I hear her. The agonized meow of a stuffed cat. She calls to me through the silence, begging to be held, longing to purr in the arms of anyone.

She is Smiley's favorite little friend. Her name is Cat Kitty.  I don't know why.

If you squeeze Cat Kitty's head, she meows. At least, that's the way she's supposed to work. But, as any toy whisked around by a two-year-old child is apt to become, Cat Kitty was dirty, and so we gave her a bath in the washing machine. Smiley said, "Kitties don't like baths." Apparently, she was correct.

When Cat Kitty emerged, shiny white and spotless, if a little less fluffy and plump than before, she wouldn't meow. So shaken was our little friend by the tumult of an agitator and detergent that she withdrew into her own world, lost and frightened. If we squeezed her head, she wouldn't meow.

Smiley said, "Cat Kitty quiet now."

Then one day our shy feline let out a random meow. No one had squeezed her head.  No one had asked her opinion on whatever subject was being discussed. She simply meowed.

And so it goes with Cat Kitty. She speaks only when she wishes, not when her two-year-old mommy pushes her little nose into her soft skull. At 3am, resting quietly beside Smiley's face, Cat Kitty will scream loud enough to scare the crap out of slumbering daddy, but Smiley never stirs.

I think of this strange cat now because Smiley isn't here. She's at daycare with her sister today. While I sit at my computer in a quiet house, suddenly there comes a meow from above. I laugh. Then I go upstairs to visit Cat Kitty, who waits silently on a mini Barbie Princess couch for her mommy to return. I don't speak to the animal. That would be weird. But I do prop her up a bit more comfortably on the couch, hoping Smiley will see her and swoop her up in those toddler arms the moment she walks into the room.

Maybe then the pesky cat will stop crying all the time.


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