What prompts this unlikely introspective is a convergence of events both recent and old that pushed up in awful symmetry as I read two masterful essays on OS this morning. Diluted salt stung my eyes at the conclusion of Bellwether Vance's eloquently tortured eulogy to a difficult pet in Goodbye Girl, and Jerry DeNuccio's inspired discussion of Prayer tugged away the snarky mask I often wear to fool myself.
I'm grieving. A number things. Worst of all, I broke my wife's heart Friday night. I screamed at her as we stood in our flooded basement. I cursed. I cursed the shit we'd accumulated in our eighteen years as a family, blaming her for adding to the piles of boxes filled with god knows what choking the narrow aisles that remained. I told her to shut the fuck up and leave me alone when she reminded me much of the shit stacked against one wall was mine and asked me, loudly, to tell her just what stuff she was "always buying" that kept the basement piles growing.
What made it worse was that our daughter was down there with us and her brother and his girlfriend, all witnesses to my unjustified fury. I quickly shut the fuck up myself, knowing I'd already gone too far, that I'd shattered something precious in our lives beyond recovery. I clamped off my voice, but rage still boiled inside.
That was Friday. The day before, I buried what I presumed was Kelly, our teenaged cat, the most difficult of our eight cats. It was her two back feet that convinced me the reeking skeletal remains crushed flat in the muddy, gravel lane just past our driveway was the cat we'd taken in within a year or two of our marriage after the couple she'd been living with died in a fire that destroyed their home.
I'd joke that Kelly'd somehow burned the house down out of sheer meanness, which wasn't fair because she was mean only to our other cats. To us she was too affectionate. I have video of Kelly flying repeatedly out of my wife's garden while my wife was bent among the beans and squash, picking and weeding, or, rather, trying to pick and weed as the damned cat kept appearing at her feet, purring manically and brushing back and forth incessantly against her ankles.
Earlier in the week our daughter had discovered the bloated feline corpse and agonized it might be her cat, Comet, who'd been missing a day or two, as was its wont. I watched from a window as daughter and mother stared at something in the lane, daughter waving her arms as if at something further off, and then both returned to the house. They'd concluded with intense hope the dead cat was a stray we'd seen in the neighborhood recently. Comet's magical return later that day confirmed this to their satisfaction.
I wasn't so certain. I feed our cats every morning and evening on the deck. Kelly, who had never missed a meal, hadn't shown up for breakfast that morning, nor for supper. Next morning, with Kelly still a no-show, I found a cardboard box, lined it with an old towel, donned a pair of nitrile gloves and trudged down to the lane. My thought was that any dead cat on or near our land deserved a decent burial. I wouldn't have tried to identify the skeleton's back paws in an animal warden's lineup, but something about them the instant I saw them pierced my heart. She's buried in the grove of crape myrtles next to Junior, who died last fall. They'd been our two oldest cats, our Deuteronomy twins.
Back to my rage. My rage at Mother Nature. Yeah, that bitch. I didn't deserve the one-two punch she dealt last weekend. I recycle. I'm as green as I can be without being an asshole about it. I buried the damned cat. Christ, I keep dedicated jars around the house for catching insects and arachnids, which I release unharmed outside where they belong. I kill flies and mosquitos, but that's it. Mother Nature. I always called her "Mom." Why me, goddammit?
The idiot who designed our house failed to grade the driveway to direct rainwater away from the house. We'd moved from a house in the lowlands after Hurricane Isabel came within a milimeter of flooding us out. We soon learned that sustained heavy rainfall would gleefully rush into our garage and dance on into our adjoining basement.
My wife wanted to fix this by regrading the driveway. I opted for a sump pump beneath the entrance to the garage with a buried pipe leading to the neighbor's woods. The pump/pipe option was half the cost. My wife reluctantly trusted my judgment that the pump/pipe solution was trustworthy. It was. We got through two summers, each with heavy rains, without a drop of unwanted water in garage or basement. The pump worked like a dream, a happy dream until it turned nightmare Friday night.
Too much rain. Unrelenting rain on top of an accumulation of rainfall over the previous week. In the height of Friday night's fright I staggered through the deluge to the edge of the woods, trusting the strobing lightning wouldn't find me. The continual barrage of thunder overwhelmed the pump's dutiful mumbling so I couldn't be sure it was pumping. I bent down and saw the water rushing out of the pipe, and I cursed anew. Nothing was blocking it. It was simply too goddam much water too fast.
There were two smaller, portable sump pumps in the garage I'd used before installing the bigger permanent one. They weren't hooked up to hoses. Useless. They'd have handled the extra water. They're hooked up now. I don't trust Mother Nature anymore. She fucked me. Fucked my marriage. Goddam bitch.