Friday, 15 April 2016

Bad Day

The bad day began online, as is often the case, specifically with an email notification pertaining to a new post on Next Door - a social networking site designed to fill in for the role of neighbours actually talking to one another as they once did. Most of the time Next Door will be someone looking for a new home for some bit of old furniture, or offering a lawn mowing service, but recent postings have been rendered increasingly exhausting by our local gun nut whining about liberals, or Obama's plan to take away our guns, or the hypothetical presence of ISIS cells in the neighbourhood. So, having signed up I've tended to ignore the actual website, relying on either email notifications or my wife - who is now also a member - to keep me informed in the event of there being anything I really need to know. The email notification which heralded the approach of my bad day pertained to a thread headed Cat Killed in Wilshire Terrace, and which opened with the suggestion that I probably shouldn't read what followed if easily upset, and so I didn't.

I've been down that road before with the kind of email notifications you receive on a daily basis if you've ever signed an online petition to ban this, stop that, or to bring an end to such and such. This petition called for the prosecution of individuals who had posted a video clip of animal cruelty undertaken for kicks on YouTube. I won't describe what had been filmed, but the email provided a link to the offending YouTube clip, and by association an image and a description of what I would see should I follow the link. The act of cruelty had involved a cat and had been filmed for the purpose of entertaining the sort of cunts who would find such a thing entertaining; and given that the reason such cunts would even bother posting such a thing on YouTube seemed most likely be so as to upset people such as myself, then it bothered me how the petition site had effectively done their job for them, even without my watching the thing. Hence I do my best to avoid anything I'm likely to find upsetting beyond the limits of my distress serving some purpose.

We have a number of cats, and as I work from home I spend more time amongst cats than amongst humans, so it would be fair to say that I have a lot of time for cats. Unfortunately this often seems to place me in opposition to a certain section of the online community, namely those who use facebook principally to mount a protest against people posting pictures of cats on facebook. I can understand up to a point in so much as that I find the children's television show Doctor Who annoying and headachey, and there tends to be a lot of Doctor Who in my daily facebook feed; but being an adult I am able to reason that if something brings happiness to a person without involving others being marched off to the gas chambers, then that has to be a good thing. Generally I would hope others might be able to take the same view of those who, like myself, happen to like cats. Most do, but then there are persons like the facebook connection I made on the grounds of my having enjoyed his novel and that we know a load of the same people. His posts hilariously described facebook as catbook and suggested that the love of cats demonstrated by others was quite literally ruining his life. Our love of cats was making his existence a living hell!

Stuck in Guantanamo Bay, blindfolded and having a lamb korma pumped up your arse, or noticing that a facebook acquaintance has shared a photograph of their cat - same fucking thing, my friend, same fucking thing.

Then, on the day that Kirby - one of our own cats - went missing, an unrelated Google search brought me the appalling news of domestic cats having been found dead following probable torture by a psychopath three or four miles from our house; and this was immediately followed by the important novelist's side-splitting facebook post proposing swimming lessons for cats using the brick and sack method.

Ha ha.

I defriended the shit BBC medical-drama scriptwriting cunt, and have done my best to try to learn something from the experience, which is why I now chose not to read Cat Killed in Wilshire Terrace.

The day was okay for the most part. I cycled twenty miles as part of my new daily exercise regime, wrote the usual bollocks, and then mowed some lawn. Our garden at the back is enormous and so I tend to mow it in sections, one quarter of the whole area each day using a reel mower - that is to say one powered by myself - because I knackered the electric one last year. The temperature differential between Texas summer and winter is such as to necessitate two kinds of grass grown on a lawn. Bermuda grass thrives during the hottest time of the year, then dies away around November to be replaced by rye grass, which itself dies away when the Bermuda grass returns in spring. The cycle more or less looks after itself, the only significant problem being just how thick rye grass will grow in a very short space of time, even after what is only a light rain. It was rye grass with which I knackered our electric lawnmower, because when it gets thick, I may as well be trying to mow a lawn of rubber tubing.

