vendredi 28 janvier 2011

Wisp's turn


Little Wisp and littler Fia,
The first kiss and little pink tongues
October, 2010


Something is going on with Wisp. Will o' Wisp. The found cat. Little Wisp, at 3.5 kg, which is robust compared to the 1.5 kg she weighed when my husband brought her home from the path in the woods in the middle of the boucle de la Seine, where he found her lying in a puddle, taking her for a discarded rag until she raised her head and meowed. Calling to him, or signalling resignation?

"Pass. Don't be afraid. I cannot hurt you. I am dying," or "Help me. Please."?

He lifted her into his arms and brought her to mine that rainy Wimbledon final in 2007. She has barely left either of ours since. Our faces, necks and shoulders, more exactly. Her idea of heaven is when my husband and I are lying close, side by side, and she has two shoulders, two necks into which to nestle, one for each end of her body.When it wasn't ours, it was Baccarat's, who took her into her care like a lost puppy of her own, this dog who had never had a puppy of her own, only a year old -- born the day France lost in ignominy to Italy and Zidane played his last game, walking off the field in a state of dishonor, July 10, 2006. She and her mother approached this little cat, so frail and weak she couldn't stand on her own hind legs, and licked her nearly into oblivion.

If there is a direct proportional relationship between the number and force of the licks given to an ailing animal, Wisp was in really bad shape. I have told this story before.

Or, I thought I had. I have looked, and I can't find it. Perhaps this is a good thing, though, since it gives me the opportunity to tell the story again and maybe do it better, or just let it go. I have been asked to consider making my posts "stand alone" without referring to past posts or leaving the reader hanging. I have spent some time thinking about this.

I am not sure that I will ever be able to want to do this because the posts aren't columns on topical subjects, and I am not a columnist. I am a diarist, who got tired of the whiny, overly personal subjects in my dear diary and decided to see what lies between the wholly intimate and the fictional and how I might tell it. They are moments in my life, and because lives are bound to their pasts and rarely anticipate their futures, even if the future is as obvious as the punch line of a terrible joke, each post contains references to the past, never links to the future, and if the resolution is not contained in the moment, it will not appear in the post; I am left with my own fear or sadness, and so, I am afraid, is my reader, who may chose to use the tags to look for additional information, background or reassurance, but who may also use the comments to ask me.

I may or may not answer. That depends on the question.

I'd like to be a novelist, like Jane Austen or George Eliot, but I am still a good ways away from that, unfortunately, lacking, first, the will to work, second, the vision, and, third, the talent. Being totally honest, I hoped writing here would take me a step closer. Maybe it did, if you use a microscope to measure the distance traveled.

I will tell the story again, I will give this post the tag "Wisp's Story" and hope that I remember it so that I can find it again, whenever I want someone to know her story (or whenever someone wants to know her story without my thinking of it), and perhaps I will offer a prize to the person who finds the original post containing her story.

When my husband came through the door holding a sodden cat at arm's length, dripping on the terracotta tiles, my reaction was, unbelievably, to both of us, "Oh! Non."

"Comment ça 'non'? Quand tu amènes une bête à la maison, c'est 'oui', mais quand je le fais, c'est 'non'," he demanded.

He was pouting, and I hadn't even had the time to stand up from my armchair. His son stood behind him in the July rain, become standard issue summer weather in our nondescript temperate climate. I stood and reached for the animal, receiving a feather's weight of wet fur and bones gone limp, no muscles left to stiffen the spine or raise the soaking wet fur. I regretted the "non" I had let go. It hadn't been understood. I didn't mean "no", but I didn't know what I meant, either.

Oh! No, not again, is the closest to my meaning. No as in a rejection of the possibility of her state, that this little cat could come to what she was. No to the argument it would bring, anticipating that he would hand her to me, ask me to care for her, and then to ask me -- because he would -- to give her away. No, I would not care for her and then give her away. You must know me better than that by now. I find toads in the pool pump filter basket, ducks in the pool, birds everywhere, and I try to save them. I usually fail. I hold funerals. I do not give them away, so take care in what you bring to me.

