I wrote a children’s story about a little boy whose cat dies, and for two months it was the best-selling book for children ages 5-7. Almost unanimously, the book critics who wrote about the book focused on the originality and bravery of the scene in which my protagonist, little Christopher, kneels beside his bed to say a prayer the night his cat Velvet has had to be put down, and finds he doesn’t know what to say. “Thank you my God for the day you have given me,” he begins, as his nightly prayers always begin, the way he was taught at Sunday School. But then he doesn’t know how to continue. “I feel very sad,” the prayer concludes. The book itself concludes with an illustration of Christopher smiling, sitting between his parents on an imprecise green watercolor brush-stroke of a couch. His mother and father each have an arm around his shoulder, and with their free hand, each parent holds the hand of Christopher that is closest to them. The words on this last page say: “They explained to him that there would be other sad days in life, but that the sadness would just make the happy days feel better. Christopher understood. ‘Thank you, Velvet,’ Christopher whispers. The End.”
The book made me enough money not to work in an office for awhile, and my husband was able to add me to his health insurance plan, so I took a year off from the life of work I’d been living. I was going to write another novel. None of the other ones ever went anywhere, but my agent assured me that, thanks to the success of “Christopher and Velvet,” I wouldn’t have any more difficulty getting published in the future. But, and this I couldn’t tell anyone, I’d already ruined the fragile balance of my well-being. I’d thought too much about Christopher and Velvet, before, during and since I’d written the book. “I feel very sad,” I often whispered to myself.
Instead of a novel, I started to write a memoir about myself and the cats in my life, a memoir that would prove so disturbing, by the time I finished the last sentence, I would have lost my capability to pretend that everything is all right. I would be a shaky, haunted-looking stray.
TO BE CONTINUED