I knew a 3 AM phone call that jerked me from my slumber could have only meant terrible news. Sure enough, Mom's voice, a thin, weepy whistle, confirmed my fears.
Mephistopheles, my cat, was dead.
Alex, in a not unprecedented moment of clairvoyance, had asked me not 48 hours earlier how long I thought my cat would live. A few more years, was my reply. Little did I know, she was already on the brink of death.
Mephisto came to me as a kitten during my junior year at Ohio University, the bright idea of a onetime flame. I was reading Faust at the time, and thought the name of Satan's imp perfect for a cat. The girl didn't stick around. The cat did, and for the next 12 years, Mephisto was my faithful friend. Though a string of moves and Alex's allergies kept Mephisto at Mom's house, our intermittent reunions were always loving and affectionate. I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't always there for Mephisto. To her credit, she never held it against me. Late at night, as I watched a ballgame, she would nestle into my reclining torso, her claws kneading, kneading my skin into a raw, bloody patch.
I always felt guilty whenever we packed up for a new adventure, knowing it could be a year or more before I saw my cat again. Not that she had it bad, mind you. No, with the whole of McBone Headquarters to roam, she was free to stalk all critters she pleased. Chipmunks were her favorite. On more than one occasion she would bring a dead rodent from the woods, limp in the grip of her jaw, and devour it right in front of us. Crunch, crunch went the bones. Inevitably, she would regurgitate the semi-digested blob of fur and muscle. Sure it was an ooey-gooey mess, but the dog was always there to scarf it up again.
I'll never forget the time Mephisto gave birth to stillborn kittens on my then-girldfriend Kendra's lap. We didn't know who knocked her up, or that she was even pregnant--my bad for not having had her fixed. Kendra, whose jeans and sweatshirt absorbed much of the slime, was a real sport about it. I have no idea what kind of memory cats have about such things, but it never seemed to phase her. Nothing did, not even when she got stuck in the muddy hole the neighbors had dug for a swimming pool (I always think of that scene in Poltergeist). True to her species, Mephisto dragged herself out and crawled home, too tired to groom herself for days. I supposed she used up two or three lives in that episode, but she just kept on keepin' on.
Finally, though, the lives ran out. A series of spasms brought Mephisto to the brink of death. Lethal injection finished her off. I should have liked to say goodbye to my cat in person. Instead I'll send her off McBone style. I don't know how long it will be before I can exhume her little skull and claim it as a desk ornament, but hopefully not long.
Adieu, Mephisto. Until we meet again, my dear, neglected friend.