No returns

28th August 2023

Do you ever stop and ask yourself how many moves it took, to get you where you are? How many things had to fall in place to make important events occur?

In 1976, as my aunt and uncle planned to retire and move to Maine, I found myself an apartment. The rent was $310 er month which at the time seemed a lot.


It was the first place that was exclusively mine, something I waited a long time for. I loved being alone, being able to come home and not have to talk to anyone.

It was close to work and after years of commuting 30 miles back and forth, it was bliss especially when the weather was bad.

The winter of 76-77 was brutally memorable.


But that first apartment of mine was problematic. Near a main road, it was smelly and noisy.

There was no security. One night two men wandered in and seemed to camp on my doorstep. I could tell from their voices that they were either drugged or drunk, possibly both.


They didn’t seem intent on breaking down my door but they were disturbingly noisy and I certainly would not have chanced going out while they were there.

Let’s say I was unsettled, but I probably would not have taken action if they hadn’t started setting fire to things. I’m not sure now how I knew this, but reluctantly, I called the police.


Listening at the door, I monitored the conversation. Those two young lads, in the middle of that bitter winter, had walked from Brooklyn. Along the way they somehow lost their footgear and their coats. Whether or not that is why they were attempting to start a fire outside my door, I am not sure.

The police took the intruders off, hopefully somewhere warm.

Being alone didn’t worry me, but that incident and the increasing rent persuaded me to seek other options.


At about this time, a colleague deciding to retire and move to France, needed a buyer for his house.

My friend Tim had just received a small inheritance in England. The amount was just right and the funds were paid to another British bank without any need for international transfer fees.

Tim has a genius for sorting things out that would tie anyone else in knots.

Tim had lived in the attic apartment of a private home for years and liked his landlord. So he felt bad about leaving.

“Well ask them if I can have the place.”

…said I.


There were two months remaining on my lease. Tim and I would be moving at the same time. Brilliant!

But a colleague heard about this and asked if I could perhaps double-up with Tim, enabling her take over my apartment.

So we did. With two tiny cupboards between us, things were a bit tight but as we both wore uniforms, we didn’t have all that much clothing and I left most of my stuff to move later on.

Tim and I worked different shifts, so we really didn’t get in each other’s way.


There was another resident, of course. Tim’s cat Mohammed, named after a guide he’d had in Yemen.

Tim often made dinner for me and I had got to know and love Mohammed.

He had arrived as a young kitten. His favourite game was to rev himself up at the furthest end of the apartment then launch himself in a direct line through the living room and straight up the curtains which were soon in shreds.

When he came of age, Mohammed had his little operation and Tim decided to let him roam as all the pets of his childhood had.


Mohammed always came running when Tim jiggled his car keys or if he called out from a window.

He even had a doorbell. A toy on a length of elastic had got shut outside one night.

When Mohammed came back he played with it and it had a bell attached, so after that Mohammed always announced his return.

My aunt had two dogs, so I was used to there being animals in the house but I had never lived with a cat. I loved it and I was going to miss Mo when they moved to the house.


One morning before work I got a call from Tim at the airport, how would I like a little kitten for my new apartment?

Ridiculous question!

Enter a tiny fluffy white kitten. He looked like a Roman in a toga: Caesar.


That was the last I heard about him being my kitten. Tim obviously fell deeply in love.

Mohammed did not.

Mohammed retreated to the bathroom. One eye came cautiously out to view the thing that was intruding.

When Caesar scampered about, Mohammed leapt onto the fridge.


“They’ll work it out”, said Tim and no doubt they would have but shortly after, they all moved to the house less than a mile up the road. And not long after that, Tim and I went away on holiday leaving a friend in the house to babysit.

“Don’t let Mohammed out!” we said.

Out he went and stayed out, but fortunately by the time we came back he had returned.

However, Mohammed now on top of his new fridge, was not a happy cat.

“Why don’t you take him back to Coolidge Avenue?” asked Tim. So I did.


The first time Mohammed went missing it was bitterly cold. I heard his bell and rushed to the door only to find a small, frozen Calico. She came in to warm up and eat some of Mohammed’s kibble.

Afterwards I put her out, urging her to go home but she kept coming back to shiver on the stairs. I could hardly leave her there.


Mohammed returned after a week looking thin and bad tempered. I think he had been sticking his nose in someone’s garage and got locked in over the Christmas holiday.

The last thing he wanted was to be confronted by another intruder, so the Calico went to join Tim and Caesar up the road and of course became Cleopatra.

While the weather remained cold, Mohammed was happy to stay in, but once Spring arrived he began scratching at the door. How could I deny him what he loved?

One awful day, Mohammed did not return.


Mohammed’s loss was like a weight in my heart. If a beloved animal dies, you mourn and you come to terms with it.

Not knowing deprives you of the ability to move on. For months I still hoped he would come back.

Even after Kina came to offer me new challenges, I could not forget Mohammed.

When I moved, my landlord took my new address. Cats do come back a year later, more even.