He returned to try taking his walk again, and I settled the tiny, fragile cat on my lap and watched the rest of the Wimbledon men's final. Several sets in which I didn't have to think about what to do or about her future, several sets she might not even survive. She fared better than Rafa, though, and I called to the dogs to take a walk on the dirt lanes down along the fields and the Seine, the mostly dry cat rolled into the hem of my sweatshirt. She lay there as we walked, not even tiring my arms. And then, I felt wet. She had released her bladder without making the slightest movement. We returned to the house. It was a Sunday afternoon, no stores open, the only visit to the vet possibly at emergency rates. We had a night to get through. She never left the warmth of someone's arms.

At bedtime, I got out a towel, lay it next to where I sleep, and settled her into my side. She did not move. The next morning, she was still breathing. I picked up the cat on the towel, placed it on a pillow and carried her to the car. We went to the grocery store for easy to eat wet food in time for the store's opening. She was still breathing when I came out with small aluminum tins of premium wet food and the cat milk I found. She raised her head when I opened the food right there in the car, and she ate. Her energy eating surpassed any she had shown until then.

She would be alright.

I called the vet and took her in.

"Oh la," said the vet, "Qu'est-ce qu'on a ici?" I explained what I knew of her history while he looked her over. She was fur on skin on bones. You could feel each point of every single vertebra in her spine, all sides. He listened and looked up at me.

"Ca fait un bon moment depuis qu'elle est abandonnée," he confirmed. "Elle n'a pas mangé correctement depuis plusieurs mois. Je ne vous conseillerais pas de la faire vacciner. Elle peut avoir une vraie saleté, et en plus, puisque ça fait si longtemps depuis qu'elle a pu bien manger, elle est peut-être touchée."

He meant that we should not spend the money to vaccinate her until we tested her for disease. It might not be worthwhile. He meant, also, that hunger had perhaps made her too crazy. He gave her a shot that made her drop like Sleeping Beauty to the examining table between his hands, shaved a small spot on her slender neck and drew blood. Then, he gave her another shot and she raised her head like a cartoon cat, coming back to life from sudden death. He laughed. He enjoys giving that drug for the effect on the pet owners, as much as for the effect on the animals that lets him get their blood to test.

"On va envoyer ça au labo, et je vous tiendrai au courant."

I scooped the cat up, put her back in one of the three travel kennels I had gotten when our enormous American cats had flown to France 5 years before, enormous for this cat, who weighed in at 1.5 kg to their 9 kg apiece. The call came the next day. She was clean of all disease. She was merely physically wasted.

"Surveyez-la, quand-même," said the vet, "On ne peut pas encore savoir si elle va avoir un comportement normal."

I watched her. She continued to sleep by my side, in the protection of the crook of my elbow. She rode on my husband's shoulders, like Cunégonde Mouse (our brilliant rescue and magical mouse friend) had in times past. She become the chouchou of the dogs, if not the two cats, Shadow and Chloé, come from the US with their brother Nuts, since buried in the garden. She was no more touchée by her various traumas than I. I called the vet and made an appointment for her shots, and I spoke names aloud, hoping to hear one that sounded right. Sam rejected Vita (he was so right), Wilamena, and a long list of others. I got out my laptop and started searching. The details of that search are best left (along with the explanation of the name on which I settled, and which Sam approved) out. I'll give the explanation, anyway.

Will 'o Wisp is her full name. We call her Wisp, for short. A Will 'o Wisp is a magical sort of being that appears at Midsummer, and it is known by many names, including Puck in English. It is a being one cannot know if it is good or evil. It is manifested by a light, like a glow, a flame, hovering over the land, most usually marshes and swamps. In French, it is called the feu follet, which happens to also be a film by director Louis Malle, which he based on a novel by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle. The will 'o the wisp is known as Jack 'o lantern, evoking my favorite holiday, and appears in nearly every folklore of Europe, eastern, central and western, as well as in the US, where the phenomena is called spook-lights, or ghost-lights.

