I opened the front door to the cool slick fall night and the cat raced past my feet. Normally he’d rise, languidly stretch and walk inside with feline nonchalance.
I looked one way then the other, saw nothing, closed the door. Moments later I notice the bird he’s brought inside–for some reason he’s abandoned it for the moment on the floor. It’s a sparrow. Do they come out at night? He’s on his back and gasping for air. I’m conflicted, if mildly–proud of the old cat’s hunting prowess and sorry for the bird.
You can go your whole life without confronting death face to face, as it were, in the modern world. I wonder if this makes it harder or easier when you at last have to face it. I’ll probably find out myself. I’ve grown old never having seen a corpse outside of a coffin.
Wearing a plastic bag like a glove I picked him up as gently as I could. He didn’t move. I took him outside and laid him down, squeezing the air out of the bag slowly until I was holding him there in between my palms. Now what to do with him?
Putting him in the garbage wouldn’t do so I took him out back. There’s a creek there, just over a picket fence in a ravine, indicated in the deep dark only by its sound. Throwing him into the creek seemed a respectful enough means. I was compelled by some slight God-is-watching sense of guilt to make a show of it. Also vanity, somehow, as always, the sense that everyone is watching that never goes away if you’re me. I’m not sure these are two different things.
He was still warm. I couldn’t bury a warm body. What if he’s still alive? He seemed to get warmer in fact; does body heat surge as the life passes out? I would wait. If there’s some tiny bit of sentience there, of suffering, then perhaps this ameliorates it. You won’t die alone I thought, holding this bird that was likely already dead as a boot.
He took his time. I was in a shadow of black between the house and a massive evergreen that emerges improbably from the middle of the little creek. The half-moon and stars appeared three dimensional behind the flat screen of the skeletal bare branches of an oak tree.
I wavered. It’s a bird. This is ridiculous, I know it is. But I’m looking for profundity wherever I can find it. I’m also looking for something else. What?
He cooled and I went back inside where it’s warm.