The Dead Cat
Nevada City, California
© 2015 by Dale Smith
On Friday, the 21st of August, at 7:51 a.m. my phone buzzed on the nightstand. A text message from my daughter, who had just left for work, read: “The neighbor’s cat got hit by a car. It’s dead on the sidewalk in front of the apartment building.”
I pull the comforter over my head and close my eyes. But knowing a dead cat lay on the sidewalk in front of the house is one of those things that you just can’t ignore. Getting back to sleep is out of the question. I put on some clothes, and go out to investigate. There he is, Pinky, my neighbor Cindy’s beloved black and white cat, stiff with rigor, whiskers bent like broken toothpicks, dried blood staining the sidewalk brown beneath his or her nose... hard to tell with a name like Pinky, could go either way, and we weren’t close. It looked like the old Pinkster’s had been hit by a car and dragged his broken body onto the sidewalk before succumbing to his injuries. I nudged Pinky with my toe, hoping he would suddenly spring to life, but no such luck, he was a goner. Now what? Cindy, who parks her car behind the apartment, had already left for work, and wouldn’t have discovered Pinky’s corpse. The couple who manages the apartment building were off on a beach holiday. Whatever happened to Pinky now was on me.
I call the animal control office and tell the woman on the phone there is a dead cat in front of my house. She tells me sorry, but they only deal with live animals. “Well, what am I supposed to do with a dead cat?” I ask. “Most people just bury them in their yards,” she says, then hangs up the phone.
A cat cemetery in my back yard? Well, okay, I guess. Maybe I could call it the Jack Kerouac Memorial Cat Cemetery. Makes sense, I thought -- Jack was a pretty cool cat himself and besides, I figured most of my kitty corpses would be coming my way from on the road. I find a Banker’s Box to serve as a temporary coffin and pull on a pair of rubber gloves. It is kind of disturbing how Pinky doesn’t bend when I pick him up and place him in the box.
The spot I pick for Pinky’s final resting space at the edge of the yard is hard as cement. I get down on my knees and beat the unyielding ground with a small pickaxe. Progress is slow, this is going to be more of a chore than I expected. Then I hit a vein of roots. I start wondering if burying Pinky is even the right thing to do. Should I just leave him in the box and let Cindy deal with Pinky when she gets home? Wouldn’t Cindy want to say good-bye to her pet? An hour later, the grave is dug and in goes Pinky. I look at him lying there, all curled up like he’s taking a nap and I think maybe I should say a few words of farewell. I feel weird because I don’t even like cats, not since I read in USA Today that cats kill 3.7 billion birds a year. But I set my feelings aside and mumble, “So long, Pinky. It’s been nice knowing you. Maybe I’ll catch up with you on the other side.” Then I shovel dirt over him.
Before I take my dog for a walk, I compose a note to Cindy telling her about Pinky’s unfortunate sudden demise and how sorry I am and tape it to the door of her apartment, just in case she gets home before I do. When I drive up to the house couple of hours later, Cindy is just turning into the driveway. A wave of panic crashes over me... got to get down there before she finds the note, so I can deliver the sad news in person. But I’m too late, Cindy is already reading the note when my dog and I stumble onto her porch.
She looks up from the note and says, “You’re kidding, right?”
“I wish I was,” I tell her. “Pinky got hit by a car. I buried him in the yard. I hope that’s okay. I’m so sorry.”
Cindy opens her door a few inches and I hear the unmistakable meow of a cat on the other side. “Pinky’s right here.”