“For once, I wish you would not insist on carrying your dead cats back to Connecticut for burial.”
She stared off into space, holding the suitcase with both hands, her grief being controlled by the mechanics of her mission. With method, emotion can be mathematics, and so can be solved into a manageable equation.
“If they knew you had a dead cat in the suitcase, they would not let you board.”
I was immaterial to the proceedings. When we lived in Connecticut, I could indulge the depth of her sorrows. I even had a part in the rituals of her grief. We had cats. Many cats. Some would die. She would make of each a custom burial. I would be given my part in the grand play she was conducting and I would gladly fulfill my cameo role. I kept waiting for the whole affair to grow greater than us – to grow into something she wanted to make part of the community, or to at least populate with an amen corner of those she felt in tune with her otiose honors for the deceased cats.
But we moved from Connecticut. Pulled ourselves up like weeds with better opportunity and moved from the land of our beginning to the land of rush and ruin. Here, in New York, I wondered if she would recreate her rituals, find a new vacant spot of land, consecrate some new area outside of human traffic, and, as our short-lived cats expired, commit them to this new slit of suddenly sacred ground.
And then Mr. Norman died. He had grown far too obese, and, at 23 or so pounds, was a coronary waiting to happen. He was stiff one morning under the kitchen table, folded in on himself as though he were trying to hide in the vacuum between air molecules, and I thought – what now? Do we go exploring at the darker edges of our neighborhood for a likely bone yard? Do we drive out to the loamy edges of the island? Is there someplace she has picked out and kept in mind for just such an emergency?
No. She bought a train ticket. Only one train ticket. And she took an old, forties style suitcase, packed it with deodorizer, towels, and Mr. Norman, and called a cab. Even though she had only a train ticket for herself – none for me – nonetheless I accompanied her in the cab. Half silently, only -- as I was talking the whole time, and she said nothing. I am sure the cab driver thought we were crazy. We were crazy.
Myself, I would send the pet to a crematorium. But I found myself arguing for sacred spots in New York, and arguing there was nothing special in Connecticut. And there was no argument in return: she was taking Mr. Norman to Connecticut.
That was four trips ago. Four fellow mammals felled. I have made all the arguments I can make. I have offered all the defenses I can muster. I have found amazing potential burial spots – spots with history, spots with beauty, spots with a cachet of honor. Spots that seemed to call out, needing a reason to be special, capable of shouldering responsibility. She is unmovable.
And yet, in the throes of her unbearable mathematics, she is the most intricate thing I have ever seen. And, in a way, I wish when it is my time to be released, that I might fit reasonably in a suitcase. A trunk, perhaps a suit bag – with my towels and my deodorizer, pleasantly curled into the form of the conveyance, myself looking forward to the trip. It might be worth the devotion.
Despite there being a better side to a failure, I wickedly hope that during the wriggling, dolorous train ride, no one suspects the cat in the luggage. I could never rebalance her.
Ken’s collections of short fiction, “Constant Animals” and “Avenging Cartography”, and his latest collections of poetry, “Victims of a Failed Civics” and “The Book of Robot”, can be obtained from Barking Moose Press, www.barkingmoosepress.com. He serves as bewildering eye-candy at his wife’s power lifting affairs. His poetry lately has been sunning in “Analog”, “Asimov’s”, “Poet Lore”; and his fiction has yowled in “Spank the Carp”, “Red Truck”, “Café Irreal”. www.kpoyner.com.