Holding the Bag
Bruce Parker nearly stumbled over Missy. The cat was stretched out on the kitchen floor upon the terracotta tiles that Bruce himself had put down and sealed less than a year ago (a damned good job, even if he had to say so himself, a job he had never been properly thanked for).
Missy’s eyes, glazed, lifeless, like the marbles Bruce played with as a child — cat’s eyes, they were called — were fixed on the handle of the dishwasher, her mouth slightly ajar. Still pliable when he gingerly nudged her with the toe of his sneaker, poor Missy appeared smaller in death than in life. Her tabby stripes didn’t quite match the tiles, but accented them tastefully, as if she was destined to be right where she was, sprawled out on the cool tiles reaching for feline eternity. Bruce didn’t really believe in heaven, and he doubted Missy had ever given it all that much thought.
The one day when Bruce came home early thanks to an overnight inventory at the store would have to be the day the cat died. Just his luck. Usually, Grace was the first to come home after work. She should have been the one to discover the tragedy. She should be the one to deal with it. After all, Missy was her cat.
He had no idea what to do. What does one do in a situation like this? He couldn’t bury the cat on the apartment complex’s grounds — there must be rules against that sort of thing — and the dumpster didn’t seem appropriate. And besides, who in the Biltmore Apartments owned a shovel? Not Bruce. He couldn’t even find a screwdriver when he needed one. And a dead cat in the dumpster would certainly cause, if not an uproar, a stink.
Yet, if Grace were to come home and discover Missy on the floor, and Bruce doing nothing about it, all hell would break loose. Recriminations and accusations. Things were bad enough in the relationship; Bruce knew he could never make it through an extended period of celibate mourning on Grace’s part and guilt on his own. And worst of all: guilt over absolutely nothing that he had done.
Grace, his wife, or sort-of wife — they’d been together six years — cared more for the cat than she could ever care for him. He could live with that. It seemed fair, in a way: Missy had been with Grace forever, or so it seemed…fourteen years. Bruce’s contentious half dozen years didn’t amount to all that much. The cat had tenure. Bruce didn’t. He was still on provisional status, adjunct, at best.
He combed through every closet in the two-bedroom apartment. Other than a wadded-up canvas laundry bag on the floor of Grace’s closet, the walk in located in what was still referred to as “Grace’s bedroom,” the best he could come up with were two shoe boxes, women’s size six — not good enough. The cat could never fit into a shoe box unless the pair belonged to Sasquatch. Missy had put on a few pounds since Bruce moved in with Grace. Grace blamed him for the cat’s weight issues. She might’ve been right. He spoiled the cat. Since he was a boy, Bruce had treated himself to a generous bowl of ice cream nearly every night, and Missy, usually a finicky eater, had come to expect a scoop, though she turned her nose up at chocolate or anything with nuts or chunks of cookie dough. Vanilla was her favorite. So, vanilla it was.
It was now four-thirty, half an hour before Grace’s arrival. He had a dead cat on the floor and no idea as to what to do. The last thing Bruce could afford was to be caught stuffing poor Missy into a laundry bag. Grace, a grade-school principal with the temperament of every principal Bruce had ever crossed hairs with, didn’t really see him as a suitable partner, and that was before this calamity. This could easily be the last straw. She had always been more than a trifle miffed that his job at Moonbeam Used Records and CDs wasn’t up to snuff. She thought he could do better, what with a degree in English literature and all. She already had major issues with him; she’d blow her top if she caught him in a cover up. Of what? Absolutely nothing.
The cat in the bag, the tiles wiped clean, Bruce was ready. For what? He hadn’t much of a clue. If Dr. Miller, Missy’s vet, was still in his office, he could drop the cat off there. Dr. Miller, an ornery sort, with a young assistant, Lupe, a woman Bruce had a thing for, should be able to do something with the body. Certainly, animals died at his clinic almost daily. He euthanized dogs, cats, turtles, fish…whatever. He must do something with the bodies.
The key in the front door lock clicked. Bruce knew he was about to be caught red handed, holding the bag, so to speak. But this was not an occasion for levity. That was for sure.
“Is that Missy in the bag?” asked Grace. She set her purse on the counter and frowned.
“I haven’t seen Missy since I got home,” said Bruce.
“How could you miss her. She was right there on the floor when I left this morning. Dead as a doornail.” She shook her head. “And you’re holding my laundry bag. With something in it.”
Bruce looked at the bag in his hand, then back at Missy. “I thought you’d be pissed. Really upset.”
Again, Grace shook her head. “She’s just a cat, for Christ’s sake. And cat’s die. It looks like you’re taking care of the situation. Why should I be pissed?”
As he carried Missy to his car, he thought what a great day it had turned out to be. He’d pick up hamburgers on his way home from the vet’s office.
Care to Share?
Consider posting a note of comment on this item: