Peter the Cat
Growing up we always had pets in our household. We usually had at least 1 cat and one dog, almost at any given time. Two of the cats we had we named Robert and Peter after two of my sister’s then boyfriends. At some point Robert ran away or was hit by a car or befell some other fate, never to be seen again. We had Peter for quite some time, at least 10 years I’d say. In Peter’s older years, he became prone to wandering. Never having been neutered, he would sometimes be gone for days, even weeks at a time, only to turn up again in the neighborhood. I remember one time after he had been away for at least a couple of months, I was walking home through the Forest Park woods and as I reached the end of the path that opened onto the backyard of a neighbor’s house, there was Peter running up the hill toward me. I yelled “Peter! You came back!” And he purred and rubbed against my leg as if he’d never been gone at all. I picked him up and hugged and kissed him. I was so happy at his return. I put him down and said “Come on!” And Peter happily followed me the rest of the way home. We would repeat this process of separation and tearful reunion a number of times in the coming years. Of course it didn’t help that he wasn’t neutered and because of that fact, was prone to wandering to mate. It also didn’t help that one of our neighbors would leave food for the neighborhood cats on her back porch.
On one particular night, we were getting ready to go over to my aunt and uncle’s house a couple of towns away. It was the Saturday night before Easter and we were going over to visit as we did on many occasions. Just as the family was getting into the car, Peter returned from one of his trips that had been at least a week long. I was so happy to see him. I grabbed him and petted him and told him to hold on one second. I ran to the car and told my mother I needed to let Peter in the house. And since I didn’t have a key of my own at the time, I needed her to get out of the car to let him in. She told me “He’ll be fine, let’s go!” I argued “But he wants to go in the house, he’s been gone so long!” She wouldn’t hear me. At that moment, I knew something was going to go bad with Peter. I don’t know how I knew, I just knew. I felt an impending sense of danger and fear for Peter’s safety. I knew she was incorrect in saying “he’ll be fine.” I stated my reluctance to leave without letting him in the house, telling her “No, he won’t be fine. We have to let him in the house!” My mother wouldn’t have it. “Andrew, he’s fine! Let’s go!” She demanded I get in the car this minute. I did so reluctantly. As the car backed out away from the house, Peter sat on the front porch, looking up at the door and then back towards the car, his blue eyes appeared fluorescent green, aglow in the wash of the headlights. My sense of dread was at it’s height as we pulled away. I could not nor would I take my eyes off him as we pulled away. I knew it was the last time I would see him alive.
Late that night, as we turned onto the end of our street, I awoke form dozing in the backseat. I saw a dark shape on the main street next to the curb. It was dark and late and I couldn’t make out what it was but I guess I knew after all. Early Easter Sunday morning I walked down the street alone just as the sun was rising through the trees. As I reached the crest of the hill in the middle of our street and could see to the end where the street met main street, I could make out the shape in the distance. I walked along, afraid of what I would find but straining to see. I don’t know if it was the way the sunlight was hitting the object or what but it appeared to be orange in color. Peter was a grey and white cat. This gave me a bit of hope but it was fleeting. As I got within 20 or so yards, I could see it was him. I approached and stood over his prone body. It appeared he had been hit by a car while crossing the street, either coming or going. I thought he must have been on his way back home. I began, shaking and crying. I cried out loud “No, no, no!” and knelt beside him and patted his cold fur. “Peter, oh Peter!” I cried, a lump forming in my throat. I ran back up the street toward home, crying loudly all the way. One of my neighbors was out in his front yard and saw my turmoil. “What happened, what’s the matter?’ He asked. I stopped only briefly exclaiming “It’s Peter, he’s dead!” And as I started to continue home, he stopped me saying “Wait, what? Who’s Peter?” “My ca-ca-ca- cat!” I cried. The lump in my throat as hard as a rock and seemingly preventing my ability to speak or breath. “Oh I’m sorry” The neighbor continued. “Do you want a box or something to carry him?” I either wouldn’t or was no longer able to respond. I simply cried hysterically, almost screaming and continued running home. My trepidation and fear and warning to my mother all forgotten at this point and overcome by my grief. When I reached home, I summoned my mother and told her what I had found. She got a box and shovel, loaded it into the trunk and together we drove down the street to the location of Peter’s demise. Once again, as we crested the hill, the light on Peter’s body made him appeared orange. I noticed this and so did my mother as she asked me “Are you sure it’s him. I don’t know Andrew, that doesn’t look like Peter.” “It’s him.” Was all I could muster through sniffles. As she picked him up with the shovel and placed him in the box, a method I thought crude and impersonal, his nose bumped the side of the cardboard box and a trickle of blood issued from his nose, rolling down the inside of the box. This caused me to cry out even more. Back at the house, my mother went into the bathroom and I heard her getting sick. I attributed this to the sight of the blood. But in later years, I believed that some of it may have been guilt as she recalled my warnings from the previous night. One of my brothers later buried Peter beneath the back porch. Was this episode an example of pre-cognition or premonition? I can’t answer that. I can only say I know what I felt the night before. It was much more than a feeling or worry. It was knowing. I knew, I just knew he would die that night. And when you’re a kid, sometimes knowing is enough.