Today is Saturday, December 9, 2017
The committee chairman was not pleased. A committee member had just phoned to say she was not coming because her dog had died yesterday and she was grieving. “She should pull herself together,” he told us. “It was just a dog. We all know that pets exist to teach children about death.”
When my brother was here in early October, he and Caroline were exclaiming over a nephew’s perfect dog. “Well, you could have a dog,” I told Rebel. “No,” he said. “Dogs DIE.”
When I left off yesterday, we had gotten Waldo to South Peak Veterinary Hospital. Doors flew open. Waldo, screaming in his carrier, was rushed off to an examining room. “He was all right yesterday,” I told the vet as she carefully placed him on the examining table. She was young and apple-cheeked. She opened his mouth, her hands moved down his body and along his tail. She asked if anyone had been pulling his tail. “Because he can’t feel it. And his back legs are useless. And his gums are white. Could he have eaten something?” “Only the usual. Everything was usual. He was fine yesterday. Could you maybe take an x-ray to see if there’s a blockage or anything?” “That was what I was going to suggest next. But I have to tell you this is not looking good.”
The x-rays showed nothing. When she brought him back, he was limp and quiet. “I think he’s gone into shock,” she said. I asked if they could do some fast blood work. Away they went for the second time. I stood by myself in the examining room. On the door there was a chart to show how old your cat and dog was in human terms. At twelve, Waldo would be sixty-four.
Why were they taking so long? I breached the door to the labs, but an assistant warned me back. “There are five of them with him, please go back and someone will be with you in a minute.” I saw someone taking pages from a printer. However I did as I was told.
More time passed. Hold yourself tight. Stand up straight. They are doing what they can.
The vet brought him back wrapped in a blanket. A front paw had been shaved for an IV. Inside the blanket they had placed plastic gloves filled with warm water against him. “He was so cold. We had to give him a transfusion. He was bleeding out.” Her eyes met mine. I knew what came next. I asked to be left alone with him for a moment. He seemed already gone, his head lolling to one side. But when I buried my face in his neck and spoke to him, he let one final loud Waldo cry.
The vet came in with the needle, and listened to his heart until the fluid had done its work. “I am so sorry,” she said. “But what was it?” I asked, Waldo’s body lying between us. “We’re not sure,”she said. “Some poison? Something that had been going on for a while? We saw nothing definite. It’s a mystery.”
The assistant came in and unwrapped him from the blanket. She emptied the water out of the gloves and threw the gloves in the trash bin. She instructed me not to carry the cardboard box by its handles “because they’re flimsy.” We arranged Waldo in the flimsy box, and I signed a form so I could bury him in the ground at home.
Waldo’s grave, December 9, 2017
To be continued very soon.
Today is December 8, 2017
If you look closely at this picture, you will see a cat sticking his profile in front of a drawing.
It was early October 2017. My brother and sister in law were visiting. I was drawing the terraces of Purgatory. I had pretty much finished SLOTH, then decided to add a baby sloth. While looking at images of sloth, how the masters like Durer had drawn the sin of sloth, I happened on animal sloths. On U-tube you can watch a sloth cross the road. The journey is excruciating. No wonder sloths prefer to spend their time hanging upside down in trees. And their toes are incredible.
So I had added my baby sloth, which was just what the picture needed, and was getting ready to highlight its toes. Then here came Waldo on one of his “let me get between you and whatever you are doing” rounds. His method was to keep circling the project, going counter-clockwise round my raised knees, thrusting himself in between me and the picture, pausing to make himself felt, then dropping to the floor, jumping back on the bed–and starting the whole thing afresh, like it was a brand new thing he had just thought of. At some point, I picked up my iPhone and caught him in a “between”moment.
In May of 2005, I had driven all the way to Rochester, New Hampshire, to collect two ten-week-old Siamese brothers from the breeder. She had two litters of Siamese kittens in her basement and raised German Shepherds and ponies as well. We sat on the floor and watched all the cat life in progress. She pointed out “my” cats, and she introduced me to their mother AND their father. The mother was a delicate lavender point and the father was a strapping seal point twice the size of the mother. The breeder had the movie “Sea Biscuit” playing softly on a black and white TV in the corner. When she told me she was a former Army Medic, I wondered if that had something to do with the name of her web site name, EnolaGay.
I left the new cat carrier with her and spent the night at an inn, and there was the carrier next morning on the porch, the two kittens in it, and a roll of sliced roast beef in front of each. On the top of the carrier she had placed a sprig of lilac. “Don’t let them go outside,” she adjured, more than once. “They don’t NEED to go outside.” She also told me a cautionary story about what could happen if you let them play with that pull-off tab on milk cartons. She suggested names for them, something like Mike and Jim, and as I drove away she was crying. I noticed she had a big slash scar on the back of her left calf.
The little cats would cry in concert for a while and then pause to nibble on their roast beef slices then cry again. I already knew I wanted to name one of them Waldo, after Don Waldo, a formidable deep-voiced Cuban professor in my upcoming book, Queen of the Underworld. Long before we reached Woodstock, I knew who was going to be Waldo. But the second name came harder. I had to go all the way through the alphabet before I found it. Zeb.
Zeb was the smaller cat, delicate like his mother. His voice, which he kept to himself mostly, was plangent and often ended on a question. While the heftier Waldo’s voice was plaintive, rising to downright accusatory at times.
Robert had been gone four years when I brought them home, and there was never any question about where they were going to sleep. Here again they had their styles. Zeb liked to perch on a hipbone or make a nest between knees. Waldo would poke and prod and scratch until I made a tent of the covers and let him go in, circle around and settle down. Then when he felt he had been acknowledged, he would leave the tent in a semi-huff, and throw himself down beside, or on top of, his brother between the knees.
Then my brother and his wife went back to Delray Beach, and I was finishing up the terraces of Purgatory, Waldo maintaining his round and round crosswalks. They were twelve now, but slim and active. They would race about the house, run up and down the two staircases, take flying leaps over the furniture, They were usually together, but each cat had his personal hideouts.
I had reached the terrace of Lust, not particularly happy with my figurative or impressionistic renderings:
the terrace of Lust, not pleased with either my impressionistic or figurative versions,