There was something amidst in the air as I was seeing my family off in the airport. And that something told me that I forgot to feed the cat. Waving my hand farewell, I grinned hesitantly and impatiently until they were out of sight. One whole week on my lonesome- the American Dream- family in Barbados, basking in sunlight and sipping margaritas, and I would have the entire house for myself and my girlfriend, Laurie. These thoughts fueled me as I took off from the airport; my seat belt not so securely fastened as I menaced a poor elderly couple with devastating whiplash spinning them around so violently that they swapped dentures in mid air.
In a dastardly attempt to get my girlfriend to agree to living with me for this next upcoming week I had bought her a kitten. It was a striking little creature, with tender white paws and an orange striped face, a pair of eyes so green and vivid they almost matched hers. She would love it, who wouldn’t? But the poor little thing had got nothing to eat for over a couple of days with well my family of five, not including me, getting ready to depart and then driving them to the Fort Worth airport (an appalling three hour drive from our homely suburban home)- at worst this kitten would probably be starving.
I drove rabid, taking turns and rushing yellow lights; I even made an Asian-woman driver tremble, I grinned, revenge. After reducing the drive to a mere two hours I ran into the house, meowing and cooing, trying to find the kitten and that’s when I saw it, sprawled across the kitchen floor, dead.
Before the ensuing panic rushed in I let out one final meow. This one hung in the air, a cloud, resonating throughout the walls, a treble cry that sent shrills through the silverware.
Jesus H. Christ, I thought to myself. What now?
I bent over his body- the little thing looked so peaceful. It died with his tongue slightly hanging out from his mouth, barely grazing his little new-born teeth. Even I couldn’t interrupt these few moments of silence that had found its way over my house. But enough was enough and I bent over the little man and started analyzing the best possible way to get his body out of the house and into the dumpster out back.
Aluminum foil wrap him and then toss? Too down and dirty. Sweep him into the dustpan and then shake him out? Too impersonal and harsh. Roll him onto a towel and then bury him out back? Bingo.
It was game time. But as I lifted myself up and brushed some unsightly dust off I saw my girlfriend’s red Hyundai drive right up into my driveway. You know those moments in life when everything kind of reaches to a halt, like some clandestine celestial force accidentally pushed pause on that magic VCR tape that is your life and you’re free to move within the space-time continuum free of fourth dimensional consequence?
Well it wasn’t quite like that but as I stood still in sheer dread she had already gotten out of the car and closed the door and was well on her way to knocking as she fumbled through her electronic lock and keys. Luckily with a few mental urges my feet started moving and began my search for the nearest towel.
“Tap, tap,” her gentle hand struck my door.
Damn it, I had only taken three steps. “Ummm honey, I’ll be right there I’m kind of indecent at the moment.”
“Well that never stopped you before,” she quipped.
I half-grinned, knowing that her remark was hiding some type of sexual connotation; good or bad I couldn’t tell. Instead of turning to the door and letting her in, I rushed upstairs for the towel. There was no way I was going to let her see that cat. I mean giving her a living, beautiful kitten would have pretty much catapulted me to the top of boyfriend echelon but presenting her with a lifeless kitten that wasn’t stuffed, well that might very well mark the worst present since giving her a power chord for our 6 month anniversary.
“Tap, tap,” she continued her knocking. “Come on it’s one leg in and the other follows.”
Grabbing the towel out of the closet and turning around to head back down stairs, I realized I wouldn’t have enough time to wrap up the kitty and then go out back to throw it out. She’d probably hear the screen door opening and start imagining all sorts of unnecessary shenanigans. Quickly going to plan B, which was conjured instantly, I sprawled down alongside my fallen comrade and wrapped him in the blue Malibu towel.
“Tap, tap,” once again. “I’m two seconds away from leaving.”
Shit. I had him in my arms now barely out of sight from the kitchen’s large windows. I knew I couldn’t take him out, so where to stash him? I looked around the kitchen and there it was, shining in off-white glory I opened the refrigerator and stuffed him right in the center tray where there was the most space. I closed the refrigerator door with a thud.
Walking to the door I said, “Hey babe what’s the hurry? A man can’t take a shower and grab something to eat anymore?”
“Only you can enjoy peanut butter in the nude,” she shook her head, mockingly disgusted. “So how’s the big boy feeling all alone for the first time?”
