The name Harvey had always been special to me. I knew my owner and partner in life, who I now refer to as my human, had named me after a giant rabbit in some old movie, even though I was just on the cutting edge of cat perfection. The name had worked very well for me, and I’d come to accept and then love it. The new cat’s name was not going to be an accident or creation appearing from the ether, except in the human’s mind. It was going to be part of my job to figure out how to name the cat Bentley. My state, after life, was not truly explainable to anyone living, and the new name was part of that. There had to be a new cat and his name had to be Bentley, and that was it. That shouldn’t have been my concern since I was so new to not being alive anymore. But there it was, nobody and nothing to take up the cause, except me.
So the job became mine, and installing the name of the cat would be something I would have to figure out how to slip in if the rest of my plan worked. Living humans were almost impossible to plan for, and that I had come to understand while I was still living. The creation was done, assigned to me, and so I sent Bentley into the fray. Too young. Too small. A Norwegian Forest Cat assembled from barnyard stock who looked more like a frightened mouse with stripes than a respectable cat. But Bentley was all I had, and my grieving human needed saving in the worst way. As my human, he’d come around after years of training, except in the areas of hunting and learning to process what living foods I’d furnished him. At some things that should have been completely a part of him he had no clue, but with the rest of it he was a natural.
My own time had been up. Just like that. One glance the wrong way, a huge striking blow and the car had moved on, but I had not. My owner and friend had found my shattered wreck of a body, taken me to the veterinarian and that had been that. But pronouncement had not been enough. In the days and nights of our life together he’d had to go out and drive the roads to find me when my not returning from far wanderings didn’t suit his plans. He’d been remarkably good at that, somehow homing in on arcane clumps of brush and bracken too thick for any human eyes to penetrate. But there he’d be, his car idling far in the distance as he ruined any chance of a carefully planned and executed hunt for prey.
My human now drove the roads still looking for me out there, even though he knew that I’d gone. And that wasn’t right.
And so Bentley had been allowed to be created and sent into action. The cat was too young, too dense and too hair-brained for the job but he was all that was available. A Russian Blue, like me, would have been much preferred, but none was around and I also had misgivings about replacing myself with something too close to myself. I’d had a special place in the human’s heart and life, and I wasn’t ready to surrender that to some other cat. But I had to surrender something in order to help him move on.
It was a struggle to control idiocy while depending upon good fortune.
My human had to be cruising by on the old farm road while my kitten creation had to be forced from the safety of the barn, across a field of discarded corn husks and plopped down by the side of the road to wait. My human kept driving the wrong roads. My kitten creation kept wandering, to jump about and chase wind-blown bits of discarded corn debris. The day was drawing to a close, the temperature dropping and the wind kicking up when I got lucky.
There was my human’s gray car speeding along, too fast to notice just about anything, typical of my human’s irrational driving behavior, and there was my kitten creation leaping about too distracted to pay attention to something as fast and deadly as a passing automobile. I cringed as I watched the scene unfold. I could only control so much from my ethereal post, and cars, the wind, daylight and most kitten behavior was beyond me. I’d met my fate by failing to pay proper attention to a moving vehicles speed and approach.
But there was no contact. Instead, there was a huge screeching slide. The big gray car twisted to one side and came to a sudden halt. My kitten was frozen in the middle of the road, almost mid-jump. My human got out of the car, not closing the door, obviously fearing he’d run over the kitten or that he might spook it. But the kitten was too new to the real world and too stupid to spook or do anything but sit on the road not far from the car’s front bumper and grille.
The human approached the immobilized kitten. Suddenly, the kitten was no longer paralyzed by shock. It took off.
“What the hell?” my human muttered, giving chase.
But it was no easy chase. The kitten wasn’t fast in a straight line, not as fast as a running human, but it was unbelievably quick in the turns. Up and down the road the kitten ran, with the human always close behind, but not close enough.
“Stop, I can’t take it anymore,” the human breathed out, stopping himself to take one deep breath after another.
The kitten stopped too, and regarded the human in front of him with something less than curiosity and apparently no fear at all. They stood facing one another about fifteen feet apart. It wasn’t a contest of wills because the kitten wasn’t old enough to have one. It was a contest of intense interest on the part of the human and a great disinterest on the part of the kitten.
