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Not Exactly Proof of Death, but Pretty Damn Likely

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on December 5, 2014

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA  KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA  Charlie II

Charlie

I wasn’t sure at first where to post this. It doesn’t really fit on my Ennui blog. It is kind of random. I just found out today that my missing cat is dead. I was speaking with a neighbor who makes beer, and he promised to bring one by. He asked what my house number is, and I told him, asking him if he remembered the poster I had up for months asking if anyone had seen my cat, since it had my house number and phone number. He remarked that another neighbor said he had seen a cat just like that at the same time (June), dead in our community garden. Well, thanks a lot for telling me neighbor! I’ve wanted some closure since then. It makes me mad and sad at the same time.

I’ve missed that cat so much. He was a cat who waited for me to get home. Even though he had and used the cat door, he’d wait for me to unlock and open the main door. He loved attention, and sleeping on my lap, and bed. At eleven years old, he still loved to play. Sometimes I think I hear him. I’ve posted posters of him, and walked the surrounding neighborhood nearly every day, calling him and whistling for him. He used to come running when I whistled. Two neighbors left me a phone message that they’d seen a friendly cat just like him in the next neighborhood down the road, and I walked there nearly every day for three months calling and whistling for him.

I had always imagined he might show up one day, that someone had taken him in, or he wandered so far away that he’d become confused and lost. Of course, the worst scenario was that he’d been eaten by coyotes. He was such a lean, healthy, strong, and fast animal. It’s hard for me to imagine him not being able to climb a tree or building to get away, and he could run really fast. Aside from the occasional coyotes, it is a safe neighborhood for cats. We are far from the major street, and the speed humps in our cul-de-sac road keep my neighbors driving below 15 mph. Traffic through the compound is very light, and he often slept or played on the large flat roof that results from having six houses connected. He is microchipped, but animal control here had no record of him being picked up injured or dead, so I had some hope I’d see him again.

It’s strange, after all this time, but now I am grieving for him. I missed him before, and couldn’t quite believe he was gone. Now, I have to accept it, and I don’t even know what happened. Was he hit by a car and left in the garden? Did he choke, or was he poisoned by something he ate? Why did no one tell me? That poster was up right by our mailboxes for a long time, and everyone saw it. You’d think the person that saw a dead cat in the garden would have told me. The bad ugly thing is that this happened right after there was an email broadcast to all the residents here from another neighbor that cats were shitting on her roof, and left a turd on her patio, that a roadrunner had been mauled, and that cats can decimate all wildlife in an area. I fired back that, from my experience, cats eat what they kill, and would not have left an injured bird. The email misrepresented the study on cats. The point of that study was the effect of un-neutered cats, proliferating unchecked. Mine have always been neutered. The neighborhood is full of wild birds, doves, pigeons, and all manner of small mammals, and in the seven years I’ve lived here, there has not been any noticeable decrease in the wildlife. Sure my cat ate some birds and rodents, but the roadrunner is a fierce predator itself, even eating rattlesnakes, rodents and other birds. It is not in danger from cats. (Coyotes are faster, but roadrunners can fly.)

My cat went missing right after I sent that email. That’s why I’ve been angry. The thought that some idiot may have killed my cat on purpose really infuriated me.

But that’s over now. I know it’s hard for people to accept that a dead pet can cause such sadness. I know he wasn’t my child or a person, but he sure was a friend, affectionate and loyal, and since he was initially born outdoors, of a feral mother, he never accepted anyone but me, retaining a wildness that I liked, and yet being very trusting and affectionate with me, and the other feral cat that showed up a year later.

The main reason I had moved into this compound was for the safety of my cats, and the fact that there were many trees to climb, and grass to frolic in. Now, I’m not certain that I’ll stay. In my mind, animals need space, room to run and play and hunt. Of course, I recognise that the freedom my cat had probably led directly to his death, and I should accept that. It just makes me so fucking sad.

