Stephen is standing in the young man’s doorway. “Gordon, I think you should come see what’s up with Blackie.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s on the armchair in my room and he won’t move.”
“Just chase him off if you want him to move.”
“No, I mean, he will not move. Just come see.”
The young man shuts his book and hops off his bed. He follows Stephen into his room and walks to the brown armchair. He can see that Blackie is breathing but has his eyes closed. He scratches Blackie’s head. Blackie opens his eyes a slit but doesn’t move any other muscles. The young man pets him down the length of his body. No movement.
“Huh,” says the young man. “You’re right. He is acting weird.”
“Try to pick him up,” Stephen says.
The young man gently puts his hands under Blackie’s ribs and starts to lift. Blackie is dead weight—he doesn’t resist, doesn’t try to stand up, just hangs there. The young man eases Blackie back down.
“One more thing to try,” says the young man. He pokes Blackie in the part of the stomach that always draws a bite or a scratch. Nothing.
The young man steps back. “I think this is it.”
“Think he’s dying?”
“I don’t know what’s wrong exactly, but I think this is the end. I think we had better say our goodbyes.”
Tears form and he leans down to Blackie’s face. He pets his head and whispers, “I love you, pal. You were the best cat we could have had. Thank you for adopting us. It’s okay if you go home now.”
The young man leaves the room while Stephen talks to Blackie. The young man tells his parents and Ruthanne, and after examining him, Mom agrees that Blackie is old and this is probably it.
The whole day passes, and the young man checks on Blackie periodically, who never moves from the seat or from his position but is still breathing. He goes to bed expecting Blackie to die in the night.
In the morning, the young man goes to the restroom. He is half asleep and fails to notice Blackie creep into the bathroom. Blackie shakes his collar and tags and startles the young man—a trick he has played on the young man most mornings for seven years.
The young man washes his hands. He pets Blackie, who seems normal. Blackie trots out through the front room to the front door. He shakes his tags again to show he wants to go out. The young man shuts off their house alarm and says, “Are you really ok?”
Blackie stares at the door like he does every morning. The young man shrugs and opens it. Blackie slips through the crack. The young man widens the door and stands in the doorway. He watches the large black cat step off the porch and into the bushes in the front yard. They have done this thousands of times, and Blackie has followed this route through the bushes just about as many times.
It is the last time the young man ever sees his first pet.