what a perfect day to write about hanging and flying cats, due to the nature of my ramblings this wet, slushy, snowy cold day that i woke up to this morning with shards of glass tearing my throat out as i attempted to swallow before making it downstairs at eight o’clock in the morning in order to meet with the fine folks of national grid, nee, keyspan energy and whatever it’ll be next year. they’re supposed to put in a new meter between 8am and 1pm. that’s ok. while waiting i did those things that we shopkeepers do on snowy days. we sleep after getting someone else to mind the store, we shovel, we make the sidewalk safe with a shovel and salt, we eat and then get on the phone with national grid in time for them to tell me that i have another six-thousand dollar bill.
to review; three thousand, six thousand, two thousand, five thousand and now apparently back up to six thousand. (by the way, they still haven’t shown up, what with the snow…it’s 5:17 pm) they finally admitted that there might be a problem on their end.
imagine that. more to come.
opening scrap bar in the spring was fine. not having money was fine. i seem to be pretty good at that. when i have money, it tends to disappear or turn to dust in my pocket. as scrap bar was stretching its first moments of life, things happened (as they always happen) and they became my cloak of experience. i wear my experiences sometimes like badges of honor and other times, of stupidity.
either way, better a cloak than a shroud.
while life was dealing me remarkably good cards since the call from the frenchman, strangeness continued to visit my days. this time it was in the form of “little guy”, the flying cat and my dealings with a carnivorous veterinarian.
i once rescued a cat that was hanging from a light post on the Avenue U station of the N-line subway at West 6th street, brooklyn – an outdoor, elevated train line with easy illegal street access. this cat was hanging by its neck from a rope that was, by the look of his bloodied paws, used to drag him to where the hanging took place. this was no doubt done by some local kids who have since grown up to become various professionals, civil servants and/or criminals, sadists or all that i’ve listed. from the moment i saw the poor animal flailing helplessly at the back end of the platform, supporting the notion that the bastards probably did this when they saw the train heading to this station and then jumped off the station and ran out to the street from whence they came, my heart drew sick. remembering that day still makes me weak.
“big guy” is the grey long-haired cat. he was nursed back to health and was so incredible grateful that he would forever climb up my chest and lay his head on my shoulder like a baby being burped, while he salivated a torrent of dribble down my back. a generation ago, when a guy had a cat, a girlfriend would bring him a kitten so his cat wouldn’t be lonely and that’s what happened a year or so later. i’d bet this still happens. i named it “little guy. it was the girlfriend who gave me the typing book as a break-up present and told me to get a real job. i assume that this was done so i wouldn’t be lonely.
sometimes i get a kick out of myself.
she and i would reunite almost twenty years later and i would acknowledge that i didn’t even deserve the typing book. i would say goodbye to her in this, the christmas season and i would hold her and that moment in my heart forever. sometimes i wonder if i’ve become a collector of poignant moments.
these thoughts are like the wind and weather and i’m sometimes better prepared for them than others.
but i digress. little guy would grow to become quite large and adventurous. he would go out the apartment window and play on the fire escape. my apartment was on the fifth floor and it had a wonderful view of the brooklyn narrows and staten island. little guy would go out and up to the apartment house roof. when i would return from work at five or six in the morning, i never knew whether i would walk in on a pigeon slaughter or, one particular summer, have a gang of cicada bugs strewn all over the apartment, one still BZZZZZZZZZING in his mouth. little guy was a hunter and loved to bring home his quarry and terrify me and any and all houseguests with it.
it’s april in 1986 and it’s approaching my birthday and scrap bar may have just opened or is about to. i’m talking to a friend on the phone. it’s a beautiful spring day and all of the windows in my apartment are open. big guy is seated on the table next to me in the center of the living room/kitchen. little guy is seated on the couch. a pigeon flies to the windowsill and lands.
i look and think “how odd.” from the left corner of my eye i see cat-lightning that is little guy leap to the windowsill. i watch the pigeon fade back and into the air, twisting its body around heading forward, taking a secondary drop down, then flyt upward and away away. i also see the cat leap out into nothingness.
this wasn’t the window with the fire escape. we’re both very, very surprised. i say to my friend on the phone, “buddy just jumped out the window.” i walk three steps to the window. “he’s falling.” i’m watching him, helpless. he’s stretching his four legs out as far as they can go. “he’s still falling,” i say as i note to myself that he seems to be slowing down. “he’s…ahhh” he hits the ground and scampers under a car and i don’t know what to do. i gotta go. i have to do something. i hang up the phone. i pick up a subway token and hold it tightly in my hand. i exit the building and run around the corner to where i last saw the cat. he’s sitting under a parked car going meow-meow-meow-meow. he’s unresponsive to my voice. he doesn’t even know i’m there. i run to third avenue, a block away, to a pet shop where i get the cats’ food and goodies. i’m in as much shock as my cat.
