Monday, October 8, 2007

Smelly Cat

There I was, recovering from the laser surgery, peacefully and boringly. Not that I was boring, more that I was bored. Bored shitless mostly. In part because the painkillers I had been given also had some side effects.

I coudn't read, as my eyes were focussing on different things at the same time and I felt a bit like an early autofocus camera; focus was something being permanently hunted for. I could only spend small periods of time on the net or laptop as it would strain my eyes for the same reasons.

Even practice wasn't something I felt like doing, it just wasn't comfortable to sit at the kit and play with my eyes as they were. I still can't figure out exactly why this was.

I couldn't drive, unless I went on a route that only involved turning left and sticking to the left side of the road. I had thought about an anti clockwise drive around the M25, sticking to the inside lane, but it just didn't seem appealing. Even if I could have gone for a drive I was faced with the problem of glare as the light hurt my eyes. You're probably thinking that I'm used to it from the glare of flashguns from the paparazzi but you're wrong, I'm not.

So all I could do was to hang around, I listened to some music and I did some cooking, my new hobby.

Then, on Friday afternoon I got a text from the almost ex, to say that Aliya the cat had died. Apparently the girls had found her dead outside one of the bathrooms in the morning and had gone off to school leaving Aliya still there. I felt a bit of sadness, even though I'm no ardent animal lover. I knew that the girls would probably be upset and that wasn't a pleasant thought.

The girls and their mother were going to dig a grave a bury her that evening after school and work and I, ever aware of my duties and stuff, offered to do the job for them. As I was unable to drive because of the eye this meant I had a walk of about 20 minutes, a virtual marathon for me.

I got through it though, arriving to find the house empty, except for one dead cat and one alive one, who seemed to be pining and did get some quite genuine sympathy from me. I've never had much, or any, contact with dead cats before and I was a bit saddened and rather fascinated by Aliya's lifeless body.

As I ambled towards the house I had ruminated on the fact that I'd have to be sure the feline was dead before I buried it. How would I be sure, I thought. Where does a cat have a pulse and how would I find it?

Yet, as soon as I took a look at the thing I knew it was brown bread. It had only died a few hours ago but it was stiff and rigor mortis afied. It was like one of those stuffed animals and the side that had been lying on the floor was straight where it had been in contact with the flat surface. The tail was stiff and cold and I could pull the whole cat by the tail alone, as I found out.

There are a lot of foxes in West London. They roam around at night destroying bin bags and creating havoc. As Blackadder almost said, some of these foxes are more cunning than a fox that's Professor of cunning at Oxford University. And I'd been advised that, when burying a dead animal in the area, it's best to dig deep and cover the body with stones so the Professors can't get to it.

I found a spade. I called it a spade because that's the type of chap I am. I also found a pitch fork thing, then chose a suitable spot and commenced digging.

The whole area around Teddington is built on some sort of clay stuff. I'm no expert on geology but I think it would be scientifically accurate to say that the soil structure, perhaps it's called the topography, is a bit of that earthy stuff, the stuff that worms go for, and then rock hard stuff, the soil equivalent of Vinnie Jones.

So digging to any depth was a challenge. Digging to the depth required to bury a dead cat was challenging alone, but digging to the extra depth required for a dead cat, lurking foxes and all with Vinnie's presence in the ground was some sort of super hero feat. And that would be a super hero who hadn't just had laser surgey on one eye too.

Once I hit the hard stuff I was faced with two options; either carry on digging around the hard stuff, making an ideal grave for a pet jellyfish or possibly a fairly old tortoise, or get in some heavy equipment and labourers to do the job. I went, a bit predictably, for the whole jellyfish option. I ended up with a hole, about cat length but in all honesty it didn't look about cat depth.

Confusion reigned supreme when I realised that the hole was of entirely different lengths and depths depending on which eye I used. Through my left eye, the one which has not yet been fully fixed, the hole was fuzzy at close range and deep enough to bury a giraffe at long distance. Through my right eye, which was healing from the recent surgery, the hole was pin sharp at close range, if a hole can be pin sharp that is, yet shallow and fuzzy from any sort of distance.

Whichever eye I used to look at the cat made no difference. Aliya was very dead, probably almost 100% dead, or should that be 900% in the case of cats? I had left the body in the house, thinking that the girls would be back from school soon and they'd very possibly want to be solemn and present when I buried it. I never know with girls of these ages, 11 and 13, how they're going to react to anything. Sometimes they're emotional and caring and other times they're cold, unemotional and teenagerish about things. Actually I never know with girls of any age about moods, predictability and logic. In fact I'm unsure whether a sentence has ever been written with the words "girls, predictability, moods and logic" in it.

