Around midnight, last night, after I had finished reading, I noticed some cat on a windowsill, softly mewing for something, out of view.
Usually ours climb the screen clamoring loudly, get yelled at, and have to wait awhile for their food, as punishment. I roused myself from the recliner, fetched a cup of dry food to reward this quiet one, and opened the door, when I realized our missing gray tom, a four-day prodigal, had returned, starving and affectionate.
I’d seen it before. The wandering cat usually reappears emptied of all but a new appreciation for the comforts of home.
He was skinny. Aside from his plush winter coat, there wasn’t much to give him bulk. I picked him up to cuddle a moment, and noticed a difference in his weight.
He was dirty. We had only the moon for light, but I could feel grubbiness on his fur, and something stiff in it, I hoped wasn’t dried blood. I put him down, and although he played at biting my toes for more attention, I wanted to wait until I could see what was wrong with him. I didn’t want to touch any sores. Besides, he needed to eat.
He was comical. He traced a circle between food, water, and toes, and back again. Once he realized I would scratch his ruff while he ate and drank, he settled down. Funny thing is, a cat, so proper and reserved that “Earl Grey” was a perfect name for him, would return so recklessly abandoned to a desire for touch.
As I said, I’ve seen it before.
It was past my bedtime and I slept well, with the happy secret of Earl’s return to lull me.
This morning we cuddled again and he ate some more. In the sunlight, I could see nothing wrong with him. Oh, he wobbled a little. A few minutes of brushing untangled and burnished his fur, but it would take a week or more of food and water to build back his strength.
Isn’t that how it is with prodigals?
I mean, it took a few moments of ceremony to put a coat, sandals, and a ring on The Prodigal Son. Then he probably looked just like a son, to strangers, from a distance.
However, how many weeks of bathing, feeding, oiling, combing, tooth brushing, and perfuming, did it take before he looked and smelled like a son, on close inspection, to those who really knew?
And the prodigal wife and mom—do her significant others expect perfection, her first day back at her real job? Does she expect it of herself? Or, is her simple act of turning away from the profit pig pen enough for today?