My day began to turn bad as I now attempted to mow another quarter of lawn in the back garden. Rain the previous week had set my regular schedule behind by a couple of days in addition to bringing the rye grass up thicker than ever. I pushed the mower into the growth, then brought it back, then forward again, over and over across the same patch. It was like hacking away, like cutting someone's hair with a kitchen knife. The blades clogged with thick green wads, the wheels seized up, and the grass didn't even seem cut so much as crudely levelled; and although I'd opted for the reel mower on the grounds of its use constituting exercise, this was exhausting and far more work than seemed fair. It took me about forty minutes to make a lousy job of what would have taken ten minutes in summer. The work left me pissed off and rudely aware of our garden growing faster than my ability to keep it all in check. I'd finished weeding the cactus patch a week before, and it had returned to its overgrown state even before I could get back to work on borders I hadn't touched in over a year.

I could feel depression settling over me as it does from time to time, without warning, often even without any coherent reason. The term depression may be misleading, but it's the best I have. I've suffered on previous occasions, and have been given a medical diagnosis of my thankfully infrequent darker moods as something other than just feeling a bit pissed off. I once wondered if it might be hereditary given my grandfather's episodes of clinical depression, although being realistic, he was almost certainly suffering from post-traumatic stress following service in the second world war.

To get things in perspective, my circumstances were once substantially more miserable than they are at present. Specifically there's nothing about my present circumstances which could be described as miserable, or even unfortunate. I have no real cause for complaint, and so I suppose I must have some perverse subconscious need to arrange for my own discomfort from time to time. I find myself pissed off by things which don't matter and which have no long term consequences, unfortunate or otherwise.

I've mowed the lawn and now Bess comes home in something of a state. She too has received the email notification for Cat Killed in Wilshire Terrace, but she's read it and is upset. I tell her I don't want to know, and try not to think of what I read when Kirby went missing, what was done to those cats over by Windcrest, or wherever it was.

'The signs are all around on the trees and telephone polls,' Bess tells me.

Cats being mutilated in this area, they read. Beware!

I've already tried to rationalise some of the horrible possibilities. The cat was found on Bradshaw, about a mile away from us, maybe a little more. That places it in the vicinity of Catman's house. Catman is either the local crazy guy, or the local guy who just happens to live on welfare, likes cats and could maybe stand to take more care of his yard, depending on how you look at it. I would guess him to be about late fifties. He's tall and scrawny with straggly hair and a huge white beard. His clothes seem lived in and he pongs a little, but I've spoken to him in the local supermarket from time to time, and he's a nice if slightly intense guy. His yard on the other hand is a mess. It isn't that it's full of rubbish so much as that it is left wild and untended even by the variable standards of our slightly crappy neighbourhood, and there's a six-foot pyramid of discarded cat food tins at the back of the house accounting for why the garden is always full of cats. We don't know if they're his cats or just local strays that he feeds. Each time we pass either Bess or myself will submit an involuntary wave at the place and coo, 'Hey, Catman!' in the vein of Earl Hickey greeting Darnell Turner in an episode of My Name is Earl.

Catman lives one block down from the street on which the mutilated body of a cat was found. I know not everyone likes cats. I can easily imagine that a person who doesn't like cats might be prone to dark thoughts if they lived near Catman, within view of the pyramid. Additionally, it's presently spring break which is historically a time when retarded deeds tend to be done with greater frequency due to those responsible being at liberty rather than at school. Given the presence within our neighbourhood of at least one gun nut who worries he might be sharing his road with an ISIS cell, I can easily imagine someone young and morally stunted electing to take a stand against Catman by hurting one of his cats with the added bonus of terrifying the shit out of the rest of us. This is what I've been telling myself, that it might be a vendetta waged against one particular person rather than cats as a species. I tell Bess, but it doesn't really bring much comfort.

