By Meagan Jones
Tigger took her last breath
I sway on a kitchen stool, waiting for Mom to come inside. She comes in, eyes red-lipped, and she tells me to wait for my father to get home before asking why and I know
But I can’t picture in my eight-year-old mind what it is, how to even ask what it is – until I see she came home with an empty cat carrier – our cat, Tigger’s cat carrier; where’s the cat that’s supposed to be in the carrier? Tigger’s gone – vanished in the yellow porch light of our newly furnished rental house in Gilford, Connecticut. Her tabby stripes had somehow blown away in the wind. Perhaps that’s what had happened; she’d gotten as delicate as paper in the past weeks, though my child self couldn’t understand it, couldn’t understand that she might not exist soon, because she’d always existed for me, ever since I was born.
He comes through the door, coming to my attention like a splattering of color across an empty canvas, rocking his faux brown leather suitcase back and forth until it lands on the dull granite counter of the kitchen, where I wait. My little sister plays somewhere – just a few feet from me, in the living room – and she comes up to him the happiest kid in the world, barely out of toddlerhood, not yet conscious of the danger of bad news. But my Dad understands what’s going on, and his eyes are weighted with it – they are glossy, they are gray, they are not the same blue I come to expect from my father.
What do I expect from my father though?
I expect him to be cheerful and tired from a day’s work.
I expect him to ruffle my hair, grinning, as I groan in protest.
I expect him to say our cat will be home soon.
Instead, I see him frowning.
You know it’s bad news when your Mom comes in the door with an empty box and
red-lipped eyes, telling you to wait for Dad.
She doesn’t want to tell you alone. Mom waits, eyes flushed cherries, picking at her hair in the living room because she’s scared. Scared to tell her too-small children that they can’t see her, can’t possibly ever again, because-
Dad takes a deep breath and glances at the empty carrier, one heavy tan compartment with silver wires. Walks over to the coffee-colored corduroy armchair in the living room. Sits.
“Come on,” he tells everybody, and my sister hears the pain in his voice and grows quiet. Mom gets up from the couch, buries her face in Dad’s shoulder, and lets out a sob.
The empty carrier means-
Piled on the armchair that is far too small to carry all of us, Dad talks, the words spilling out, at first slowly, then all at once. Cancer. Her time. Mom brought her to the vet and didn’t expect to leave without her. Mom starts to cry. Then Dad starts to cry, and for the first time in my life I see the tears of a grown man, my father, an unexpected and unwelcome surprise.
Meagan Jones is an artist and a Creative Writing BFA major with a Spanish minor at the University of Maine at Farmington. Originally from Windham, Maine, she spends her time alternating between writing English essays and creating her own artwork and stories. She has had two pieces of artwork accepted by the Sandy River Review before.