Posted in friends, Life, My Life, rambling, rants | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Back to the Mainstream

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on August 3, 2010

Fishing is religion to many people.  Fishing in New Mexico is like that – it’s a spiritual experience.  Rick loved fishing.  He also liked to drink, and he liked to party – “Ajua!” – and he liked to grow and eat the hottest chiles you’ve ever tasted – “Yesss!” – but he loved just a few things: his wife, his sons, and fishing.  There probably isn’t a river or lake in the whole state that he hadn’t fished.
“Rick’s dead.”  That’s how I got the news.  Linda repeated it, because I just stumbled out a “What?”  “Rick’s dead.”  “Yeah, but, but, you mean, Rick, Hilda’s Rick?”  “Yes.”  “But, how? when?  Was he in another accident?”
Well, anyway, Rick was dead.  The deal was this: he was at home, “evaluating,” a friend’s gun to give his wife, Hilda, for her protection.  The reason she needed protection is a family secret.  Rick didn’t know if he would buy it yet.  The story we were told was this: while Rick was loading the gun, Hilda left him to call Damien, one of her sons, and ask him about the value of the gun.  Rick didn’t know if he would buy it yet.  Rick, who had just the month before wrecked their truck, and who had broken an arm here and a leg there, having a habit of being not quite careful, dropped the gun.  The problem with an automatic, however, is that, as it’s loaded, that action cocks the gun.  The gun went off when it hit the floor, and the bullet, well, the bullet found Rick’s heart.  It had to pass through the sofa cushion, then it severed Rick’s scrotum, and traveled up through his stomach, where it managed to hit a valve in his heart, and no one could save him.
Hilda was devastated.  I don’t recall ever seeing a woman’s face so utterly deflated with sadness.  All of the skin in her face seemed to droop.  She cried, sobbing between spasms of crying.  Of course, her family was soon with her, as were Rick’s and Hilda’s friends: those that fished, and those without that particular religion.  Everyone came, and we all brought food and beer.  You come together to try to accept what has happened, you sit together, you talk, you eat, you drink.
Just days before the accident, Rick had one shot from a new bottle of tequila.  He had said he wanted to save it, to make it last.  Now, since he was gone, everyone crowded into the living room, the room with that bullet-holed sofa cushion, and shared the rest of his bottle.  It was our last chance to share a drink with him.  Martín, Hilda’s brother, sang a corrido in a great full voice laced with sadness.
Curious, I looked at the cushion.  Someone had turned it over so the hole was not so visible, but it was there.  I put my finger in it. I couldn’t imagine how it had happened.  I didn’t know at the time that Rick’s huevos had been blasted off, or I wouldn’t have touched the sofa at all.  There was, curiously, no blood, as if the cushion had not been under Rick for long after the bullet passed through it.  Perhaps he fell over onto the floor.  If there had been blood on the floor, it was gone now.
Eventually people hugged, and cried some more, and went back to their own homes.  There had been a church service earlier, but Rick had long ago insisted that there be no funeral, and no coffin for him.  He was cremated.  His ashes had been brought from the church, and rested in a jar in the hallway.  In the morning his family and friends took the ashes to Rick’s favorite fishing spot in all of Nuevo México.
It was a long drive from Albuquerque, past Bernalillo, traveling highway 550, through Cuba, through Aztec, and on and on near the Aztec ruins, almost to Colorado.  Five trucks convoyed behind Hilda, in the lead, because only she knew the place.  We pulled off the road, and plunged down an embankment to a sudden stop near the water.  There was a short hike along a thin, almost overgrown path.  Damien poured Rick into his fishing hole, a slowly revolving eddy alongside the swift flowing San Juan.  The ashes whirled round and round and round, some of them heading briefly upriver, where they slowly sank.  We all tossed flowers in the water, and watched, and waited for Rick to join the mainstream.
As the ashes and flowers slowly spiraled towards the deep rushing water, Rick’s family stood on the yellow sandstone rock that balanced over the eddy.  I thought the whole thing might just topple into the water, and the entire family drown, what with the aunt, the cousins, the sisters, the sons, the dog, and the friends standing or sitting on that cantilevered rock.  The sun is mercilessly bright when there are no clouds, and creates silver highlights on the surface of water.  The swift splashing water has shadows between the ripples.  Perhaps that helps explain what we saw.
Damien saw it first – a fish, probably dead, swirling with the ashes and the flowers.  It listed in the water, but wasn’t clearly dead, so Damien poked it with a stick.  It swam away! but only for a few feet.  It remained there, lazily pulled this way and that by the competing currents in that watery grave.  Someone said, “It’s drunk,” and it was almost certainly true.  The ashes and flowers had been followed by brandy, and beer, and tequila.  Rick was known to take a sip from time to time, well, probably more times than not.  The fish was drunk.
It wasn’t long before someone decided that the fish was Rick.  It made sense.  Rick had been coming to this spot for a long time, and he had just returned for the last time in what was left of his human form.  The fish wouldn’t go away.  It kept reappearing at intervals, and drifting, drifting, drifting, like it was waiting for something.  It seemed to be watching us watching it.
The fish told us that Rick wasn’t dead, that he would travel the San Juan now.  That he would hang around the fishing holes, drinking the beer and tequila that slipped from the hands and lips of  fisherman down the length of that river.
Gradually, the tears dried, and the sobs quieted.  People laughed about the fish.  The dog barked at it.  The shadows were creeping down the bank, moving over the edges of the water.  It was time to go.  The fish became more animated, swimming faster, reappearing less, and moving closer to the central current.  Finally, he disappeared into the shadowy, reckless middle.
Rick had joined his compadres in the water’s mainstream, and we felt relief.  Rick was free.  Rick was home.  I swear I heard something in the splashing, gurgling water, as we watched the river flow.  I swear I heard, “Ajua!”

