Blood of the Beast

”Where was the blood coming from?”

“I can’t tell...I don’t think it’s his tooth, but it was all over the mat he was sleeping on.”

Granted, I’d gone to bed around 6 AM after bar hopping on Friday night and was still recovering from some very good bourbon, but the conversation my parents were having down the hall on Saturday morning tore me awake easily after four hours of sleep. I remembered checking on our cat Chirp when I got home, noting that he was curled up on a small rug in the living room. Fearing the worst, I dashed down the hall.

After some groggy and confused inquiries, I ascertained that Chirp was fine and fit as a kitten. Beast, a stray my mom’s been feeding for the better part of a year, was not faring as well. I looked out our kitchen window and saw several bright red patches on our front walk. The cat was off to the side, licking his paw and seemed fine, but there was a lot of blood.

Like Bigfoot, another stray that hung around here for a few years, Beast never warmed up to humans. At some point we could pet Bigfoot, but Beast remains wary, possibly feral. Twice my mom tried and twice he batted her hand. He’s learned to trust us enough to get within a few feet and put down a dish of food, but he usually fires off a warning hiss. It’s only recently that we’ve heard him meow. For a while last Winter we were letting him eat in our entranceway, and one night he inadvertently became locked in when he ran down into our basement. But for the most part he’s been too wild to adopt, and has settled into a pattern of appearing on our steps twice a day expecting a free meal. Initially my mom wanted to call him Sunday for the day he first appeared, but given his wild nature Beast seemed more fitting and seems to be the name we’re going with.

I was concerned, not just for the welfare of this creature we’ve been feeding, but for ourselves and our indoor cats. What if he was sick, or the blood was infected? How could we even help this animal if we couldn’t get him to a vet? He didn’t have any visible wounds, and except for a few small puddles, he didn’t seem to be losing anymore blood. He’d finished a dish of food my mom left for him, and retreated to the woods behind our house. My dad headed out and hosed down the sidewalk thoroughly, as well as washed the mat.

A few hours later, when my mom and I returned home from five o’clock mass, we found Beast waiting on our steps as he usually does. There were a few more spots of blood in the driveway, and when he stood up we saw blood on the step and a bright red patch on his chest. His eyelids were heavy, but he still managed to hiss and keep his distance. I couldn’t tell if the blood on his chest was a wound, or if perhaps his leg or some other part of his body had bled and he was just lying in it. “How can we help him?” I asked my mom. All we could do was give him food to keep his strength up, and hope nature took a healing course.

There was no sign of him on Sunday morning when my father and I headed out to play a procession in Queens with one of our bands. When we got home, there was more blood under my mom’s car, and an untouched dish of food by the back door. My mom was out at a concert with one of her friends, and when she came home we learned the latest. Beast was lying very still under her car, and she thought he was dead. He was very sluggish, but alert enough not to let her get too close. He was also uncharacteristically uninterested in the little plastic plate of food that normally attracts him. He left without eating while we were all out, and I was sure we’d never see him again. It was horrible to think that this animal might be bleeding to death somewhere. If only we could have tamed him, perhaps he could have avoided that fate. Worse, we still weren’t sure what happened. Did he catch himself on a fence or a twig? Was there a cut he kept reopening? Did he get in a fight with another animal, or get clipped by a car?

Monday at lunch I called home to check if there was any more news. He hadn’t been around when I left in the morning, and my parents were out. When I got home around 7:30, I saw my mom doing some work behind a hedge. I thought perhaps he was there, and she was setting up some kind of shelter, but when I rolled up past the hedge I saw nothing but a pile of vines and some clippers in her hands. I asked if Beast had been around, and she said he had indeed come around, showed no signs of injury, and devoured a full plate of food. It boggles my mind how often I’ve seen cats bounce back, and this guy definitely used one of his nine lives. A few hours later, I heard some rattling outside and flipped on the light. A pair of raccoons looked up from the pile of weeds where my mom had been working, turned and ran low to the ground, appearing to melt into the shadows beneath my car. If I had to guess, I’d say Beast may have tangled with some of those guys. We’ve seen him with little cuts on his nose or ears before, and he’s definitely a scrapper. On the one hand, he might be out of the woods as far as his injuries are concerned, but he’ll never fully come out of the woods. He might have the face of a domestic animal, but within beats the heart of a Beast.


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