The shining object changed everything. Ignoring the human, the kitten moved slowly off the road to the bottom of the nearby ditch. There was only gravel, overspray from the road’s safety lane, lining the ditch, keeping weeds from taking it over. There was a reflecting object the kitten had taken a fancy to. The human walked to where the kitten batted at the object. Fearing he’d spook the kitten again, the human squatted down on the road’s surface and stared down at the object. It was shiny.
Too shiny to be cheap metal.
Curiously, and moving very very slowly so as not to drive the kitten completely away, he crept toward the object. The kitten surrendered ground, and moved one hesitant step at a time backward, but not turning to go or play with some other interesting object. The kitten sat and the human squatted, four feet separating them. The human knew he might possibly be able to leap the short distance and catch the kitten if he was lucky. But it was only 48 days since he’d lost his only silent friend on the planet, and he wasn’t feeling lucky.
Instead of leaping, the human turned his attention to the object. He studied it without picking it up. The object gave every evidence of being made of something close to pure silver. Both sides were partially exposed by the angle at which it lay. The top side was obviously the top side because it was shiny and there were letters stamped into its surface. The kitten made a run at the object but jumped out of range when the human flicked his hand. He returned to his former position, waiting for a better opportunity. It was as if the kitten had claimed the object as his own and was unwilling to let it go.
My human was undeterred. He slowly reached down one hand and took the object into it. He watched the kitten and the kitten watched him back, slightly twisting its head as if in question. Holding his hand out, not fully claiming the object, the human read the printing.
“Bentley,” was stamped into the silver. There were also two wings that protruded out on the flats of the metal’s surface.
“I know what you are,” my human breathed. “Bentley. This is a trunk tag from the only car in the world that might have one made of Sterling silver.”
My human pulled the object toward him, and the kitten surged forward, not close enough to be caught but definitely close enough to let my human know that he was not surrendering the object he’d found.
“So, you think it’s yours, huh?” my human whispered.
The kitten looked away. Communication with anything living was far in the creature’s future, but possessiveness was already part of his full awareness.
“Okay, let’s see how bad you want it,” my human murmured, slowly backing up onto the road.
The kitten followed, keeping a healthy distance between them. My human backed all the way to his car. The kitten followed.
When my human reached the still open driver’s side door he stopped and turned back.
The kitten sat down to wait, demonstrating such uncommon patience and attentiveness that I wondered about the formula I’d used to assemble him from the ground up. He was Norwegian Forest Cat stock but the wrong color, because of that color thing I had about replacing myself. He sat there, orange with brown tiger stripes all over him, two of those being upside down “V” shaped stripes passing themselves off as eyebrows. He looked like he was constantly surprised by the world around him, which was probably true.
My human stood at the door, not sure of what to do. He wasn’t fast or agile enough to catch the kitten but the kitten seemed to have an unnatural interest in the old trunk tag. Suddenly, without deliberate thought, he tossed the tag onto the passenger seat and backed away from the open door.
The kitten sat there, looking first at him and then at the car. Time passed. Neither my human nor the kitten moved, other than to continue examining one another and idling car.
Suddenly, the noise of an approaching vehicle vibrated through the distance. My human craned his head around. The kitten leaped forward and dived into his car. The other car was fast approaching from the front. My human quickly got in the car and slammed the door. The other car went by, rocking my human’s vehicle as it passed.
He looked across at the passenger seat. The kitten sat with his right paw on the shiny object. The kitten glanced his way but then directed his attention out the window.
“So, what is this?” my human asked of no one.
He didn’t know what to do. Was the kitten from the only building he could see, the old barn up on the hill in the distance? Had the kitten been abandoned by the side of the road by some family that had too many of them?
My human leaned in upon the steering wheel, his right hand going down to the radio knob. He pushed it in. An FM station came on with someone talking but not saying anything. There was a pause before music came out of the speakers and a song he knew well began to play: “Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again…”
My human sighed, before leaning back in his seat. He looked over at the kitten, who’d chosen to lay down and rest his chin on his only toy.
“Is that you, the sound of silence, Harvey?” he asked me, but of course I could not answer.
“Is it really to be Bentley?” my human asked me. “Why that name? And why does he look that way? What am I supposed to do with him? I don’t want another cat.”
Time passed. I knew what he had to do, and after all the many years we had together, I knew what he would do.
My human turned the car around and headed for home. I knew he was no longer thinking about me. He was thinking about how he was going to have to try to sell the idea of a new cat to replace me, even though everyone there would know I was truly irreplaceable. So far, my plan was working.