26: Sophie’s Touch

26: Sophie’s Touch

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That!

Sophie’s Touch

A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be.

~Douglas Pagels

Everett slammed the door and flounced on the couch, sending Sophie, his cat, vaulting for quieter territory. “I hate it when they do that! Hate it! Hate it! Hate it!” he fumed through splotchy red cheeks damp with sweat.

“Do what?” I asked, sitting beside my ten-year-old.

“Nothing.”

“Oh,” I said, stroking his hair.

Annoyed, he shrugged my hand away. Then, as if to make his point, he turned his back to me, pulled his legs tight against his body, and wrapped his arms around himself.

“You seem awfully upset about ‘nothing.’”

“I’m not upset,” he said, digging his chin resolutely into his knees.

“Mad, maybe?”

“No! Can you leave me alone, Mom?” he said, looking back at me a little apologetically. “Please?”

“Yeah,” I sighed. “I’ll give you some space, but it’s important to talk to somebody about the stuff we feel strongly about, even if it’s not to a parent.” I hoped he was listening. “Okay?”

He grunted. My son is not one for many words when something is bothering him, so I took his response as a yes and headed to the kitchen.

For an instant, I had visions of being a cookie-baking mom and imagined whipping up a batch of double-chocolate-chip Toll House. Not wanting to add to his list of “nothing,” I simply sprinkled chocolate chips on a dollop of peanut butter and returned to the living room a few minutes later.

Everett wasn’t on the couch anymore. At first I thought he’d gone back outside to settle the “nothing” with the other kids. Then, I heard him whisper. I scanned the room and saw him kneeling beside the rocking chair that Sophie claimed after she had fled the couch.

He’d put his head down on the seat cushion and was running his hands through her fur like I’d tried to do with his hair. From the snippets I could hear across the room, I could tell he was sharing his burdens about the neighborhood altercation.

I was thankful he was talking to someone, anyone, even a cat, and I was thankful his little snowshoe tabby was a quiet, patient listener who would likely sit and purr as long as he’d pet her and whisper softly.

But there was something missing.

Everett needed someone to respond to him. He needed someone to stroke his hair, or rub his back, to reciprocate his gentle touch. I set the cookie substitute down and took a few soft steps forward, careful not to disturb them. As I knelt down behind Everett, poised to rub his back while he stroked the cat, I saw it. Sophie was licking Everett’s forehead and hair, reciprocating his kindness, his gentleness, and his touch.

I stood up, as quietly as I had bent down. Then I backed away, letting boy and cat share the moment alone. As I left the living room, I heard Everett whisper, “Sophie, you’re a really good listener.” A few minutes later, he was playing a game of ball with the kids on our street, the “nothing” apparently kissed away by a sweet little snowshoe who knew how to listen.

~Mary C. Chace

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