It's six in the evening so I cook the dinner - chicken in walnut sauce. I usually serve it with potatoes done in a certain Mexican style with bacon and coriander, but as we're both trying to cut down on the carbohydrates, I've done cauliflower as well as potatoes; but there's too much material for the one pan, and cauliflower florets fall to the floor as I mix in the seasoning. The pans, of which there are three presently on the cooker, have become too hot to pick up without an oven glove, and somehow I now have too little space in which to put anything down. I'm getting more and more stressed as food I've prepared spills from pans onto the tiled work surface and down into the cracks.

'Fuck!' I pick a stray cauliflower floret from the floor, step outside and hurl it against the frame of the porch to teach it a lesson.

Dinner is eventually served but somehow it doesn't taste so great to me, despite which I eat too much, or at least enough to leave myself in some discomfort. Bess thinks it tastes fine, so I suppose that's something.

After dinner we drive to the Methodist Hospital to visit Myra. She fell at the weekend, fracturing the bone down the left side of her face and jaw. They've operated and she has four metal plates and twenty screws in her skull. She looks a state. We're all relieved, but I can't stop thinking on what a shitty world it is that such a thing as this could have happened to the woman.

We return home, and more and more I feel like buying cigarettes, when I haven't smoked or even felt the urge in a long time. I feel numb. I feel like going to sleep for a year or two. The world seems cold and cruel and joyless. There is no prospect for anything good ever again.

Of course I recognise the feelings for what they are, none of which makes any difference to the fact of my experiencing them.

The signs are still up. Cats being mutilated in this area. Beware!

Bess and I bring all of the cats inside, except we can't find either Snowy or Kirby and have to hope they will remain in some place where a roving nocturnal lunatic is unlikely to find them. Keep your cats in at night, was the thrust of Cat Killed in Wilshire Terrace on Next Door, so we're doing what we can, not least because further dismembered bodies have been found in the same area. A few of our cats tend to remain inside at night anyway, but the others are accustomed to staying outside and are clearly pissed off with this change to the established routine.

Holly is in our bedroom. Ordinarily I would put her out in the hall and wedge the door shut with the doorstop so as to prevent her waking us up in the middle of the night, but tonight I can't be bothered. I'm past caring and I feel protective towards all of them because they're my family.

I just want it to stop.

I pop an Oxycodone I have left over from harrowing dental treatment some years earlier and look forward to the cotton wool effect. It's not something I'm in the habit of doing but tonight feels like dangerous, unexplored territory.

After I turn out the light, Nibbler or one of the others manages to get our bedroom door open because the lock has never worked and the doorstop I purchased from Lowes a couple of years ago - the only one they had in stock - is crap; much like everything. In the darkness I can feel a tidal wave of cats washing into our room and taking their places on the bed with us.

I don't quite sleep, and both Nibbler and Holly wake me from whatever state of slumber I almost attain with kitty headbutts at different intervals. Enoch wanders around the house meowing his arse off like a little velvet fire alarm every thirty minutes or so, just as we knew he would, which is why he otherwise usually goes outside at night. I can't even be mad at them. I love these cats and would do almost anything to keep them safe. I just hope Snowy and Kirby are okay out there.

They are, and are at the door waiting to come in when I get up to feed them all around seven. So far as I can see there are no mutilated feline bodies on the front lawn.

Even before she is out of bed, Bess looks at Next Door on her iPhone. The police report is in, because this kind of animal cruelty is now a felony. The police report is adamant that the Bradshaw cats were killed by a coyote. It's horrible, but it's at least preferable to that which we've been fearing for the previous twelve hours. Coyotes are a rare sight within the city limits, but not unknown. I myself saw one down on Holbrook over a year ago.

The whole day suddenly looks different. In fact the whole world looks different, and somehow we came through. I can live with acts of God or nature or whatever you prefer to call it.

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