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06 Aug 98

A Visit to the Vet

To the Vet

I have only 30 minutes to write tonight, so I won't be able to tell you about the dinner out with people from work and the architect we hired to remodel the office. Suffice it to say there were bald people with beards, a discussion of the spiritual nature of rubber walls, and a gay waiter who wielded the pepper shaker like a real man should. Instead, I'll relate this:

I had a talk today with someone about what it's like to be a cat. I think it's probably not so bad, except everyone's always calling you naughty and saying how depraved you are, speaking to you like a general idiot. But I'm used to that.

In fact, life isn't so bad. You have companionship, you're furry, there's a little box with sand to keep yourself clean. Sometimes you pee on the sofa, just to communicate. You spend a lot of time licking yourself, but in a dignified manner.

There's a pair of hands that picks you up, and that's okay, too, most of the time. You curl on the hands' lap, you feel pretty good about things. You jump on the head of the hands in the morning, when it's time for food. You're building a relationship.

Every now and then you wish you knew some other cats. There's a thing here that looks like a cat, but he, or she, or it smells wrong. And you've chatted with it, hoping maybe they'd be, you know, interested, but it just look at you through those eye slits and then looks away. It makes you paranoid. The hands treat the other thing like a cat, too. It doesn't make sense.

Then one day, you're getting used to things, and the hands pick you up, and there's something wrong. The hands are sweating, they're apologizing to you. You don't know why, but you're shaking. Then they put you in that movable box. YOU HATE THE FUCKING BOX.

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, it's bad enough about the box, but they put you in the big machine that smells bad and moves, and the hands are talking in a soothing tone, but you know it's a lie. You're trying to think how to get out when all of a sudden you realize that you're going there, to the place where they poke the shiny thing in you.

It's bad, now, and you're making some noise, you want to get out of the box, get back home, where the hands aren't taking you anywhere. But the hands are here in the machine--betrayal--and then the big smell machine stops, and FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK you're at the big box with the bad cat smell.

You're in this room, and there are other cats and some dogs and a marmet. There's the smell that bad things have happened to cats here. This is going to go bad. You smell cat terror smell.

You can't do anything but wait and think, THIS IS TOTAL DEATH ROW, MAN, and then the hands take the box into a little room, but then BAD HANDS IN RUBBER PULL YOU OUT OF THE BOX. And suddenly the other hands are gone, it's just you and BAD HANDS. AND YOU LET OUT A MEWL, A LOUD ONE, AND YOU HOPE THAT GOOD HANDS WILL COME. But no one comes.

Then Bad Hands takes out a sharp thing and sticks it in you, and you try to mewl, but it comes out with an echo, and....

You wake up...how long? Rubber hands are touching you, different rubber hands. You hurt pretty bad. The rubber hands are holding you kind of loose, and you just don't care about them, you don't feel anything at all. Rubber hands is saying something.

They cut out your ginch, you can't feel it anymore.

It's more sadness than anger when you realize, and the good hands come back--how could you think they were good?--and put you back in the box. Who cares about the box when they cut out your ginch? You're just beaten, absolutely beaten.

So you go back, and just mope around for a few days. And you realize that the other thing is a cat, has been a cat all along, it's just a cat like you, where they cut out its ginch. You get along better, now. You have a bond of pain.

And over time, you even forgive the hands. You don't have a choice. You remember the pain, the rubber hands, the bad cat fear smell, but you're lonely. And even if the hands had your ginch cut out, what can you do now? So you end up back on the lap, and start in jumping on the hands' face in the morning, again. You feel like a whore, just a horrible thing, and it really stings when they say you're naughty. Because you feel naughty. Somehow it's your fault, that they cut out your ginch. You can't figure out, and you don't think about it, but when you do...it hurts, deep. It seemed to make so much sense before. Shit in a box, pee on the couch, shed. A good life. But now....

It's just not so easy, you know?


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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