We had found her at midsummer. She was but a wisp of a cat. Willow-like. We were waiting to see if she were good or evil. Oddly, little Fia was born in the "f" year. We could have named Wisp's new friend Feu-Follet, but they are not the same being, they did not have the same story.

The rest is history, and her friendship with Baccarat is family legend. Baccarat was her friend, her mother, her comfort. In October, Wisp squatted and released a drop of blood-stained urine. I took her to the vet.

"Elle n'a pas de fièvre. Je ne sens rien en la palpitant d'anormal, mais vous avez d'autres chats, n'est-ce pas?" I nodded. We did have another cat, still. One only, having lost Chloé nearly two years before, who went the way of her brother. Shadow was 11, and Shadow had not the time of day for Wisp. "Ah," she said.

The sort of "ah" that says, "Well, then it is to be expected". She explained that cats are not social beings like dogs, at least not with their own kind. They prefer to be alone, and they do not appreciate sharing a litter box. She recommended that we get another, explaining that Wisp was suffering from a cystitis, an inflammation of her bladder, idiopathic. This meant that it is a real physical problem, causing real physical pain, without a physical origin. It comes from psychological and emotional perturbation.

"On ne va pas prendre un deuxième bac à chat!" my husband objected, as though it were an intolerable luxury to have two litter boxes for two cats. I could, however, concede that one is already taking up a lot of space in our small home, and with the vet bills, even another 40 euros for another covered, double-bottomed litter box with swinging door was discouraging.

"Why," I moaned, looking around at the assortment of two and four-legged creatures, "can't we all just get along?"

Days passed, and she improved, until the day before yesterday, when she moved about the house in a perpetual squat, leaving euro coin-sized spots of urine everywhere: behind the sofa, between the television and the sofa, on the end table, on the staircase, at the top of the staircase, in a line that suggested a dribble from the top of the stairs to the bathroom door to the (thankfully) closed door of our room. Then, she yeowled at the top of her small lungs and threw up. I called the vet and cancelled the appointment I had made for that evening; she needed to go in right away. She'd be better in their hands than mine, in a cage, even.

An examination, two sonograms, several blood tests, and 163 euros later, we have a diagnosis. It is not a tumor. It is not calcium deposits. It is idiopathic cystitis. The vet handed me a box of anti-inflammatory medicine and another of something to tranquilize her. We are to try it for a month and see if it helps her.

"Quelques fois, ça aide, mais c'est des capsules --" she broke off, looking at me apologetically, and opened the little bottle to show me the capsules; they were half white and half blue, and they were big. I looked at her and grimaced. "Vous pouvez peut-être les enrouler dans quelque chose qu'elle aime manger --" she suggested hopefully. I cannot think of a single thing that she likes to eat that much, but at least they are not absolutely necessary and she does not have a tumor. She returned to the possible causes for this outburst of idiopathic cystitis. In her mind, it is the other animals, or a change, even, in the animals in the neighborhood, possibly the arrival of a cat she doesn't like, or Fia's arrival.

"Ou, la mort de Baccarat," I said.

She couldn't know how much Wisp and Baccarat loved each other. As much as I loved Baccarat. I understood that and wasn't jealous.

"Baccarat fut son doudou. Elle se mettait dans son cou et dormait des heures là, dans ses bras. Baccarat me regarda pour me dire 'Et, que fais-je mainentant' en poussant de grands soupires." The vet listened, her eyes opening wider. She nodded.

"C'est Peut-être ça," she said.

I explained how Rapide had not let her come to her for the same comfort for a long time, and how Fia is still too little. She's a better playmate than source of comfort. Even so, Rapide tolerates Wisp's need to snuggle without enthusiasm, and it is a sign of near desperation that Wisp settles in between a 5-month old lab who'd prefer to play and an aged lab who'd prefer she go away.




She misses Baccarat. She is the one who took it the hardest of all the animals. I understand that. I took Rapide to see her daughter when she was hospitalized. I did not think to take Wisp in her travel cage.

Time, my little Will o' Wisp. It takes time.
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