First Responder

I am the first responder to a deceased cat. 

Hit and run. It is unrecognizably flattened, but I’m pretty sure it belongs to Cindy, my next-door neighbor. The difficult part is I don’t know for sure, so I need to ask her to come out and, you know, identify the body. 

At her front door I tell her the news. She puts her hand over her open mouth. 

As I lead her out into the middle of the street, I grapple with an uncomfortable truth: I both do and don’t want it to be Cindy’s cat. The latter is for obvious reasons. But the former is because, well…I’m already putting her through all this trouble. I don’t want it to be for nothing.  

We’re still a few yards away when she screams and runs back inside her house. I am both sad and relieved. 

Alone now under streetlight, I scratch the back of my neck. A car slowly pulls up and I wave it around. 

I walk to my garden shed and grab a shovel, plastic bag, and cardboard box. I briefly think of my dad, who used to moonlight picking up bodies for Helgeson’s Funeral Chapel. I know what I’m doing is small potatoes compared to that. Major League vs. Triple-A ball. But still…maybe this would go well on a resume. After all, death is death. 

I lower Cindy’s cat into the cardboard box, tape it up and leave it on her doorstep with a note that is more of a warning sign to strangers than a sympathy card to Cindy. To adequately address both is a niche market Hallmark has yet to tap into.   

Weeks go by. 

One day Cindy’s boyfriend knocks on the door. He says thanks for taking care of “all that.” She had the cat cremated. 

We stand there for a minute and I fidget. He leaves after saying they’d like to take me out for dinner sometime. They never do, though, and I am both sad and relieved.