My Three Legged Alarm Clock

I am a mother to a nine year old boy named Charles. But in all honesty, I first became a mother at the age of 14.  I was the mother of Ebony.  A black, long-haired cat that I snuck home in a paper bag.

When I was a teenager, I was very good friends with a girl named Hope.  She lived close by on a little unmarked road that when you took it, it crossed a very small bridge that went over a creek.  Once you got up the hill it was like a little neighborhood that belonged to her mother's and father's families.  She lived there, up the road a piece was her father's sister and her family, his youngest brother lived across the street in a small house hidden behind a huge row of pine trees, a nephew of her mother's lived up a ways around the bend and her grandmother lived in a small house behind hers.

Their house was large, but cozy and very inviting.  When I would visit, which was often, her parents, sisters, Hope and I would all sit in the kitchen, and would munch of homemade chocolate chip cookies that her mother baked that morning and ice cold milk.  I spent a lot of time there and was a familiar guest, having sleep overs and simply hanging out with Hope and her family.  I loved it there.


One summer Hope had a sleep over for her birthday.  Her father had just installed an above ground pool so everyone brought their bathing suits, along with their pajamas to the party.  It was in August and quite warm, so we also brought our favorite pillow and sleeping bags so we could all stay up and sleep outside under the stars.

Hope had several cats and one large grey and white cat had given birth to a litter of kittens in June.  The father of the kittens was a small orange tabby so the litter was a mixture of the two parents.  They had two grey and white kittens, one orange kitten, one orange and white kitten and to everyone's surprise, one jet black kitten. 

For some reason, that little black kitten became my instant companion at the sleep over.  The rest of the litter scurried about but the little black one stayed with me and even slept with me that night.

In the morning, after we had all spent half the night giggling, talking and barely sleeping, Hope's mother made us a big, hearty breakfast before we were all to go back home.  When it was almost time for my mother to pick me up, I started to get sad about leaving my new, little, furry friend.

"Are you keeping all of these kittens?" I asked Hope's father.  "Oh no, do you know anyone who would want them?  We can't keep them all".  With a smile on my face, I quickly told him that I would take the black one.  "She's yours" he said.  Then it occured to me, we had two cats at our house already and a couple of dogs so bringing home another little mouth to feed might not go over to well.  So I did what any normal teenager would do. I hid her in my bag and kept her a secret until my mother and I would get home.  I had brought some things for the party in a brown paper bag so I gently placed the kitten in the bag and carried her home without my mother suspecting a thing. 

Luckily, the little kitty stayed quiet for the short drive home and I quickly jumped out of the car and took her in the house.  I immediately went to my bedroom, shut the door and got the kitty out of the bag. 

"Mom, I have to show you something..." as I came down the hallway toward my mother.  I was holding the kitten behind my back and when I brought her up, my mother said "Oh!  She's beautiful!  But your dad is going to pitch a fit!"  I didn't care.  She was so cute that I knew my dad would fall in love with her on sight, and he did.  She was immediately part of the family and I named her Ebony.

Ebony grew to be a stunning looking cat.  Long, shiny, black coat, gorgeous yellow eyes and a very sweet disposition.  And she was mine.  Everyone knew that I was her favorite human.  She always reacted to my prescence by meowing and running toward me, instantly purring when I touched her and she was always near me no matter what I was doing.  Just as she did the first time I met her, her place to sleep was with me and I found great comfort in that.  For years my mother would open my door in the morning before school and say "Ebony, wake Joyce up" and she would immediately jump on my chest and loudly purr and lick my face until I woke up for school.  She was my own personal alarm clock.


We lived in a rural area and our cats could come and go whenever they wanted.  Sometimes, they would go out in the morning and we wouldn't see them until evening.  They always came back so it was never a concern if we didn't see them for hours.  But one Thursday morning in March of 1983, Ebony left the house and didn't return.

This particular week in March, my father was in the hospital because he had a terrible infection on his foot that wouldn't heal.  Being a diabetic, his doctors were trying diligently to prevent him from having to have part of his foot amputated.  My father absolutely adored Ebony so we didn't tell him she was missing because we knew that would upset him terribly.  We were just hoping and praying that she would return like she always did.

I worked as a part-time companion for Mrs. Kiefer, an elderly widow that needed 24 hour care and I stayed with her on the weekends.  I talked to my mother on Saturday night and asked again if she had seen Ebony and she had not.  I told my mother that I would be home the next day and we would have to go out in the woods and try to find her.

It was late and I went to bed around 11:30 pm and after a got into a deep sleep, the phone next to my bed rang and I quickly picked it up so the ringing wouldn't wake up Mrs. Keifer.  My mother's voice was on the other end and immediately I knew something was wrong.  Her voice cracked and she was breathing heavily into the receiver when she said "Kim!  Ebony came home and she.......she......she has a fox trap.....a fox trap on her leg....she's in shock....I don't know what to do.....Oh My God!......Please, please, please don't tell Joyce!!!!".  In all the excitement, my mother dialed the wrong number and thought she called my sister Kimberly when in fact, she had called me.

"Mom, this is Joyce!!!" and all my mother did was scream and slam down the phone. 

My baby girl was in danger.  I had to go.  I quietly walked into Mrs. Kiefer's bedroom and as calmly as I could I explained to her what was going on and told her I had to leave.  I made her promise that she wouldn't leave the bedroom and that I would return in a little while. 

I ran to my car, buckled up and floored it.  I made it there in record time to find Ebony sitting on the back of the leather recliner, in shock, with her right front leg only partly attached to her body.  When she picked her head up, she instantly jumped up in my arms and started to purr.  My mother had called the police and had them remove the fox trap.  A trap which was actually illegal in our township. 

I asked my mom what happened.  She told me that she and my very pregnant sister Lori were about to go to bed when they heard a noise on the back deck, opened the curtain to find Ebony at the sliding glass door.  She had dragged the fox trap the whole way home and by the looks of her injury, it must've taken a couple of days because there was so much damage to her leg.

My mother did contact my dad at the hospital because we all knew that he would've been extremely upset had we not told him what happened to her and he immediately started to pack his things and he told the nurse's station that he was leaving.  The nurses told him to stay put and not to leave against medical advice because it would be very dangerous for him to do so.  My  father was extremely stubborn but, surprisingly he did comply.

We called the vet's office and since she was out of shock and not bleeding, they said to bring her out first thing Monday morning.  The vet wasn't very optimistic at all about being able to save her leg because so much damage had been done so we had to have her leg amputated.

She was 3 years old when this happened and to everyone's pleasant surprise, Ebony adjusted very well.  When she walked, it was more like a hop and of course it took her a little longer to get where she wanted to go but after a while, she could jump up on my bed or the couch just as she did before.  When she ran, you could barely tell she was missing a limb because she could still run like a little black bullet across the yard. 

Ebony entered our lives and became a member of our family when I was 14 years old.  I was lucky enough to have her until I was 33.  She lived to the ripe age of 19 and lived 16 of those years with only three legs.  

I guess it just made sense to nickname her "Tripod".  My little three legged alarm clock, my baby girl and a member of our family.   I don't think I will ever stop missing her.  My precious baby girl.


joyceluvsjames joyceluvsjames
46-50, F
1 Response Nov 29, 2012

I always relate well to your stories Joyce, they bring back fond childhood memories. I once love a cat like your little Ebony......... many years ago.