboard kitten carrier and loaded the trunk with dry food, a litter box, scratching post, laser pointer, catnip, chewy treats, and woolen mice with feathers & bells.
After the first few months — kitten months! — it became impossible to deny Bumper's tireless determination to get outside. Every human entry to or exit from the house demanded frantic foot/leg pretzel configurations to block his ass from sprinting out the door in a b-line toward the last spotted chipmunk’s trail. The big windows looking out on the little creatures and their adventures were no help, and inside the couches and chairs were already tattered and frayed. Petsmart makes you sign a piece of paper which has been photocopied 8,458 times saying you won't let an adopted cat outside. I defied, and choose to believe Bumper got a run at a better life because of it, even if short-lived.
I recently came home from a weekend away, and my roommate (who is always so kind to change the litter and feed him when I’m gone) sheepishly said: “Soooooo, I haven’t seen Bumper since Friday night.”
I sent out an APB on the Next Door app, posted to the lost-pet Facebook, checked in with the tracking chip under his skin, but I knew in my gut he went deep into the woods and got fucked with by a fox, a raccoon, or maybe the over-sized owl I often see preying from high branches.
I have to fess up: Bumper and I didn't get all that far down Connection Road together. We had him less than a year, so I liked him, probably loved him or almost loved him, but this doesn’t quite feel like losing a pet feels. I do hope he comes back — of course! — I’ll be thrilled if he shows up on the kitchen's outside windowsill, back arching and meowing like a spazz. But it's been six days, and I think he's gone. This morning, I missed maneuvering around him in his favorite hang; tucked under the cabinets in front of the kitchen sink, belly up, little fat rolls squishing out, a fluffy hazard in the highest trafficked area of the house soaking up the output of a heating vent.
I’ve gotta tell Rye tonight. He hasn’t been over since Bumper went missing. His response surprised me the last time I revealed news I’d kept inside far too long for his own good. Filling him in on the break-up of my last relationship was one of those last steps in letting go, one I delayed for weeks fearing his disappointment and confusion. But when I finally got to it ("Hey, you’re not gonna see _______ anymore, buddy") he cocked his head sympathetically over a pile of Chick-fil-a nuggets and said: "Oh. Well, I’m sorry dad. But you know, maybe you can find someone else.”
Here’s to hoping he’ll flex around the Bumper news like a champion, too: Ah, what a bummer! So, should we get another cat? Of course, there will be another one. Must find a Bumper replacement, like he replaced Lindy, like she replaced Boomer, like he replaced PJ, like he replaced Tinker, and like she replaced Puddy. Still, I think I’ll dress the story up for him:
Rye, while I didn’t actually see it happen, I’m pretty sure Bumper hitched a ride on the back of a giant hawk, saddled up and took toward the treetops, throwing a tiny paw peace sign and meowing FUCK TRUMP!