After I returned to the house with the box, I called Carl. Carl has been our caretaker for thirty years, starting when he was seventeen and mixing concrete for the stonemason building our chimney. Now he works for the DEP. He and a surveyor explore properties the Water Department might want to buy for the Reservoir. Carl loved Waldo, too. When he arrived every Tuesday afternoon, there was a ritual. The cats would race into the room or thunder down the stairs. Waldo, doing the vocals, would jump on the table and thrust his face into Carl’s hand and accept a full-body homage. Zeb would crouch shyly on the floor and watch and then when Carl stooped down to greet him he would skitter off.
Carl arrived after work with his shovel and metal bar. I showed him the upper bank of the garden bordering the woods. There was already a stone bench there, and big rocks. While Carl dug out the grave, I took Waldo out of his box and held him close to my heart. He felt so good. Looked the same, but was limp. I smoothed everything, his brow, his jaws, his sleek sides, his long black tail. I opened his eyes. Still blue. Except the second lid had risen. I felt his sharp, uncut toenails. I opened his mouth and looked at his teeth and (pale) gums. His tongue, a little gray, was in front of his mouth. I kissed and nuzzled him and told him how great he was. When he was alive I would kiss and stroke his whiskers and say “I love your whiskers more than I love my ambition.”
Carl made a deep hole and we wrapped him in a nice gray towel and then in a black plastic bag. First Carl laid in some dirt and then some of the big stones he had dug out of the earth. Then another layer of dirt, tamping it flat, then smaller stones, all the way to the top. Then smoothing everything over and replacing some leaves. A plane flew over. “Let light perpetual shine upon you,” I said.
Later in the week Maureen the gardener came over and planted primroses, coral bells, and bluebells.
But Zeb. What of Zeb, who had never known life without Waldo?
Here they are in 2005 with their litter siblings, faxed to me by Sharon <enolagay, a week before I went to get them in Rochester, New Hampshire.
To be continued soon.