I’m pretty sure there’s a Hell Mouth in my living room. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for why my cat Peep has suddenly taken to jumping up on the coffee table and staring intently into the dark rectangle of a turned-off digital photo frame. He crouches, his nose almost touching the screen and the tip of his tail twitching uneasily, for as long as half an hour at a time. Turn the frame on to reveal the photo slideshow and he loses interest immediately; turn it off and he’s up there in an instant, squinting into the depths of who-knows-what strange world only he can see.
Cats can be spooky animals. I think every cat owner has had the experience of watching their animal hiss at an apparently empty patch of wall or suddenly leap into the air, yowling as if something unseen just gave them a good poke.
I have a niece who is passionate about “orbs,” those luminous specks that sometimes appear on photos. I’m inclined to attribute them to dust on the lens, but she professes the surprisingly common belief that they are in fact the spirits of the dead hanging around, unseen by all except the unblinking eye of the camera (and, it would seem, the cat). Our house is FULL of orbs, judging by the frequency with which they show up in family pictures. To my knowledge, our house was not built on an old Indian burial ground, nor have any of our family been in the habit of summoning netherworlders through weekly séances as Dan Ackroyd’s folks apparently did. (I know, right? Weird.)
Presumably, then, if Peep is communicating with someone on the Other Side … it must be someone we know.
For a while I half-believed my mom’s late cat, Mr. Fuzzy, was my Dad reincarnated. He showed up under the deck not long after Dad passed away. Daddy had lost his adored springer spaniel Ralph a few years before his own death, and I know he longed for another furry companion in the few years that he survived his sweet dog. He was always disappointed when I didn’t bring my own cat, Puddin’, when I came for a weekend visit.
Mr. Fuzzy shared some characteristics of my Pops, in particular making my mom’s life more difficult by being stubborn, ornery and often underfoot. He liked to lay on top of Mom’s dresser, next to the photos of Dad as a young serviceman and an old man, and at night he slept beside mom on dad’s pillow. Sadly, Mr. Fuzzy crossed the Rainbow Bridge a few years ago. Assuming Mr. Fuzzy gave up a ghost (Dad’s) when he gave up the ghost (his own), it may be that the cat who came to take his place, Peep, is attuned to Daddy’s now disembodied presence in the house.
I’m not sure how I feel about that. Unlike a number of other people I know, I’ve never had any experiences that could be considered “paranormal.” And I’m kinda okay with that. Frankly, as much as I love and miss my father, suddenly seeing him sitting in the recliner, like Dana Scully did in that one episode of “The X Files,” or hearing his voice calling me “the little one” as he did in life, would scare the hell out of me. Still, it’s nice to imagine he might be close by, chatting with Peep and chuckling at how creeped out Mom and I are about the whole staring-at-the-photo-frame thing. Dad always did enjoy a good practical joke.