Saturday, February 11, 2012

How Our Weekend Started


At first it looked liked a sweatshirt or a jacket. Typical. We play in the street a lot. Wiffle ball, basketball, bikes, scooters, hockey. A kid leaving a jacket in the street is hardly unusual. My neighbor’s younger son standing over it and just staring at it –looking down at it – not moving. That seemed unusual.

As I walked closer it became clear something was unusual.
I called out, “Stephen, what is that?”
“A cat.”

I hurried over. I bent over to make sure. The lifeless eyes of the poor animal stared to nothingness. Sure enough. I exhaled and sighed.

“What happened?”
“The bus hit it.”
“The school bus? Really?”
“Yeah, he was just coming across the street and the bus hit it.”
“Did you see it?”
“Yeah.”

The gray and white cat rested in the street right in front of our house. The bus had just dropped off the posse of neighborhood elementary school kids at the corner and continued down our street like it does every Friday afternoon. Except today it ran over a cat.

I reached down and turned the collar around. The tag confirmed what I feared. It was Amigo. Amigo belongs to the family a few houses down the street. Kids started to gather around. Then word got out and more kids started to gather. I ran inside and grabbed a towel, ran back and covered the poor animal.

There was no blood. Hardly any, actually. The animal looked fine, otherwise. Blunt force trauma? I had to hold back the tears. Anything being killed by a vehicle is too close to home for us. And in front of our home is certainly too close to home. My older son ran inside and started crying.

We had a minor spectacle forming and we needed to move the spectacle off the street. I gently lifted Amigo’s lifeless body, now wrapped in a towel, and carried him to our porch.  I ran down to the neighbor’s house with my other son. They weren’t home yet. I called their number and left a message to call me back.

As I walked home I started to rehearse how I’d tell them when they’d call. Would I tell them come over so I could tell them in person? How would I get Amigo back to them? Simple things, but important things. Then I remembered when the DC Detective brought Amy’s personal affects to our home in a big red biohazard trash bag. I remembered how horrible seeing that was and wishing they’d had the foresight to at least put that horrible red biohazard trash bag in a box. So I went back home and found a cardboard box and put Amigo, still wrapped in the towel, in the box. I wished I had a better box. Not an empty brown moving box with tape remnants and Sharpie marker announcing it was ‘Office Supplies.’ Something plain or white. But that is what I had and it did make carrying the poor animal easier.

As I picked up Amigo a second time I was startled how heavy he felt. Ten pounds? Less? I couldn’t really tell. We had a dead raccoon on the front yard once. I picked it up by the tail to dispose of it and remembered how heavy it felt too. Something lifeless ought not feel heavy. It should be light. That the life-force or soul or whatever it is that is life has no mass is perplexing sometimes. And I remembered gathering Amy’s remains from the funeral home and being startled by what that box of ashes weighed. And then the tears came.  I heard somewhere recently that each joy is its own, independent, joy but each sorrow is the accumulation of all the sorrows before. I remembered the time when my Aunt died. My dad’s sister. Later that same week one of our pet cats was hit by a car. My dad found it. He had been stoic up until then, but finding that poor helpless animal was that straw. And that is how it is sometimes.

About an hour later the neighbors called. My mind had wandered and I had forgotten to rehearse. So I just told them. Told them Amigo had been hit by the bus and didn’t make it. It was the same way a cop told me Amy had been killed. He never said “died” or “killed.” Just that she had been hit and didn’t make it. That’s how you say it. It’s hard to say the real words around death so we use other words: passed, didn’t make it. I walked down the street with the box with Amigo wrapped in a towel. I knocked on the door. They answered and I walked inside and gave them the box. She didn’t want to look. He had to make sure and looked. I understand that. I’m glad they were both there. And I’m glad their daughter wasn’t yet. I told them again what happened. I told them I don’t know if the bus driver saw him. I kind of doubt it actually. It just happened. The neighbors kid saw it. It happened very fast. We talked a little about what a great pet Amigo was. I learned Amigo was only three and had been a Humane Society kitty. They thanked me, and I left. It was sad. And as I walked the short distance home more tears came.  And I started to wonder what it’s like for a cat. What is that last moment of life like for a cat? Does it have some awareness that what is going on or is it really like falling asleep forever?

And then shouts and screams of the neighborhood kids startled me out of my thoughts. They had moved on from the street and were in another neighbor’s yard playing tag.

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