My cat, Little Bear, was adopted by my family in 2007 when she was a year old. I didn’t change her name, it seemed to fit her. She looked like a miniature Kodiak bear. She was midnight black with bright green eyes. The perfect embodiment of a Halloween cat. Her temperament belied her spooky looks. She was friendly and loving to an extreme degree. The PAWS shelter she came from in Wakefield was reluctant to let her go. Little Bear’s job at the home was to teach rescued feral cats how to act domesticated around people. She was really good at her job. The shelter hated to part with her, but they knew she was going to a loving family. Their sad loss was my exceptional gain.

When Little Bear disappeared last Tuesday I knew she was dead. She was always an indoor cat, despite one or two occasional slips out the back door after which she usually lay down on the ground and waited to be scooped up and brought back into the house. Tuesday night was different. There was a lot going on. There was a rare solar eclipse coming. I was working a 13-hour day due to a special section running in the newspaper. I spent hours in my upstairs office without taking a break. When my wife and I were getting ready to retire for the night, Little Bear was nowhere to be found. Our other cat, Bella, was hanging out in all her usual places, acting as if nothing strange happened.

“Have you seen Little Bear?” I asked my wife.

“No. That’s odd. I hope she didn’t escape,” my wife said.

“I would have noticed if she got out,” I answered. I had only gone outside once that day to bring in my trash barrels.

She must be hiding under a bed, I thought. After my extremely long day, I was exhausted. I figured the cat would be sitting in front of her food dish in the morning meowing for breakfast.

I figured wrong. Wednesday morning arrived and Little Bear was nowhere to be found. 

“I have a bad feeling about the cat,” my wife said as she left for work. 

I had a bad feeling too, but I had to finish a deadline project or I’d be the next one to disappear. I checked everywhere in the house and a cat could hide – behind every door, in every drawer, in every closet. Every stray article of clothing that brushed against me made me jump. Every stray shoe on the floor was an unconscious cat waiting to be resuscitated. There was one last place to look, but I didn’t want to go there. Our cats ripped a hole in the lining in the bottom of the box spring under our bed. It’s the perfect place for a cat to hide when they sense a trip to the vet or a family vacation. It’s the perfect place for an elderly cat to curl up and die. I couldn’t shake the feeling Little Bear was inside the box spring, lifeless. Unfortunately, my boss was waiting for the job I was working on. I knew if I found the cat’s body I would be good for nothing else for the rest of the day. I decided to focus on my deadline and not the dead cat. The longer I could put off climbing under the bed, the more of a chance the cat could resurface on her own. She didn’t.

After a few half-hearted calls of “Little Bear” outside my front and back door yielded nothing, I knew it was time to grab the flashlight and enter the tomb under the bed. I took a deep breath and looked under the mattress frame, expecting the worst. My search turned up nothing but dust bunnies. I ripped off the rest of the bottom of the box-spring casing and thoroughly scoured the underside of the mattress. No Little Bear. My heart sank. She was gone.

My wife and I had a quiet dinner Wednesday night, reminiscing about Little Bear and trying to figure out how she slipped out while I was bringing in the trash barrels. It was the only scenario that made sense. I started to accepted the fact that my Little Bear was not coming home and it was all my fault.

Thursday morning I was having coffee with my wife before I headed upstairs to work. She reminded me that Little Bear had a microchip implanted with our information, and it might be worth a call to the police station. We were going to ask our neighbors if they saw any signs of her.

Out of the blue, we heard a faint “meow”. The sound wasn’t coming from our other cat Bella who was sitting silently in the middle of the living room floor. We heard another “meow”, slightly muffled. I quickly opened the front door. Sitting on the welcome mat was Little Bear, looking up at me, demanding to be let into the house. I picked her up, hugged her, feeling happy and relieved. Little Bear was back. 

After a preliminary health-check, something seemed different. The cat was missing an inch of fur from the end of her tail. Her pointed tailbone now resembled a scorpion’s stinger. Her left eye was cloudy. She smelled like fumes from a garage. We’ll never know where Little Bear spent her missing 36 hours. She survived and appears to be in good health, although her scheduled trip to the groomer and veterinarian will ease our fears.

Our other cat, Bella, has fears of her own. She hasn’t quite accepted Little Bear back into our home. Bella is arching her back and hissing when Little Bear walks near. And I can’t shake the feeling every time my cat Bella loudly meows at me, it’s a warning. She’s saying, “That’s not Little Bear.” That’s what I get for being a Stephen King fan.

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