Warning: I use a few profane words here... My mom has complained about my use of the F-word in this post, so now you know. But there were extreme circumstances. I will revert to my normal and tame vocabulary in my next post.
Sometimes I have experiences that leave me quaking after they have occurred. Today I had this feelings for hours.
This morning as I do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I hustled the kids into the truck to take them to preschool at Ms. Cindy's. After yelling at the kids to get in their car seats I strapped them in and flung my body into the drivers seat to begin our short journey.
We live on a busy rural road. It's a two laner that posts 45 as the legal speed, but frequently travelers are driving in excess of 60 down the mini-highway. I pulled out on our driveway and looked both ways, scanning the roadway north and south for approaching vehicles. We have a straight away in both directions, so fortunately I can see cars coming from afar. As I looked to my right, I immediately spotted a dead cat, light cream in color, in the middle of the road.
It was sprawled across the yellow line that bisects the roadway. A clean kill still. No blood or guts. Yet...
I knew that cat. It was a stray that had dined at my cat food dish just the night before. As I came out of my house at 10 pm to feed the horses, it dashed from the porch zooming under my truck, a skittish feral. I remembered thinking, "Great, I am feeding just one more unwanted cat."
But there he lay, dead on the road. I pulled over immediately and picked up his soft, limp body and put it in the back of my pickup truck. I hate it when other animals get hit while eating road kill, so I wanted to move the body out of harms way. I have seen turkey vultures dead where they were eating along the road. There was no need for another fatality today.
I popped back in the truck quickly clicking my seatbelt into the latch. I needed to turn the vehicle around, so I drove down the road to our neighbors driveway where I could negotiate backing up my crew cab, long bed, piece of crap truck. Navigating my vehicle is like moving the Queen Mary in a vat of sludge. The turning radius is miserable. No, actually the turning radius is miserably shitty.
As I was backing the truck up I caught a glimpse of a black something on the side of the road that looked like cat. Fuck. No, I thought, that can't be another cat. I kept backing. But, I had to look again. Yep, it was a cat. A small wisp of a black cat was dead on the shoulder of the road. A black cat. We have a black cat. His name is Lucky. Oh, Crap.
"I see another dead cat," I said to the kids, "I think that's Lucky, guys."
Setting the parking break, I informed the kids, "I'll be right back." I could not leave without making sure. I had to investigate further and jogged over to the spot where the cat lay on the ground. One look was all it took for me to be certain. It was Lucky. My heart sank. Black with faint tabby stripes and a few white hairs on his chest. Damn it all to hell.
I picked up the stiffened cat. Our stiffened little Lucky cat. Rigamortus had already set in and blood pored from his mouth when I placed him in the back of the truck beside the other dead cat.
Great. Just fucking great. Now I had not one, but two dead cats back there. Two dead cats, one black, one white, in the now bloody bed of my truck. The yin and the yang of cat death. One dead stray cat and one dead beloved member of our family was back there. A hell of a way to start the day.
So, there I am, driving down the road with a pair of dead cats bumping around in the back of my truck. One of which was defiling the bed with bodily fluids, but that was beside the point. I needed to break the news to the kids about their cat. Well, they were aware of what was going on. They saw me picking up dead cats along the road from their car seats. What a conversation starter for sharing time at school, "My Mom put dead cats in the back of our truck this morning..." That's just the reputation I want to establish.
I began factually, there was no reason to attempt hiding anything from the kids, "That was Lucky. Lucky got hit by a car." What else was I to say?
"No, Lucky's not dead, Jeweya (Julia)" cousin Adam responded first in a most affirmative manner. "He was merowing to get in this morning."
I responded, "Well, that cat I just picked up is Lucky, and he is dead, Adam."
"That's sad mom," Wyatt chimed in.
"Wucky dead, Wucky dead?" Ella peeped from her position between the two boys. She had to get her two cents in as well.
"It's very sad Wyatt. Very, very sad. Yep, Lucky's dead." was my only reply. I was stifling back tears at this point since I always have a tough time with my animals dying. My stomach was upset and I had that feeling of miserable helplessness for which there is no immediate cure.
It was an awkward scene. Picture if you will, a white Ford truck with three kids strapped in the back seat talking about their dead pet, one disturbed mom, and two dead cats bouncing around near the tailgate. The lot of us, cruising a long our two lane country road were involved in a very strange conversation.
Wyatt and Adam continued questioning me again and again, "Are you sure that was Lucky? Really, are you sure???"
