One Saturday morning last summer I woke up to discover that Ripley
, my dear black and white cat
, had died. He was only six years old, and had shown no signs of illness. The other household cat, Dugan, cried and cried. Though not littermates, they'd been raised together. We were both in a state of shock
. I was due at work at the library
, and my husband was out of town. As calmly as I could, I called to give him the news. I phoned work and told them I would be late. Eventually, I took Ripley down into the basement, where it would stay cooler during the day, and tearfully laid him in state on a blanket on top of the dryer
. Thus began my day…
I was about an hour late to work. I was the person "in charge," and shortly after I arrived one of the high school girls who shelves our books (a Page) flew hysterically into our back room. One of the other Pages had bitten her. Yes, you read that right, bitten her.
I sent the biter home immediately. He was about six feet tall; I measure in at exactly five feet. I took another employee with me, and informed him this behavior was completely unacceptable. It wasn't fun, but he departed without argument. I think he was just as stunned as we were. He was fired.
There was a huge red imprint on the victim's forearm. It was a big oval shape, just like that picture the Dentist studies after taking panoramic x-rays. Thankfully, her skin wasn't broken. We used a Polaroid camera to take photographs of the bite, and I wrote up the incident. When her Mom arrived they decided to file a police report. They weren't angry with us, but hoped the action would lead to the biter getting help. They also stopped by our city's health clinic; everything checked out fine.
I was relieved to learn that the two Pages attended different high schools. Apparently, the biter was quite troubled. He'd been acting strangely around the other Pages, but had hidden it from Supervisors. He had a fingernail that was sharpened into a fierce point, and had scratched a few of the girls in the week before the biting. Of course, the Pages never shared this information with anyone but each other… They know better now.
This was one of the most surreal and disturbing days I've ever had. Who could have predicted a biting incident at the public library? I went home exhausted to mourn the loss of the cat. My husband and I cried together in the basement. We stroked Ripley's fur, so soft, his little body so stiff. He'd been the most beautiful, loving creature. I couldn't eat for several days. I'm not sure if it was entirely because of the cat, the bite, or both. Heartsickness comes in many flavors; this was a double dose.