Posted in family, fishing, friends, Life | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

A Tale of Two Cats

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 3, 2010

Hey Charlie boy, strange furry little child of mine. You want to go out, do you? Here you go, I said. Charlie, a tiger-striped short-haired domestic tabby, lept out the now open cat door. Why they waited like that puzzled me.  Charlie and his other half, a black and white short-haired domestic tabby, come and go as they please. Sometime they stay out all day, sometimes they pop in for a bite and pop right out again. Sometimes one or both sleeps on my bed all day. In summer they sometimes don’t show for a day or two. I never can figure them out. They don’t need me to open the cat door, but if I’m in the room, they sit or lay patiently until I notice them, and wait for me to hold the flap up so they can leap through the hole.
There’s cat litter in the house, but they rarely use it.  I hardly ever change it anymore. I can pull out the occasional piece of dried shit.  I can often hear them running around over my head. They love the flat-roofed houses around here.  There are six houses connected together, so they often run full tilt across the roofs, sounding like herds of miniature horses.  Cats and horses, of course, have exactly the same gait, moving both legs on either side in unison, alternating from one side to the other as they run.
Often they wait outside the clear plastic door, waiting patiently for me to notice them. I let them in. Sometimes they eat, sometimes they want to be petted, sometimes they are just looking for each other. Sometimes they want to go right back out.
If I’m too slow to notice them, they start scratching the small throw rug by the door.  There’s a small rug by my bed that they do the same thing to, if I’m too long in bed in the morning.  Charlie sometimes meows at me, but the other one, Kilala, just scratches like mad.  Sometimes they want food.  Charlie has a high-pitched meow he uses when he’s hungry, so I always know just what he wants. If he wants attention, he simply jumps up on my lap, or on the desk if I’m at the computer.
Kilala doesn’t ever jump up on me. She likes to rub her neck on all the corners of the walls, and likes me to pet her, mostly just around her neck and head. She was the feral one, showing up out of the blue one day.  Charlie was barely a year old when she showed up; I had raised him from a kitten. His mother had camped out in the yard, and dropped her litter.  I fed them every day.  Since this was the second time a cat had dropped a litter there, my wife insisted I get rid of them quickly.  Before I did, I heard one of them mewing and crying away from inside the fence I had recently put up.  There were pickets on both sides, and he must have fallen in from on top.  Fortunately, I had used deck screws to put the fence up, and I undid the screws on the plank closest to the crying.  It was the little striped orange cat I’d later call Charlie.  I took him over to his mother, petting him all the while.
After a few more weeks I went to Animal Control for a trap.  I set it up early, and put their bowl of cat food inside.  Later on, I found the mother and most kittens inside.  That made my wife happy.  She was glad to see them go.  It was the second litter I’d had to get rid of. I’d kept the mother of the first litter, after leaving all her wiry, well-trained mousers at Animal Control.  They were such lively, healthy animals.  I’d watched the mother train them in mousing, bringing them a field mouse to learn how to catch.  I hated to see them go, but my wife insisted, and she wasn’t interested in waiting for people to come by and take them.
I had the mother fixed; no more kittens for her.  She was a gentle cat, obviously a runaway, as she was well used to people, cat food and houses.  But, one day a few weeks after she been spayed, she died in the garden.  My wife noticed while she was watering.  I was sad. I never knew what killed her: complications from her spaying operation? insect poison on the garden?
But, next spring there was another female, another litter.  That was the litter Charlie came from.
