by Charlie Harris, from the “Cat in the Stacks” series by Miranda James
Life really throws you some nasty curve balls, and I guess somehow we stumble on. I never expected to lose my wife, Jackie, to cancer at age forty-seven, but that’s what happened. Both our children were out of the house and busy establishing their careers – Sean as a corporate lawyer in Houston, where we lived, and Laura as an actress in Los Angeles. Jackie and I were trying to get used to the empty nest, and then the dreaded news hit us. She had pancreatic cancer.
Jackie and I had known each other since elementary school, back in Athena, Mississippi, where we both grew up. We went to college together, at Athena College, and married the day after graduation. Then we moved to Texas to earn master’s degrees in library science, settling in Houston where we made our home for over twenty years. Within months of Jackie’s death, I also lost my beloved Aunt Dottie to the same disease. Aunt Dottie never had children, and she left me everything in her will, her big house a few blocks from the Athena College campus and a surprising sum of money.
With Jackie gone and the children out of the house, I couldn’t face living alone in Houston and decided to move back to Athena. I found a part-time job cataloging rare books at the college library, a job I loved, and I started volunteering at the public library. One chilly November day I heard plaintive mewing coming from a bush in the public library parking lot, and I found a hungry, bedraggled kitten. I thought it was a kitten, though I figured its age at around eight or nine months. When I took him (as it turned out) to the vet, I learned that he was actually only about six weeks old and that he was a Maine coon. I’d never heard of the breed before, and of course a librarian loves to research things, and soon I found out all about this wonderful breed of American cat. I found out how big they can get – though at nearly three now and nearing forty pounds, Diesel is much larger than the average Maine coon (males often weigh twenty to twenty-five pounds). I named him Diesel because of his rumbling purr. Even as a kitten he made quite a sound.
Diesel helped me make it through a very difficult time, and people in Athena gradually got used to seeing me with him everywhere. He even goes to work at the library with me. And, lately, he’s been my companion in crime-solving. Even though I loved reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys when I was a boy, I never expected to be a crime-solver myself. I’m not fond of stumbling over dead bodies, but I’ve discovered that my training as a librarian has made me a pretty darn good amateur sleuth. Not that I intend to make a career of it, you understand, but somehow these things just keep happening….www.catinthestacks.com.