HOW WAS YOUR DAY, DANNY?
I got off the bus this morning and walked the half block to work. But instead of going in the back way as usual, for some reason I decided to go around the front way through the lobby. As I crossed the parking lot I was not very awake; not in a very good mood; thinking about our money troubles. As I entered the grassy area I was bitching “Why me, God?” when I remembered that the Reverend O. L. Duck had said “God chastises those he loves”.
Then I saw Buddy, our poor scruffy unofficial mascot stray cat, Buddy, lying on his side in the cold, damp grass. I knew he was dead. He was stiff. He looked cold but as I bent over him I could see that the fleas had not abandoned him yet.
I turned him over. I saw the two pale pink stains on his cream-colored fur, one just below his ribs and the other one a couple inches away, on his belly.
I took my sandwich out of the plastic shopping bag and placed Buddy into the bag. I could see him through the bag like an embryo in its sack.
I headed toward the lobby door. Through the glass of the lobby I could see the Receptionist sitting facing me. As I entered I held the bag to my opposite side with the sandwich between my thumb and fore-finger.
I walked quickly to my lab. Outside the lab door in the hallway was a stack of Styrofoam boxes. They had been emptied of product for testing by Richard. I could hear Richard talking with Diane as I remained in the hallway, placing the bag and body within a Styrofoam box. Perfect fit. A white coffin. I hustled into the lab, said a quick “Hello”, and went into the back room where my lab coat was. I placed the little coffin on the lab bench then I pulled on my white coat.
The next thing, I was outside, on the patio, in the big…like, backyard area, near the parking lot. Gary the janitor was coming toward me. I asked him “Do you have access to a shovel? Buddy’s dead.” He went with me immediately to the big storage shed. I pointed to a large, shiny new-looking spade. Gary nodded.
As I went out the back gate, past the guard shack, I encountered a maintenance guy, the young guy with the long blonde pony-tail, God, I forget his name…
I opened the Styrofoam coffin to show him Buddy as I explained that I had seen what looked like a pair of wounds, and as I opened it we were both shocked by all the blood now smearing the inside of the plastic bag.
I proceeded across the back parking lot, waving a car to pass in front of me, making a low sweeping bowing gesture with the spade. I entered the field. I crossed the portion that had been scraped by the bulldozer, heading for the island of grass and trees. I felt good about this certain spot, out of view behind the tallest eucalyptus tree. I set the spade down; I set the Styrofoam coffin down. I hung my lab coat on a branch.
I opened the little white coffin. I couldn’t bury Buddy without being sure how he died. I opened the bloody bag. I picked up a small, stiff twig. I began probing the bloody patches, searching for the wounds.
I found the first one fairly quickly, just beneath his ribcage. It wasn’t perfectly round, but it wasn’t jagged. There was fascia beneath the opening. It was consistent with a puncture wound.
The second, on his belly, was harder to find. It was twice as big, but looked the same as the first wound. The two wounds were about a thumb’s-length apart. Fang marks? Why no matching marks on the other side? A pellet gun wound? Two openings, same side, so close? The openings didn’t appear to have been smashed or blasted open. They were clean.
There must have been lots of internal bleeding. It had flowed wet and red into the bag, and now made two bright red patches on his side. I figured he couldn’t have died too long ago.
Oh, fuck, what did I really want to know? I’m no forensics expert. I just wanted to know that Buddy wasn’t shot. Or kicked. Or killed by a human, I guess. Maybe a dog? But wouldn’t a dog have done more damage?
I had to let Buddy go. I scraped away through the pile of brown leaves and twigs. The soil was soft, but I soon hit a root. Then another root. So I dug a little cavern between the two roots.
I lifted Buddy from the box. I placed him down into the ground. His face seemed to be smiling at me; his tongue sticking out; his eyes squinted. But his eyes had a silvery grey veil over them.
I filled-in the grave. I covered the spot with leaves and twigs once again. I gathered my coat, the Styrofoam box, and the spade. I remember walking back across the field, the dirt, the asphalt parking lot. I approached the tall blue construction dumpster. It was well above my head, well above my reach. I tossed the white Styrofoam coffin with its blood-stained bag up into the air over my head while facing the blue sky and the white box floating lightly up and over and disappearing on the other side of the steel wall.
I could hardly concentrate on my work. I was sad. I had to call you and tell you what happened, even though it made you sad, too.
Later in the day, the young maintenance guy and I wondered if Buddy had been in a fight with a ‘possum. He agreed that a dog would have torn him up more.
“Maybe he hassled the ‘possum, thinking it was a big rat”, we tried to joke.
The rest of the day was kind of a sad blur. But late in the afternoon the young maintenance guy came into our lab and told me…something…I couldn’t quite hear him because of the noise that the Laminar Air Flow Hood was making. I heard only “cat” and I assumed he had found another dead kitty.
But I was completely mistaken! He had found a momma kitty, in the same tool shed from which I had gotten the burial spade. We hurried to the shed. I followed the maintenance guy, squeezing past all the desks, conduits, and junk in storage. Beside a big decommissioned sheet-metal HVAC unit, he stopped, whispered, and pointed down inside.
As I peered over and down, my eyes met the wide eyes of a mackerel tabby, curled in a tight little space, well out of my reach. I didn’t want to scare her. I whispered a silly greeting. Then I saw the tiny paws, and the little head with eyes yet unopened, nursing on her belly.
As I think about it now, it was the only possible antidote to the death of Buddy. I buried one life but there below me now was a tiny new life.
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