By Ryan Leyco Faura
On the morning my sister's cat, Esme, went missing, we were as frantic as the Greek king Sisyphus moments after receiving his boulder. Disappearing without a trace, save for the few strands of auburn fur on Esme's designated corner and the cat smell it left behind. Our seven-year-old sister, Maddie—short for Madison but she shed off the Square Garden reference a month ago—was bawling her guts out. We offered consolations of Nerds and Gobstoppers, her candies of choice.
Maybe Esme was somewhere fending off rats.
Which, by the way, was a lie. She did not eat rodents at all. We have rodents scuttling on our bare floor and Esme was acting out all prissy, bemused by all these hurrying paces. If anything, she'd just yawn and go back to rest. In this kingdom, Esme was the royalty we never thought we had. I would not be surprised if she led the feline entourage in some royal weddings.
My brother, a converted Nietzschean, had another theory.
Maybe Esme was asphyxiated by your attention.
It revealed a sliver of truth. An heirloom armoire in my parent's room was all scratchy as if tiny Wolverines were sharpening their claws on the wood finish. We all suspected it was Esme, but my sister would not hear it.
Esme will not do it.
I just think so.
And where was Esme during all this family drama? She was spooling a ball of yarn, oblivious to it all.
Now that the search and, possibly, rescue operation was proving to be futile, our little sister was turning us in.
Maybe you killed Esme. Haven't you read your animal books which said cats have nine lives? Don't you think we would have given up on our first try?
That lie pacified my sister momentarily. She knew cats didn't have nine lives. Even if she scanned her Ikea shelves which were stacked with picture books of cats in all her favorite Crayola shades, she would not be seeing a book of that kind—simply because it didn't exist. So she whimpered again. My brother brought out his stash of the Willy Wonka sweets. It didn't work.
Delegated to finding Esme, we searched for her in the places that we thought she scoured… vegetable patches, our neighbor's botanical garden, under my sister's bed, over at the attic. But no Esme.
Can I go with you tomorrow? My half-slept sister asked me that evening.
Are you sure? I asked.
We planned to look for Esme in a nearby town, mentally calculating the time Maddie would wake up so we could go ahead while she was sleeping.
My sister was not in her favourite striped blue pajamas when we found her dozing by the door the following morning. She had already worn her going-out dress! Near the slightly-opened refrigerator were stacks of printed "Lost Cat" posters.
I told you I would come. She said, freezing us in our tracks.
So the three of us ventured out into the pre-dawn chill. Off we went to fairytale towns. Maddie was soon tired out from gun-tacking trees with the Esme posters. Still, she soldiered on, exhaustion be damned. After hours searching in vain, the three of us made our way home, no Esme and astronomically starving.
Hey look, it's Esme! Maddie shouted.
Where? We asked our sister quizzically.
All around us, our familiar neighbourhood unfolded like ever before. No Esme.
Against the bluest sky I had ever seen were clouds of all shapes: A clown, a child blowing bubbles, the rock of Gibraltar, the Buckingham Palace, and, most bizarrely, separated from the vast expanse, a cat chasing a spool of thread.
Wide-eyed and slack-jawed, Maddie genuflected and asked my brother and I to do the same, not unlike the three blessed kids who had seen the Lady of Lourdes. We had not been to our local church for quite some time since our father passed away. So, we followed suit. We were a sight to behold: three siblings, knees on ground, facing the sky, Esme melding into the Buckingham Palace, in remembrance and in grief. Among beds of clouds, Esme was the queen.
The next day, Esme turned up, a small, jewel-encrusted crown perched on her head, and carrying in her mouth, a wiggling rat.QLRS Vol. 19 No. 4 Oct 2020