O Cat, Thou Art Sick

November 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

We had to take the Mouchette to the vet today because we saw a spot of blood in the litter, and she was trying to pee with no results. I put her in the carrier easily but didn’t latch it properly, she got out, and then it took 10 minutes of chasing the slippery kitty around the bedroom, under the bed, behind the desk, under the bureau, over the bed, on the headboard, wailing, etc—Charles with a broom, me playing catcher—before I finally grabbed her twisting body and stuffed her in again. We took a cab because sick animals make me anxious. She kept up a low, terrified howl, and the cabbie complained about midtown streets blocked off until it finally got through to him that we weren’t interested.

The one vet open on Sunday—St. Marks—had had ten emergencies that day, as well as being fully booked, so we were there all afternoon. It was a comradely bunch of pet owners accompanying their animals: a bulldog named Cookie Monster who’d snagged bloody tampons from the trash and eaten them (we assured her lots of dogs did and he’d be fine); a dog who ate a certain kind of rat poison that works by making the rats unable to defecate, giving the dog plenty of time to get treatment (not so the rats); a bird who’d fallen and chipped his beak because he didn’t understand what “clipping your wings” means; a giant calico guinea pig; a young brown rabbit with an earache, and an older, enormous white rabbit.

Cookie Monster wiggled around the floor on his big butt; the rat poison dog strained against his harness, looking perfectly healthy; the bird and the rabbits were allowed to poke heads and shoulders from their carriers and greet the other detainees. It was a very small waiting room, maybe 5’ by 8’. I felt proud of us New York pet owners who’d kept a close eye on both ends of our animals. Not one person was rude, annoying or standoffish.

But my delicate Mouchette meowed almost all the time, looking up at me with big, round, pleading eyes. The stench of fear coming off her was overwhelming.

Hours later, when we got into the examining room, Dr. Haddock said she’d never felt a cat’s heart beat so fast. She expressed bloody urine from Mouchette’s bladder, shot the kitty up with antibiotics and fluids, told us Mouchette needed between $1100 and $1400 worth of dental work beyond the $800 bill for today’s emergency visit, shots, bloodwork, urine test, special food, etc, and we calmly accepted this because what are credit cards for?

We walked home from 1st Avenue, a little sad that it was now dark. Entering the apartment, expecting relief all around, we found Fitzroy furiously angry. When we opened the carrier, he hissed viciously at Mouchette, and then hissed at me. Banned from the bedroom, he started batting Lola around the way certain men treat their wives, although Lola bats back just fine. He was apparently deeply offended that he didn’t get to share Mouchette’s excursion to hell, though I briefly considered that he might have a brain tumor… The last time I took Mouchette to the vet, he was very solicitous when she returned. Living with two females has driven him around the bend. I’m so glad I didn’t have children.

My sister, who’s a veterinarian, has and would again tell me to find Lola a new home. I can’t. This is her 4th home (3rd owner). Charles loves her to the bottom of his soul and I love her too. I love her gray-black-brown silky fur, emerald green eyes, and the way she sleeps spread out on her side like a cat pancake. I love her spunk. I like watching her boxing matches with Fitzroy: he’s at least 50 % bigger but she holds her own.

Yet it kills me that it might be stress that made Mouchette ill; when the Dr. showed us the tube of bloody urine, I felt that faintness one feels when the fact of others’ mortality taps hard on the glass. That’s why the bill, though it may sit accruing interest for a long while, doesn’t upset me too much. Compared to Mouchette’s blood, how could it?

Moonlight Monologue for the New Kitten

The old kitten is replaced by a new baby kitten
the old dog by a new pup
like a dead Monday by Tuesday.

They stroke the new kitten in their laps
so that their excess affection won’t go sour,
so that it will love them in return, like the old one did.

But for me they aren’t replaceable,
not the kitten, not the Monday, not anything else;
for me they never die.

They only distance themselves, or dwell in me
disappearing into the distance: they dwell in my heart and ears,
like the Moonlight Sonata dwells in a piano.

Gone? No new rain rinses the shower-scent
of an old Monday from me,
no matter how hard it pours, hisses, streams.

Ridiculous, maybe, but it feels good to me,
like an old stone in the cemetery,
on which a bird might drop its feather.

Out there in the City Park and everywhere,
where forgetting fattens fresh ice,
how many, attentively oblivious, are skating!

I understand them, that on slippery ground
they alone possess life while living,
as long as is possible, and as best as is possible.

But for me easy grief’s loathsome,
and the easy solace of what’s easily replaced;
if I’m no more, they’ll replace me soon.

I know, if I’m no more, they’ll have someone else,
who’ll lie in their beds for me,
pant, talk, suffer, love.

But why shouldn’t it be this way? It might
need to be this way— why expect the unexpectable,
the too hard, the too much?… I understand.

And yet, for me, it’s irreplaceable
and what used to be dear doesn’t stop being dear.
And it is still too early to love the new kitten.

I don’t put it in my lap, because the old one’s
absence still burns there. I know
if I’m no more, there’ll be someone else.

by Péter Kántor
translated by Michael Blumenthal


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