Brett was on his way to propose to Heather when he ran over the animal. He saw a white streak enter the road, caught a glimpse of reflective eyes, then felt the thump.
He was hoping it was a squirrel or a rabbit, but when he got out to look, he found a cat, a calico. Maybe it was just a stray barn cat that wouldn’t have been missed. But maybe it belonged to a little girl who’d smothered it with attention or a boy who’d hand picked it from a litter of kittens at his neighbor’s house.
Brett bent down to examine the casualty, and against his better judgment, he scratched the dead cat behind the ears. He’d had a short-haired calico when he was eight. Since he believed all house cats were called tabby cats, he’d named it Tabby. His dad had smiled and told him it was a great name.
Tabby was a fearless little creature. He’d bound through the tall grass in the back yard, chasing after the dogs or flushing out pheasants. He was a horrible mouser, incapable of stealth, but he could make everyone smile. Even Mom.
By the time Brett turned ten, Tabby was dead. Brett’s brother had discovered him on the side of the road as he was biking home from a friend’s house. He picked up the lifeless body, strapped it to the rear fender rack, and brought it home.
Now, as Brett stroked the road kill by the red lights at the rear of his car, he wondered if he was doing the right thing. Could he guarantee his feelings for Heather wouldn’t change? Could he guarantee hers wouldn’t?
When Brett’s brother had gotten home with Tabby that day, he told Brett’s parents about it. Brett was upstairs, but he overheard all he needed to. He ran down and found Tabby strapped to the bike. From the doorway, his mom said, “I told you it was a bad idea to let him get that cat. Now look what’s happened.” She stormed off, leaving Dad to console his crying son.
Brett forgot most of the next year. In his mind, his parents’ divorce followed immediately after Tabby’s death. “She’s just not the woman I married anymore,” his dad explained later.
But what’s a boy to do with that? How can any child understand that love is an unavoidable roadside casualty that will forever change his life?
And what’s a man to do with a dead cat?