(c) 2008 Photo by K. Smokey Cormier
There are a couple of feral cats in the neighborhood. One lives under my house, a gray tabby, thin and furtive. The other looks like my cat, Boomer -- all black, like Boomer, but rib-and-bones thin. Boomer is lean and muscular, one of the handsomest cats I’ve ever seen. So often I have wondered: What should I do about the cat under the house? I have seen the feral black one on and off for three years or so.
Two days ago I saw it lying, dead in the yard next door, close to my yard. I could have reached in and touched it or pulled it to me, gather it into a bag. I was leaving for work and didn’t want to take the time. “I’ll call the animal control people to come and take it away,” I thought to myself. Forgot by the time I got to work. Came home late that night. Dark. The cat, unseen and forgotten.
Yesterday, I reminded myself again. The day went on. The ants and flies feasted. Came home. Something had moved the dead cat. Now it was in my yard. Near the opening where the other cat slips into my crawl space. What moved the black cat? Was it the other feral cat? Was the live cat eating the dead cat? Cannibalism? Too upsetting to think about.
My daughters are very upset. Death has been too close lately.
Now I’ve really got to do something. But my furniture is in the back yard and my daughter and I have to move it indoors before the rain comes. Forgotten still.
Today. I call the animal control people. They only come for large animals. Cats are too small. This one is very small. Adult, but small. I have to bring it in myself. Meself? Me? There’s a cartoon character inside my head getting panicky. A detective too: Who or what the hell moved that cat?
I take the kids to school. And after all my phone conferences, I put on a pair of latex gloves, the color of marrow. I get two plastic garbage bags. I’ll double-bag it. I tell myself: Be strong. Act like your father. He’s probably done this a million times. (Yes, I used the present tense.) Don’t act like a silly girl. (The 50’s come back so quickly.)
Deep breath. OK. How am I going to do this? Should I use my barbecuing tongs and then throw them away? Really, could I ever use them again without thinking of this and getting nauseous? Or am I actually going to pick it up with my hands? Gloved, yes, but still. Still. Very still. But the insect life is very active. Ants have removed most of its face, but its ears are intact. Flies are swarming like bees. Will I vomit? My father’s voice is yelling: “Just pick it up by its hind legs and put it in the plastic bag!” I obey. The smell is intense. A living thing and, now, not living. Organic material smells very organic. Body smells of a haunting kind. Living things crawling within the dead thing. Of everything, it’s the flies that bother me the most. Will one land on my face?
“She’s a brick.” My dad’s uncle used to say of me after drilling my teeth without novocaine.
Somehow I concentrate and get the job done. Now what? Will it smell up my car for a long long time? Because I can very easily smell it through the two bags.
All windows D-O-W-N.
I drive to an industrial part of town. I am so relieved to be there. I walk in and the guy behind the counter greets me nicely then notices the bag. “I don’t think that’s a Christmas present. Okay, I’ll take it here.”
Done. Soon to be forgotten. Or not.
(c) 2008 K. Smokey Cormier