Sunday, January 15, 2006

Option Three

I sure hope there's a cat heaven.

I had to remove the body of a dead cat in my garage yesterday and since I can do nothing for him in this life, I pray he'll find comfort in the next.

My neighbor, an elderly Chinese man with limited English, actually found the body and flagged me down as I left my house yesterday.

He gestured to my garage and since the door got stuck in the up position God knows how long ago, the place has been a haven for local alley cats. I started leaving food outside the house in hopes of attracting cats and frightening away any vermin, though that plan has been less than successful.

My neighbor pointed to a spot in the garage and I saw the striped cat curled up behind some old wire fencing we used when we planted tomatoes in our garden. My neighbor kicked at the fence in an attempt to rouse the poor thing, but the cat didn't move.

I knew in my heart he was dead, as no self-respecting alley cat would ever let you get that close.

I feel terrible about this. Since I've taken to feeding the cats around here, I feel like this poor animal died on my watch, that its demise is somehow due to my negligence. Crazy, I know, but I'm Catholic and the only time we're not feeling guitly is when we're asleep. And then we feel guilty about that as soon as we wake up.

My sister, the cat lover, was very good about consoling me. She knows what its like to lose cats, personal pets that she loved dearly. In fact I went with her when one time when she had to have one of her cats put to sleep. It was painful, but she had no choice.

My sister's cats had a roof over their heads, three squares a day, a loving owner and still illness and disease found a way of getting by all the care and attention and taking them away.

I guess an alley cat hasn't got much to look forward to in this life. Digging in garbage cans, living through all kinds of weather, when they get sick, there's no one to take them to the vet for medicine and treatment. They just keep going until their lives give out.

That seems to be the situation here. This cat must have been ill and struggled to find a warm place to curl up and take his final nap. I hope it was painless.

There was, however, the very real issue of disposal. First, I had to go out to my backyard, pick up the corpse with a snow shovel. God, it was awful.

Even though he was frozen solid, I knew he was once alive, and then I dropped him and his body hit the garage floor with an icy thud. It was liked being kicked in the stomach.

Fruit Flies...And Doesn't Come Back

This was part of a very strange and hectic weekend. On Friday--as in Friday the 13th--I fell asleep on the subway with a plastic bag containing a bottle of Powerade, a bag of unsalted nuts and an orange. I'm trying to eat healthy snacks.

Anyway I open my eyes, see its time to get off and when I go for the bag, I find the orange is missing. I look under my seat and the surrounding area and find nothing. Two track crew workers, all done up in reflective vests and hard hats, were sitting nearby and I notice they were staring at me.

"You looking for the orange?" One of them finally asks.

"Why, yes," I say. "I am."

"It rolled off at Pacific Street."

Rolled off? He made the orange sound like a living thing, like it decided to get off and catch the express. At least the orange could have said something before it left.

I got another orange at lunch time, but I'd like to know what happened to my original. (Orangial?) Did some needy person get it? Highly unlikely. It was probably stomped on or kicked to the tracks where it'll rot with all the other garbage down there.

Then on Saturday I get my brother to carry a new(er) TV out to the living room and then roll the big old wooden monstrosity into a corner of the dining room where I'll keep it until I find someone to take it off my hands.

That old set is huge, built back when TV's were considered furniture. We kept a ton of framed photos on top of it, and now I'm trying to find a place to put them all.

The picture quality was fading and the TV is so old there's no remote control unit. A whole generation has grown up never knowing what it was like to get up off your ass and change the channel with your hand.

I'd like to think this set has some re-sale value, but I doubt it. Some things are treasured heirlooms, sought after by collectors willing to pay a lot of money, and some things are just old. I think the TV falls into the latter catergory.

So now I have to dispose of the old TV and the cat's body. Who am I--Tony Soprano?

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Sunday comes and all hell breaks lose. It's cold, horribly cold, especially compared to the weather we've having over the last week.

I plan on going to the gym and then hooking up with a group of strangers I met over the internet to see a movie. I had to get my dad's breakfast, put the cat's corpse in a bag, and wait for my dad's aid to show up before I could shove off.

During breakfast the lights go out. Why? Who the hell knows? I go to the cellar and fell around the circuit breakers, because the lights are out and my only flashlight died on me this very morning. I know I'll worry all day about an electrical fire.

Some people would get all paranoid over this, but not me. I know for a fact that it's all part of vast conspiracy to get me.

Anyway, I pull this mess together some how, take off for the gym and box three rounds with a professional fighter, who's an instructor at the health club and who lets me work out with him for no extra charge.

He peppers the crap out of me, but I kind of like getting in there with him. After guilt, abuse is the Catholic boy's favorite food.

Okay, I get showered, dash over to the theater and look for the movie club people. I find two women in my age bracket in the lobby and start chatting with them. One of them keeps eyeballing me and I figure she's just unfriendly. I excuse myself to get a soda and she gets on line behind me.

"So," she says, "you really don't remember me?"

Christ, that's a line right out of a movie, usually said when someone whips off a mask and takes out of a gun. No one in the real world says this kind of thing, do they?

"We went out a few times," she tells me.

I'm a drawing a blank the size of Mount Rushmore. God knows I'm no love machine with so many conquests I can't tell one from the other. So what the hell is going on here?

"It was several years ago."

I have no absolutely no memory of the person; it's got sci-fi memory movie written all over it. Am I about to be framed for murder, caught in a web of intrigue and corruption, and manipulated by forces beyond my comprehension?

