Starting a Fire


Old age is a curse on mankind. Although around retirement age, it merely freezes you to the bone, it becomes a crippling storm later on.  People end up in nursing homes, alone. My friend loved her small house with her cats.  She worshipped her privacy.  But she suddenly decided that it wasn’t enough.  She got a cat-sitter, packed her bags, and traveled country after country, searching for an orphan girl, twelve or thirteen years old, to adopt, to bring back home.

On the advice of a friend, she finally found what she was looking for in a small country in Central Asia.  The girl’s mother had seven children.  The country had endemic poverty.  Conditions in the home were so bad that the mother, after hearing someone wanted to help one of her daughters, volunteered to give up both of her girls instead of one.  In the end, my friend chose the older of the two, April (She was born in April), a beautiful, smart fourteen-year-old.  Once the mother stepped aside, April officially become an orphan.

The formalities took a while, but it was worth it.  Back in America, my friend was consciously happy, spending time with April’s education, making sure she had everything she needed to launch into life.

The one who become uneasy was my friend’s younger cat, Edith.  Edith didn’t like sharing space with the newcomer.  She didn’t like sharing my friend’s love and attention.

The cat showed her jealousy by trying to get closer to her master, ignoring all attention given by April.  My friend thought the advantages of caring for April far balanced out the bad behavior of this jealous cat.  She overlooked the issue, hoping Edith would get used to April.

One day, Edith disappeared.  My friend and April looked everywhere.  Edith was definitely gone.  They both felt guilty, although for different reasons.  They stopped any mention of Edith’s name.

Until Christmas.  April’s first Christmas.  My friend wanted to show April Christmas in all of its glories.  Before they sat down to their Christmas meal, for the first time in years, she started a fire in the fireplace.  It took some time to turn the smoke into fire.

Suddenly, a cat meowed violently.  April looked into the chimney through flames.  “Edith is up there,” she said.

My friend threw a bucketful of water into the fire place, so at least the fire was out, but she couldn’t reach Edith who had somehow managed to climb almost to the top of the chimney.

With the help of a ladder, my friend climbed up on the roof and peered down into the chimney.  Edith was squeezed between some metal flanges inside the chimney itself.  My friend laid over the roof and reached down, stretching to reach the cat.  When she grabbed Edith, she felt herself sliding down the chimney.

Then, someone grabbed her feet.

Later, she told everyone, “Santa brought me skinny, skinny cat for Christmas.”

It wasn’t Santa.  It was April.