“my cat. he fell out the window. i don’t know what to do. i have a token. i have to go to the city. i gotta go.”
“calm down. is the cat alive?”
“yes. he’s under a car meowing.”
“ok. take this card and go home and call this number. ok? you can do that?”
i see the card but can’t read it. i put the token in my pocket.
“the number. it’s a pet ambulance. they’ll come and get the cat and bring it to a hospital.”
i run out of the store and back home repeating the storekeeper’s instructions, check to see little guy still meow-meow-meow-meow under the car then run up into the apartment and call. i spoke to a dispatcher who told meto wait in the street for the ambulance. i ran down and withing five minutes i heard the sound of a siren and saw a truck similar to a standard EMS ambulance come screaming up the block. i waved them down and two guys came out.
little guy’s meow-meow-meow is getting drowned by the siren.
“where’s the cat?”
“under the car here”
one the medics falls to his chest, climbs under the car and shovels the cat out with his hand and arm, laying him on his back as the other medic, stethoscope on the ready, gets a reading saying “irregular heartbeat” to the shoveling medic, who stands with the cat in his arms, turning to me saying, “we’re bringing him to the hospital on fifth avenue and 90th street. want to ride with us or meet us there?”
it’s about seven or eight blocks away. i need to think. i need to calm down. if he’s dying, he’s dying. i’m going to get ready. i’ll walk.
“i’ll meet you there. i have to get some cash.”
i run upstairs and grab all the money i have in the world, about seventy dollars. that’ll cover the medic and the gratuity. i call pierre, my scrap bar partner to call in my first favor.
“pierre. my cat fell out the window. i need money.”
“what do you need?”
“i don’t know”
“what do you want?”
“i don’t know.”
“i have like, four hundred dollars.”
“i’ll take it”
i cycled to where he was, got the cash and headed to the animal hospital.
the medics were there waiting for me. i paid and tipped them, then was summoned to the counter by the vet.
“you cat’s in pretty bad shape”
“how bad is bad?”
“well, it’s going to cost about seven hundred and fifty dollars to save him”
“how much does it cost to kill it? to euthanize it?”
“kill the cat.”
i could feel the eyes of the pet owners (with their pets) in the waiting area bearing down on me. i may have even heard a gasp.
“what do mean kill the cat?”
“what i mean is that i can’t afford to save the cat but i can afford to kill it.” i didn’t say that something stunk about that added fifty bucks he said when he quoted me the price. there was something up with this guy and i knew it. or at least, i thought i knew it, and that was good enough for me. he walked behind a door that was behind the counter. he returned a minute later.
“five hundred. i can save your cat for five hundred dollars.”
“no. put him to sleep. i can’t do it. i don’t have the money. i’m not even sure if he’ll survive with what you were telling me.”
now there were murmurs from the people who were waiting. i heard words like animal and monster and they were not directed toward my cat. the vet retreated back into the room behind the counter. i glanced at the people to my right. they were not pleased with me.
the door opened again. he walked out.
“three hundred. that’s it”
thoroughly annoyed, he said “want to see him?”
“uh huh….yeah. what’s wrong with him?”
“trauma. irregular heartbeat,”
“he always had an irregular heartbeat. he was born with it”
“oh, well his jaw’s broken – it’s wired..”
“..possible internal injuries.”
this guy was full of malarky.
he was one of those guys who prey on your love for your animal;
an emotional blackmailer.
it was friday at around three pm. he told me to come back in two hours and take him home. i showed up monday morning and paid him. he was annoyed and told me i was supposed to pick up little guy friday afternoon. i told him that in his own words, “he was not in good shape” and i wasn’t about to throw three hundred dollars away on a cat that no doubt needed rest.
big guy and little guy would be with me until 1989 when i really did get dispossessed, but before that would happen, i would take a six-week trip to california and they would be cared for by a couple who were retiring and moving to greece a short time after i returned. they asked if they could take them to greece with them. i said yes. while vacation, i had gotten arrested in el segundo, outside LA. i had to think of them instead of me, or that’s how i reasoned it. reason was running a little scarce with me at this point, something that i would be able to reel in time and again in my life, but to tell the truth, i was running out of line.
i have no idea where this fishing analogy came from.
when buddy, my buddy
was victim to whatever befell him a year and so ago and they said “four thousand dollars or maybe more,” they didn’t say, “four-thousand, one hundred and fifty dollars”
i think that was it. the buck and change thing. who knows?