Death came in the night, a surprise assassin. The insulation had been taken down, the warming boxes put away. I was awake every hour or so, but never saw a bony hand nor the hem of a midnight cloak whipping around the doorway. This morning there is more snow and the “bull” black tomcat is eating something he pulled out from under the snow. I was late feeding the outside cats. The town is very quiet.
No cars passed in the night, though it was Friday. All cats slept except once the mother cat got up when I did and ate a bit of dry food. The kittens are ready for real cat food, but haven’t done any more than taste it and make faces.
The strange thing about these in-and-out nights, almost always when the cold is profound and I’m not entirely sure that this old house can cope, is that when one is asleep there is not unconsciousness. Rather there is a different life, sometimes more coherent than the one that’s supposed to be “real.” You know how they say that if you’re dying, your whole life will pass in front of your eyes? That’s what happens, except that many of the vignettes never happened, so it must mean that I’m dying.
And I am. And so is everyone else.
The kittens, who had gone exploring for the first time, have found their way back into the box and are too tired to even nurse while their mother gives them a good washing. I left two kittens and somehow the mother of this mother (“Tuxie") lost the kittens she (“Bunny”) was carrying, so there are two mothers for the two kittens, barely fitting together in that box. Why one starter batch survives and the other simply evaporates is a puzzle.
What the biggest black cat is eating is a mystery. I will not go look. Some mysteries are best left alone. There are about five, as nearly as I can tell, going by size and the very few markings. I never get close enough to know male from female. The smallest black cat is “Nod” the only surviving kitten of a set of four. The other three all died of feline distemper. They didn’t have shots — I can’t even lay a hand on them, mostly see them through the window — but they say the shots are only 30% effective. As they died, I removed them, except that I had missed one. Its body was under some boxes this week — its tail was sticking out.
If the weather would stay warm enough long enough, I would start the massive Spring project of the Augean garage. When the snowdrift in front of the so-called bunkhouse melts enough, I can start on the seasonal switchout for spring.
But this is the day between Good Friday (turn out the lights to grieve and symbolize the closing of the tomb entrance) and Easter. (The sun comes up tomorrow morning and out walks Jesus). It’s gray. Between. Though there was a precursor when the usual stampede of three adult cats charges through my computer room, joined by two tiny but rather nimble fuzz-balls intent on keeping up. They haven’t found any other rooms yet because they stop at the difference in linoleum between this room and the kitchen. They think it is real.
Their world was dark until the last few days. Their first days were in a box at the bottom of my clothes closet with the door only ajar. They didn’t say anything. They still have not purred.
Their uncle “Douxie” loved the night and charged out into the dark — then sometimes reversed direction and rushed back into the house to escape the big bull tomcats. He’s no match for them — he only has one testicle and his few encounters have left him with an unhealed wound just ahead of his tail on his back. The weather was too bad to drive to the vet (thirty miles and busy saving calves), which was lucky for him, since I was seriously considering euthanasia. Too many cats. No money and time for vet visits.
I’m dying. Not like, “sorry, you have six weeks to live” which is what they all say no matter what the real time-line may be. More like, “summer is coming — then. . . “ (We don’t have Spring here. We have mud and then digging with major machines. Street repairs are underway already. Frost travels, sinking down to where it can burst pipes.)
But muscles weaken. Luckily my bones are strong. But my eyes are not. And clearly I must never let anything get into my ears again, no matter how much they itch. Most of the people here compensate for weakening bodies by driving ever bigger and shinier cars, though they rarely leave town. On the way to a bigger town, one rarely meets more than a few others but alertness is required — just in case.
We are kittens.
I think about ending this blog. Start a new one, maybe. Tease apart the various strands of subject matter, of which death is only one, and start ten others. Finally get down to the dumb job of making posts into booklets, but what then? That’s when the real trouble starts, because publishing is about publishing and done by publishers participating in the Great Machine of Print in the World. It’s about money. In the end there’s no profit or honor, which is how they measure life. Anything not making money is not alive. Writing is admired if it makes a lot of money. Otherwise, who cares?
When an unpublished writer dies, then that’s a second death, but only a death of potential. And even then if someone gets into Emily Dickinson’s trunk and picks out the little homemade booklets of poetry, it can be resurrected. There are other poets, other unknown works, some of them better. Maybe. But that was specific to that time, place, person. Who cares? Mostly the ones who were there.
Farmer paranoia (big predators?) and cop caution (drug dealers) plus the profit (of course) mean that this town is never dark. Different eras of lamps mean different colors of light — some amber and others more pink, very few a little blue. Last night the overcast clouds prevailed but sometimes in one of the waking intervals the full moon smudged through the dark in a smeared thumbprint, blurred signature of the sky that cares nothing about what is or is not alive on this planet. No cat woke to stand in the window beside me. I didn’t care. But now I write it down.