Bucky was first home. He was glad for that, because he had neglected to turn on any lights before he left that morning. Loie always remembers to leave a light on for coming home.
“But I never thought we’d be home this late,” he thought as he opened the door, and Tictoc shot out under his feet.
“He’s OK,” thought Bucky. “Now let’s find Mister G.”* Bucky managed to walk slowly through the dark playroom, and push the dimmer switch for the Playroom lights without stumbling over anything. He walked upstairs, took off his coat, and turned on the upstairs hall light so he could look up the second flight of stairs and into the bedroom. Gunther wasn’t lying in his Bedroom Watching Spot.**
Bucky turned back into the dining room to flop his coat on the deacon’s bench, and saw Gunther.
The End of An Era
Gunther was lying on his side, on a corner of the antique Oriental carpet that is under the deacon’s bench, just in front of the Local Crafts Table. That was not a place Gunther ever lay. Bucky walked around the deacon’s bench and knelt down. He put his hand on Gunther’s side, but already knew the truth. There was no movement, no breathing or heartbeat under Bucky’s hand. Gunther was dead.
Even in death, Gunther was posed. His legs were lightly stretched out, as if he were standing. One front paw lay a little bit over the other; his tail slightly and gracefully curved downward.
Bucky let his hand rest on Gunter’s side for a moment, and softly stroked his fur. Now Bucky was very glad he had come home first, to turn on the lights and be the one to find Gunther.
Bucky lifted Gunther’s body, and carried it down to his Playroom Pillows, where he lies while he and Loie watch movies on their TV. Perhaps Loie would be less distressed to see Gunther’s body on the pillows, rather than in a srange place in the dining room.
He had just gotten a fire started in the wood stove when Loie drove up. Bucky went outside to be at her car when Loie got out. Loie opened her car door, and began to gather up things from the seat.
“There’s very sad news,” said Bucky. He put his hand on Loie’s arm. “Gunther is dead.”
“Oh, I had a feeling, I had a feeling.” Loie began to cry, still sitting in Rocket Grrl. “Where is he?”
“On my pillows in the Play Room.”
“Is that where you found him?”
“No, he was in the dining room. I put him on my pillows.”
“Is it, is he, horrible?”
“No, he looks very peaceful.” Bucky took the things from Loie as she stepped out of Rocket Grrl. They walked across the deck and into the house. Loie stood by Gunther’s body, her coat still on, arms wrapped around her middle.
“Is this where you found him?”
“He was lying on a corner of the rug by the bench. But that’s how he looked. I just moved him onto my blanket and pillows.” Loie turned to Bucky, and he hugged her as she cried and said, “When I was leaving this morning, getting ready to leave, Gunther made a little noise, like a cry. He never made that noise before. I knew something was wrong. Oh, I knew.”
“Mmm, like a little cry of distress.”
“Yes, a little cry of distress. Oh, now I’m crying for Gunther. I can’t help it.”
“Of course you should cry for Gunther,” said Bucky as he held Loie. “He was a good friend for a long time, and we will miss him.”
“Show me where he was. Is there, is it messy?” Bucky walked upstairs with Loie, and pointed to the corner of the Oriental carpet.
“That’s where I found him, with his tail just on the regular carpet. Of course he picked a very beautiful place to die.”
“Will you take care of him?” said Loie. “I don’t think I can, you know, touch him yet.” Bucky said yes, and while Loie changed her clothes upstairs, Bucky wrapped Gunther in the beach towel from his Playroom Pillows, and in a clean plastic sack, then rearranged the things in the freezer to make room for Gunther’s body. Some time before, Loie had said she wanted to cremate Gunther’s body when he died. Bucky knew it would not be until Monday, two more days, before he could find out just where to get that done. As Loie came back to the kitchen, she said, “I think Gunther is sitting by Yo in heaven.”
“Does he want to sit by someone, or is he having a nice time in some luxurious place on his own?”
“You know that he is a company cat.”
“Well, if he wants company, yes, he would sit with Yo. I’ve got supper started, it will just take a little bit to warm up.” Loie and Bucky sat for a while in the kitchen, talking about Gunther, and Yo; about the troubles their families were in, and whether a new animal would need a home. They ate their supper in the Playroom, then Loie sat while Bucky put dishes in the dishwasher.
“Oh,” said Bucky, “I have to say something. The owl I found and Miss Jean Worthley said to call Bear Branch Nature Center about is still in the freezer, too. I’m going to take that to them Wednesday. So, I bet we are the only people in the state with the Owl and the Pussycat freezer.” Loie shook her head, then smiled through her tears in spite of herself. Bucky stood by Loie’s chair and rubbed her shoulder.
“OK,” he said, “This has been Quite a Day.”
It was time for bed.
When Gunther first accepted The Lovebunnies as his slaves, the people from whom they got him told Loie and Bucky he was ten years old. Dr. Sorrels told them Gunther was probably about six years old, and listed 1984 as Gunther's birth year. When Gunther died in 2008, he was at least 22 years old, and may have been much older.
Gunther was The Prince of Cats. (Bucky maintained Gunther was the Prince, not the king, because a king has responsibilities, while a prince has none.) He was the most dignified cat ever known, never ruffled, always perfectly posed. He did not care for strangers, but was unfailingly tolerant of, to him, unwanted attention. (Except from dogs, which he universally despised.) Everyone agreed that he was one of the most handsome cats they had ever met. There are many unwritten stories of Gunther.
When younger, he traveled with The Lovebunnies to the beach. He never needed to be caged, always rode in the back seat of the car, and on one occasion toured Colonial Williamsburg, riding on Bucky's shoulders, while the Beach Expotition stopped off there for picnic lunch.For several trips, he would walk on a leash during rest stops.
Gunther's presence will be sorely missed at The Lovebunnies' house, for a long time.