"Why do you watch my every move, cat?"

The cat regarded him solemnly from her chair at the small kitchen table as he conducted his morning ritual. He poured a bit of white vinegar into the chipped bowl of water in front of him, then slowly dipped his eyeglasses up and down in the mixture. He polished them with a clean linen dishtowel before holding them up to the light and inspecting them. Then he carefully put them on. "Why do you watch my every move, cat?" he asked. "Go outside - earn your keep. Va, ciappa on bel rattin per disnà ... Go catch a nice little mouse for supper," he laughed. He leaned over and gently rubbed her ears. She playfully batted at his hand and then jumped down and ran to the door. "Vegni, vegni! ... I'm coming," he said. "We have work to do."

Cathy always started her morning rounds with Mr. Amato. He was the least responsive of her patients. He floated in and out of consciousness, sometimes speaking in Italian, always calling for Dora.

"You're a very lucky man, Mr. Amato," Cathy thought. "You have two faithful friends in this life, Dora and Mary Bessler, and that's more than some people can count on."

She and Mary were on a first-name basis now and she enjoyed their brief daily conversations. Mary's stories about Dora the cat's conquests amused her, but she doubted the fading old man understood much. She wondered if what Mary felt for Mr. Amato was undeclared love, or just two souls who had become inseparable due to familiarity, like a pair of old shoes that belonged together.

"It won't be long now, will it?" Mary had asked her yesterday.

"We can't say for sure, of course. But he's rarely conscious and when he is, he's in another place. A happy place. You have to envy him, Mary. He's reliving the wonderful times of his life - maybe he's playing with childhood friends in Italy. Or working in your garden, taking care of the roses, giving Dora a lecture."

"Dora!" Mr. Amato said sternly and rolled over toward the window.

Dora playfully nipped the blossom of a cornflower and stared at him defiantly. "I'ma telling you one thing, cat. You eat another one of my flowers and I'ma gonna splash water on you!" Dora knew it was an idle threat and was considering which flower to consume next when a dragonfly went flitting by. She jumped into the air and clasped her paws together futilely. Then she immediately began to lick her paw with an unconcerned air. "You don'ta fool anybody," he chuckled. "T'i ciapparee ona altra volta... you'll catch them some other time."

The nightshift nurse walked quietly down the corridor, stopping to pick up magazines from the lounge chairs and neatly arranging them on a coffee table. She stuck her head in each of the patient's rooms as she passed. Mr. Amato groaned in his sleep. She tiptoed past his bed and closed the window. The night had turned unexpectedly chilly.

Dora nudged him gently, which only made him roll over and nestle more deeply into his pillows. She patted his cheek with her paw and he mumbled something and waved her away with his hand. She persisted and began to lick his eyelids with her sandpaper tongue. "Ohhhh," he complained. "Cat! What am I going to do with you?" He sat up slowly, focused his eyes and stroked her down her back, ending with a gentle tug on her tail. She playfully nipped his hand. "What would I do without you? ... Se te ghe fudesset minga ti, se podaria fà mi?" he said, shaking his head.

Part 3

A Cats Prayer

Lead me down all the right paths,
Keep me from fleas, bees, and baths.
Let me in should it storm,
Keep me safe, fed, and warm.


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