by Zin Kenter
'With my cross-bow
I shot the Albatross.'
- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Simple as this: My wife was sick. The cat started hanging around. She wasn't sick any more.
Doc couldn't explain why she went from death's door to rosy bloom in a matter of days. I told him about the cat. Nonsense, he said.
But even though it saved my beautiful Diana, I hated that damn cat. It lurked in the dark, sending evil cat-vibes through the air – don't laugh, I could feel them! The hair would stand up on the back of my neck, and I'd see sallow green eyes peering from the grass.
Diana, healthy again, bought kibble and tuna and milk on the back porch. I hid them after she went upstairs. I didn't want that cat anywhere near me. I hoped it would go away.
All night, I heard eerie sounds. Mewling. Screeching. A sound there is no name for. Diana slept peacefully. I wondered why it wasn't keeping her awake, so I shook her to make sure she wasn't unconscious. She stirred and smiled: Yes, dear? And I asked her if the noise was bothering her. What noise, she asked, and she pulled the covers back up to her chin and rolled over and drifted off again.. By morning I was exhausted, but as soon as the alarm went off at seven and Diana arose, the caterwauling stopped.
That night, after Diana put down food and milk, I waited on the porch, barbell in hand. Ten kilos. When the little critter arrived, I threw the weight, and it crashed on its neck and crushed it flat to the floorboards, splat. I never saw anything fall that fast. I waited for it to get up and squirm free, but it didn't move. One, three, five minutes.
The weight must've hit at just the right angle to break its neck. All that remained was to bury it, right under the boxwood hedge. I wouldn't tell Diana. She'd assume it went back wherever it came from.
That night, the caterwauling began same as before. And again, I waited until dawn for relief.
And the next night, the same.
And the next. Diana said, "You're looking peaked." I felt peaked. Whatever the hell peaked meant. I figured it wasn't good.
I asked our nextdoor neighbor if he'd noticed any noise at night, and he looked puzzled and said nope, not at all. I called the police on the fifth night and told them someone was torturing a cat, and they came, and couldn't hear anything, and asked if I took medication, so I told them thank you, it had stopped, but all the while the screeching was standing my hairs on end again.
Seven nights without sleep. The bags under my eyes sagged to my chin.
On night eight, Diana told me I'd better go see Doc, and I broke down. "With my barbell, I killed the goddamn cat!" She looked horrified and slept in the den.
Next day, after another sleepless night, I dug up the damn thing. It didn't smell eight days dead. I held it in my arms and told it I was sorry. I carried it into the kitchen and told it I'd give it food every day if it would just stop. It didn't answer. I brought it into the living room where I sat with it on my lap and petted it.
And that's when Diana came down with her suitcase in hand and told me she was going to her mother's and she would be filing for divorce. "The cat saved my life, and you killed it." If she noticed the still, silent furry thing on my lap, she didn't say.
As she slammed the front door, the cat sprang away from me and ran out the back door, with only a second's hesitation to give me an eerie look from those sallow green eyes.