My parents’ cat Fred has expired.
Fred’s death has proven to be unexpectedly traumatic for me. This post will tell you the entire story, but before you read it, I want to offer a disclaimer: I will not be holding back. Fred’s death was not gruesome, but there are some details that could be considered as such. The story is emotional and detailed. If you don’t have a problem reading about the untimely passing of a seemingly-healthy, young cat, then read on. Otherwise, all you need to know, you have already learned.
For those of you who are reading on, I want to point out that I am writing this story in the present tense, which as I said is 29 September. So when I say things like, “yesterday” and “last night”, they refer to Wednesday, 28 September.
My parents have been in Canada for over a week visiting my Gran. Morah and I have been taking care of the cats while they’re away. This past weekend, we went to Seattle for four days. One of our neighbors agreed to take care of the cats while Morah and I were out of town. I have no idea if she did, but it more or less seems like it.
We returned from Seattle on Monday evening and, according to a schedule my mum had made, we were supposed to visit the cats the following Wednesday, which was yesterday. On both Monday and Tuesday, I had this weird feeling that we should go check up on them on Tuesday, but the schedule said Wednesday, and we didn’t really have time anyway.
We had last been at my parents’ house on Thursday the twenty-second. Just as we were leaving, some guy walked up to the door and left a bag with phone books in it on the door-step. I didn’t really think anything of it and assumed our neighbor would take them inside.
As we pulled into my parents’ driveway last night, I saw that the bag was still there. Instantly, I wondered if our neighbor had been in the house at all over the weekend. I had a vision of all three cats laying on the floor, dead from starvation. That’s when I started to get nervous.
We entered the house and again I was struck with an odd discomfort. Normally, Fred comes running to see who’s at the door. This time, Fred didn’t come. Fearing my premonition to be true, I quickly entered and called to him, but he didn’t come. Then I saw him lying on the stairs leading down to the living room.
At first, I thought he was asleep. He looked peaceful and was curled up in that lazy, feline manner that suggests some reverie about fields of catnip.
“Fred,” I said softly, trying to rouse him from sleep’s warm embrace.
He didn’t move. A twinge of fear once again manifested itself in my mind.
“Fred,” I called again, louder, but still playful.
I tapped my foot against the wall.
“Fred!” Why wouldn’t he wake up?
Fear gripped me. My body tingled. The hairs on the back of my neck raised and in angry denial, I called again:
Desperate, almost begging. Fear edged on my voice. I could feel my face cringing, the flood waters building just behind my eyes. That salty stinging prelude to tears.
I called again as I carefully stepped over him to look at his face. I was afraid to touch him; afraid that what I already knew was true might actually be true.
His little face.
One eye half-open, the light glinting back it’s ghostly reflection that allows cats to see so well in the dark.
His mouth, just slightly open, and something red. Blood and vomit? That’s what it looked like, anyway.
His other eye shut tight, and what appeared to be a drip of blood, congealed in the corner of his eye.
And then it all came together. Seeing it all, knowing the undeniable truth. Not being able to change it.
Fred is dead.
I broke down. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want it to be real.
I buried my face in my hands and cried. Hard. Loud.
“He’s dead!” I wailed.
“What?” Morah, in disbelief.
Then a flashback to my vision. Three dead cats.
“Where are the others?” I shouted. “Find them! Make sure they’re okay!”
I yelled, barked the order. I was in shock. I was panicked. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to find the other two.
We couldn’t see them.
I ran up to my parents’ bedroom, the favourite hiding place of both Moon and Stimpy when Fred was on the prowl.
Normally, Moon is sleeping on the bed. No Moon.
Normally, Stimpy is sleeping on the floor. No Stimpy.
I feared the worst.
I lifted the cloth on a side table and Stimpy looked up at me. I could tell he was scared. He seemed to be okay otherwise, so I lifted the bed skirt. Moon’s eyes reflected back at me. They were both alive. They were both as scared as I was.
I was relieved to have found them, but Fred was still downstairs.
I walked out and looked down at him. He looked peaceful.
I wanted him to wake up. I refused to believe it, but resigned myself to the truth at the same time.
It was late in Toronto, but I had no choice. I called my parents.
My dad answered the phone and I told him. He couldn’t believe the news.
“What do I do?”
“I’m not sure what to tell you.”
“Well, whatever needs to be done, I’ll do it.”
Then I broke down again. I just couldn’t believe it.
I couldn’t believe it was true. I couldn’t believe that my terrible fantasy was real, at least in part. I couldn’t believe that Fred, who was lying there, looking as though he could get up and be his usual, happy, energetic self, wasn’t really there at all.
There was only one thing to do: Put him in a bag in the garage until my parents return the next day, which they were going to do anyway.
“If you can’t do it, you don’t have to.”
“No, I have to. It’s not fair to the other cats.”
It wasn’t fair to Fred, either.
Back downstairs. Three plastic bags. Fred.
I couldn’t do it.
I kept getting ready to pick him up, but I kept waiting. Waiting for him to wake up. Waiting for anything to happen so that I didn’t have to do this.
But I had to do it.
Cats are cute until they’re dead; then they’re just creepy.
The large bag in place, the two smaller ones on my hands. I wish I had rubber gloves.
I gingerly pulled his tail down by his legs. I tested one leg, lifting it.
Pretty stiff. Rigor had set. His paw was cold. He must have been dead no longer than a day. Two at the most.
I backed off again.
It had to get done. I had to do it.
I decided he would be easier to handle if I turned his back toward me, so I did. Slowly. A little bit at a time.
It was so hard. I was on edge the entire time.
It got a little easier once I moved him. My brain finally accepted that he wasn’t going to wake up; wasn’t going to move.
Into the bag. Tie it shut. Put it in the garage.
No little face, and just a drop of blood on the carpet. I cleaned it up as best I could.
I washed my hands. Three times with soap and hot water. I still felt dirty.
“Let’s go,” I said.
“Where do you want to go?” Morah asked. We had stopped here on our way to dinner.
My body said to eat, but how could I?
I ate. I forced myself to eat. Even now, the next day, I don’t have an appetite. I eat because I know I’m supposed to, not because I want to.
At home. Kisa.
I could barely look at my own cat and didn’t want to touch her; didn’t want to spread death across her coat.
My hands still felt dirty and the feeling was inching up my arms.
I washed my hands again. Again.
Last night, the whole thing kept playing over and over in my mind until I fell asleep. Same thing this morning.
I broke down and cried at work this morning. I was alone in the edit suite, and no one else had really shown up to work yet.
I’ve never been the discoverer before. I’ve never been the one who has to deal with it. With that feeling. That knot-in-your-stomach, cold, sickening realisation that someone or something you love is gone forever and it’s up to you to tell everyone else. It’s up to you to deal with it.
No one has asked me how I am today. I don’t know what I would tell them if they did.
I feel consumed.
I can’t stop thinking about it.
Driving up to the house and having the vision. Seeing Fred for the first time. Realising he’s dead. Feeling him through the plastic bags.