"I guess I didn't make much of an impression."

But Who Knows Where or When?

By now I'm thinking I've been hit in the head too many times, but then she says it was an event in downtown New York and I remember every little thing. It was 12 years ago, I was living in Connecticut and I had come into town to hook up with a friend at this singles event.

I met this women, we went out a couple of times, but back then I was in such a terrible mental state, suffering from such a staggering self-loathing and a fear of intimacy that I broke it off. It was a terrible for me and I really hurt this woman.

She cried, she yelled at me, which I richly deserved. It was a nightmare and all of my own doing. And out of all the movie theaters in all the world, she walks into this one.

You see? I told you there was a conspiracy, but did you believe me? No, of course, you didn't.

She had changed somewhat, put on weight, like a lot of us do, but there was more to it than that. She seemed completely different, like her mind had been transported in somebody else's body.

It was awkward, but I straight up apologized, told her I was a jerk, a manic depressive who has gone into therapy and hopefully improved since that time.

She claimed she wasn't angry, that it was a long time ago, but I don't think the passage of time excused my behavior at all. When you hurt somebody, you make amends. She told me to buy her a soda and call it even.

After the movie we all went to dinner and she sat two chairs away from me. I wondered if I should ask her out again, create that kind of movie reunion where the guy wises up after a dozen years, gets back with the girl and love blooms forever.

But that's also a line for the movies. I'm just aching for a girlfriend now and that longing can make you think the strangest thoughts. The whole thing was best forgotten.

At the end of the evening we said our goodbyes and I went home to take care of a dead cat.

Knocking On Heaven's Door

Now I wanted to do the right thing by this poor creature, so my sister contacted her vet's office, who offered to gladly cremate the cat's body for a mere $110.

Crash! That was sound of nobility colliding with reality. Yeah, I'd love to make sure this cat got the attention in death that he never got in life, but, by the same token, do I feel like shelling out that kind of dough? A beloved family pet is one thing, a stray who happens to die on my property is quite another.

My sister told me we could also take the body to the local ASPCA, where they'd do the same thing for less money. But they're closed tomorrow, I don't think I can get there during the work week, and, honestly I don't feel like doing that.

Then there's third option. I can put the body in a plastic bag, put a sign reading "Dead Cat" and put the whole thing out with the garbage.

Yeah, that's what I did and this poor bastard is out there with the empty cartons and discarded food, the kind of things I guess he was eating until he died. I just hope the garbage men take him tomorrow and put an end to this fiasco.

About a year ago, these two little Chinese girls who live next door to me, Maggie and her sister, Kelly--my "Little Buddies" as I like to call them--were standing in my backyard with their grandmother. They were staring so intently at something, you could have set a bomb off behind them and they never would have noticed.

I peered into the backyard and saw their object of their amazement was a stray cat. It struck me how children find such wonder in something so mundane.

How many times does a stray cat go by us and we barely notice their presence? Yet these two looked at this lowly animal the way some people view the Grand Canyon or the Great Pyramid at Giza. I think they're on to something.

Maybe we should all look at such minor things with the same kind of reverence, find the beauty in the lowest of the low. Perhaps we'll have fewer cats dying alone in freezing garages.

A few weeks ago I greeted Maggie and Kelly in the alley way and Maggie, who speaks a few words of English, put her hands out and said "No cat!", indicating the lack of any felines in our neck of the woods for quite a spell.

Well, no sooner does she say this then I spot Opal, a big black cat with piering green eyes, darting across the end of the alley and into my backyard. I led the charge as my little buddies screamed with delight.

We found Opal (my dad gave him that name) on top of my garage, looking down at us. Maggie shouted a booming "Hello!" while her little sister just shrieked. Finally Opal decided he'd move along and as he disappeared into a neighboring backyard, Maggie sent him off with loud "goodbye!"

I thank God these two lovely kids didn't see the dead cat's body. Let them know the wonder of nature a little longer without dealing with its harshness. Let them know life without having to think of death and illness, pain and loss.

There's plenty of time for them to experience the ugliness that must accompany beauty. For now, let them think of alley cats as creatures of mystery, who come and go with the wind.

I sure hope there's a cat heaven. And I hope this little guy is there right now, where's its always sunny, where the mice are fat and slow, and the balls of yarn never end.

Rest in peace, my friend. God knows you've earned it.


Kebab said...

I once stopped to help a cat that had just been run over by a van. The poor thing died twitching and bleeding in my arms. I had nightmares for weeks and it was awful. I understand how you feel.

Rob K said...

Oh, God, that experience is much worse than mine. At least this poor thing had expired by the time I showed up.

DesertPeace said...

This thread shows what a loving, special person you are Rob... I'm proud to consider you a friend.

Rob K said...

Thank you, Peace. And I am proud to say the same of you.

Babsbitchin said...

I'm mesmerized as usual Rob. You are so much like me it's a little scary. You find humor in the oddest things and grace in others. I think it's a pleasant and do-able balance. As I work on my novel, (by the way I hope yours is well, meet you at the book signing),I find myself wishing I had your style, a more discript, put you there kinda style. That's a compliment my sweet Rob. Hope you are well and I wish you the very best!

Rob K said...

What can I say, Barbara J.? I'm honored to think we're so much alike.

I think you're own style of writing will suit you just fine.

And they better have enough copies of our respective novels at Barnes & Noble to handle the massive crowds at our book signings.

All my best to you and yours.