It was drizzling the day we named our dog Curiosity after he killed the Siamese cat that belonged to the lady down the street. My mother had said the dog couldn’t stay, but after he got his name, it was too late. You can banish an It, but once the It has a name, It is family. My mother had hated that Siamese cat. She always said it looked down its nose at her. She wasn’t sorry it was dead. My mother didn’t like the Cat Lady, either. She liked the Cat Lady even less when the Cat Lady showed up at the front door in her bathrobe and demanded $1,000 to buy a new cat. My mother suggested that she go to Siam and get a stray cat off the street for free. From the living room, my father suggested that she go to Hell.
But the Cat Lady did not go anywhere. Ignoring the suggestions, she sat down on our front steps and settled in for a long stay. She removed one of her slippers and began massaging her arthritic left foot right there on our porch, in the rain. We watched through the curtains and my mother didn’t stop us because it is perfectly all right to stare at someone when they massage their old, veiny feet on your property.
My parents adopted the same principle for dealing with the Cat Lady as they used with my brothers when they did something they should not have: they ignored her. But as with my brothers, it didn’t work. When it started to pour, I decided to bring her a cup of tea. It was herbal tea, which meant that it was grass-flavored, and the first cup of tea I ever made. The Cat Lady invited me to sit with her while she sipped it, and she cried because I was such a dear and because her cat was dead and because rain was getting into her tea and because she did not want to go home to her empty house with Pansy’s blood on the kitchen floor.
Pansy was the cat.
It was drizzling the day we named our dog Curiosity after he killed the Siamese cat that belonged to the lady down the street. My father sent my brothers and me to clean up the Cat Lady’s house, so she would go away. Pansy lay in the Cat Lady’s backyard, very bloody and very dead. The dog tagged along behind the boys as had become his habit, and he barked loudly when he saw the cat. My brothers crouched over Pansy’s body, poking and prodding to see what she would do. Nothing. I went inside to assess the gory situation.
As I mopped the Cat Lady’s kitchen floor, I decided I would rather my death be bloody than boring. I did not want to lie in my bed fading into the pillow until I disappeared into a pile of wrinkled white blankets and sheets. The portly matron at the old age home would shake out the sheets forcefully and then toss them into the laundry crate. “Guess she’s gone,” she’d say to no one. No. I wanted there to be color and excitement in my death. Life is a struggle; it seems only appropriate that death should be, too.
My brothers planted Pansy in the backyard. As they lowered her into the ground, alongside some drooping azaleas, I thought that maybe if the Cat Lady watered her enough, Pansy would grow come springtime. Before the boys covered the cardboard box that was Pansy’s coffin with dirt, I noticed the words printed on top of the box: Handle With Care. Too late.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.
This piece won the September 2006 Teen Ink Fiction Contest.