This scene takes place the first day Harriet returns from her near death experience. The sciatica, so severe that it almost drove her to suicide, is completely healed. She is setting out to see if she can find any clues to her rescue and her healing.
As she bent to put on her boots, a wave of jubilation swept through her. No pain! Then tears rushed to her eyes. Thank you, thank you, she prayed to her unknown healer. A wisp of song moved through her, not heard but vibrating in her cells, and with it the same strange rush of energy that she’d experienced earlier when walking down the ridge path.
She stood still a moment, feeling it. It was the singing that healed me, she realized. She didn’t understand how, or how she knew, but was sure that was true.
When Harriet stepped outside, she saw her next-door neighbor Leah, standing on her front porch. She was balancing a big box on one knee and struggling to reach her keys in the handbag slung over her shoulder. Harriet had moved into her condo only three months before, and didn’t know Leah very well, only that she was young and pale and worked as a bank teller. She slumped, her upper spine bent like a wind-battered tree, and her long, tangled, dyed-red hair hung half across her face. Harriet had slumped and hidden behind her own hair enough times to know what that meant. Even though she could tell that Leah was lonely, she’d felt too shy to reach out.
But now Leah was crying.
Harriet hurried across the narrow strip of lawn that separated their two porches.
“Leah, what’s wrong? Here let me hold that for you.” She took the big box out of Leah’s arms. It was a cat crate. Harriet caught a glimpse of black and brown fur through the wire walls.
“It’s Tiger,” Leah explained through her sobs. “He’s dying.” She pressed her hand over her mouth and nose, then rubbed at her tears, leaving a streak of glistening mucous across her cheek. “The vet said . . . I should put him down.” She paused to dig deeper into her handbag. “Because he’s suffering . . . but I can’t let him go . . . he’s all I have.”
Leah finally found her key and opened the door. “Can you help me?” she asked.
“Of course. What can I do?”
They went into Leah’s condo, the mirror image of Harriet’s, except that Leah’s was a mess, dirty dishes piled in the kitchenette, magazines, papers, clothes scattered over the floor and couch.
“Just stay with him. I don’t want to leave him alone.” Leah rubbed the tears on her cheeks again and pushed back her hair. “But I’ve gotta go get his medicine. When I wouldn’t let the vet put him to sleep, he gave me this prescription, so Tiger wouldn’t hurt so much.”
“How about I go get the prescription?” Harriet suggested. “Then you can stay with him.”
“No. I have to use my credit card—it would be too complicated.” Leah pulled a tissue out of her pocket and blew her nose. “Just stay with him. Please.”
“I really think it would be better—” Harriet began. But Leah was already at the door. “I’ll just go grab his medicine and be back real quick.”
The door closed behind her.
Harriet was still holding the cat crate. She set it on the end of the couch, pushed aside some magazines, sat down beside the crate, and opened it. The cat did not look good. His fur was dull and matted, his eyes dim. When she bent down to look closer, he stretched a paw out toward her and let out a husky meow.
Harriet had grown up with pets and was especially fond of cats.“ Poor Tiger,” she said. “You’re having a tough time. Would you like to come out and sit in my lap?”Carefully supporting his head and hindquarters, she slid her hands under him and lifted him into her lap. He was stiff and smelled rank.
“Poor kitty.” Harriet ran her hand gently along his body. As soon as she touched him, the same strange energy of the inner melody vibrated inside her again. There was a swelling in her chest. Then song poured out of her, wild, sweet, uncontainable. Frightened, she held her breath, but the pressure of the song was too great. With her next exhale, it poured out again, not only out of her mouth, but also out of her hand where it rested lightly on Tiger’s belly.
Such a song. Strange sounds like words, but no words of any earthly language; deep, full sounds with overtones, as wondrous and beautiful as the song she had sung at sunrise, only now she sang alone.
Looking down, Harriet could see into Tiger’s body, could see the tumor pressing all his abdominal organs aside. She gasped, but could not stop singing. The song rose and swelled and power flowed through her hand into Tiger. As she watched with the miraculous, new sight that could see inside him, she saw the tumor shrink, then dissolve, and the organs begin shifting back into what she instinctively knew was their proper place. Her hand moved, guided by the song, and she found more tumors, infection, a twist in his spine.
