Imagine my alarm Wednesday morning when, just as grandmother was about to go to the hospital for surgery, I saw Manoli hobble about on three legs.
Manoli is an outside cat. He is free to climb fences, conquer roofs, and meet other cats as he pleases. If one day he shows up one ear lighter, I probably won’t be too surprised. So I wasn’t too worried about him at first.
But then a day passed, two, three, and while a belated blizzard raged outside, Manoli kept to his little house, touching neither food nor drink. When he did come out he made a few weak steps and then slumped down.
Mother: “He is not well. Take him to the vet.”
It was a Sunday afternoon. I bundled him up in the cramped box in which he had been given to me last summer and we taxied ourselves to the nearest vet. We’ve never been to one before.
Released from his box, Manoli hobbled some more. The vet tried to examine him.
Vet: “It could be a fracture. The pain is so bad I can’t examine him properly. It’s best if we do some x-rays.”
A descent down dark steps.
The radiologist’s basement.
Radiologist: “Hold him well by the neck.”
Radiologist: “Tighter. I need to turn him around and stretch his leg to get a good image.”
Strange sounds. Radiation.
Radiologist to Vincent: “Not a fracture/fissure/dislocation.”
Radiologist to Manoli: “Did you get bitten chasing kittens? You vagabond!”
Taxi. Taxi. Some road accident ahead. Traffic jam.
Vincent and Manoli finally home.
Vincent to Manoli: “You vagabond! I spent the better part of the day on the road with you instead of reading and writing! And all this because you got bitten!”
Manoli weakly: “Meow!”
The following day: Manoli in his little house. Not eating, not drinking.
Vincent draws Manoli out and takes him to the couch. Manoli makes a few steps and slumps down. Manoli beats the couch with his tail.
Ring ring ring.
Vet: “This is Doctor So and So. Is Manoli better?”
Vet: “It looks like a torn muscle.”
Vincent and Manoli to the vet again.
Vet’s assistant #1: “Manoli is dehydrated.”
Vet’s assistant #2: “The swelling got worse.”
Vet: “Blood tests, antibiotics, vitamins, drip feed.”
The vet goes into a room and returns with a shaving machine. The assistants hold Manoli while he shaves a stretch of his front paw, revealing the purple velvet underneath. Sticks a needle in there. Vincent watches with some concern.
Vet to Vincent: “You have to come with him every day. We need to continue the treatment. Also, don’t be alarmed if he looks at the moon today. It’s because of the analgesic.”
Manoli and Vincent home.
Manoli sticks head into food bowl. Manoli eats for the first time in days. Manoli sits upright like a Sphinx and does not budge all day.
Vincent pulls Manoli’s whiskers. Nothing.
Vincent tugs at Manoli’s ear. Nothing.
Vincent pulls Manoli by the tail. Nothing.
Vincent: “So this is why people do drugs!”
Next day, Vincent bundles Manoli in his box — against his wishes — and takes him to the vet again.
Vet goes into a room, returns with one, two, three, four syringes.
Vet to Vincent: “Scratch him vigorously. You need to distract him. Ready?”
Manoli arrives home, eats, drinks a little, assumes once more the wisdom of the Sphinx.
Mother: “What’s up with him anyway?”
Vincent: “It’s because of the analgesic.”
Next morning, Vincent tries to fit Manoli into his travel box.
Vincent: “We have to go to the vet. It’s for your own good.
Vincent and Manoli in the vet’s waiting room, a paper cup tea in Vincent’s hand.
In comes a golden retriever without a leash. The dog must have felt a certain affinity for Vincent, for it went straight for him, nudging at his cup.
Dog owner to Vincent: “Oh, I am sorry, I am so sorry!”
Dog owner to dog: “See what you’ve done!”
Vincent realizes, not without some alarm, that half of the tea has spilled into his lap. It was hot.
Dog owner to Vincent: “I am so sorry! Hana has these swelling behind the ears and I didn’t put her leash…”
Vincent looks at dog owner. Dog owner turns out to be a girl with short hair and light eyes.
Vincent to her: “Oh, it is nothing.”
Vincent to himself: Can this be love that I am feeling? Or is it only the tea?
Vet opens consulting room door.
Vet to Vincent: “You can come in now.”
Vincent to himself: One, two, three, four, five people looking at me. And my pants all wet!
Vet examines Manoli.
Vet to Vincent: “Would you mind if I shaved the affected area? I could give you a gel which you can rub into his skin.”
On his way home, Vincent sees three stray cats that look much like Manoli. Vincent adds up Manoli’s bills in his head and sighs. But then Vincent remembers a Little Prince quote:
“It is the time you have wasted for your [cat] that makes your [cat] so important.”
Vincent and Manoli home again.
If Vincent speaks, Manoli hears his voice and comes to him. He purrs. Is that gratitude, or the good food Vincent’s giving him?
PS: Grandmother is fine.