I do gardening. I tell myself I do gardening. I have a shed full of implements of good intentions; rust has had its way here and there, on both the tools and the intentions. Under the slanted roof of the veranda in the backyard there’s a blue water barrel standing under the drainpipe so it fills will rainwater for future plant thirst. Some cats use the pipe to scrabble up unto my plastic veranda roof to romp in the night, chasing each other in play or with territorial snarls.
Supposition enters from here on in. Because one of these cats, either running away, or running up, or down, the pipe, slipped, misjudged, something cattish and forever unknowable, and dove, plopped, found itself in the water barrow. The barrel was fairly full, but not full to the brim. Did the cat swim some? Did it yowl? What day, what night—when did it slip and go splash? Whenever, it could not reach up to get a toehold, or clawhold, on the edge and pull itself out. And from exhaustion, it must have horribly ended its time on earth, paddling in small and then smaller circles, miserable, tiring.
I only noticed it today, because one doesn’t often, during the winter, peek in water barrels to see how things are going.
There was something mossy-like floating on the top. Odd. There had been more than enough rain to break up any organic growth that might want to settle and spread there. So I leaned forward, spotted a collar around the muck and instinctively jerked back, stepped away, stepped further away. The mental processing going, already knowing, but just double and triple checking in order to let my mind take it in, realize, and not go into a brief shock, occupying itself instead with double looping checking, cushioning the reality.
I looked again. The moss was really fur. Much of it floated at the top, but which end of the cat was front, which back, could not be figured. I didn’t stare. I let it rest in there and returned to my computer. To build up a head of steam. Get myself prepared. Then, later in the afternoon, I finished something on my computer, stood, stretched, said, Do it.
I marched straight to the end of the garden, yanked out the metal rake, returned to the house, the veranda, the barrel. I dunked the end with the teeth in. Maneuvered, reached under, lifted. A dank, sopping mass, beyond description. I did not look, nor study. Cradled on the rake’s teeth I hauled it into the garden—the water pouring off in streams—and over to the far side of the back yard, near the high bushes, in the area I’d once buried my own cat. I dropped the body on the ground. It’s water-logged gut split, exposing pink. I swung my head away, going back to the shed to lift out the shovel that was wedged in behind all sorts of summer chairs and tables and such. I banged about. I lifted it out, turning things over in there. Turning, I went straight to where the dead thing lay and next to it dug quickly, messily, hitting roots, chopping, finally satisfied with a shallow hole.
I maneuvered the end of the shovel till it was up against the one side of the cat mess and pushed it over. It rolled like a boneless damp rug and sluggishly slopped in my minor hole.
I covered it up, quickly. Patted it once, twice. Looked at the newly torn ground. There was no loving former owner to linger, say a few words, have a few memories.
I put the tools away, back to their rusting hibernation. Glanced in the water barrel on my way back. A film of loose fur floated.
I went inside.