72: A Humble Hero

72: A Humble Hero

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

A Humble Hero

Cats conspire to keep us at arm’s length.

~Frank Perkins

Everyone agreed; Kiki was strange. He acted strange and he looked strange. Even from the get-go, the little tabby born in our home to a stray who sought shelter looked more like a fuzzy orange caterpillar than a newborn kitten.

The only birth resulting from that pregnancy, our strange Kiki preferred the company of his mother to that of his human family. In fact, mother and son were inseparable. The two were a comical sight really; Kiki mimicked the older cat’s every move, eating when she ate, sleeping when she slept, and playing when she played. So, that winter my family resigned ourselves to the fact that fate had made us a four-person, two-cat family.

However, warm weather arrived early that year, bringing with it a case of spring fever for the mother-cat who we named Elsa. The warmer the temperature and the brighter the sunshine, the greater were Elsa’s attempts to reunite with the freedom of the outdoors. Though we tried in earnest to sequester her, Elsa managed to escape one day, leaving just as abruptly as she had arrived.

Kiki was devastated. For days the kitten sat by the back door awaiting his mother’s return and there he remained, hopeful, forgoing all other activities. We, his human family, tried our best to step in and take the place of his mother. However, Kiki would accept no substitute. He was heartbroken.

In due time though, Kiki ended his vigil, seeking refuge in the one place where he felt safe without his partner — under our living room sofa. From there, he would survey the comings and goings of the family and indulge us an occasional reach underneath the furniture to pet the top of his head. Day after day, Kiki remained in his spot, leaving only when there was no human in sight, coming out just long enough to visit his food bowl in the kitchen or take care of his more personal business in the litter box. Afterward, our kitty would quickly scamper back to his lair where he remained until nature called once again.

That’s why it seemed so odd to me one summer afternoon when I heard Kiki tapping insistently on the back window as I sat outdoors sunbathing. He even meowed a few times when I turned away from him, something he was rarely wont to do. Yet, I had my own agenda that day. Dad was at work, my brother was at summer camp, and Mom was at the supermarket. For a few precious hours the house was all mine, and my teenaged plan of suntanning while munching on a bowl of freshly popped popcorn was being rudely interrupted by one annoying tabby. Still, this behavior was so out of character for our pet that after a few minutes of his insistent pawing, I put down my snack to see what was bothering him.

As the screen door slammed behind me, I heard Kiki jump off the windowsill and hit the floor. His toenails clicked against the linoleum and I followed the sound to where he stood in the kitchen — directly in front of the stove. There, perched on his hind feet with his front paws leaning upon the cabinetry, Kiki pointed out the problem.

Before the popularity of microwave ovens, popcorn was made the old-fashioned way — in a pot on the stovetop. I thought I did what I always did when I popped corn: empty the contents of the pot into my favorite bowl, place the hot pot on a trivet to cool, and shut off the heating element. But I hadn’t. In my haste, I’d left the empty pot on the stove with the element still turned on. The coil had turned a fiery orange-red as cooking oil smoldered inside the pot. Another moment, perhaps, and the remaining grease might have caught fire.

Quickly, I moved the pot away and shut off the unit. “Kiki,” I said as I turned to him, “you saved the day.” Yet, with his mission accomplished, Kiki had already returned to his post underneath the sofa. I followed him to his special place then reached down to pet him, but after a few moments he backed away, not interested in my accolades — a humble hero indeed. However, Kiki’s heroics were never forgotten and from that time forward whenever Kiki returned to his food dish in the kitchen, he always found an extra treat left for him there.

~Monica A. Andermann

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