Beau had been missing for two weeks. I imagined him lying in a ditch, stranded in the middle of the woods with an injured leg or mauled by a vicious animal, and wondering when we’d come and rescue him. He was old. His self-defense skills weren’t what they used to be. At his prime, he’d taken on a pack of neighborhood dogs that ganged up to kill him. When a neighbor intervened and brought him home, we gaped at the gash above his eye.
“That’s nothing,” the neighbor said. “You should have seen the dogs. They fared a lot worse. Your cat tore them to shreds. He’s quite a fighter.”
Beau’s sleek Seal Point Siamese frame misled most to think he was dainty and delicate. He fooled many with his refined, gentleman’s stance and indifferent air, fully living up to his given name: Beau Brummel. But our Beau was no dandy. His royal blue eyes could cut any one of us in two, and with one swipe of his paw, he’d remind you who truly reigned over the four acres on which we lived.
I felt lost without him. Every afternoon I rushed to the answering machine and listened for the unknown voice which spotted our “missing” signs all along the road and called to let us know he had our cat; that stranger never rang.
In the evening I called out for him, hoping I’d see his limber body prancing through the woods toward our house. He never appeared.
I didn’t want to give up hope, but as more days went by, I began to think the worst. My dad said Beau probably left us to go die. Animals did that, especially when they loved a family very much. I couldn’t understand why Beau would leave us without saying goodbye.
Two weeks after he disappeared, I came home from school alone. My sister had gone to a friend’s house. As I prepped a snack to fuel my brain for an afternoon of math equations and history questions, a distinct howl echoed through the house. I stopped at the fridge and listened.
There was no mistaking that howl. It was easy to discern Beau’s Siamese call. And he’d come back! I darted from room to room, glancing through the glass windows and doors to see where he was waiting for me to let him in.
“Beau!” I shouted. “Where are you?”
The howl was distant, like it came from behind our walls. The question was, which wall? As I stood in the hall, I glanced at the ceiling. Could he have been in the attic this whole time? Sometimes, when we went up there to store boxes, he followed us to inspect the vast walk-through space. On a few occasions, we’d accidentally left him put here. I quickly yanked on the pull-down ladder and clambered up the stairs.
“Beau!” I shrieked, glancing anxiously around the cluttered storage room.
But he didn’t appear. Leaving the attic door open, I climbed down the stairs and rushed to the phone.
“He keeps meowing, Dad!” I cried. “He’s somewhere inside the house, but I can’t find him. Please come home and help me look for him.”
Distraught, I tearfully listened to my beloved cat calling out for me, until my dad’s car pulled into the driveway. The howling ceased. I swore up and down that Beau had been meowing, but after a thorough inspection of the entire house, my dad found no trace of the cat.
“But I heard him,” I bawled. “He was meowing. It was his meow.”
Hugging me close, my dad said, “Maybe that was his spirit trying to tell you goodbye.”