Bumper, The Cat

MarinerNot four full days after senior prom and the diary declares: “I don’t think there’s much of a future for a couple named Michael and Sally.”

Which is odd because, coming off the night’s special glow, Sal and I really tried to make a go of it. The next day we attended a picnic out at Taylor’s Falls, with kids jumping off the rocks to swim in the St. Croix River. Back in school Monday, May 1, 1978, there was still “quite a bit of talk about Prom, but things [had] fairly subsided.”

There was track practice after school most days of the week, but that Monday I went over to Sally’s where “I played piano and talked to her and her Mom, about piano, then Sal and I sat in their living room and chatted about Prom, life, horses,” and a collection of poems I’d written, “Over Wings and Words.” We seemed comfortable together, the diary reports. “It wasn’t a nervous situation at all.”  Which is as much to say there had been nerves prior to that, and things seemed to be calming down. The entry concludes, “God, I like Sal.”

But my roving heart, however, was back in action. In the days that followed, Harvey, new hanger-on Mario Millitello and I party-chased it out to Disco-Trek to meet other girls. If it wasn’t that, we boys were scoring beer for a Kicks game or cruising the Hopkins main drag. In the diary I was saying one thing, but reporting other actions—aka “not walkin’ the talk.”

By early May I received an acceptance letter from the University of Minnesota. To the Family Project’s relief, I was college-bound. On Tuesday, May 9, I went to Sally’s again after she got home from acting lessons at 9 p.m. “Her Dad was real nice, seemingly happy to see me,” the diary says. Sally and I did a lot of talking that night, interspersed with phone calls to her friends Tricia and Denise. “We were fairly close…and I left at 20 after 10, saying goodbye to Bumper, her cat.”

I’d completely forgotten about “Bumper.”

And I’d nearly forgotten we owned a cat, too, during those late high school years on Casco Point—“Mariner” (pictured above in July 1977). No recollection of where we got Mariner, but I named him after the NASA missions, probably in an attempt to show baby bro that predictable pet-naming conventions weren’t necessary.

Mariner was a good cat. He stuck around the house, sunned on the front stoop and purred up a storm when held. Dad wasn’t a cat person, so when weather allowed, Mariner was sent outside. At our Maryland home we’d adopted the resident cat, Jingles, which became Mom’s favorite. But on Casco Point, Mariner was an independent agent.

Back in school, Sally seemed happy to see me when we met in the halls. At her insistence, we began calling each other “Buddy.” Wednesday, May 11, she stopped to say she had something to give me. Likely it was a response to a letter I’d written to her a couple days before. Another sophomore, a brunette on the dance line named Lynn Fasching, had caught my eye. Because Music Resource Center friend Julie Farmer knew her, I prodded for more information, perhaps sensing Sal and I were destined for the dustbin of history.

Mid-May and the weather was “very hot.” The diary reported breaking news: the Navarre Drive-In Theater—the Passion Pits— was opening for the season on Friday, May 19. It promised to be a great summer.SallyMe2010

Empty diary pages. …Then, on Saturday, May 20: “Mariner was found dead over by Horan’s, run over by a car.” Our neighbor, Mrs. Johnson, let us know. At the time I’d been enjoying the spring weather in the front yard and “knew Mariner wasn’t around. I felt uneasy—this is before we found him or I had heard about it.” Dad helped bury him in the front yard flower garden, where Mariner loved to catch the warming sun.

Me and Sal? We were over as a couple, but remained friends all the way through to my graduation. Then, at her 30-year reunion (above right), we reconnected. She’s happily living in Vermont, raising a family and making a life for herself.

We never got around to talking about Bumper, her cat.

~ by completelyinthedark on February 20, 2013.

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