My lack of posts recently can be directly attributed to a major case of writer’s block. Therefore, I have decided to try something different and share an essay with you readers that I wrote for my nonfiction workshop this past semester. I hope you enjoy.
Pyewacket was a member of the family before I was even a thought. I grew up right behind her as if she was my third older sister. As she watched me grow from infancy through adolescence, I watched her grow from a spry young feline into a decrepit bag of bones.
When I was young, I wanted to align my opinions closest with my older brother Zack. As the only male child, he assumed dominance among the siblings, even over our oldest sister, so I imitated him the most. He didn’t like peas, so I didn’t like peas. He preferred vanilla, so I avoided chocolate. He always wanted a dog, so I affected a distaste toward our cat. As I grew older, while the rest of my opinions formed independently, I kept my apathy for Pyewacket.
Domestic house cats are typically expected to live up to 15 years. So when Pyewacket reached 17, then 18, we knew it couldn’t be much longer. First she started slowing down. Like any creature past its prime, Pyewacket slowly stopped doing normal cat things. She used scratching post less and less. She only went outside to cry to be let back in. She started sleeping all the time. Not that cats are usually playful and overly energetic, but there was a distinction between her youthful sleeping habits and those as she entered her final years.
Next came the howling. We understand that she may have gone deaf or, at least, hard of hearing so to compensate, her meows became howls. This would be fine for a normal healthy cat, but Pyewacket became a finicky old bitch. My bedroom was situated closest to Pyewacket’s food bowl, so I spent most of my high school years being woken up by these howls. If she was hungry, which was around her 6 am, she let me know. She would situate herself right outside my door and cry for an hour before I could motivate myself to get out of bed and feed her. MROW! MROW! MRRRROWWWW!!! became my alarm clock. I never wanted the job of caring for the cat, but she decided it would be my job for those years until the food itself wasn’t enough.
A curious thing about this aging cat was finding teeth throughout the house. I’d run my hand along the back of the couch where she habitually napped, and find a fang or two among the cushions. Soon it was hard to believe she had any teeth left, and apparently she had lost too many to continue to manage hard food. We noticed her food bowl went untouched for days before, I assume, she would endure gumming her food to avoid starvation. My mom ultimately decided to start buying wet food, and Pyewacket ate right up.
Then there was the peeing. In the beginning of her decline, Pyewacket started peeing on soft things. If a blanket or pillow were left on the floor, she would pee on it. She still used her litter box sometimes, but if you left any kind of fabric on the floor, you could expect it to smell like ammonia the next day. Whether she conditioned us to stop leaving things on the floor or she just stopped caring about where she was peeing, she eventually started peeing everywhere. The carpet, the linoleum, sometimes her litter box, but anywhere else was fair game. This was when my anger and hatred grew for her. She would look me square in the eye and pee on the carpet as if to say, “F*** your youth.” I eagerly awaited her death. Every time I found her sleeping especially static, I would check for a pulse only to be disappointed by the sudden up/down of her frail body taking a breath.
The summer before I left for college, I spent most of my time around the house. One day my sister, Kassidy, and I were home, doing nothing and expecting nothing. The landline rang and neither one of us answered. A woman’s voice echoed through the house leaving a voicemail, “Hello this is animal control. We found your kitty on the side of the road…” Kassidy and I met in the living room, realizing the situation. We glanced out the window and saw the animal control truck across the street. I bit my lip trying not to smile.
We approached the truck, and found the woman who had been trying to contact us.
“Hi, you were just leaving a message on our machine?” I asked.
“Hi! Yeah, your number was on her collar. I’m so sorry.” The woman opened the side of the truck.
“Ohhh no,” Kassidy feigned a sad face.
The woman brought a black garbage bag out of the truck and asked if there was some place we wanted it.
“Oh. We have to take it?” I asked, confused as to what would have happened if we hadn’t come outside.
“Yes..” The woman seemed appalled at my willingness to part with this animal.
“I guess you can leave her here on the porch, and we’ll wait for my mom to come home.” The woman gently laid the bagged cadaver on my front porch and left us with her condolences. I called my mom and delivered the bad news. I was shocked when she said she’d leave work on her lunch hour. The cat was still going to be dead when she got home at 4.
My mom pulled in the driveway with a wet face. I had hoped there wouldn’t be any crying. I showed her where the cat laid, baking in the sun. “What happened?” she cried.
“They’re not really sure. I guess she was on the grass across the street, and one of the neighbors called animal control. They didn’t think she got hit by a car. She didn’t look all bloody or anything.” We decided it would be best to put her in a better container until we could give her a proper burial later, so I brought out an empty litter container, in which she should not have fit, but she folded right in it. My mom returned to work.
That afternoon, my brother-in-law Alfredo came over to help us bury Pyewacket. She loved him the most, honestly. He dug a hole, and I brought out a paper bag to contain her more ecologically than the garbage bag. My mom scoffed at the inappropriateness of the Olive Garden bag in which we buried her, and I counter the fact that we could pay for an honorable pet funeral, and she quieted.
“Well, I don’t really believe that pets go to heaven,” my mom delivered a eulogy. “But if they do, I sure hope Alvin is rubbing your back with his foot [My father would do this all the time before he parted]. And I hope you weren’t in any pain. You were a good cat.” She wiped her face, and we took a moment of silence.
The whole situation was bittersweet on my end. I was not sad to see the cat go. I might even say I was glad to be done with her. I was however, disconcerted by the noises that continued throughout my house at night that I had previously attributed to Pyewacket. A thud here, a creak there. Now there was no comforting explanation as to what went bump in the night.