When I trapped them, Charlie was the only one who hadn’t gone into the trap. So I kept him.  My wife wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea, but as long as the menagerie was gone, she was OK with keeping one.  Charlie was almost feral himself, still very young.  He stayed away from the house, but showed up every day looking for food.  While he ate, I petted him, and it must have imprinted, because, to this day, he often waits by his food until I pet him.  He’s the only animal I’ve ever seen who will allow himself to be petted while eating. He even purrs as he chomps away.
I think Kilala was no more than six months old then she showed up.  I never knew if she’d stay, so she was just “Girl” for the longest time. She was incredibly thin, but then I noticed her belly hanging down. Damn, another pregnant cat.  She took to Charlie right away.  They hung out a bit until she had her kittens, then she was often missing.  One day I found her with her kittens in a small pit under an old, low-slung bench in the garden area.  She grabbed one of the kittens and ran to the fence, vaulting it like a champion despite the bundle in her teeth. Later on, I noticed she had taken all the kittens, probably in the same manner.  As they got older, they needed more food than Kilala could provide, so she brought them all over to the bowl I had Charlie’s food in. She had eaten there before, so now she was teaching her progeny where the food was.  I had to put a lot more out.  I was happy again to see the kittens playing, fighting, running around the yard, but my wife insisted they could not stay. Again, I had to round ’em up and take them away.  I kept Kilala of course. She was a great companion for Charlie.   I can’t stand to see animals kept by themselves.  Most animals, especially cats and dogs, are very social creatures. An animal locked up by itself, in a house or yard, is the cruelest kind of life, I think.
Charlie had already been neutered, and I had Kilala spayed.  I kept my fingers crossed, and was very happy to see that she survived.  Eventually I coaxed the two of them into the house to eat.  They had a ball investigating all the rooms in the house, and chasing each other through them.  They didn’t, however, like it when the outside door was closed.  They loved running out and in, and out and in again.  Whenever I could I left the sliding glass door and screen open.  In winter, when I couldn’t, I had to open the door every time they wanted in or out.  They never ran away. Even if they were out all day or night, they waited by the door for me to let them in again.
My wife hated the way I catered to them.  I couldn’t see just leaving them outside, or confining them inside, so I became their doorman.  I didn’t mind.  They are affectionate to me and each other, although, just as people do, sometimes they fight with each other. Often they mate, even though both are fixed.  It is always funny to watch them, curling together like a Yin and Yang painting, then suddenly fighting, or chasing each other around and biting and hissing.  But always, they return and sleep curled around each other.   They remind me so much of married couples, with one exception: they stay together.  Either one could leave, but they never do.  No matter how much they fight, they end up licking each other’s face, and cleaning each other’s fur.  And always they like to sleep together.
Not like humans.  My wife is no longer with me. We grew apart, without much affection passing between us anymore.  I loved her, but she seemed, to me, to be cold and hard.  Perhaps it was all in my mind.  I told her once, after she’d been away, and she kept insisting, drunkenly, that I tell her, that I hadn’t called her because I hadn’t missed her.  I had actually enjoyed a little time away from her. I meant nothing radical.  It just was nice to have the house to myself, with peace and quiet, without the constant noise of the TV and her nagging, once in a while.  I hadn’t meant more than that, but she wouldn’t talk to me anymore, wouldn’t listen to me.  She made me leave, and, of course, I took the cats.  The cats went with me kicking and screaming, but they adjusted to the new place, and they stay with me. I never heard from my human companion of fourteen years again.

Posted in friends, Life, love, relationships | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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