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hyperion avatar Yesterday after a long day at work, I stopped by the post office to mail out the latest batch of books. Shortly after getting into line, a woman came in and asked if anybody liked cats, because there as a kitten outside that looked like it was in some distress. What she got was a lot of folks ignoring her, or telling her that they were dog folks, or allergic, or one of a dozen other excuses. I too was reluctant to speak up, because while Gayle’s allergies are being kept under control as long as we use the Allerpet on Emnot, there’s no guarantee that it would be effective on a different cat. Nor was there any guarantee that Emnot would tolerate another cat in the house. He has a tendency to go all territorial warlord whenever another cat dares to come up on the porch. Of course, that display is limited to when the door is closed, or when one of his human’s goes out to back him up.

In any event, one of the other customers told the lady there was an animal shelter nearby and that she should just call them and they’d come and pick the cat up. I offered to get her the phone number, but she said she’d just drive over and report him in person, and have them come get him. And for a while I though that was the end of it.

I stood in line for nearly 20 minutes until I was finally able to pass off the packages to the mail clerk and get back on my way. But I couldn’t just leave without checking to make sure the kitten had been picked up. I walked around to where the woman had indicated … and there he still was. Maybe eight inches long from nose to rump. Certainly less then a year old. He was a shorthair, mostly yellow-orange, mixed liberally with white fur. And he was lying on the brick patio near the rear door to the lobby. He was motionless except for the distressed panting as he tried desperately to breath. I knew in that second that the kitten wasn’t going to survive until nightfall. And I’d already discounted any hope that the animal shelter was going to arrive, or that the woman had even gone to them.

I called our vet and described the situation. They agreed that I should bring him to them. If animal control was called, they’d just put him down immediately. So I scooped him into the basket that I’d been using to carry the packages. I didn’t know if he was at all used to humans, and I didn’t want to terrify the poor thing any more than I had to. When I slid my fingers under him, he managed to twitch a little and pull his head back, but he couldn’t move his legs or body. I hurried back to the car, cooing stupid things to him, like you do, and tried to get him to the vet as quickly as I could. Maybe it’s just me, but I think I hit every red light on the way. I ran the air conditioner up and he seemed to relax a little as the temperature in the car dropped. He even managed a few meows.

I took him into the waiting room and three nurses swooped down on me and bore him off to the back where the doctor was waiting for him. I waited in one of the exam rooms and when they came to find me, the prognosis was not good. He was in shock, dehydrated, there was blood in his urinary tract, and there was something wrong with his bladder. They couldn’t tell for sure without a lot more tests.

They wanted to know if I was planning on keeping him and, to my embarrassment, I had to confess that it would depend on how much it would cost to nurse him back to health, assuming that it was even possible. It’s a sad, but unfortunate truth, that finances can not be ignored. The doctor said that they would keep him overnight and see how he was in the morning, and that I should call them and we’d discuss it more then.

I called Gayle on they way back and told her the story. We talked about the situation last night and this morning, and we went over the finances to see just how much we could afford.

I called back this morning, ready to negotiate if need be … and was told that he’d passed away last night. They’d found evidence of internal bleeding, and one of the nurses had taken him home with her so that she could care for him, and he’d passed away in her car on the way.

So at least he went peacefully, with someone that cared for him. Not alone and baking to death on the pavement while dozens of people walked by and ignored him.

Unfortunately, I never though to take a picture of him.

So, for the kitten that was only part of my life for a couple of hours, I’m sorry that the world is such a cruel place. That so many humans, that wield such awesome powers, just don’t give a damn. I’m sorry that you didn’t get to meet Gayle or Emnot. That you won’t be able to join our clowder.

But I’m glad that you were able to spend the last few hours of your far too short life, surrounded by the best representatives that humanity has to offer. The people that do care, sometimes far too much.

Goodbye little one.

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Charles N. Brown, 1937-2009

Locus publisher, editor, and co-founder Charles N. Brown, 72, died peacefully in his sleep July 12, 2009 on his way home from Readercon. (More on the Locus site)

Most of the science fiction community is abuzz this evening as the news about the death of Charles Brown spreads. I was shocked when I heard since we’d just gotten back from Readercon late this afternoon. It’s so difficult to grasp that he’s gone. In panels and in person, he was friendly and incredibly knowledgeable about the field and seemed to always have whatever information was required, stored in memory.

He will be greatly missed.

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