Even in the summer, it’s always cool in Los Angeles at 7:30 in the morning. But he was still sweating a little as he negotiated the narrow walkway that led to a Starbucks. Because he was fat and out of shape. He was also cursing under his breath. Partly because he was fat and out of shape. But mostly because he was negotiating the narrow walkway to the Starbucks at 7:30 in the morning. His year old Mr. Coffee coffee grinder had just taken a shit on him. His old one, a Krups---talk about taking the Hun out of your name---had lasted twelve years. Go figure.
He was also trying not to curse at the old woman in front of him, who slowly and painfully hobbled toward the Starbucks. The walkway was too narrow to get by her plumpness. Partly because of his plumpness. It would have been rude anyway, but it was clearly going to add ten minutes to this outing. He thought to himself, “I’ve got a cat that walks like that and I’m putting her down today.” That’s why it was an especially crappy morning for the coffee grinder to break. And to be stuck behind an old woman.
Fifteen minutes later---ten of which he blamed entirely on the old woman---he was walking up the incline toward his house with a heavy heart. His heart was heavy partly because walking uphill was hard for him, even though he was only in his mid fifties. He wondered who would put him down. But mostly his heart was heavy because he dreaded this day. He’d envisioned it a long time ago. And he’d dreaded it for awhile. And now it was today. Isn’t that how all these things work? Especially now, when time went so quickly.
Song cue for the band inside his head. “See here how everything leads up to this day. And it’s just like any other day that’s ever been.” Listening to the lyrics echoing in his skull made him teary. He had promised himself not to go there. Noel Coward wrote, “How potent is cheap music.” He was an English teacher so he knew crap like that.
The cat was twenty years old. A friend, a woman he’d lost touch with, had given him a girl kitten when his marriage ended. And, yes, she’d made the requisite stupid pussy joke. He hadn’t even liked cats. Maybe that’s why they’d lost touch. Time had flown by. Twenty years. He still wasn’t sure he liked cats, but he was close to this one. They’d spent twenty years together. His damn marriage had only lasted ten.
He sat on his patio with his coffee. That made it seem like all the other mornings. Except for walking down to the goddamn Starbucks. In the old days, the cat would run out after him and hang. Or kill lizards. Today, he carried her out and she didn’t hunt any lizards. Instead, she looked at him dolefully. She used to fly from the hill onto the roof. He’d look up from his desk and see a flying cat overhead. Now, he could see that her legs were so weak that she could barely stand. Her fur had mats. And lately she’d stopped eating. For awhile they just sat there as they had always done.
“Today’s the day, isn’t it, honey? Your day of destiny.”
She held his eyes in a deep searching look and mewled in a way he’d never heard before. An oddly urgent way. Then she tottered over to be rubbed. Like she knew it was the last time. He felt his resolve weaken. Maybe she’ll perk up. Maybe he should wait at least a few days. He glanced at her. She looked so miserable though. He remembered when his father had looked like that. The old man had asked to be put down. Not that it happened, of course, but nothing in the following few months made it seem like a bad idea. So he was just being selfish---today was the day. And she was twenty, which was like a hundred and ten. She’d missed her chance to be cut down in her prime. So had he, he noticed as his legs began to ache from his walk.
“Neither of us could outrun a coyote, anymore, huh?”
When he put her in the travel box, she made that odd meow again. He carefully loaded it into the front seat of the Audi convertible.
“At least you’re going in style.”
The car was his sole extravagance. He figured he was middle-aged, fat, and balding, so he needed a sports car. It was after rush hour, and the freeway was open. He enjoyed the rush of power flowing from the engine. The Audi leaped forward on the uphill incline and started to slide past the Range Rover to his left. Much better than walking uphill.
“I still feel good when I drive.”
The cat yowled in response to that and he looked over at her in the passenger seat. He thought she was peering out of the box at him but she was watching the Range Rover.
You never see the one that gets you. The SUV came over right on top of him. He half heard the impact. Then he felt a flying sensation. Then nothing at all.
Los Angeles (AP)----A double fatality crash snarled traffic on a Los Angeles freeway this morning.
The sole survivor of the fiery crash between an SUV and a sports car that claimed two lives was a
cat. At a press conference, veterinarians at the Studio City Animal Hospital stated that the cat had
suffered only minor injuries, eaten well, and was expected to make a full recovery. Asked to
comment, the cat only said, “He was a good guy, but it was his day of destiny. I tried to tell him.”
When asked for details about the accident and where they were headed at the time, the cat declined
further comment on the advice of her newly retained attorney.
Living and writing in Hollywood, which at least sounds romantic, Christopher Horton is the author of the novel “The Great Big Book of Bitches (a love story)”, and a short story appearing in the anthology “Literary Pasadena”, published last spring.