The Reign of Death

Rain in January is not a good sign in Maine.  It never happened when I was a kid, but now global warming throws these Cape Cod storms up across our coast as wetness, not as the sere white anger of winter snow.  Snow – usually a constant from December to April – is our dues to death, the sparkling white blanket that keeps Death at bay in the dark and the cold.  But even though we’ve had some snow this January, we’ve had more sleet and rain on its edge than we ought.  And these have been the rains of death, for each day the Grim Reaper walks outside the door.

It’s been a year for it, ever since last February we have been losing cats – Leyden, Gandhi, Sweetie – and rabbits – Gracie, Isaac, Thelma and a dozen others – with the death of Dakota crowning these Saturnian jewels.  But it didn’t stop at New Year; Quan and Lea had to kill a rabbit by hand to stop its ongoing squeal of suffering while I was in Japan.

And then just after I got back my old cat, Angie, lost it totally, shitting and pissing everywhere on the downstairs furniture.  She had been having ‘accidents’ over the last year, but this was wanton and just totally addlepated (not malicious). I called the vet to explore how it works, and she was available that very hour, so the time came upon me quickly and without preparation.

Before she came, I asked Angie if she was ready to go; she leaned into my hand – yes.  I asked her if she meant it, spelling out what ‘ready to go’ meant and she leaned in with more – yes, please.  I looked her in the eye, and she looked right back – yes, again.

When the vet came, she started at the smell, but quickly settled right back into my lap.  She hardly noticed the prick of the ketamine, even though her back legs are nearly without muscle.  The sodium pentathol looked like some blue Amway cleaner in the syringe, and this was the moment – she could come back from the wide-eyed dissociation of the K, but she would not be coming back from the pentathol.  She snuggled in closer, and Dr Welch took a limp leg and sprayed it to find a vein.

Quietly, quickly she was gone, a transition as smooth as a Mercedes, curled in my lap the whole time.  Even though she consented, even though it was peaceful, I am stricken to the core and leaden with playing God.  Even God has farmed this harvesting out to the Grim Reaper, and I have just killed my cat, my companion of bed a fire for 16 years.

Quan has suggested out by Dakota, but in dying Angie told me that’s too far from the house – too far from the fire was how she put it.  So I wrap her in her burial towel – she peed on me and the couch one more time in death, as a last laugh – and take her out among the fruit trees by the garden where she played.  The ground is not at all frozen, and the brown dirt mixes with the half a foot of white snow atop it.  Annie comes over and we mark her with a rock.

Angie was Quan’s first gift to me, first animal gift, before we were lovers even.  She said if you have a child you must have an animal, and instead she came by and left me two, and Misty named them – Angelina and Josefina.  Josefina was the more independent, and was taken by a fisher cat weasel shortly after we moved here, but Angelina – ever the lover of the warm fire and the close to home – stayed with us inside, loving me and Misty as special, and Quan for her everyday thereness.

This is so hard, to have to send her.  Why could she not just die on her own?  I resent Quan for telling me it’s time, but I know it is, she has been pleasantly senile and AWOL for some time, but I have resisted.  But now I stand with a dirty shovel, holding the reins of death.

With our two closest animals gone – Dakota and Angie – surely that’s the end?  But no, yesterday morning Quan found Cocoa Puff, out in the rabbitat with his throat neatly torn out down to the cervical bones, the blood sucked out of him.  A weasel eats like this – a dog or fox or coyote goes for the meat, a bird pecks, but this is quick and dirty work, and there is no blood on the ground beside her.

So, after ten lucky years, a predator has found his way into the rabbitat.  We lost two to dogs way back in the beginning in Scarborough, and we have lost a few periodically to disease, and a lot this past year to various ailments and old age.  But never have we had the rampant predator within the stockade.  Quan is so discouraged – her experiment in creating safety for the innocent and scared, her attempt to externalize her wounded inner child – is lying in ruins in the grey-lit January morning.

A weasel can get in the smallest hole – we track around the enclosure, looking for any gap in the chicken wire.  We cannot find one, but we’re not sure that’s how he (she?) is getting in anyway, and they are so slinky they can get through the tiniest hole or maybe over top via the trees? – who knows.

And sure enough, this morning there is another one for Quan to find, her white fur coated crimson, the head loose, the now-familiar anatomy of the tubes in the throat.  There is only one way to get it, and that is to trap the fucker.  As I leave on yet another trip for work, Quan has regained the tread of the determined and is set to find a trapper to stop this reign of death.

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