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March 17, 2008
"Well, hello there." I could hardly believe my eyes -- or rather, my fingers and my ears. I had reached down to pick up my book from the floor next to the bed only to hear What's-Her-Name's unmistakable meow from under the bed. Then she presented her chin for stroking, stretching her neck out from her hiding place.

Ordinarily, nothing about this encounter would be unusual. But What's-Her-Name hasn't left the third floor since the death there of her friend Denise, whom she nursed faithfully through the last weeks of her life. She and Gypsy have taken all their meals there these two months, offering Q quiet thanks for his faithful provision of room service but declining his frequent invitations to join the rest of the family on the lower floors.

And now here she was. She let me bring her up on the bed, where she lay on my stomach for a good twenty minutes while I gave her more chin work with one hand and did the puzzle with the other.

"Most heterogeneous," I said. "Eight letters, first one is M."

"Motliest," she said.

"Like you." What's-Her-Name is calico.

"How about 'creatures with three hearts'? Nine letter, second one is C."

"Three hearts? What does anybody need with three hearts?" She stretched and rustled my newspaper with one paw. "That must be a mistake."

"Oh, it's 'octopuses.'"

"No, it's not. Octopuses is 'eight cats'. Eight cats don't have three hearts."

"No, an octopus is an animal with eight arms. Lives in the sea."

"Now, that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life." What's-Her-Name lives ten miles from the Atlantic Ocean, but we've never taken her there.

We got the whole thing almost done, although What's-Her-Name left to go back upstairs while I was still caught up in wondering if the British had an ally I didn't know about in our War of Independence, one whose name might be more productive of matches than "Hessian". Most cats don't like crossword puzzles that much. You just have to take whatever help they're willing to give you and leave it at that.

But it was good to be with her again, after her period of mourning. She'll be down again, I know, and soon she'll be wanting to go out and roll on her back on the neighbor's concrete patio, which What's-Her-Name believes to have been constructed especially for her. The world has gone on turning since our loss. Time has passed. The living still live, and the small pleasures life offers are still here, for the most part. One dear soul no longer shares them in the same way, and this is a sorrow.

But we're still here.
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