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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Friday, January 16, 2009


January is a very cold month in the Appalachian Mountains where I attended university. It was my 3rd year and I had moved off campus to a trailer park about a mile out of town where I had rented a small trailer that semester. My girlfriend had dropped out of her first year of university after Christmas and come to live with me there.

The temperatures had been getting down to near zero Fahrenheit each night and there was at least a couple of feet of snow accumulated on the ground. Each night a bitter wind whipped the snow into drifts at the front door and it often howled as if it might lift the trailer from its rests and blow it down the road like a tin can.

We often sat in the front of the trailer listening to music but this particular night I was reading when Mary asked, “Did you hear that? It sounded like a cat.” I had never owned a cat and maybe my ears were not accustomed to such cries but Mary was very much in tune with animals so we both listened carefully and sure enough we both heard the unmistakable sound of some animal just outside the door.

As we opened the door we saw in the snowdrift covering the step there was the almost lifeless body of a fairly large cat. The cat must have been attracted to the light at the door. Only its eyes indicated that the slightest presence of life that was left in the motionless torso. The fur was matted and tipped with ice and snow. It was as if the last remnants of life had been consumed in making those bleating cries that had attracted our attention. Now , this desperate visitor seemed to be commending the fate of this 9th life to strangers. Nevertheless there was something feral and menacing in the frozen expression on the tortured feline face.

“What should we do?” I ask. “We have to bring him in.” She answered. I did not really see what harm there could be. After all, there was a good chance the cat would not survive even if we tried to save it. So I carefully put both hands under the limp body and lifted it inside half expecting to be attack at any moment but the cat seemed almost comatose.

I laid it down on a folded towel near a source of warm air from the furnace. Mary opened a tin of tuna and placed it near its face in hopes the smell might revive the cat but there was no response. More than an hour went by and we decided to turn in for the night. The trailer was small and the bedroom was only a few steps away so if the cat awoke we felt we would surely hear it and be able to respond.

It must have been less than an hour when we were awakened to the sound of scratching and growling. As turned on the light the cat let out a blood curdling screech and began scurrying about the room. It was as though it had been possessed by a demon. It was ripping and tearing at everything it touched as it bounded from one piece of furniture to the next. I fumbled in the closet for the broom and managed to fling open the door. On the next pass I ushered the ball of fury out into the cold night from whence it had come. We watched as it streaked down the road in the moonlight then turned into the woods and disappeared into one of the snow drifts. Stunned by the ordeal, we collapsed on the sofa and sat in quiet reverie for a few moments. We never saw the cat again.

A few weeks went by. Some of the snow had melted. The dirt road into the park was muddy and rutted. Mary had begun to become moody. When I would ask her what I could do, she would become irritable and sullen. It was obvious that I had no cure for cabin fever. One day she met me at the door as I returned home. Her one small bag was packed. As I watched the cab disappear down at the end of the road turning onto the highway, in a moment of anguish, I called out her name. I never saw her again.


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