2004-06-09 - 10:30 p.m.
It happened on a Saturday. My dad had invited me outside to help him clear some buckthorn trees out of the backyard. He cut some down with a chainsaw and my mom and I would drag the trees across the yard and into the woods. It was around noon. I was still wearing my pajamas. I decided to walk towards the house, and looked at the sides and wondered about what could be done about some of the wooden trim. I was thinking about painting the trim in crazy primary colors. Then I looked down and noticed Mikey was laying down in front of the basement door, outside on the mat. I walked a little closer, and noticed something was wrong. His eye was open, and so was his mouth, and I thought his face looked weird. I called out his name and he didn't move. I looked closely to see if I could notice whether or not he was breathing. I turned away. I couldn't tell. I debated on whether or not I should say anything, as though saying nothing might change what I thought I just saw. In the end, I said something. "I'm worried about Mikey." Mom and I waited while Dad went over. "He's ok, he's just sleeping," he said. Then he got closer. "Uh oh... not good..." Mom and I stood back and watched dad call his name and stand over him. We watched him pet Mikey, and say nothing. Then he stood up and walked towards us, and said, "He's dead." Mom and I cried and hugged each other. Dad came over and we all were very sad. There were flies on him. We went up to the house and my parents had a cigarette. They were talking about how just the night before Mikey was on Mom's lap, purring, and they were saying what a great cat he was. Mom said she told him that he was her favorite. He ate an entire can of cat food in the morning. Mikey was totally healthy. Dad speculated on the possibility of an autopsy. We decided just to bury him. "Not in a plastic bag," said Mom. It seemed cruel somehow. They both went down to where he died to put him in a brown paper bag, and check him to make sure there wasn't some sort of wound or evidence of death. I couldn't go down; I stayed on the porch. They called out that there wasn't a scratch on him, just a lot of flies. Already! His paw was sticking out of the bag as we carried him to his gravesite, and dad said he was waving goodbye. We smiled through our tears.
Dad dug a hole behind the garden. We told Mikey stories. What a beautiful cat he was. How we wished he had died in the fall; he loved summer. The way his tail would get so crazy when he got excited, like it had a million different bones in it; it would go crazy, and we'd all laugh. How we used to call him Mikey Simondett, when he was acting bratty. How his real name is Michaelangelo, after the teenage mutant ninja turtle. The way he'd run from the back of the yard when we'd call him. I remembered when we left on our road trip out West, and we saw him all the way up at the top of the road and called out to him and saw him run across the lawns and up to the front porch to meet us. Mom told us about how he was always with her whenever she went out into the garden. I thought about 8th grade and how much I used to wish that I was Mikey. He seemed to have the life to me. We talked about how he'd pull his fur out when it got ratty and would leave it in piles in the house, where he liked to sleep, and how he was never the same after KiKi ran away. "My buddy's dead," was what Mom said. He did love her best. Dad laid Mikey in the hole and started covering him up with dirt; I can still see the dirt covering the one paw that was sticking out of the bag. Eventually the hole was filled, and Dad patted the top with the shovel. "You were the best cat I ever had. I love ya," is what he said. He put a makeshift cross of twigs over the grave. Mom put some catnip and some bleeding hearts on top. Mikey loved catnip so.
Going back into the house, we could see the last bits of fur he'd pulled out, in a pile on the family room floor. There was fur on the couches in the new room, where he loved to sleep. We were sad about cleaning it up; like we were getting rid of him, is how Mom put it.
The cat house is no more; now there's only 3 cats, a reasonable amount. Jazz has been looking around for him. His only ally against my cats! He sleeps in the chairs Mikey used to sleep in, and Mom saw him walking up and down the street, looking around. We don't know how much he understands.
Mikey was alive for over half of my life, and things don't seem the same around here without him. He used to get so crabby in the mornings, and I miss him scolding me for not opening up the door to let him in or out fast enough. I miss his grace and presence. He used to patrol the house at night. Who's going to protect us now? Somehow we all felt safer knowing Mikey was on the prowl. None of the other cats here will do that. Mikey was truly one of a kind.
We'll miss him around here. He was a great cat, and wherever his soul is now, I hope it's in a happy place.