Charlie Follows Too Far

by Emily Cogan

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My childhood cat was a giant Maine Coon named Charlie, and sometimes he was more like a dog than a cat. I always had to make sure he wasn’t around before I went anywhere, because otherwise he would follow me all over the neighborhood. Most of the time this was okay, because I only went down the street to play with my friends, or rode my bike up and down the sidewalk. But one summer day when I was about ten years old, Charlie went too far.

It wasn’t even lunch yet and I was already sweating through my tank top and shorts. My mom asked me to take the ten minute walk to the local grocery store with her. Unfortunately, there was one thing I forgot: Charlie.

By the time I saw him we were already more than halfway to the store. I heard a meow so I turned around and there he was, trotting behind us easy as you please. “Ugh!” I said. “Charlie, no!”

It was so humid out already, and we didn’t want to have to go back just to drop Charlie off at the house. And I was worried that he would get hit by a car if he kept following us all the way to the store. Charlie could be a major pain in the butt, but that didn’t mean I wanted him to get hurt.

Finally my mom said, “You’re just going to have to hold him while I go into the store.”

Did I mention how huge Charlie was? He weighed about fifteen pounds, he was super fluffy, and on top of that, I was a little 75 pound girl already drooping in the heat. But what could I do? I hoisted Charlie up against me, and we soldiered on.

We had to cross a major road to get to the store. Charlie was terrified of all the cars whizzing back and forth, so he started squirming in my arms. I just barely managed to keep a hold of him. Luckily he wasn’t usually a scratchy cat, or this story would have been even worse.

But then again, what was worse than having to carry a heavy, furry cat against his will for several blocks AND across a busy road on one of the hottest days of the year? What was worse than having to stand outside of the grocery store with Charlie in my arms yowling away while all the grownups going into the store gave me weird looks? What was worse than a bunch of nosy little kids who kept coming up to me wanting to “pet the nice kitty” while I was just trying my best to keep him from bolting?

To this day I still don’t know how we made it home. I remember what a relief it was to shed fifteen pounds of weight and a hundred degrees of heat from my body. I looked down and all I could see was sweaty brown fur sticking to my skin.

As for Charlie, he hopped away from me, tail lashing back and forth at the indignity of it all. I’d like to tell you that he learned his lesson, but he still persisted in following me over the years. He was a wanderer, and like most cats he did exactly what he pleased. But I can at least say this: I will never forget that hot summer day when I was ten years old, and Charlie took it upon himself to follow me to the grocery store.

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