Pet Cemetery Revisited

Image of Short Story
The sun shone brightly that late, autumn day, but there was a definite chill in the air. I pulled one last weed from my urban vegetable garden, exhaling a sigh of satisfaction as I finished the last chores for the day. Standing from my crouch, I gathered my tools and made my way into the house. The phone was ringing as I entered, and I ran to pick it up before it stopped. I breathlessly answered, “Hello.” My white dog, Max, trotted after me and plopped down beside me as the voice on the other end said,” Ann?” “Hi, Greg. Are you out patrolling the world to keep us safe?” I joked. We had worked together for a number of years in law enforcement, and I considered him a good friend. As a warrant officer, Greg often worked weekends to knock on the doors of unsuspecting people who forgot to pay their traffic fines. Indeed, people were and are arrested on a daily basis for such atrocities. This time, however, Greg was not in a joking mood.
He was navigating the city streets as he tried to talk on his huge car phone, which always reminded me of past Magnum, P.I. episodes. In those days, law enforcement often used this in-car anomaly as cell phones were yet to be ubiquitous. The oversized phone crackled as he passed under a power line, and he tentatively asked. “Ann, have you seen your cats lately?” Greg and I shared a common passion; he was as big of an animal lover as I was. I looked around to see my black cat, Ted, lying on the carpet sunning himself in the warm rays streaming in from outside. His brother, who was also black, wasn’t near him. I began to walk as far as the phone cord would allow. I didn’t see my other cat, Bill, anywhere. I replied to Greg’s question, “One of them is right here; why?” He paused, and I could hear the street noises pass by through the silence. “Well. . .” he hesitated, “I just went down your street, and there was a black cat that was run over near your house.” My heart sank. If you love animals, you will understand the depth of despair I felt. I quickly got off of the phone and ran to find my husband, John. “You need to come out front with me; Bill might be hurt,” I anxiously sputtered. He grabbed his jacket, and we rushed out the front door. Before us, in the middle of the street was a black cat, or what used to be a cat. The only recognizable trait still left was the white patch that Bill had had on his chest. I began sobbing. A black cat with a white patch on its chest lay in the middle of a fairly busy street, smooshed beyond recognition. John and I looked at each other, knowing that Bill had met his demise. Through my tears, I whimpered, “We can’t leave him here.” John, although endeavoring to be my knight in shining armor, did not want to actually touch the mangled mass on the ground. We stood there as cars whizzed by with their passengers slowly turning to look at us. After a few moments of assessing the situation, John in a moment of brilliance, decided he would go get a shovel and a trash bag. He quickly returned with his accoutrements. We had to wait for several cars to go by before we could approach the carcass. Then, as I held out the trash bag, he shoveled Bill off of the street and gently dropped him into the bag. I can only imagine what our neighbors must have thought about the crazy, organic gardener woman out on the street scooping up dead animals with her husband. Back on the street, John and I waited with our filled garbage bag and shovel in hand for a few cars to pass. As you might imagine, the stares from passing cars continued. We slowly crossed the street and went into the backyard. I opened the backdoor to the house to let Max and Ted out. They, of course, would want to say goodbye. John began to dig a deep hole, one that even Max would not be able to reach the depths of. It was not easy work, and it took a while. Neither one of us wanted to envision Max digging Bill back up and jovially returning his find to us at probably the most inopportune time. It was already strange enough burying our beloved pet, which we had scraped up off of the street, without having to rebury him at a later date. As tears were pouring down my face, John gently lowered Bill to his final resting place. By this time, Max had wandered over to see what was going on. I knelt and hugged him tightly to comfort him, as he surely felt as much pain at the loss of Bill as I did. As I was kneeling, I looked back and saw Ted, our other black cat, sitting on the patio watching us warily. What must he have thought? As I anthropomorphized, a look of deep sorrow passed over his face. It must have dawned on him that his brother was gone. John paused from his shoveling and turned to look at the grief-strickened Ted as well. What would Ted do without his brother? I sobbed at the thought of Ted having to deal with this loss. That was when I noticed something very peculiar. A shadow passed from the bushes and sat down beside Ted. It was another black cat, which to those who knew him, could have been Bill’s twin. Holy Cow! John was staring at the same scene. There on the porch was Max, who had wandered back to sit on the warm concrete, Ted, the grief-strickened brother, and the previously deceased, Bill. John and I looked at each other. My tears began to dry on my cheeks, and I quietly asked him, “Is that Bill?” Of course, it was. I ran over to him—elated that he was alive. John looked at me and then slowly poked the trash bag to make sure there hadn’t been a resurrection moment while we weren’t looking. No, all was well. There was still a dead cat in the bag. However, rethinking the situation, all was not well. There was a strange, dead cat in a trash bag now lying in a hole we had just dug. We had scraped a random cat off of the street and were currently burying it in our backyard. “What do we do?” I asked. John looked back at me sharply, with what I can only describe as pure and utter scorn. Obviously, our choices weren’t good. We couldn’t pick the bag up and go throw it back out into the street. If the neighbors thought organic lady was crazy before, they would be confirmed in their suspicions now. Can you envision us walking back across the street and unloading the contents of the trash bag back onto the concrete? Clearly, that option just wasn’t available to us! Well, then, it looked like the only sane choice was to continue to bury the cat in our backyard. John hurriedly scooped dirt onto the dead cat until finally it was covered. When we thought it was our cat, there didn’t seem to be a hurry, but now that it was a strange cat that we had scraped off the street with our shovel, placed in a trash bag, and carried to our backyard, John was shoveling dirt as if his life depended on it. If a neighbor turned us in, how would we ever explain this to the police? “Ahhh, yes, officer. We often scrape animals off the street from in front of our house. It helps maintain the neighborhood?” More importantly than explaining all this to the police remains the fact that some family was now searching for their cat and would never find it. Once again, what were our options? Do we post signs around the neighborhood, “Found Dead Cat!” If you were the one who never found your cat on that day, I apologize. However, know that your beloved family pet was buried in a proper ceremony. As the shenanigans continued, Max, Bill, and Ted watched with what must have been sheer horror. I still struggle to form an accurate mental picture of their conversation about the burial ceremony, and the anguish it must have caused them to consider the events of that day. When we finished with the festivities, we hurriedly put away the shovel and ran in the house. I walked over and picked up the phone to dial Greg’s number. In my most nonchalant voice, I said, “Hi, Greg. I just wanted to let you know that the cat in the street wasn’t ours. Thanks for calling, though.”