Last night we were coming home from dinner when we saw a casualty in the road. A cat had been hit, and his lifeless body lie in the road still. He hadn't been there when we went to dinner, so it had to have been recent.
Barry said that we needed to move him because the animal control wouldn't be able to be there until Monday. (This was Friday evening.) I know that this was just an excuse, though I don't know why one was needed. Barry takes care of his animal friends, even the ones he doesn't know. There is no way he would leave a dead cat lying in the road, and not much chance he'd let Animal Control take it away. There is a place in the back where kitties are buried. Even my dearly departed beta fish – Ella Minnow P. was laid to rest there. One of my goals this year is to clean that space up and make it a proper graveyard, even if it isn't consecrated.
The moon overhead was almost full, and it gave plenty of light to walk by as together we crossed the property. The entire field was on display, as if with a spooky filter. I could see the trees, the grass and bramble, as well as some of the color. The trees at the end of the property were silhouetted and the shadows everywhere were pronounced, but the soft ground was visible. It felt as if we were walking in a partial solar eclipse, rather than walking at night.
Barry continued past the cemetery. I caught up to him and asked him where he was going. He was actually heading toward the pile of wood that is along the back of the property, and I couldn't imagine that he would leave the body exposed on the wood pile. When I asked, though, he said he was going to bury the cat. I pointed out that we had passed the cemetery space; he answered (almost incredulously), "That's family!" Well, excuse me! Apparently, we have a pawper's grave on the property where unidentified kitties – and kitties whose families have no means – are laid to rest. I had no idea.
We arrived at the back of the property, next to the woodpile. Barry looked around, determined where the previous victim had been buried, and put his spade in the ground. The earth was soft, due to the rain we've been blessed with these past few weeks. It was easy to dig here, and together we worked in the penumbra of the moonlit field. I love the smell of earth when you first begin to dig. The damp soil and organic matter greeted my nose with nostalgia and hope. But, I didn't talk about it; we just kept working. Wider, deeper we dug until Barry decided to go fetch our deceased feline, leaving me to continue finishing things.
I hung a flashlight on a limb overhead so that I could see the detail of the hole we were working on. The shadows inside the grave were too dark for me to be able to distinguish how deep we had gone, or how straight the sides were. The flashlight swayed above me, and the spot of light moved across the cold ground as I continued to make the sides of our hole straight, and work to get it a little deeper before Barry got back with our fallen kitty.
Eventually, I decided to see if Barry needed help. I walked alone with my shovel across the soft ground, the expanse of the field in front of me giving way to the back of the buildings and the driveway between them. I met Barry at the side of the house. I had brought my shovel in case it could be of assistance, but he was holding the cat (rather unceremoniously) by the back feet, with a paper towel so that his hand didn't touch the body. Together we walked back to field and the to pawper's grave.
Into the hole went our unnamed cat victim, along with the paper towel that had been used to hold him. He was a big cat, longer than the hole we dug. Still, he fit. As we worked together to fill in the hole, I began to sing the Ave Maria. I wanted to bring back some of the decorum befitting burial. Barry grabbed two cinder blocks that happened to be lying nearby. (Why are there things like this always at hand?) He put them on top of the grave we had just filled to keep anything from digging the buried cat up. I finished my song and together we walked back to the house.
This morning I went to check on the graves. I have a lovely iron cross that would be beautiful in the family (pet) cemetery. It's huge and heavy, and finding a suitable place for it has been a challenge anyway, even though I love it. The whole area needs some work. Another project. Our new pawper's grave was less mysterious in the light of day. Just two cinder blocks on top of freshly dug earth. It is March, and soon grass and plants will be growing to cover the space. We won't even be able to find him when that happens. Life goes on, one way or another, but it's nice to punctuate our time here with small acts of gentleness. I'm happy here with our cats.