But the years ticked by. I marked the calendar and finally had to accept that even if Mohammed had been living elsewhere, by now he would be gone.


Why suddenly did this sad memory come up again? This time it came to hit me smack in the face.

After I took this picture of Willow yesterday, she disappeared. I wanted to give her the afternoon medicine but she was nowhere around. She sometimes goes downstairs so I carried on doing other things figuring I’d get her later..


Grant came upstairs while I was in another room and let the cats out for their afternoon walk.

Willow had been sticking close to the house and not wandering off, so I decided I need not monitor her so neurotically.

At suppertime yesterday, all the cats were accounted for. Except Willow.

Grant went off to look for her one way and I went the other. When we couldn’t find her my emotions went completely blank.

It’s a sort of defense mechanism, I guess. When bad things happen I turn into a robot, doing what needs to be done for however long it takes.


Afterwards, there was always a blessed release, a flood, until my aunt died. Other things prevented the release from happening. Another story.

When we couldn’t find Willow, I came back inside wondering why I was so calm. What had happened to me?

Denial. She’ll be back, of course!

Over the next hour I went out calling. Grant searched in the lower field.

Willow never strayed, never stayed out more than 10 minutes. Something must have happened.


A hawk wouldn’t take her but an eagle could. Not very likely, but ???

“What should I do?” I asked myself.

The other cats were all looking at me. Normally they go off to their various places and expect dinner to be delivered. Yesterday they all stood looking at me as if they sensed something not right.

So I decided to feed them and it was when I served up 10 dinners that the tears began and the sobs.

All the sadness over Mohammed came back and the thought that I may never see Willow again occurred. It would be heartbreaking if she died, but I couldn’t bear the idea of not knowing.


Willow could be in distress somewhere, suffering. It was too much and I fell apart, calling out:

“Where are you Willow?”

“Please, please come back Willow?”

“Please let her come back, please don’t do this to me!”

Who or what was I appealing to?

In this state of near hysteria, I went back outside and saw Willow walking toward me from under a hedge. It may seem mad, but I saw the look in her eyes, the same look she gave me the first time I ever saw her.

Willow knows when I am upset, when having her near me is a comfort.


It is a little disturbing to have such an intensity of feeling for an animal and I am well aware of how inappropriate many people think it is.

I can’t help what other people think.

People have always failed me so I give my love to animals who deserve it and I have to accept that our time together may be short.


There isn’t much that makes sense to me these days and I gave up a long time ago expecting it to.

Instead I am guided by what I observe and by what I feel in my heart.

All of those events that occurred long ago lined up to put me at the window of the house in Washington at the precise moment when Willow came down the hill and lifted her head.

13 thoughts on “No returns

  1. I felt, and understood, every emotion, you were feeling, in this post about Willow….
    So relieved, and happy, that she returned to you. ❤️

  2. Let me start by saying that your close up photos of the leaves covered with raindrops are stunning! Now, back to Willow. We once lost Juliet (our spaniel) for a long afternoon after our house was broken into. We didn’t know if the burglars took her with them or if she ran away herself. After driving up and down the streets, we sat down on the steps of the house dejectedly … only to see Juliet with a woman and her little girl in the street. Long story short: Juliet had ‘escaped’ when the burglars came in and she ended up with the little girl who was playing on their lawn. They then walked with her up and down the streets to see if she recognised her house. I remember the intense relief when I saw her and burst into tears right there. I wasn’t even worried about the things that were stolen from our house, my only concern was our beloved dog. So Carolyn … I understand (and am so glad Willow is safe) 💌.
    Sorry for my long story xx

  3. Is that a photo of you and Mohammed?
    It’s an amazing feeling when you leave home for the first time and settle in a place of your own – I remember that feeling well.

    I had an awful experience when I was living on my boat in 2011 during the bad Brisbane floods. An intruder, but perhaps I’ll write a post on that experience leter. 😉

    It’s not disturbing at all having such intense love for an animal and stressing when said animal does astray, but so glad that Willow returned after the adventure.

    For me, your “People have always failed me…” is more disturbing and very sad.

    1. Your experience with the intruder sounds dreadful. Yes, write about it. I think it always helps to get perspective and it could just help someone else. That first apartment wasn’t actually the first time I left home. I got up all my courage and moved out when I was 22. A girl I worked with needed to get away from an abusive boyfriend, so we took an absolute dump of a place together. After about 9 months I had to have thyroid surgery. In a generally vulnerable state I got reeled back in by my uncle the master manipulator. That’s a story in itself. I think if you’ve not been manipulated it’s impossible to understand why people stay with their abusers.

      1. It was a very firghtening exerience as I was the only person on the tiny 8-berth marina after a boat swept down and took half of the marina down with the waters. No power, the shower block was out, then an intruder. It really spooked me at the time.
        Ah, I left home at 19 as couldn’t wait to leave and movd in with a high school mate.
        There are loads of controlling people (men and women) and it’s scary to think how much power they hold over an individual. 🙁

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