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The Kitten

By Zoe Brock

Essay

This story begins on a dark and wintry evening and involves death and hormones.

You have been warned.

I was driving home, a passenger in my girlfriend’s car, with a belly full of El Mariachi’s and a head full of girlie-talk. Something mellow and groovy played on the stereo as the backdrop to a lively discussion about life and love and pain and weirdness and all the other good things girls talk about because we can.

Outside the air was cold and dark and crisp. Almost exactly like a burnt potato chip kept in a freezer. But not.

We turned a corner and drove up my street, past old Victorians with curtains drawn and windows darkened, storefronts and lampposts dripping with blinking Christmas lights. It was a very different scene from several hours before when my neighborhood was alive with multitudes of middle aged bourgeois pushing strollers to and fro the Whole Foods market, sipping soy lattes and waiting for the sleek, black Google bus to pick them up and drive them in luxurious, techy glory to their jobs south of the city; Jonahs in the belly of a streamlined whale.

The streets were glistening wet from an earlier rainfall as we approached my house. The music crooned from the speakers and our voices and giggles trailed behind us like happy exhaust fumes in the night. Good times, good times.

But then I saw it. Not a block from my front door. Curled up in the middle of the road, dead. It’s ears clearly visible, it’s body still whole.

A kitten.

My entire being deflated. My heart broke. All sound and joy rushed from my universe in one giant vacuumed slurp.

“Oh, no.”


I can remember distinctly the first time I saw a dead creature on the road. I was about five years old on a road trip with my dad and stepmother. The cat was fluffy, orange and white. There was no blood, no gore, just an empty body on a lonely highway, eyes dulled, ginger fur blowing in the breeze. It was a moment of lost innocence, my first understanding that life can be cruel and fleeting. I cried for a long time, a broken, devastated little girl in the back seat as we groaned and rattled our way along the country roads of New Zealand in our beat up, beat down Combi van.

As an adult, I have long wondered why humans don’t build underpasses into freeways; tunnels that deer, raccoons and other prospective road-kill could use to cross beneath our fearsome, ugly slashes of bitumen. Every time I see a dead animal on the roads and highways a part of me breaks.

Some would call me overly sentimental. I would tell them to go fuck themselves.


We pulled into the driveway. My body was home but my mind was still a block away. I could hear my girlfriend talking but I couldn’t process anything. I was obsessed. I was a five year old girl again, freaking out in that van.

Some platitudes were uttered and I was reassured that life was good. We said goodbye. I was alone. Alone and hormonal.

Nothing good can come from that combination.

I went inside my happy, hippy home and turned on the lights. I sat down on the bed and felt bogged down with heavy stuff. I yearned for some okayness. I wanted this to be different. I wanted someone else to deal with it, to tell me what to do, to make it all better, but my man was away on business; my go-to person was gone.

The five year-old inside me started to panic. “It’s still in one piece. Another car is going to hit it.” My adult brain tried to soothe my five year-old self, but she was having none of it. “We have to get it off the road! What if another little kid sees it? What if the person who it belonged to discovers it when it’s just a stain on the street?” I sat down. I stood up. I calmed myself. I lost it. I found it. I tried to breathe some serenity into my body. I meditated a little, tried to find my inner yoga. I began to compose myself. I imagined some grotesque visuals. I distracted myself. I heard a car go past and thought some gruesome thoughts. Then I picked up my laptop and IM’d my dude.

Me: there is a dad kitten outside on the street and I can’t get it out of my head
dead
it’s in the middle of the road and I wish you were here

Him: aw fuck
im sorry
does he have a collar?

Me: I dunno
it’s a kitten
it’s dark and I don’t want to get too close

Him: aww

Me: what should I do
another car is going to get it

Him: he’s obviously dead?
there’s a city organization for that
they will come get him

Me: who.

Him: i do’t know their name… but you can look it up

Me: I have my period and this is not going well for me

Him: they clean up animal bodies you can try to call SF Animal Control at 650.638.9029

Me: aaaaaaargh.

Him: he’s dead.. there’s nothing you can do. he’s not in his body anymore.
that thing on the street is just matter.
breathe.

Me: k

Him: i love you.


I called some numbers, Googled some names and came up with nothing. I tried to let it go. I left the room, turned on some music, put a smile on my face and told myself that everything he said was true. It was just a body, matter, nothing alive. Meat. I pottered around and kept busy for a while but it kept coming back. It stalked my brain. I let it in. What if a little kid sees it? What if it was only injured? What if it is ALIVE?

Me: question. I am just assuming the kitten was dead b/c it wasn’t moving when I drove past. what should I do?

Him: you have a few choices re: kitteh
1.. ignore it. if its dead… which it probably is since cats don’t like to sleep in the street… then there is nothing you can do. unless you want to go out there and clean it up…

Me: call me please


By the time the phone rang I was halfway there, running, determined. I would deal, and deal alone. I would either have to scrape its little body off the street or, preferably, rescue it and make it better. My heart raced. My boyfriend, on the other end of the phone in Texas, clearly thought I was insane, but he’d seen nothing yet. I ran faster. I could see it now, a lump on the road. I got closer, something seemed different about it. Was it in a different place? Had it moved? Was it alive? What was I doing? Suddenly I was upon it. Standing over it, looking down. My heart thumped in my chest and my boyfriends voice could be heard above the roar in my ears.
‘Babe? Is it alive? What’s going on?’
I stared down at the thing on the road. The unmoving thing. The fluffy, fuzzy thing.
‘It’s a beanie.’
‘What?’
‘It’s. A. Beanie. It’s a hat.’
‘Are you fucking joking?’
I burst out laughing. ‘No. Haha.’ Relief flooded my being. ‘No. I’m not.’
‘It’s a fucking beanie!? Do you know what you just put me through?’
‘I’m sorry, but I’m just so happy!’
‘A beanie.’
‘You’re allowed to give me as much shit as you like for as long as you like.’
‘Oh I will.’
‘It was just a beanie, baby!’
‘Sigh’.