“Ha well you know it gets kind of lonely after a while…” I let my sentence trail for a little added effect. Maybe I wouldn’t need the kitten after all.
I could feel it now; it was about to come, her admission that she was sorry that I felt so lonely and maybe the every-guy-should-hear-this-once-in-his-life offering of ‘is there anything I can do?’ But instead I got a chuckle and only, “Oh Eric, you and your jokes.”
She crushed me. And then she squeezed a little tighter.
“By the way, I’m really thirsty what do you have in this thing?” She said as she reached over to the refrigerator door handle and began her pull.
“NOOOO,” I leaped at her, “You can’t open that.”
“It’s broken…” I stammered, “It’s been broken for a while now, the cold air barely stays inside and if you open it then it just pours out and the food will go bad.”
“Now that is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard, I was here the other day helping your mom cook the going away cake she left you and it was working just fine,” she replied.
This girl will just not quit today, jeeze. “Haha well I just wanted to get your drink for you. When should my little princess have to pour her own drink when her prince is in the house?”
“Oh Eric, shut it and get me some lemonade.”
I went over to the cabinet to grab a fresh glass first; trying to minimize the chances she would catch a glimpse of the old fur-ball and brought it with me to the refrigerator. It might have seemed odd but it was either that or her seeing it and catastrophically ravaging our relationship- and my rear end. I opened it slowly, trying to block the tray that it rest on with my body. I got out the carton of lemonade and I stood at the door facing in while I poured.
“Ugh what is that god-awful smell?” she asked.
“Ah it’s probably nothing I actually don’t smell anything,” I got out a little too fast as I closed the door.
“Eric, please whatever that thing was it reeked. I think something died in your refrigerator. Maybe something went bad or sour. Let me check,” she said and the irony of her statement was not lost on me. She tried to nudge her way past my arm but I wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t think of anything to divert her attention now, it seemed like she would be staring straight into the little kitten’s deceased eyes any second.
But then heaven itself opened up… and called my house.
“Rrrrrring-rrrring-rrrrrring,” my house phone chirped.
My grin now reaching from ear to ear I asked her, “Babe could you get that for me? I’ll check what’s inside this nasty thing but it might be my mama.”
She went over to the next room where the phone lay and I quickly opened the refrigerator and brought the bundled cat back out. I looked around the room once more, realizing, eerily that I was in the same position just about a few minutes ago. I didn’t want to put it in the oven, nor the cabinet, and I wasn’t going to put the little guy in the garbage bin we had in the house. So when I looked at the kitchen window that led to the flat of our house, the same one we shared with the neighbor, I immediately opened it up with my free hand, raised the window plane up, and just heaved the little sucker outside.
I’d make amends with him later, I promised myself.
“So it was just another one of those stupid telemarketers asking if you wanted to join some crazy hooha medical plan,” she came back into the kitchen evidently annoyed.
I took a deep breath and realized I had just gotten out of the stickiest situation harm-free. “Well don’t worry about it but thanks for getting it for me,” and I tried to put the kitten as far away from my mind as possible. I had my girlfriend here, in my own house, alone. “I cleaned out the fridge; I think it was just some fruits that had gone bad so don’t even worry about it. Do you want to watch a movie or something in my room?” I crossed my fingers.
“Fine as long as you don’t make me watch Star Wars for the 700th time,” she replied. Well I guess something is better than nothing. As I put my arm slyly around her waist and began to lead her upstairs…
“Tap, tap,” who could it be?
I walked back up to the door with my girlfriend in tow and I looked out the peephole to see my neighbors. Oh how thoughtful of them, probably checking up on me knowing this was my first time alone. So I opened the door and there they were, a nice elderly couple probably married for at least half a century and in the husband’s hands was a muddy blue Malibu towel and barely leaning over his wrists was the head of the long dead kitten, tilted and with the tongue now cascading down from his mouth. Somehow one eye was opened and it was staring directly at me, pleading, wondering, accusing, oh the cutest little dead thing in the entire world. I stifled a shriek.
“Young man, we saw you throw this poor thing out into our flat, what is the meaning of this?” The husband took the towel off of the kitten and it uncovered him so you could easily see that there was no life left in him, nothing but dirt and a few frostbitten fur marks.
I couldn’t think of a word to say and suddenly my face and tongue matched his exactly.
And my girlfriend, as the reality of the situation slowly sank in, let off a battle cry that surely startled the poor kitten’s soul past its ascendance up past the clouds.