I’ve never told anyone this before; not when it happened, not since.
When I was 13 our cat had 9 kittens. They lived in a box in my sister’s closet. When they were about a week old, a visiting child took them out of the box and put them on the cold tile-over-concrete floor to play with them. They all got sick. One by one over the next week 6 of them died, one every day.
I cried myself to sleep every night for a year. More than 45 years later it’s still hard to think about.
When I found out he had two weeks to live, I didn’t go see him. Not that I don’t know what to say; I’ve had training in dealing with bereavement and grief and death.
I should have gone. But one time I thought about it, I felt like I didn’t know him well enough to matter. Another time, I let the unorthodox family situation stop me; wasn’t sure who’d be there and how they’d be feeling or acting. Another time, I felt overwhelmed because though we weren’t close, I’d thought we would be; he was a good guy, smart, good conversationalist, sense of humor.
Talked myself into it. Excused myself out of it. Talked myself into it. Waited too long.
In the end I just waited too long to do the right thing.
They say heroes dash into burning buildings or flaming cars to rescue people without thinking. They act before they have a chance to get scared. My first impulse when I heard was, I have to go see him.
But I gave myself time to think, and I kept thinking until it was too late.
As he scrambled through the underbrush the jagged tear in his leg soaked his boot and, worse, left a clear trail for the monster on his trail.
The same question circled his brain over and over: loop back and get behind the creature, or drive like a madman straight away from it?
His inability to decide stemmed from his unfamiliarity with the beast. Was it sentient, reasoning, a strategic foe, or simply a mad animal looking for a meal?
Pushing through the dense jungle since waking before dawn to the stench of the taloned thing behind him, he fought the mental fog brought on by lack of sleep. The animal had dogged his trail for a week, if his count of the days was right.