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Oscar Ramone is Dead


I met him five years ago. He belonged to my new girlfriend, and I could hardly imagine a more hateful beast. Oscar was a ponderously fat, yowling black cat who had no use for me, nor much for my girl beyond her utility at feeding time. In the mornings he would do awful things to wake us, knowing that he would be fed once we were up. He would shred important papers. He would howl and wail. He would stick disgusting paws coated with litter in my mouth. He would rake bare claws down the walls, and the screeching would arouse the soundest slumberer. Once up, Oscar would trip you and howl until food was provided. Then, his mission accomplished, he would disappear until the evening feeding. If you found him, he would scratch and bite if petted or picked up. Oscar needed no one. Oscar had no love. I had no love for Oscar.
In time, the girlfriend became the fiancee, and I accepted Oscar as the necessary price for her hand. Some men have burdensome in-laws; I had this cat. He tolerated me, and I developed a knack for hurling bedstand objects in the morning hours.
After several months of engagement, I lost my last dot-com job, and five desperate months of unemployment ensued. In the second month, a weary tedium set in, and I spent many an afternoon laying in my bed and looking out over the Brooklyn landscape. The oppressive summer sun beat in on me, and I lay alone and sweating and depressed. I could not support my future wife. I could not support myself. The city sounds filtered in, muffled by the thick, sticky air, and I despaired.
One day, Oscar came in and leapt on the bed. He sought the bright, beating sun, and he was tired of waiting for me to leave. Announcing himself with a warble, he hove himself into the direct sun as far as possible from me. Then he collapsed, closed his eyes, and lay perfectly still, with ears trained upon my prone form. Many days passed thus. The sun would emerge, and Oscar and I – fat, useless, hairy wards of my longsuffering fiancee – would subject ourselves to it. I did it for self-mortification, and he for pleasure. We stayed an arm’s length apart, but there was a comradeship there, and I came to value his predictable emergence for the grim siesta.
One day, I reached over and petted him, and he did not reject me.

It began like that. I would pet him. After a while, he began heaving himself close to me to be petted. I would rub his neck, his ears, his back, the sides of his mouth, the base of his tail – and the spot he loved most, the top of his head. He would see my hand coming, bow his head and shove it into my waiting palm to be scratched. He began putting his paws on me, gripping me with eyes closed as I ran my fingers through his black fur. I found comfort in the presence of this cat whom I hated — this greedy, ungrateful competitor for the time and attention of my girl. And he found comfort in me, the ponderous, frightening interloper in his little world. The day came when Oscar laid his head against my chest, and began to purr.
He loved me. Perhaps it is anthropomorphizing to say it, but I choose to believe it is so. I found work; we moved; and we married. Every day I came home from work for the next four years, Oscar greeted me at the door. He would rumble and warble his hello, and move close to leap onto my shoulder. I would carry him around, and he would rub his head against my cheek, purring and kneading his paws in delight. When I lay down on the couch or bed, Oscar would be there to lay on my chest and rumble into a contented sleep. At night, Oscar stayed where I was: if I worked late in the office, he stayed with me; if I watched television late, he sat next to me; and when I went to bed, he followed me upstairs and lay by me. Often I woke up holding him like a stuffed animal, and his paws would be about my neck. As I woke, he would wake, and begin to purr. Once I woke to find him gently biting and pulling on my beard. Seeing my eyes open, he let out a soft “meep!” It was time to feed him.
I loved him. He was a constant companion. Even more than my dog, Oscar was the single member of the household unfailingly happy to see me.
He was a good friend. He was my best friend.
It came time to move to the West Coast and so my wife and I packed up the house and prepared for the long drive. We left Oscar and our other cat (acquired just this Christmas) with my father: once we arrived in California, he would ship them via direct air to us. We drove away on Sunday. Before leaving, I found Oscar, picked him up, and held him tight. He pushed his head into my cheek and began to purr. I set him down and walked away.
My father let our cats out to play every day. He knew they were good, and they liked him and his house. Yesterday, they chased one another around a bit. Oscar poked about and warbled to himself as he was wont to do. Then, tiring, he leapt onto a guest bed. He curled up and slept, dreaming of the things that cats do: Bowls of sugared milk.Catching that bird that sits beyond the pane. Being held by the person you love.
When my father checked on him hours later, Oscar was dead.
Ten years ago, when just a kitten, a veterinarian told my wife that Oscar had a heart problem, and that he could drop dead at any second. A decade on, the warning was half-forgotten, and it seemed a false alarm. It was not: Oscar was stolen away with an awful suddenness, and our time with him revealed as not merely a blessing, but a miracle.
We got the news in Iowa. My father said a prayer for the dead and buried Oscar under the red maple tree on his Virginia mountain. He covered the grave with stones. Hundreds of miles to the west, I stood alone in a farm field. An orange barn cat rubbed against my legs and meowed. I picked him up and held him close. He pushed his head into my cheek and began to purr. My eyes filled with tears. I closed them, breathed in the cold prairie air, and imagined I was holding Oscar.
Editor’s note:This post was written by Josh Trevino but published, for technical reasons, by Spot-on editor Chris Nolan.

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