I waited around, tried ringing the girls. The 11 year old's mobile was cleverly placed in the kitchen, no use whatsoever and the 13 year old's wasn't answering so I decided to save some time by carrying the body outside and leaving it by the grave, to await the arrival of the mourners. I walked to the body and visually inspected it. Now carrying bodies isn't something I have experience of and I was hesitant about what to do. It just didn't seem right to carry the body as if I was cradling a live cat, particularly as this body was hard and flat on one side. Then again, it didn't seem right to hold the tail and carry it in the style of carrying a dead mouse, especially as the tail might not be strong enough and I might be left with the task of explaining to the girls why said tail had become detached from the cat.

Some weight and tolerance testing was needed and I tugged at the tail a bit. All looked ok, so I tugged a bit harder. I went for it, I lifted the whole cat up by the tail and carried it out to the garden and to its grave. I know you're probably expecting a story about the tail snapping and the hilarious comedy consequences but nothing of the sort happened. The tail held and the body made it to the grave, there was no disaster. Well apart from the whole cat dying business of course. I left the body by the side of the giraffe grave ( I was using my left eye) and waited for the girls to arrive.

After about half an hour there was till no sign of them and I was getting bored and anxious. I didn't want to hang around for too long so I convinced myself that I should get on with the burying. I figured that the girls probably woudn't mind anyway. I looked at the cat, feeling a bit sad actually, it seemed a bit poetic in a way. With the pathos over I bunged the body into the grave, legs pointing skywards, the cat's legs not mine. I had been unknowingly clever. By a miraculous coincidence the legs were sticking out of the hole by about 2 inches, the exact length of the average man's willy. I knew that more measures had to be taken. And quickly. I could go for the humanitarian option of taking Aliya's body out and trying to dig down a bit further. This would take lots of time and there was a risk that the girls could come back and realise that I had already buried her once and was now on the second attempt.

Or I could try the sensible course of action; the one that involved some shoving with the spade and a bit of leg bending. It would be quick, the cat was dead and the girls would come back and not know what I had done. It wasn't as if I was going to write about it or something and they might read it in years to come.

I was sensible, I shoved a bit, I bended some legs and I hurriedly filled the grave with the soil that had come from the hole in the first place. I had also put some rocks on the body, apparently this helps to stop the foxes getting to it. Then I put the heaviest flower pot I could find on top of the grave as an extra anti fox measure. And obviously I put a little bit of brick to act as a headstone and to mark the spot.

I went in the house and was about to leave when the fron door opened. The 11 year old strolled in with one of her friends, all attitude and hormones. They were accompanied by a cloud of smell. It was that scent of grubby schoolchild, the odour that is rather pleasant when the child concerned is your own but smells like crap when it's anyone else's child.

"Ah hello" I said.

"I've just buried Aliya, I waited for quite a while but then I wasn't sure how long you'd be so I did it on my own." I continued.

I was prepared for a barrage of tears and upset, perhaps some demands to dig the body up and do it all over again in the presence of others.

"Oh cool, thanks Dad, we're going upstairs then" she replied.

She had gone for the "not that bothered" option, which is typical of her, this time I was quite pleased about it. We said our goodbyes and I walked off to make my way home. Ten mnutes later I got a call from the 13 year old. She wanted to tell me about some stuff and, as befits the communication between sisters of that age, was totally unaware that I had left their house only a few minutes before. I told her and told her I had buried Aliya.

"Oh Dad, we wanted to be there and do it with you." Was her response, one that I felt bad about. She is the more outwardly sensitive of the sisters and this reaction was predictable.

"But actually A, it really was hard work, I had to dig for ages and it was quite knackering" I said, assuming that the work aspect might make her a bit less upset.

"Oh really? That's ok then, thanks Dad".

It was that easy.

Life goes on.

PS - I'm listening to Placebo. What a fucking great band!


Confab said...

Great post RD. I must tell you, this is my favourite blog, and probably one of 2 that i check on a regular basis.

Might I add, being the pussy lover (in the purest sense) that i am, I just got my self a kitten. Poor bugger has gone and done something to it's left front paw today, so it's hobbling along!

Darwin said...

Sorry to hear about Aliya... Coincidence, I'm listening to 'sleeping with ghosts' at the moment:)

Dilina aka Dili said...

:( Sympathies RD. Maybe Aliyas looking down kindly from cat heaven right now...

yellow sudda said...

Sorry to hear about the cat... good post though. Maybe I'm morbid, but it would have been interesting to see pictures....

Not sure if you've seen this:

Your post reminded me of the website, for some reason.

Indyana said...

Sorry about that...

Java Jones said...

Too bad about Aliya - was it some illness or was it all that pining she did for you that finally did it? I always knew you could be a sweet guy when you want to!

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Confab - Thank you very much for the compliment.

Thanks to all for the sympathy.

Java - I think it might have been some kind of illness, I very much doubt that it was pining.