TIGER THE LION-HEARTED

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The first time that I ever saw Tiger, he was leaping out of the bushes just like a lion that I had seen on television.  He was chasing a butterfly and he looked so graceful as he danced across our backyard.  My bed is as close to the window as it can possibly be.  I’m in it all the time, you see, because I’m very sick with a blood disease  called leukaemia.

 

Before we go any farther I should tell you a little about myself.  My name is Cathy Ann and I’m ten years old.  I live with my Mom and Dad and my sister Marion and my grandfather, Poppy.  I got really sick nearly two years ago and I hear Mom and Dad talking to my neighbors and other people who drop by, that it’s a miracl that I’m still alive.  My Dad said that if I can make it to the 1960’s then I might have a chance because they are working on new drugs all the time.  But  I feel weaker and weaker everyday.  I don’t think that I can make Mommy and Daddy’s wish come true.

 

Now I must go on with my story about Tiger.  That  may not be his real name but that’s what I’ve decided to call him.  At first I wanted to call him Richard after Richard the Lion-Hearted who fought in the Crusades but my Dad’s name is Richard and my Mom said that one Richard  is enough to have around the house.  I love to read about the olden days and about the brave knights who went away to fight, leaving behind their beautiful maidens.  Actually, I like to read all kinds of books.  I have a special library card that my Mom took me to get about a year ago.  Now the librarian sends me books.  I’m not allowed to go there anymore because I have no resistance to germs that may be lurking in public places.  The librarian, Miss Fleming, seems to know just what I like and she calls every week to see if there’s anything special that I’d like.

 

Lately, though, all I’ve wanted to read about are kitty cats.  Ever since Tiger came into my life, I need to know everything there is to know about cats just in case I can talk my Dad into letting me bring Tiger into the house.  Tiger has no home, you see, I’m sure of it.  He’s been sitting on my window sill all the time now for over a month.  A few times I’ve been very brave and opened the window and petted him.  He purrs and rubs against my arms and we talk to each other in kitty talk.  If only my Daddy didn’t hate cats so much!  I just know that if he got to know Tiger , he would grow to love him just like I do.

 

About a week ago, I started feeding Tiger some of my supper and milk.  My Mom and I have hatched a plan to get Tiger into our home.  She’s going to work on my Dad and I’m going to take Tiger into my room, especially on the nights while Daddy is at work.

 

Now Tiger lounges with me all day, usually lying in my bed on whatever book I’m reading so that I can’t see the pages.  Sometimes she comes into my room to let him out to do his business, as she calls it.  Seems to me like his business is usually jumping from behind shrubs like a lion in chase of butterflies or birds or sometimes, just nothing at all.  He never seems to catch anything.  I don’t think that he really wants to.  I think that he’s just getting his exercise.  He never strays far from my window and I always see him looking back at me to make sure that I’m safe.  I know that he’s my knight in shining armour and that he’s guarding me at all times.

 

A few few days ago, my Dad came home from work early and, as usual, came into my room to see how I was feeling.  You can only imagine how startled he was to see that I had a new friend.  He wasn’t too mad at me but I heard Mom and him arguing about it later.

 

Mom said, “ Richard, you know she doesn’t have anybody in her life but us right now.  All her friends have stopped coming by and she seems to love that old cat so much.  Please let  him stay with her.”

 

“Oh, I suppose he can’t do too much harm.  The old thing looks like he won’t last much longer anyway.” he replied.

 

i heard my Mom start to cry and then there was nothing but her sobs and a lot of silence.

 

My Mom was right about me not having any friends anymore.  Back when I first got sick, the kids in my class made me a huge card as big as a window and my teacher brought it to me.  Lots of kids took turns visiting but after awhile only a few dropped by and now nobody at all comes.

 

My Godfather, Jack, comes to visit regularly and always, secretly, puts $20 in the pocket of my red velvet dressing gown.  I only wear it for visitors or when the doctor comes to see me once a week.  Jack always looks so sad and I don’t have the heart to tell him that I can’t go anywhere to spend the money.  I’ve got seventeen $20 bills secretly saved already and I’ve made my last will and testament leaving them all to my sister, Marion, on the condition that she will feed and generally look after Tiger’s well-being.  I thought these words sounded like something a lawyer would write and I hope that they will stand up in court.  You never know, the case could end up on PERRY MASON.  That’s  my favourite television show.  I used to like DON MESSER’S JUBILEE  but now I’m too weak to dance along with the Bookla Dancers anymore.

I’ve written to Mr. Mason six times now and told him all about myself and how I thought that he was almost as handsome as my Dad.  Mom mails the letters for me when she goes to the supermarket.  And wouldn’t you know it, about three weeks ago I got a big brown envelope with a postmark from Burbank, California.  Everybody, and I mean everybody, gathered in my room for the grand opening.  There was no letter inside, just a picture of PERRY MASON.

 

It said, “Best wishes, Catherine Ann.  Get well soon. From Raymond Burr.”

 

I didn’t know who Raymond Burr was and thought someone was playing a trick on me until my parents explained everything.  I’m kind of sad that it doesn’t say PERRY MASON but my Dad hung it in a big frame on the wall right across from my bed and I feel better about it now.  Daddy says that I must be a very special little girl for an important and busy man like Raymond Burr to send me a picture.  I guess I am pretty lucky.

 

Tiger has been with me now for three months.  My Dad has stopped visiting me after work and I’m thinking that it must be because of Tiger.  I miss my Daddy.  I miss our cuddles, especially now that I’m feeling weaker than I did a month ago.  I asked my Mom about it and she said that it wasn’t about Tiger at all.  She said that he was just too busy these days and that she’d have a word with him.  That very night he came into my room when it was dark and quietly lay down beside me.  He told me how much he loved me and how sorry he was that I’d missed him so much and that he’d never meant to hurt me.  His voice was very husky and when he left to go to bed my pillow was all wet from his rears.  Now I think that I understand.  I think that it makes him sad to see me so sick and that’s why he stayed away.  He said that from now on he’ll be with me every night, no matter what.

 

I sleep a lot more now.  Tiger never leaves my bed.  He cuddles up on my pillow and lays his paw on my skinny arm.  I dream a lot about an army of brave soldiers inside my body fighting off the bad blood cells.  The army is always led by Tiger in a handsome suit of shining armour.  Sometimes when I wake up in the night Tiger is laying on my Dad’s chest and I’m ever so happy to see that they’ve made friends.  In fact, I’m thinking of changing my last will and testament to say that my Dad can have full custody of Tiger when I’m gone.  I’ve asked my Mom to help me make the changes because I’m too weak to write things myself anymore.  She said that she’d be very happy to help.  I want it to be a surprise for Dad and she promised that she wouldn’t breathe a word until the time was right.

 

I think that the time will be right very soon.  Our priest, Father Brown, comes to visit me a lot now and he gave me something called Final Absolution.

 

My Dad got very angry and said, “This beautiful child has no sins on her soul.  This is bloody ridiculous.”

 

My Mom was angry at my Dad for saying a bad word in front of the priest but I think she was angry at him too.

 

Father Brown told me that I will be in heaven soon and sitting at the right hand of God.  That sounds kind of scary and lonely but my Daddy told me that I’ll be joined by Tiger very shortly.  That makes me feel much happier. My dreams are full of sunny days with me and Tiger jumping around like lions in the jungle as we watch over Mom and Dad and Marion and Poppy for the rest of their lives.

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