In the mornings it’s so dark I just lay in the den watching constellations and listening to the clocks tick, thinking any day now I’ll start work. I read about portmanteau words like brunch, Brexit, and Microsoft. The word psionics, coined in the 1950s to combine psychic with electronics from a term called psion, a person with psychic abilities. Like our cat, you can tell by the way she stares from across the room.
Running out of things to do, I finally got her a new scratching post, a cardboard square that lays flat on the floor. I had to place her on it to get her started but once I did, she hunched over it like a concert pianist and dug in using her shoulders for leverage. She actually mounted it, kneading, picking…kneading, picking…working through whatever frustrations she has with me, the knowledge that at one time she was a killer, now reduced to this.
I bought my first crowbar and reciprocating saw, to demolish the hot tub. I can see now why the crowbar is such a favorite with thugs: the economy in the swing is so satisfying, so much power for such little effort.
I slipped in the guts of some small rodent or bird the cat killed and impulsively wiped my boots on the grass. I really felt like a thug, a bad-ass, swinging that crowbar against the frame. It only took one or two hits to knock it clear off the foundation, and then another jab or two to separate each piece.
Though it may have been illegal or frowned upon, I declined having my cat cremated and instead took the remains to bury her in our small city plot, that first house in West Seattle. And this is dark, but when I wrapped the body and put it back in the pet carrier everyone I passed naturally paused to crane their necks and look inside, expecting to coo. But when they did, they just frowned and hurried off like they’d seen a ghost. And so I emitted death like that for the three or four blocks between the vet’s office and our house, where I buried my cat Sherman. In no other case does the literal and metaphorical meet as perfectly as in the act of burying a corpse. The practical and psychological converge in the digging of a hole to return the body to its source, to help the living get over it. Cremation is better for some, though more decorative, less hands-on.
I beat the sides of the old hot tub with the crowbar, buckling in the knees, battering down the bones, peeling back the skin to expose the grotesquery of old mouse nests, wolf spiders, hollowed-out eggs. The crowbar: a metal club, a blunt sword. Named after the shape of a crow’s beak, sometimes called “iron crow.”
It was cold enough at night we just put the soup outside on the back steps. Autumn, the days thinning in strands: a season personifying death itself. Some waiting, actually wanting for it: others, staving it off for another year. Days softened at the end like pink wine.
I tried the reciprocating saw on the hot tub but the blade wasn’t big enough and it made me nervous doing it alone. So I called a trash removal service and the guys who came were maybe teenagers, one wearing cowboy boots, the other with an afro, named Phoenix.
When they were done sawing and hauling it off I gave them my credit card and a tip, and then returned to the office to look out on our newfound, empty space: the stone underneath newer looking, untouched by the sun…and I set about cleaning the surface with the deck brush and hose, but the patio’s angled upwards now where the tree roots forced it up so I had to pass over it several times with the hose, spraying and brushing…spraying and brushing…brushing the grime away.
The old clock in the den has stopped and I wind it with a crude tool, cranking the weights to the top, tapping the pendulum back to life. Something about the tension in the mechanics keeps it going with an internal pressure that can only be resolved through motion. I sometimes think it’s a heartbeat and get superstitious when it stops. It’s only got one purpose really, to tell the time.
I’ll go back to the sofa then, and contemplate mine.