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Charlie Mango

My favorite memory of my cat.

By Luisa GilliesPublished 9 months ago 4 min read
Me and Charlie Mango braving the tub together

My cat was called Charlie Mang0. She looked like a Charlie and she was shaped like a mango. She joined our family when I was four years old. I named her myself.

That was the same summer I nearly drowned. We'd gone to a local lake as a family, and I apparently almost immediately broke my promise to not wade too far out into the water. If I really try, I feel like I can remember an overwhelming taste of salt coursing through my entire body - but I don't know if that memory is real, or if I've created it from hearing my parents talk about it.

Either way, I didn't die - my dad eventually managed to reach me and bring me back to shore. And for a very long time, my parents didn't think there had been any lingering trauma. They hoped I'd been young enough to forget it - and for the most part, they were right. I carried on living a normal, happy childhood.

But things got a bit more complicated when I hit my teenage years. Something about the new concoction of hormones raging through my little body must have sparked something that had been buried, because I very suddenly developed a very deep aversion to water. I stopped going swimming, and I began to hate taking baths.

We didn't have a showerhead, so there really wasn't any alternative if I wanted to remain clean - which I did. What was up for debate, however, was just how frequently it was necessary for me to wash. Mom and I could not stop arguing about it. She was firmly set on every single day, while my proposals fluctuated anywhere from once a month to once a week, depending on how generous I was feeling.

"I'm sure I only had a bath once a week when I was her age," my dad commented absent-mindedly one day, sitting on his sofa with his face buried in a giant newspaper, while mom and I were in the depths of a heated debate. Mom shot him an icy look and he froze in terror, quickly regretting everything. That was the last time he tried to intervene.

My mother is a force to behold, you see. It's not that she didn't understand my trauma - she just firmly believed that the best course of action was to never give in to it. Five minutes later, I was sitting, hunched over and pouting, in the bathtub.

I must have left the door slightly ajar, because my now middle-aged, mango-shaped cat was suddenly sitting on the rim of the bath, purring loudly, her face right next to mine. We made eye contact. I smiled and she blinked at me, slowly and sleepily. It was a lovely, peaceful moment.

The next thing I knew, I was screaming hysterically while my cat violently thrashed around in the water with me. Gravity had disrespected her in the gravest of manners. She'd fallen in.

After what seemed like forever (but probably only lasted about half a second) I managed to scoop her up, all soaking wet and covered in bubbles, back out and onto the safety of the floor. That's when mom arrived to see what all the commotion was about, only to find Charlie Mango sprinting manically out past her into the hallway, leaving a trail of water and bubbles behind her. Mom turned around in surprise, then swung back to look at me, her eyes wide. Then we both burst out laughing.

Now, I know they say that cats don't love you back, but I don't see any other explanation for why, from that day onwards, Charlie Mango made it her mission to always sit dutifully by me whenever I had a bath. I thought she'd never set a paw in that bathroom ever again, but the opposite happened - whenever I got in the tub, she would slink her way into the bathroom with me and sit carefully on the rim. I think she'd decided that the bath was our enemy, and if her human was too stupid to stay away from it, it had to be up to her to guard me against its evils.

And that's how I finally came to a compromise with mom - one bath every two days. Having a cat to keep me company made for a much-improved bathtime experience. It made me feel safer, somehow. Protected. As for mom, I can only assume she was just relieved that her now teenage daughter was washing more frequently than once a week.

I grew up, and I moved away from home a few years ago. And Charlie Mango's moved on to her next life, now - I can only hope that her new family keeps her nice and dry.

There's still something about being in water that makes me uncomfortable. Recently, however, I finally plucked up the courage to get into a swimming pool. I can't say I enjoyed it, but I did it. I did it by imagining that Charlie Mango was sitting by the side of the pool, guarding me like she used to. And I like to think that, in spirit, she was.

immediate family

About the Creator

Luisa Gillies

Hi! I'm Luisa.

I write short stories and poetry.

I'm really keen to hear feedback on my work, so please feel free to share your thoughts!

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