We walked down the broad wooden steps of Palmetto Mansion and made our way across
the wet lawn. The moon was full and gave everything in the night a soft white glow. A soft mist wrapped around the trees and rose up the trunks.
“Why are we going to the graveyard at night?” asked Tux. “It’s so creepy.”
“Because it’s Halloween,” I said.
“What is Halloween?” Tux asked.
“Halloween celebrates the end of the harvest and the arrival of Winter on the first of November,” said Herbie.
“Oh,” said Tux.
“And many believe that tonight is the one night of the year when we can talk to the spirits,” he added cheerfully.
“I don’t think I want to talk to the spirits,” said Tux quietly.
“Don’t believe everything that Herbie says,” I said.
The moon was a fat white crescent and gave the cemetery a soft glow. There were cats of all colors and shapes assembled on the grounds.
Up on the very tallest grave stone sat Messy, her green eyes shining and her fluffy tail swishing
back and forth. Her fur was thick and full and made her seem twice as big as a normal cat.
She was magnificent.
“I know Princess Messy,” I said casually to the brown tabby seated in front of me. “We’re pretty good friends,” I added.
“Really,” the cat replied, raising his eyebrows, looking me up and down with suspicion. She looked back up at the monument.
Messy had cleared her throat and began to speak. Her normally low, scratchy voice was loud and echoed throughout the cemetery.
“Tonight,” she boomed, “we honor our friends and family who crossed the Rainbow Bridge over the last year.”
“What is the Rainbow Bridge?” whispered Tux.
“It’s the bridge you cross when your time on Earth is up,” I whispered back.
“Oh,” said Tux.
Messy continued. “Please call out the names of loved ones who are now waiting for us on the other side.”
It was quiet for a few moments, and then the cats gathered in the graveyard began to call out names.
“Mystery,” said one.
“Mister Pickles,” said another.
All along the circle of cats names were called out. Messy nodded at each one.
“Pela.” “Grand Purr.” “Little Jenny.”
Tux whispered again. “Where does the bridge go?”
“Well, they say when you cross over, you are greeted by all the people you have loved in your life who crossed over before you. They wait for you on the other side.”
“Oh,” said Tux again.
They listened quietly until the last name was said.
Messy looked out over the cats gathered before her.
“We are here to remember those who now wait for us. We thank them for all they did on this Earth, whether it was being a good friend to us or a loyal companion to their human. And for those whose life on Earth was hard, they are now surrounded by the love of all of those who wait for them.”
There were a few sniffles in the crowd. “Until we meet again,” Messy said.
“Until we meet again,” the cats called out in chorus.
Tux moved in a little closer.
“Uncle Dobie?” He said quietly.
“If you cross the Rainbow Bridge before me, will you wait for me there?”
I felt a sudden sting in my eyes. I blinked hard
but now my eyes were wet. “Of course I will, Tux.”
“Thanks,” said Tux. He looked relieved. He then leaped off the stone wall to join the other cats.
I watched his black and white fur disappear into the mists. But despite the chill in the air, I was warmed by a glow in my heart.
1 - Tux wants to visit a pumpkin patch
It was a beautiful October day. Yellow leaves were drifting down onto the green grass of the yard. A gentle breeze ruffled my fur. I was just getting comfortable in a patch of sun when Tux blurted out, “We need to go to a pumpkin patch.”
“A pumpkin patch?” I asked.
“I heard the boy talking about it,” said Tux. “He said it isn’t really Fall unless you go to one.”
Herbie lifted his head from his paws. “The season of Fall isn’t dependent upon our personal actions,” he said. “It’s dependent on the tilt of the planet as it goes around the Sun.”
“He meant metaphorically,” said Tux. “The idea of Fall as a construct.”
I was starting to find this conversation confusing. “All right,” I said, sitting up. “Let’s go find Tux a pumpkin patch.”
“You know where one is?” said Herbie.
“Sure I do. There’s one just the next yard over.”
“Really?” said Tux hopefully, sitting up.
“Huh. I want to see this,” said Herbie.
2 - Not a Patch
I led the way through the broken fence board to our neighbor’s garden. It was a collection of wooden frames with different types of vegetables growing in them.
I gestured grandly with my paw. “Behold,” I said.
Herbie and Tux looked at me blankly.
“This is not a pumpkin patch,” said Herbie finally.
“Sure it is,” I said. “Look at all the pumpkins.” I gestured again.
“These aren’t pumpkins,” said Herbie. “These are tomatoes. Do you even know what a pumpkin is?”
“Of course I know.” Or I thought I did. I never really paid attention. “Aren’t they just round vegetables?”
“Technically they’re fruit,” corrected Herbie.
“Pumpkins are orange. Tomatoes are red,” added Tux.
“What’s the difference?” I said. I tried to think of what the color orange looked like.
“Um,” said Henri. “YOU are orange.”
I looked down at my fur. He was right.
“Well,” I said. “They’re both round.”
“It’s not the same,” said Tux.
“I know who we can ask,” said Herbie.
3 - Grounding
We found Messy in her usual spot, in the shade under the orange tree.
In the dirt.
“Why is Messy always in the dirt?” whispered Tux.
“She calls it Grounding,” whispered Herbie back.
“Yes,” said Herbie. “She says it’s a therapeutic technique that reconnects her to the earth. Something about electrical charges. She says it lowers her stress.”
We came up to Messy. She was on her side, bits of leaves and soil clinging to her fur.
“Messy,” I said quietly.
She didn’t move.
“Messy,” I said again, a little louder. One eye blinked open.
“What,” she said.
“Do you know where a pumpkin patch is?”
Her eye closed shut.
“Messy,” I said.
She opened her eye again.
“You’re still here,” she said.
“Do you know about any pumpkin patches?” Herbie asked.
“Pumpkins are orange,” I added helpfully.
She hissed and sat up. A spider web was draped across her whiskers. I shuddered.
“Why do you want to know?”
“Tux wants to experience Fall,” I said. “He says he can’t unless we go to one.”
“Although it’s really due to the angle of the sun,” added Herbie.
“It’s symbolic,” emphasized Tux.
She sighed and turned around. She lay down again, facing the other direction.
“End of the street,” she said.
“Thank you!” said Tux.
“Enjoy your Grounding,” I said.
She did not reply.
4 - Finding the pumpkin patch
We followed Messy’s instructions to the end of the street. I was skeptical. I’d been here before. It was just a big field.
But this time it was different. Now the field had been transformed. It was full of big green leaves and winding vines.
And then we saw them.
Large, round, and very, very orange. Finally. A true patch of pumpkins. Tux was right. It did feel symbolic.
“Come on!” Tux shouted. “Let’s go!” He raced off, bounding into the leaves, his black and white fur appearing and disappearing into the green.
I sat down just to take it all in. Herbie sat down next to me.
“Maybe Tux is right,” I said. “It DOES feel more like Fall now.”
Herbie licked his paw. “It definitely has a different feel than the tomatoes,” he added.