Everything smells like blood.
I saw him there. From down the block he looked like a sweater. One arm tossed casually, discarded on the road. I saw a car go around him, and I began to wonder. Each step brought me closer, and a sweater he stayed-
Until another step, and that out stretched arm became a pair of paws, and the bulk of his body became clear. A black cat. His fur, long, grey with morning mist. His eyes were golden, and the one that faced me was twisted open, teeth showing through a shorn lip. A panther’s snarl, and his face torn wide to make it.
The blood pooled around his head. It had dripped from his absent lip, from his mouth, sprayed from his ear.
I walked away. I meant to be leaving, but I found myself sitting on the wall instead, watching his glare as car after car steered carefully around him. As if the very freshness of the corpse, like the newness of the morning, made it worth preserving.
I didn’t know who to call.
I didn’t know what to do.
I didn’t want to bring him home, as if burying him in our house would bring his luck to us. As if the effort involved in doing it right would be too much for my frail soul. As if his parents might find him, and at least know.
When the cars had passed I walked back. I rolled up my sleeves, and touched his broad back. His fur was rough, then soft, and damp, as my hand took away his silver coat. He was too heavy just to push with one hand.
I picked him up. So solid.
The weight of death. The weight of stillness.
The weight of a cat, stretched out, too stiff to move, not curling into my shoulder or resisting my hands. Not lithe and supple and dancing.
Like a stuffed toy, skeletoned with thick wire.
I moved him next to the curb. Maybe he wouldn’t be crushed. Maybe his parents would find him, or a more generous soul with a shovel. Or maybe not.
I walked home, eyes fixed on the horizon. When I got to the kitchen sink and lifted my hands, I found I’d been left with a present.
Blood, just a few drops, from where it had been scattered across his fur.
I want to cry. More then just a few tears. I washed my hands, twice, washed them up to the elbow. I retreated. ‘Good writing material’, I thought. ‘Something for the blog, for sure.’
His fur was so soft.
And he was so huge. A king.
They tell me that every loss will hit me harder, because I’m weak to them, now. The way that burns stay sensitive to heat, or broken bones sometimes re-break.
My dad tells me how is dog died, when he was little. How they were playing in the yard and the dog escaped, and got hit by a car, right there, right then. How he remembers living as a newlywed over the fence from a highway. And waking up one morning and climbing over the fence to fetch yet another hit cat (his, this time) and taking her back and burying her, and crying all day.
At work, all day.
I wonder if I care, if this numbness will ever recede and leave me swimming in an ocean of grief so deep, so wide, that no sides are visible, and I drown in my own tears…