I have never had a kitlet die in my arms like this last Sunday morning, February 12, 2017. At 5:45AM, I was fast asleep in my bed. Brother, who was at the end of my bed, stood straight up and caterwauled like something foreign and dangerous was in the room with us. It was Mallory, whose eyes were dilated as far as they could go, and his breath was hitching horribly. He collapsed on the carpet, struggling mightily to breathe. I leapt out of bed, flipped the lights on and knelt by him to figure out what was wrong. This was not a hairball or the typical “I ate something and now I am going to puke it on the carpet for you” — Mallory could not breathe. I picked him up and tried to Heimlich anything out of his stomach; I wrenched his jaws open and tried manually clearing his airway. When I put him down, he collapsed on his side, tongue lolling out, eyes wide, and I started CPR, pressing his chest to keep blood pumping. I tried to breathe for him, forcing air into his lungs. He didn’t respond; I heard his heartbeat grow faint, then silent. This was over the space of maybe 3 minutes, and I want to remember how it feels to be completely impotent when someone you love dies way too early in your arms. I also want to remind myself that I did everything that I could to save my son. It is the tritest of platitudes, but I fully believe Mallory has gone to a better place.
As I write this, to my right is the executive chair that was Mal-Mal’s perch whenever I wasworking and he wasn’t making the rounds of the neighborhood like the little soldier he is. I still am separating the evening wet fud into two bowls, because Brother doesn’t know how to eat without consuming his half and then having to search for the other half of the can after Mallory has eaten his share. I keep hoping that he will just come strolling in and stretch on my chair, keying the leather with his murderous claws, as he was wont to do. I am pretty sure there was a ghost step-step pawing on my chest Sunday night as I fitfully slept and ugly-cried holding Brother.
Whenever I am confronted with death, I am plagued with ghosts. I turn to other times that I have had one foot in the shadow realm and one here on this shitty planet. When I delivered the eulogy for my friend Bela Chris, I said that everyone has to grieve in their own way. I have had many cats before, and it is always impossible to prepare for and go through their loss. I am still processing exactly what to do about Mallory’s life being cut short by what I am almost 100% sure was poison. Local media has reached out to me regarding this as a potential story.
My brother Brian Freer and I put Mallory to rest in the earth not five feet away from where we found him and his brother Mickey — who vanished after only a year — in the Edgemont canyon. I cut a dozen pink flowers from the Biollante rose bush in the Robin Street backyard and spread the petals over him. Mallory is in good company at the foot of the tree where Kanji Cloud is also pushing up daisies, so at least I have that bit of apropos closure.
Goodnight, Mallory — you are the bestest kitlet, and I’m sure you’re happy to be reunited with Mickey. I’ll miss you something dreadful.
UPDATE: Ever since having to put Frodo down, this mix of Erasure’s “Rock Me Gently” has been my mournful song. Taking a lifeless cat’s body home for the first time, this track just happened to be cued up in my truck. Driving somewhere with a corpse in a paper box, I saw the sympathetic sun pierce through ragged clouds over Mission Valley, and I felt an ethereal peace. Now Mallory has joined this beautiful chorus of souls.
“And I dream you’re with me
You hold me sweetly
And rock me gently to sleep
In your arms”
Erasure – Rock Me Gently [A Combination of Special Events] *Recorded from vinyl
This is where Mallory resides now; in good company with Kanji and perhaps Mickey, in the Edgemont Compound canyon, where we found him and his brother on a foggy 2012 Halloween evening.
I will always miss them all something dreadful.