Requiem for a Cat – Derek Maine
September 21, 2020
I hate wearing ties. My collar is too goddamn tight. My neck is getting all chafed. I haven’t smoked a cigarette in eleven years and here I am, almost fifty years old, lighting the next one with the last one. The kids are vaping these days. I don’t think they even leave ashtrays outside anymore. What do I know?
So anyway, um, I’m here. Your sister called. I don’t know how she got my number. Never met her. Seems fine. Didn’t talk long. She’ll be here soon, I guess. Meantime, it’s just me and your weed dealer. You left quite a mark. Maybe the next astral plane will be kinder to you. I’m glad your sister told me, but I’m not here because she needed me to fill a room. I’ve got two stories to tell, quick ones I promise, and then it’s time for me to say my goodbyes.
. Chase is wading in the creek, drunk enough to drown in ankle high water. We’re all watching from the back porch, laughing. Todd’s got a stupid new theory; he’s yelling over everyone:
“They got together beforehand. Nas’ people and Jay’s people. It’s the same people, man. Fucking who even thought about Nas in the last like six years? Jay did him a favor. It’s a setup.”
You remember? You went right in on him, “Did you even listen to the fucking lyrics? Said he left condoms on his baby seat! On his BABY SEAT!? Condoms. Plural. Jay-Z fucked Nas’ girl more than once, in Nas own goddamn car, and he was so distracted he didn’t even remember to throw away the condoms. Left them in the Graco.”
You’re still talking. Both of you. Talking over each other. You’re both talking over each other so loud we can’t hear Chase. Not through the screen, not up on that porch. Not with you two dumbasses all red-faced fussing about pop culture bullshit.
“And fucking your friend’s girl? That shit’ll happen. We’ve all done that. But he brings out the knife when he puts it on a record. He tells the world. The whole world, all their fans, sitting around waiting to hear what smoke Jay’s got. You forget, man. Ether was dirty to Jay. Probably his best song in a decade or some shit. And my dude is popping off, telling the world that Nas needs to walk out to the driveway and check that Jeep. Look in the baby seat. Wear some gloves, my guy.”
Everyone is laughing. You’re so funny. You were always so funny.
But this is the part I wanted to tell you, right here. I wasn’t looking at you and Todd talking nonsense about rap. Maybe everyone else was. Maybe they weren’t either. I don’t know. For some reason my eyes were down on that creek. I saw him trip. I saw his phone go flying. I knew he hit his head when that brown sludge creek water started streaking red. He was twitching. I didn’t say nothing. You were still going strong. Every party we ever brought you to was yours, soon as we walked in. We were pretty remote out there. It took a while for help to come and none of us could do anything; the state we were in. So maybe it wouldn’ta made a difference. But I think about it sometimes. Chase cracking open his skull in that creek. You all worked up with your spittle face teaching us about rap beef.
. I don’t think you ever met Jarrett Henderson. Probably I mentioned him, guy I grew up with that ended up a local hero. Well when we were kids something happened that kind of had a profound impact on me.
It was the middle of the eighties. Lot of woods around. Stealing our Dads’ Playboys and hiding them back there. All that stupid shit. I had been around guns all my life. Jarrett too. His Dad and my Dad would wrap a little piece of green electric tape around the butt of the pellet guns to let us know those were the ones we could fuck with. The ones without green tape on? I mean there wadn’t a lock or nothing but you’d get your shit kicked in pretty good if you got caught with one.
One day Jarrett did something real dirty. I didn’t know it at the time. He took some of that green electrical tape out of his garage and wrapped it around the butt of one of the good guns.
Let me stop before I finish. This probably isn’t making a lot of sense to you. Why’s he going on about some asshole I never met?
I haven’t spoken to you or seen you in fifteen years. In a few minutes I’m going to walk inside and sit down in a folding chair. It’ll probably still just be me and your weed dealer. Your sister still ain’t here. And I won’t see you then either. There’ll just be a smooth little vase laid out on a wooden table. Maybe someone will’ve put some old photographs of you up. That’d be nice. I’ll be invited to sit and stare at that vase and imagine someone I haven’t known in a long time.
It didn’t have to be like this. Neither one of us were well. We were noddin off a lot. We weren’t eating. I hadn’t met Stacey yet. That morning you found the cat dead you came at me with a fury. Accused me of not feeding her. It was my fault. Only my fault. There wadn’t two of us living there. Did you think I was coming in at night and eating the food you put out for her? Oh, that’s right. You did think that. That’s exactly what you said. You popped open a can of her wet food, while her body lie in rigor mortis on the hardwood floor, and tried to shove that shit in my mouth.
“This is what you like? You like little kitty food you sick fuck?” you screamed. You put it all on me.
I sat there not saying anything. I was thinking about that day out in the woods with Jarrett, when I’s 8 or 9. Jarrett had shot a cat before; I’d seen him. Just pellets though. Mean as fuck but nothing died. He switched out the green electric tape and he knew it and he did it on purpose. You thinking I’m gonna say he handed the rifle to me? You think I’m gonna tell you about how I thought there was just a pellet in it and how my hands used to shake so goddamn bad, even when I was 8 or 9 before I’d become an alcoholic, that I’d probably convince my little kid self that I couldn’t hit the damn thing anyway?
Nah. He didn’t hand me the rifle. He shot it himself. He wanted to. And his hands were always steady. He came back from Iraq with a lot of jewelry, as they say. By the time he got back from Afghanistan he wasn’t a government employee anymore so the medals stopped but everyone felt real good knowing Jarrett was over there protecting our interests. Who better, right? Of course I knew something else, but I didn’t say anything.
I didn’t stop feeding our cat neither. I didn’t even know we fucking had one.
Well, that’s it. That’s all I wanted to say. The rest we’ll pack up and put away. I’m not far behind you now but we won’t be seeing each other on any other side. That’s fairy tale bullshit. We had our chance to patch it up here, on this ride, and we missed it. Wish it was different somehow.