birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


Panko was the cat who broke my heart. I'd had others. Dorothy, the best cat, the cat who would follow me on a walk around the block and who, when she died at age 17, really had seemed to have a full life. There were Gus and Nero, the white and black brothers, who'd been handed to my family when I as a teen, and who seemed to get bigger ever time I visited home. There was Clark, who wandered off before he was half grown.

Panko was one of a pair I adopted six years ago from my vet. And within 9 months, she was the only one left. Miso, the other, died of feline leukemia. It's caused by a virus that is highly contagious among kittens. Within two days we had Panko tested and found out that her days were numbered.

To say I spoiled that cat would be an understatement. I worked at home, and between projects I assembled a ridiculous obstacle course for her in our living room. It had a several hurdles, cones to weave through, a spot to jump from one stool to another through a hoop, and a tunnel. Panko was as smart a cat as I've ever owned, and she mastered the route and would run through it on her own. Except for the cones.

I would carry her around on my shoulders in the kitchen while making breakfast. She would sit on my lap while I worked. She loved most especially to tuck her head under my chin when I was lying in bed. 

It was easy to forget for a day or two that at any time the disease might strike. Until one day she just couldn't eat. She couldn't swallow. We took her to the vet and they said, yes, it looks like lymphoma in this case -- another manifestation of the same virus. Within a week she was struggling to breathe and we took her back to the vet, but came home alone. 

The house had never felt so empty.


Death by hairdryer