Shishir (Winter) 2020 Stories - Mark Tulin


The Spring Tabby

By Mark Tulin

Uncle Leo and Aunt Mary were walking down their favourite street when they spotted a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk asking for money.

"See that homeless man," said Uncle Leo," he should be pulling himself up by his bootstraps and doing something about his life, and not bothering us for money."

"Maybe, he's tried, Leo," said Aunt Mary. "Maybe he attempted to get on his feet many times, but because of some unfortunate circumstances, he wasn't successful. Not all of us have the same opportunities or caring people behind us."

"Nonsense," said Uncle Leo. "If I can do it, anyone can. Look where I came from. My mother was a single parent, and my father was an alcoholic. We were poor, and I only had one pair of shoes, yet I made something of myself. It's called hard work and determination."

Aunt Mary knew better to argue with Uncle Leo. He was a pig-headed man and thinks what he wants to think. There's no use getting in a fight over it. She walked over to the homeless man and gave him a couple of dollars, and said, "Have a wonderful day, Sir."

"Thank you very much, ma'am," the homeless man said, "and may God bless."

Uncle Leo shook his head without saying a word.

"Let's enjoy this beautiful spring day," said Aunt Mary. "Think only positive thoughts and notice the roses and azaleas in bloom."

The couple held hands as they passed all the pretty red, yellow, and white flowers that seemed to sprout up everywhere. After walking another block, Aunt Mary abruptly stopped at a bench.


"I have to sit down for a minute, Leo; my gout is acting up."

As Aunt Mary rested her feet, she spotted something on the ground near an Old Catholic church.

It was an orange tabby taking refuge under a shady oak tree. Despite Aunt Mary's painful toe, she took a closer look at the poor cat. "You walk ahead, Leo,"

Aunt Mary said, "I'm going to spend some time with this poor thing."

"Now, don't you think of bringing home another stray animal, Mary? We already have three cats."

Aunt Mary didn't say anything. She was overcome with sadness while looking at the poor cat lying helplessly on a patch of damp grass. Its eyes were closed, and she could see an M-shape in the middle of his eyes. She believed that the cat, mostly skin and bones, was nearly gone and that it would break her heart not to do anything to save the poor animal.

She could hear Leo talking in her ear, saying what a bleeding heart she was and that she's foolish for taking in a dying animal. "What's the point of harbouring something that's dying," he would say. "It's only going to upset you."

These words rolled around in her mind, but she wouldn't listen to them. She had a strong intuition about this orange tabby, and, she believed, this was her opportunity to nurse the cat back to health. Fate was calling her and she wouldn't ignore it.

"You're such a beautiful spring tabby--yes, you are. You will bloom someday like one of those flowers."

Aunt Mary took off her sweater and wrapped it around the cat. The tabby was so sickly, he didn't offer any resistance. She walked home as fast as she could on a bad toe, talking to the orange cat all the way. "You're going to have a nice, warm home with people who love you. You'll be good as new. I promise."

Once inside the house, Aunt Mary got a dropper and fed the tabby some warm milk. He could barely swallow, and then she got a tiny teaspoon of wet cat food and patiently fed the frail feline, who was too weak to purr.

Aunt Mary called the orange tabby Pumpkin. It's important to note that Aunt Mary had an inclination to call many animals Pumpkin, even if they weren't orange.
When Uncle Leo walked through the door, he shook his head as if it weren't a surprise. "Mark my words, Mary, you're making a mistake with that animal. He's not going to get any better, so don't get your hopes up."

Aunt Mary got on the phone and called the veterinarian for an appointment. Pumpkin was immediately put on numerous medications and would need ongoing medical care.

"He's in pretty bad shape, Mary," said the vet. "He's awfully dehydrated, has a weak heart, and shows signs of starvation."
"What's his chance of survival?"

"About forty-percent, if I had to guess."

"I'll take that chance," said Aunt Mary. "Frankly, I expected far worse."



In a few months that followed, Pumpkin changed from a frail and dying animal to a cat gaining weight and becoming more active.

"That cat's very talkative, don't you think so, Mary?"

"Sure is Leo. That's a good sign. This cat knows he's been saved, and he's very grateful. Wouldn't you, if you got a second shot at life?"

Leo shook his head, "I guess I would."

He walked over to Pumpkin and picked him up, rubbed his thick fur, and let the cat lick his face. Even Uncle Leo was smitten by the cat's allure.

"I have to hand it to you, Mary. I never thought you'd bring that one back to life. You must have some magic touch."

As the years passed, Pumpkin became more loving and more affectionate. He got along with the other cats of the household and greeted friends and family with little squeaks and nose rubs at the door.

Pumpkin and Aunt Mary became inseparable. When my Aunt had a painful bout of gout and was bedridden, Pumpkin didn't leave her side. If the burning sensation in her feet became too severe, Aunt Mary would rub the cat's thick fluffy tail and listen to Pumpkin's comforting purr as if it were medicine to relieve the pain.

"I guess he's returning the favour," said Uncle Leo.

Aunt Mary looked at Pumpkin lovingly.

"Thank you, Pumpkin, for being my own private nurse."

Pumpkin looked up and gave a squeak and a nose rub to say that it was his pleasure.


Mark Tulin is a former family therapist who lives in Ventura, California. He has a Pushcart Prize nomination for a short story at ActiveMuse and has authored Magical Yogis, Awkward Grace, The Asthmatic Kid and Other Stories, and Junkyard Souls. Mark has also appeared in Vita Brevis, Amethyst Review, Ariel Chart, Fiction on the Web, The Opiate, anthologies and podcasts.


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