What happens when a mother and daughter pray for opposing things?
Stephanie?” my husband, Michael, called to me from out by the garage. “I think we have a skunk.” Micah, our 10-year-old daughter, ran to see. I found the two of them peeking behind the air-conditioning unit at a black-and-white ball of fluff. I took a closer look.
“That’s not a skunk. That’s a kitty.”
“Can we keep him?” Micah squealed. She petted the cat, who rubbed against her ankle and purred. “He likes me!”
“Mom’s allergic,” Michael said.
“He must belong to someone,” I added. “We’ll feed him in the garage and find his owner tomorrow.”
Micah acted as if she hadn’t heard a word. She’d been asking for a cat for months. I’d argued that we already had two dogs–a high-strung terrier mix and an aging pug. Besides, just being in the same room with a cat made me break into a watery-eyed sneezing fit.
When she’d failed to get a kitten for her tenth birthday, Micah had taken her pleas to the next level: She asked God for a cat in her bedtime prayers.
Silently I said my own prayer. Lord, we don’t need a cat! Micah barely helps with the dogs, and I’m not about to take care of another pet, especially one I’m allergic to. I felt bad about canceling my daughter’s prayers with my own, but God needed to understand my position.
I set out a bowl of water and some tuna in the garage. Then I called our neighbors. None of their cats had gotten out. The next morning, while Micah was at school, I phoned animal control.
No cat matching this one’s description had been reported lost, and the shelter had more cats than would ever get adopted. They said to try to find his owner.
I sat on the garage stoop. The cat sauntered over and nudged my hand. I petted him tentatively. His eyes closed in contentment. Where did you come from? I wondered.
I took him to the vet in the afternoon. “No microchip,” she said. “He’s about seven months old. Ear mites, unneutered, underweight. Almost certainly a stray. I’ll put his picture on our website just in case.”
What choice did I have? He was back to our garage inside an hour. Micah was thrilled to see that he was still there after school. She sat down next to him and stroked his head.
“Don’t get attached,” I warned. “I posted his picture on Facebook. Someone will claim him sooner or later.” Please, Lord, make it sooner.
“Since he’s here, he needs a name,” Micah said. She thought for a minute. “I know! Mr. Whiskers!”
A week went by. No one called or e-mailed about the cat. Meanwhile, Mr. Whiskers made himself right at home. Micah fed him without my having to ask. He happily let Michael rub his tummy. Even the dogs liked him, wagging their tails and sniffing him. Mr. Whiskers didn’t mind a bit.
But I knew he couldn’t stay. One night while Micah was feeding him, I suggested to Michael that my cousins might take him. Micah overheard. “I love Mr. Whiskers!” she cried. “Why do you keep trying to give him away?”
I picked up Mr. Whiskers to show that I had nothing against this cat in particular. I fully expected to be sneezing momentarily. But I didn’t. My eyes didn’t water, my nose didn’t itch. In fact, it occurred to me that I hadn’t reacted to the cat all week, as if I were immune.
“You’ll keep taking care of him, right, Micah?”
She looked at me, half-surprised by my question and half-grateful for it. “Of course, Mom!” she shouted, grabbing Mr. Whiskers and twirling around with him. The dogs barked. Michael grinned.
“He’s an answer to prayer!” Micah said.
I couldn’t argue with that.
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