"Lucky's not dead, Mom." Wyatt asserted himself several times.
"He tried to come in our house this morning," Adam insisted.
"I am 99 percent positive that cat is Lucky, guys. There is a one percent chance that is not Lucky, boys." I replied with reservation. I did not want to get their hopes up for no reason.
In the back of my mind, I knew there was a very remote chance the dead black cat could be one of Lucky's litter mates who lived across the street. One of the neighbors said there were several black kittens running around when we adopted Lucky. Or rather when Lucky coerced me into adopting him.
However, I could not shake from my mind the undeniable fact that the cat I picked up looked exactly like our cat. Maybe, just maybe, it was not Lucky. But it was a hell of a long shot for sure.
We arrived at Mrs. Cindy's house where the kids go to school. I wanted to hustle them into class as fast as possible to get the kids to move on with the day. I wanted to get them thinking about something else. But as soon as we walked in the door the announcement broke out, "Our cat's dead. Lucky's dead." So much for my intentions. But the kids were not crying so I guess that was to be my consolation in the matter.
As I came out to the truck, I went back to examine the black feline corpse once again. There was no doubt in my mind. It was Lucky. Small and lithe in form. Black with faint tabby stripes. A few white wisps of hair at the center of his chest. Fuck. It's Lucky. Damn it. I wish these cats would stay home. I did think it was rather odd that he was killed past the neighbors house though. That's really out of his range I thought to myself.
I jumped back into the drivers seat shaking my head, "OK, Ella, we've got to go home. We've got some work to do." I had to declare this with resolution. I really did not want to start sobbing.
"Wucky dead, Ma Maw?" Ella questioned me.
"Yep, we need to bury him when we get home, and the other cat too. We've got work to do..."
I made small talk with Ella on the 12 minute drive home and parked in anticipation of my job ahead. I was to be the undertaker for the day. My plan consisted of digging a hole on the south side of the property near the fence line between some redwood trees. The only thing was, could I do it without breaking in to sobbing fits of tears?
I unbuckled Ella from her car seat and sighed, "Ella, please come to the house. I need to put my work boots on." The Dansko clogs I was wearing were just not the right shoes for the occasion. Ella tottered after me while talking about burring the cat and we went inside. I sat down on our hard wooden bench seat and quickly laced up my boots while thinking pragmatically, "Where is the shovel???"
Meanwhile, Ella sat down on the floor and started taking off her shoes. "No sweetie, keep them on. We have to go back outside," I told her patiently. I finished tying my shoes and pushed my pant legs over the top of the worn leather boots. Then I stood up with determination. I was not going to start blubbering like an idiot. I just had a job to do.
"Let's go Ella, we need to bury the cat." I was resolved to get this over with as quickly as possible.
I walked out the door holding it open so my little helper could exit and I could shut in the warm air that remained within the house. It was still overcast and the chill from the night time was lingering yet. The sun had risen faithfully, just as it does every day from the east, but shone coldly down on our front porch. What a grim day this was turning into.
As I was turning to walk down the steps Ella said, "Dare's Wucky, Ma Maw." She was pointing under our patio table. "Dare's Wucky Ma Maw," She repeated again.
There, lying on a dark gray cushion under our outdoor table, a little black form was sleeping tightly curled in a tidy ball of warm soft fur. Breathing, blinking, yawning, and mewing. It was Lucky. Our Lucky. He was alive. Santa Maria! He was alive. I knelt down in slow motion and reached under the table to stroke his ebony coat. Yep, it was Lucky.
At that point I started crying, the tears were silently streaming down my face and I picked up my daughter and smiled. It was a mix of emotions of relief and confusion and sadness which are difficult describe. After being so stoic about Lucky being dead during the prior 35 minutes, I could cry for relief at that one moment.
I walked out to the truck again to look at the dead cat still lying in the bed. It was Lucky too. But his brother I am sure. And he was an identical brother with out a doubt. He was the same size and same coloring, down to the faint tabby stripes and the white hairs on his chest. Same eyes, same everything, but not our Lucky.
So the kids were right. Lucky was not dead. I guess when there is a one percent chance of something going in your favor it can happen. Odds are it won't, but it can. I guess we were just lucky today with our Lucky. It has taken me hours to shake the feeling of loss and remorse which shocked my system. Even after finding our Lucky alive and well, I could not get that feeling out of my body. But finally, it has faded and I can tell this strange little tale of good and bad luck.
And I can say I drove around with two dead cats in the back of my truck. I guess I can check that off my life list now. ;)