To borrow a line from Golden Girls' Sophia,
"Picture it..." Stoneham, 3rd week in July, 2004. The weather was hot, the air muggy. I had taken a half-day off from work to run some errands that morning, so I was getting ready to finally head into the office. It was about 12:30 p.m.
Donning khakis, a red sleeveless t-shirt and sandals, I slowly drove down the street in my ex's large silver pick-up truck. At the end of the street I noticed a family that I (secretly) called the Freaky VonTrapps. They have 5 young kids that are home-schooled and are always playing in the street with their insanely hyper dog. I swear, one day I'll find them swinging in the trees singing "Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo" with goat puppets.
I always tried to be nice to these people merely because they were friends of Sarah's. (For those of you newer to my LJ, Sarah had a Yellow Lab puppy named Colby. The Freaky VonTrapps brought their dog over to play with hers ALL the time, most often without asking, which drove me nuts. The worst was when I came home one evening in my nicest business suit and Sarah wasn't even home. The family had simply let their dog into our yard, so when I entered it, the dog came charging, knocked me down, my Coach briefcase went flying into the trash and I landed in a pile of wet leaves and mud. I have many stories like that from May through October...) As I passed the kids, I politely waved and slowed even more because I'd noticed Sophie the calico from across the way ambling along the road.
I felt one of the rear tires run something over and my heart sank. I looked to my left and saw Sophie still trotting along. Then I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a small animal with 4 legs flailing.
I slammed on my brakes and leaped out of the truck. Running back, I realized I'd run over a different cat. I frantically pulled out my cell phone and began to dial the cat shelter director's number. When I reached the cat I snapped the phone shut, my eyes stung with tears. I saw where I'd struck the cat and instantly knew it wasn't going to make it.
The guy who lived directly across from the Freaky VonTrapps came over.
"What happened?" he asked.
"I don't know," I said, voice shaking. "I saw Sophie crossing the street and slowed down to wave at the kids. I never even saw this cat."
"I've never seen that cat before," he said.
The cat finally stopped moving and Mrs. Freaky VonTrapp was walking towards us. There was a row of trash barrels and the cat happened to be next to them, so she couldn't see anything.
"Is she dead?" she asked.
"Yes," I said. "Do you know who it belongs to?"
When she reached us she cried, "That's our Chatchki," and promptly burst into tears, throwing her arms around me. I was a good 4 inches taller than she was and held her while she sobbed into my shoulder.
I was horrified. I had killed the Freaky VonTrapp's cat! I just kept saying "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry" over and over between sobs. I had never run an animal over in my entire life. And we all know how I feel about cats, so...
When Mrs. Freaky VonTrapp stopped crying she went and retrieved a shovel and a couple of Whole Foods paper bags. The guy from across the street helped me push the cat into one of the bags. There was blood all over the street and since it was about 86 degrees, it was quickly drying into the pavement.
"I have a nice box at home that we could place her in," I volunteered, sniffling.
"No," Mrs. Freaky VonTrapp shook her head. "The paper will be best for the compost heap."
She looked at me. "Should I just wait for my husband to come home to bury her?"
My answer was "no." In that weather, a dead cat shouldn't be sitting around in a paper bag. A few minutes later, cell phone to my ear, shovel in hand, I called my office while simultaneously digging a hole in the compost heap out back of their house.
"K-kristin?" I asked shakily when the HR woman answered. "Yeah, hi. Can- can you let my account teams know I'm going to be late? I ran over a cat and I'm digging the grave right now..."
"WHAT?" she asked incredulously. "Are you okay...?"
After I tearfully explained the circumstance, I began to notice my surroundings. The yard to my left had three ducks running in a circle, quacking furiously, their dog chasing them. Next to the family's mini-van, the youngest two girls stood silently staring at me. I almost half expected to hear them say "come play with us..."
A short while later the hole was ready. Mrs. Freaky VonTrapp placed Chatchki in and I covered her up. My pants spattered with blood and dirt, my face dripping sweat, I rested the shovel against the fence.
"Are you going to tell Sarah you killed our Chatchki?" one of the little girls asked in a sing-song voice.
*sigh* I felt like the Grim Reaper, except in khakis.
As it turned out, Chatchki was 17 years old. The father later told me that over the prior two weeks the cat seemed to have been "losing it." They never let her out alone, but even when she was out, she had never EVER gone into the street. He mentioned that their immediate neighbor had to stop the cat from wandering onto the main road a few days before, leading him to believe that Chatchki might have instinctually wandered toward "danger" because it was "her time."
I don't know, but I was rotted to the core with guilt for weeks. Especially when everytime I drove past the Freaky VonTrapp house, the huge blood stain on the road wordlessly haunted me. It refused to fade until well into September.
And thus will take us into part two of my story later on...