Monday, June 2, 2008

The Ginger Cat

That ginger cat has been lying on the road all day, I was thinking. When I saw it in the morning it had been lying there, still, stretched out on the asphalt in front of a parked car. It might have been enjoying a lie in the sun. For a very short moment I thought that the cat was only lying in the sun as cats like to do – but there had been a small, soft, pink bundle of something on the road a short distance from its head – a small, soft, pink bundle of something that, more than the stillness of the body, had alerted me to the obvious: that the ginger cat was dead.

The bundle of pink had seemed fresh, I remembered thinking. I hadn't been able to stop myself looking at it. I hadn't wanted to look at the body of the cat either, but even so, without looking at the cat straight on, I had noticed that its head was flat and had been tucked in an unusual angle to the body, and as such it should have been obvious that the ginger cat was dead. There was something, too, about the stillness of the body – the quality of the stillness – and this I had gathered without looking straight on at the body of the cat on the road. I am a wimp, I had thought – not only a wimp, but a wimp that is morbid and curious. I should have looked at that dead cat’s body straight on, I was thinking. I should have placed the body of the dead ginger cat at the centre of my focus rather than only at the periphery.

There was something shrunken about the cat now, I could see from the bus stop. It was nearly four o’clock in the afternoon – many hours had passed since I had last seen it. Even from where I was standing I could see that the cat had shrunk and stiffened, looking less like a cat. I had forgotten to look out for it as I passed by the car (still parked) on my way up the hill to the bus stop. It was only as I looked back from where I was waiting for the bus that I saw that the cat was still lying on the asphalt in front of the car, but when I looked for the small, soft bundle of something near the head, I could see no trace of it and so I began to think that, perhaps, it had shrunk in the sun, or that another animal or bird had eaten it. From the bus stop it wasn't even clear that what I was looking at had once been a cat; it might have been a towel or a jumper that had stiffened with dirt. Many people would have passed the dead ginger cat since the last time I’d seen it. If the cat had been a human an ambulance would have taken it away, but you don't call an ambulance for a cat, I was thinking. I should have stopped and done something for the cat that morning. Even now, at the bus stop, it wasn't too late – not too late to save the cat from a foul and gradual disintegration on the road. But I didn't have anything with me – this was what I told myself: I don't have any newspaper or bags or anything that I could use. Soon I began to think about other things; the thought of newspaper and bags must have lead to other thoughts into which I slipped as gently as into sleep.

I didn't see the arrival of the man, but I saw him bent over the cat with his legs wide apart. He had a young man's way of bending over. He was wearing rubber gloves and with one hand he held open a stiff white bag that looked to be the kind of parcel packet you can buy in a post office; with the other, he slid the dead ginger cat into the bag, sliding it in easily without lifting it far from the surface of the road. The man carried the bag to the footpath, holding it a little out from his body. Once on the footpath he bent down once again to push a thin ginger limb – or what looked to have been a thin ginger limb – further down into the bag. He then seemed to be doing something to secure the top of the bag. I was thinking about this word ‘secure’ as I watched the man working. He seemed to be trying to fold over or tie or stick down the top edges of the bag, but from where I was standing I couldn't tell how he was doing it. The cat is probably already beginning to smell, I was thinking. Perhaps the man wants to avoid looking at the cat any longer. Soon the man had secured the cat, I could see – or at least such I imagined him describing it. Now nobody would get see the body of the cat again. Even the owner – if she or he existed – would never see the cat again or learn what had happened to it, because the dead ginger cat had been successfully secured as the man, as I was already imagining, would soon be telling everyone in his office – all of them standing for a moment at the windows to listen and to nod – an office which very likely overlooked the parked car and the bus stop on the other side of the road, its long line of windows watching over us all.

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