She sang, vibrating with the light that flowed through the song, through her hand. As she sang, she saw the tumors dissolve, the infection clear, the spine straighten. Tiger gave a long sigh, stretched and softened. The song faded.
Harriet came back from far away to winter sunlight slanting across the untidy room and the low rumble of Tiger’s purr.
He was warm in her lap and the rank smell was gone. Harriet stroked him. Already his fur felt better. She trembled, tears welling up in her eyes, too awed to question.
She only knew that the song healed. It had healed her and now, through her, it had healed Tiger. She could hear remnants of it vibrating through her cells, a fragment of melody drifting in her heart.
She looked down at her hand resting on Tiger’s side. She couldn’t see inside him anymore. That strange sight had ended with the song.
As if in response to her fear, melody swelled within her. Ah, it seemed to sing, and she was washed with a wave of compassion.
Then she was singing aloud again, softly, a gentle song. There were no words, yet she heard the song soothing her, telling her not to be frightened, she had done well, they were with her, they loved her.
They? She sang and was comforted in spite of her questions.
The door banged open. The song ended. Leah dropped her bag and package on the floor, shrugged out of her coat and dropped that, too.
“You were singing,” she said. “I heard you as I came in. That was the prettiest song. I didn’t know you could sing.” Leah came over and looked at Tiger. “How is he? He’s so still . . .”
“He’s sleeping,” Harriet assured her. “See his breath moving?”
“Oh.” Leah stroked him. “Were you singing to him?”
“Yes.” Harriet didn’t know what to say, still reeling from her strange experience.“He . . . he seemed to like it.”
“Cool. Could you help me a little more, hold him while I stick his pills down his throat?He hates that and always gives me a hard time.”
As if she were Tiger, Harriet recoiled.
“Maybe you should wait,” she suggested. “He’s sleeping now and seems peaceful.”
Leah stroked her cat. “He does. Okay, I’ll wait.”
“Where shall I put him?” Harriet asked.
“On my bed.”
Harriet gathered up the sleeping cat and followed Leah into the bedroom. As she laid him down on the rumpled quilt, he purred briefly, then slept again. __________________________________________-
Late that afternoon, Harriet heard a knock on the door. It was Leah, bursting with excitement.
“Tiger’s better!” she exclaimed. “When I went to check on him, a while after you left, he was sitting up washing himself. Then he came to the kitchen and ate everything in his dish, and drank his water, and meowed for more food. And he’s been playing, chasing his ball. And just now he jumped up on the counter. He hasn’t been able to do that for months.”
I knew he was healed, Harriet thought, but I couldn’t really believe it. “That’s wonderful,” she managed to say.
Leah was waving a pill bottle in her hand. “I came to see if you would help me give him his pills, but now I don’t know if I should, since he’s better. You’re a doctor, aren’t you? Maybe you can tell me what’s in them and if I should still give them to him now he’s better.”
Harriet took the pill bottle and studied the label. “I’m not a medical doctor, you know. I’m a chiropractor. But I know this drug. It’s pretty strong and can have serious side effects. Okay for a dying cat, but I wouldn’t give it to him now.”
“A chiropractor? Did you crack his bones or anything?”
“No,” Harriet said carefully.
Leah tilted her head, squinting her eyes a little as she regarded Harriet.
“I just wondered, ’cause it seemed he got well while you were holding him.”
Harriet was silent. She handed the pill bottle back to Leah.
Leah pushed her hair back and smiled at Harriet. “Thanks for the info about the pills. I don’t want him to have side effects. I think I’ll take them back, get a plus on my credit card.” She dropped the bottle into a pocket of her cargo pants.
As she went out the door, she said over her shoulder, “Maybe it was that pretty song you were singing.”
Harriet leaned back against the closed door, fear contracting her belly. How did Leah even guess it was her singing that healed Tiger? It was all too weird.
She slid slowly down the door until she was hunched on the floor, her head on her knees. “Oh, God,” she whispered, “what’s happening to me?”