Feeling Grey

22 01 2013

This is an old short story that I wrote. It’s not exactly happy, in fact it’s kind of a drag, but let me know what you think.

 

 

Feeling Grey

 

Chaser was a raggedy little thing.  My uncle’s latest rescue, his long black hair grew in clumps and felt murky and uneven beneath a petting hand.  I thought he looked ill before I ever considered that he really might be.  He was pitiful and if he wasn’t so annoying it would have been endearing, but he was forever mowing and underfoot in the kitchen, so much so that all you ever wanted to do was kick the poor thing.  When we first moved in I didn’t dislike him, but I certainly wanted nothing to do with him.  We brought three cats and two dogs with, and for the first few weeks I was busy hobbling around the house on a cane, yelling at the dogs for chasing the cats or dragging my underwear to all corners of the house.  But I still pet and him and brushed him as I was asked to do.  Ignoring him completely felt too cruel, especially when all my grandmother did was yell at him for tripping her in the kitchen.  And I knew that if my aunt and uncle found out I wasn’t taking care of the one cat not hiding under the porch they’d get fantastically pissed.  They were already mad we hadn’t been wandering around the yard with Temptations in hand, calling out to the other three my aunt and uncle had left us.

I was the first to notice how scrawny he was; how his hipbones jutted and how you could feel the individual vertebrae of his spine.  Suddenly there was an hour glass following him around the yard.  I was sure he had leukemia, which our last stray had died from only months before.  The rapid weight loss called it as far as I was concerned.  My dad, who had yet to pay the 300 dollar vet bill left by the other cat, agreed with me.  My grandma wasn’t pleased.  We didn’t have another 300 dollars to spend on a cat.  We didn’t have 30 dollars to spend on my hospital bills, and my uncle refused to pay.  Chaser was on his own.

For a few weeks I made myself be kinder, but it wasn’t to last.  He was too annoying and he didn’t deteriorate.  Eventually my uncle decided that he had worms, but still wouldn’t pay for medication.  The declaration put my mind at ease at least, and I put out a special plate of food for the dilapidated animal until I noticed him abandoning it for the dog’s food every morning.  After that the thought of his mortality fell from my mind except for on the few occasions when I noticed the other cats were thin, and I wondered if they were getting the worms too.  I never mentioned it to my grandma though.  There was no point in bringing up a problem that could not be fixed.  That winter the cats spent their nights in the laundry room with the space heater on, lounging on heating pads and each other. Between school and work, my grandma and I never saw any of them except when we put out the food in the mornings.

It wasn’t until my aunt and cousin came to visit that we understood how bad the situation really was.  They told us that Chaser spent all day limping around the porch; rail thin with feces matted in his fur.

“You really ought to put the poor thing out of its misery,” my aunt said, “I can’t stand to watch it.”

We were easily convinced the minute we came to realize why the laundry room suddenly smelt so strongly of cat shit.  Either Chaser couldn’t make it outside to do his business or he had no control of it anymore.

“I’ve got a bunch of pain pills and a can of fancy cat food in the car,” my aunt suggested, “we could crush some up and put them in the food and some water.”

And the decision was made.  After a few grim jokes about tying the cat to the nearby train tracks and doing away with him that way, they got to brainstorming where to put him.  It wouldn’t do for another cat to eat the poisoned food and there were only so many enclosed places outside the house.  And I dreaded the idea of him dying inside, where I would have to acknowledge it.

I was late for dinner as always, on Wednesday.  My aunt, cousin, and grandma were all finishing their food, and while I took a seat my aunt let me know that Chaser was safely trapped in the old dog kennel with his poisoned bowls of food and water.  I loaded my plate.  Apparently, he hadn’t started eating the last time they checked on him.  He only sat in the kennel and stared at the house.

She said, “I put a pillow and a blanket out there for him.  I hope he won’t get too cold.”  My grandma said he wouldn’t.  But, I thought, he had spent the last three months hiding in a warm laundry room, lying on heating pads.  And he wasn’t eating yet.

”It’s not that cold outside,” she continued, “I’m sure he’ll be fine.”  I listened, nodding and shoveling pasta and garlic bread into my mouth.

Chaser would be fine.  Either way he had those pills.

Suddenly I wasn’t so sure he would eat the food or drink the tainted water.  I couldn’t remember if he’d been eating the last few days.  The thought of him freezing to death made me nervous.

I said, “I’m sure he’ll be fine,” and took another bite.

“Yeah,” my aunt said.  She was so nonchalant.  “It’s not that cold out.”  It was 40 or 50 degrees outside and I thought it was cold, but my aunt lived in Seattle and it had been snowing there all winter.  One or both of us had a skewed perception of temperature. What that meant for the cat, I didn’t know, but I pushed the nerves aside.  We were killing him either way, and freezing isn’t the most painful way to die.  At least not after you fall asleep, then your body just shuts down and you drift from sleep to unconsciousness to dead.

Either way…

“I threw a pillow and a blanket in there for him, and put a sheet over the top so he has a roof.”  The kennel was, of course, made of thin metal rails.  Metal gets cold.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

I added more pasta to my plate and ate until I was well past full.

The next morning was frost bitten and grey.  On my way out to my car, I saw the kennel for the first time.  A green flannel blanket was falling off of the top and the bronze finish glinted in the predawn light only half real.  Chaser lay slouched against the side making a perversion of the ever-so-comfortable way cats lay on their sides in the sunlight, weak legs stretched out before him, sticking through the bars.  His head leaned against the frozen metal, tilted at an angle that anything would detest, gave him away.  His lip was caught between the metal and his skull.  He was snarling, at us or at the tin car-port roof I didn’t know.  Next to me, my aunt sighed, turned away, and said that she would get my cousin to bury him while I was at work.  After she returned to the house I continued on to my car, walking past the tiny body, and whispered, “Rest in peace,” only to feel hallow and stupid for the sentiment.

At work, I was busy and grateful.  People laden with W-2’s kept me distracted and the last picture of Chaser, his mangled form and sad, pathetic end disappeared; floating just below the surface of my consciousness.  At home, my cousin buried him, where, I will never know. It’s best that way, for while I feel bad that Chaser is no longer with us, I don’t feel as though I’ve lost a pet.  I wish I did.  He was a good cat and is sorely missed if only by me.  If only out of guilt.

 

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