When I parked there was a scattering of cats before me. This is no big. There is a posse of strays in my neighborhood, and for this reason I often find myself checking under my car before departing and yanking Jake away from their delicious, delicious poops. But there were, like, three, scattering all at once like furry foreshadowing Compys.
As I opened the gate to the courtyard of my apartment complex I observed therein a cat… a cat quite unwell… a cat so Jump-Back-Say-Jesus frightening that I jumped back and said “Jesus.”
This cat was grey and white, adult but not very big, with a swollen abdomen, sunken, unfocused eyes encrusted with disease, and a curtain of clear ichor dangling from its mouth to the sidewalk.
Let us pretend that my heart did not cry out, and that I did not weep hot, salty tears of pity. Let’s instead pretend I was hardcore Ving Rhames cynical zombie-fighter and call this cat Romero Cat.
Romero Cat made a deep, mucusy, plaintive meow-retch and I about peed my pants.
Romero Cat and I had a bit of a standoff. She wasn’t going anywhere. I was loath to pass her on the narrow sidewalk. But after a hot minute I edged past, keeping eye contact with Romero Cat until she shambled on, and I said aloud “Jesus Christ, I can at least bring her some water.” (I call this Gateway Praying.)
I went upstairs, met my friend and houseguest Jenn, briefly explained the situation and got a (plastic — I am never using this cup again) cup of water and scoop of dog food. Jenn pointed out we had cat food in the house, due to having a cat, but I was highly distracted.
We went downstairs where Romero Cat sat just outside the parking gate in the alley, weaving a bit. She did not show interest in the water or dog food, and concentrated mostly on suffering horribly. Were I not obviously Ving Rhames I might have wept a bit more. Some discourse was had between me and Jenn. It became clear that Animal Control should be called.
There is a strange thing that happens to technology when a Romero Cat is suffering horribly in one’s alley. What happens is one’s technology becomes TOTALLY G*DDAMN UNACCEPTABLE. Thirty seconds to power up and connect to the Internet? A forty-five second voicemail message at Animal Control’s number? Oh man, I totally broke my swear diet.
Does any public service come get a sick cat at 11:00 PM on a Sunday? Should I pay for a private service? Should I just try to go to bed ignoring the fact there is a Romero Cat suffering horribly in my alley? I started button-mashing to get through LA Animal Control’s voice navigation system, and reached the most beautiful and soothing and knowledgeable female voice on earth. She told me someone would be there to help in 20-30 min. She might as well have told me Adam Baldwin himself was arriving by helicopter with a basket of mini-pies for how happy I was to hear it.
I have brought mini-pies
Oh — the dispatcher did say if the cat was moving, I should, if I could, put a box over it.
I am now equipped to give advice about putting a box over a Romero Cat.
Do not attempt to use your big heavy Rubbermaid recycle bin. You will be afraid of hurting Romero Cat, Romero Cat will demonstrate her ability to do a slightly speedier shamble, and you will fail and eat shame-cakes in front of Jenn.
Romero Cat edged under the neighboring apartment’s dumpster and then under a neighbor’s very nice Honda CR-V, expedited by my inexpert boxing attempts. This neighbor and eight friends happened to exit while this act unfolded, and were kind enough to wait nearby until Animal Control arrived.
This waiting period included Romero Cat weaving, drooling, and making terrible ancient meow-growls of suffering. There is no appropriate pastime to explore while this is happening. You cannot sip a soda. You cannot play DS. You must watch and guard and joke with Jenn about how many nightmares you will have.
A little after 11:00 PM a short, friendly woman with a tremendous rock-star ponytail arrived in a big white van. No gloves! NO GLOVES. She pulled out a little cage and one of those lariat sticks you see on Animal Cops. I suddenly felt a bit sheepish. Romero Cat seemed full of rabies and RAGE virus and Reaver cooties five minutes ago; now that there was a professional person with a van and a stick I felt like I’d called 911 on a Jiffy-Pop fire.
What could we do to help? Said the woman with the rock-star ponytail, “Well, when they’re loose like this they can be hard to get.” Frak. I was hoping for a tractor-beam or cat-hypnosis — something to ensure this night ended in Romero Cat getting help and not just a wasted trip for the woman from Animal Control.
They do not have one of these
Meanwhile Jenn had been full of smart and brought down a perfectly cat-sized cardboard box. I took the cardboard, she took the Rubbermaid, and we stood on opposite sides of the woman with the rock-star ponytail.
Romero Cat happened to be very well-lit under the CR-V, with a straight empty shot between it and anything else to hide under. Only a fool could fail at catching a sick, shambling cat under these circumstances. A FOOL. A FOOL THAT WAS ME.
Romero Cat successfully dodged my box. Jenn sighted her under the next car. Rock-Star Ponytail Woman poked again. Romero Cat dodged again, two cars down. We were running out of real estate, approaching the locked inner gate of the neighbors’ apartment complex and unknown straits beyond.
Rock-Star Ponytail Woman poked again. Romero Cat ducked out and through the bars of the inner gate. I said “shit” as clearly and meaningfully as I ever had in my life. Then Romero Cat loped through the bars on the opposite side and back out into open space, hustling for dark, infected freedom. At last I was inspired to do something called LEADING THE TARGET. SKR-SCOOP and Romero Cat was in a box.
The audience of neighbors applauded. I totally ruled.
The woman with the rock-star ponytail took over: she broke out a box-cutter and skootched the mouth of the cage up to the side of the cardboard box.
“You’re not even wearing gloves!” I squeed. “You are made of iron!”
“I’ve done this a lot,” she said. “Is it all right if I destroy this box?”
“Oh yes,” I said. “This box is for you.”
“I’m going to cut a hole, and when she runs she’ll head for the light.”
I thought, I believe you, but also I have seen 28 Days.
She cut that hole in the cardboard box. She jammed the cage up to it tight. She smacked the opposite side of the box PAM-PA-PAM and Romero Cat went shooting into the cage.
“Come on, all the way in,” said the woman with the rock-star ponytail, pushing in Romero Cat’s tail WITH HER BARE HANDS. She locked up the cage, held it aloft and examined the cat.
“This cat’s not even that sick,” she said. “Look.” She wheeled it around so I could peer directly into Romero Cat’s face. The curtain of mucus was cleared away by the scuffle, but still in evidence were the sunken, unfocused eyes, ash-encrusted mouth and general aspect of hideous drunken zombie cat-ness.
Said I: “HOW IS THAT NOT A SICK CAT?!”
“She probably has feline leukemia,” said she. “She’s not so bad yet — we’ll treat her, and she probably won’t be put down.”
“NOICE,” said I.
Romero Cat went in the van, Rock-Star Ponytail Woman went to her next call, and Jenn and I went upstairs to wash our hands a lot. A lot a lot a lot.
Then I petted Jake the Dog and Grace the Cat a lot. A lot a lot a lot.