By Admiral St. Grey (Ecstatics, Cellular Chaos, The Simple Pleasure)
I heard a loud thud outside that also had a crunchy kind of feeling. Then there was a silence. But not a silence; a sound moving around within a silence, a swaying mechanical sound of stalled machinery. I walked from the kitchenette to the living roomette, the hi-fi was on.
Did you hear that? I asked him.
Yeah, what was that?
I had heard it better. His ears had been near the hi-fi so he thought I had dropped something, or maybe fallen.
I think it was a car crash. That sounded like a car crash.
I said this as I pulled on clothes hastily. We were walking around naked, getting ready for bed. It was about 4 in the morning. It could be someone alone, hurt. I wanted to go look. There was such a silent feeling after the loud noise.
He pulled on clothes too and followed me outside, down the walk, open the gate.
The car was a silver new car that one would expect a well-paid suburban family to own. A sedan. Modern and roomy. “Totaled.” I finally understood, in a rounder and deeper way than when I heard adults say it when I was a kid, what that term tries to express. Totaled. The front end was wrapped around not only the concrete-filled steel posts protecting the hydrant, but also the hydrant. The hydrant and the concrete-and-steel posts protecting the hydrant had become enveloped in the interior of the car. Conjugal. The car was smoking and the windshield had a spider web crack where one’s head would land, were one driving.
And there was a boy approximately fifteen years old. As we walked out the gate he was getting back into the car. He was dazed and there was blood dripping down his arm. He got back out of the car again. He had forgotten – no, he had never learned where he was supposed to be at this moment. He didn’t see us even though we were standing a few feet away.
Excuse me, can we help you? Do you need any help?
He was shocked, wandering in place. I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t more damaged but then I saw the deflated airbag hanging out of the steering wheel like a giant used condom.
Do you want us to call someone for you? Do you want to come inside?
It was like it was easier for him to pretend we weren’t there. He wasn’t really disposed to have company at the moment.
Uhh, no, no…fuck…
My parents are asleep. They’ll be sleeping.
Do you need a phone? Do you want to call them?
They’ll be sleeping…
There was a dead cat in the middle of the road. The boy had swerved to not hit the cat, hit the cat, and totaled his parents’ car. Damn it, damn. God damnit.
Maybe we should call them.
No, It’s okay, they’re sleeping, I’ll just, I’m just gonna go over there, I only live 5 blocks away, it’s okay.
The blood dripped down his arm.
Are you sure? ‘Cause we can –
No, it’s okay…I’ll go over there.
The boy ran down the street in a direction. Stopped. Dodgy. Sway. He was a puppy. He was a bug.
Do you want us to watch your car?
Yeah, thanks, he said, and it was barely audible, as he was running full speed away from the scene.
We stood there. We watched him run away in the dark.
A smoking wreckage, a dead cat, us, an empty street. Things.
A guy runs up. Excited. He had heard the noise. Woke him up. Whose car was it? He left the scene?! He’s in trouble!
We looked at him.
The guy went back home.
He reached into the broken machine and shut off the windshield wipers. I went inside and got a towel, came back out, and wrapped up the cat, gently. I didn’t want it to suffer the indignity of getting run over twice. Its tongue hung out of its mouth, slightly. The cat’s tongue, that the cat had used for a variety of things as a living thing with senses and tastes. Had just been using. I thought dully about how the cat’s tongue was rough because it was a cat tongue. Now the tongue was more thing-like. It didn’t do anything anymore.
It didn’t look like a stray. It was very big and well fed and plush and looked like it was used to being warm, the kind of cat with light grey patches on his back and a big white belly and white paws with pink pads on its cat-fingertips. Its claws were clipped. Or were they retracted? It was heavy and soft in my arms. I wrapped it up and held it and it was very, very warm. I might have tucked its tongue back in its mouth and closed it. Let’s just say I did.
I was worried that it was my neighbors’ cat. Because if it was my neighbors’ cat, then I should wake them and tell them, show them. Show them their dead cat. But then, if it was not their cat, I’d be waking up my neighbors at 4 o’clock in the morning to show them “a” dead cat. I was upset. I walked in the gate, up to their door, but the cat had no collar on. I thought of how they’d maybe be better off not knowing what happened to the cat, if it was their cat. That if the cat just disappeared then that would be okay, too, maybe better than seeing it limp with its tongue hanging out all dead like that. All dead like that and still warm though.
My neighbors were a Russian mother from Flushing, Queens who waited tables at a diner in Howard Beach and lived in the tiny one-bedroom bungalow across from ours. She shared the room with her 14 year old daughter and her 8 year old son. She was really loud, and friendly in a way where she was also suspicious. She had achieved, at least, living by the beach, something she had always wanted. People had done her wrong.
They had a lot of cats.
Her 8-year-old son was named George. I never forgot his name because I heard it yelled constantly. Geeeooooaaaahhhge! Geeyooooooohhhhaaaahhhhge! He would play in the tiny alley next to our bungalow and not realize that he was playing pretend games right outside the window of my office where I was working and could see and hear him through the screen. One time his mother was yelling for him and he pressed himself up against the wall of the house, next to the window, like a soldier hiding from a sniper.
Shut up, he had said quietly into his own mouth.
GYAWGE! She went on, as she did.
He had said it again, quietly, to himself, more emphatically.
I walked back out the gate with the cat still in my arms. What do I do? I started to act a little panicky, which always surprises me. It’s not a personality trait I think of myself as having. I’m not a “panicky” person. But didn’t I get the same way the time I fell face forward off of our loft, cut a chunk in my forehead, and broke my foot in 3 places? You don’t have to be a panicky person to panic. It’s a thing that animals are wont to do in sudden and unusual situations. In sudden and unusual situations where they are sharply reminded of the obviousness of their own impending and definite death, which they have no control over.
I was wandering around aimlessly in the quiet night with the dead cat. I tucked it in nicely with the towel, a towel I had used, that many people had used to wrap around a warm, clean body after a shower, and I laid it down by the side of the road where they pick up the garbage. That sounds horrible. I wasn’t sure what to do.
Of course we should bury it.
But if we buried it, whosever cat it was – and please, please: I keep calling the cat ‘it’ because I don’t know my way around cat’s genitalia – they would never know what happened. They might think their cat left them. Or that something horrible happened.
Something horrible is what happened, but they wouldn’t know the exact kind of horrible. I supposed, well, then we might find out whose it was if people went out looking for it. Or we could have posted a sign:
A NEIGHBORHOOD BOY TRIED NOT TO HIT YOUR CAT. BUT HE DID HIT YOUR CAT AND HE TOTALED HIS PARENTS CAR AND HE RAN AWAY IN SHOCK. SO WE BURIED YOUR CAT. IT’S IN OUR YARD. I’M SORRY.
I thought, I’ll just put the cat here outside the gate by the curb. Near where it died, but in a cared-for way. Tucked in, and visible. Then, hopefully, whosever cat it is, they will find it here. Or someone who knows the cat. It will be awful. But they can be thankful that someone found it and wrapped it up and tucked it in and didn’t throw it in the garbage. Unless the garbage men come. I don’t remember when garbage day is. I can’t think of anywhere else to put the dead cat. I have to leave it here. I have to leave it somewhere so it can be found. This is where I am leaving the dead cat.
I walked away, I opened the gate and shut it behind me quietly. I went inside, and I lay down in bed.
The smashed car was outside my home, dying.
The boy was at home passed out, presumably.
And someone’s dead cat lay snug as a bug,
snug as a bug in a rug on the curb.
Snug as a bug in a rug on the curb.
And someone’s dead cat lay snug on the curb.