It has finally come to this. I am going to briskly remove a cat from this earth. I won’t take any pleasure in such brutality. I like to imagine that when the time comes, my hands will be steady. My spirit willing. My brain free from the duplicitous meanderings of a fractured conscience. Mind, body, and soul will be at one within the act. The replica ninja sword that I received for my twenty-second birthday will find its swift purchase behind the head of a beast that’s left many a life in ruin. There is no going back now.
Before we get to when, we should probably discuss why. I have a cat named Huxley, and I’m doing this for him…well, I’m doing it for the both of us. Murder sits alone atop a table swept clean with good intentions. All other options have been exhausted.
Perhaps had I been a better owner…such a crass word, owner. One doesn’t own a cat, but I don’t have to explain that to the internet. Many a meme has done more to illustrate the independent natures of these yarn chasers than I can.
Sorry for the digression. Had I been a better role model for Hux, perhaps things wouldn’t have come to this. I wasn’t there for him. I live the life of a listless drifter: bouncing around, traveling, working odd hours. There is no routine in my life; consequently, Hux doesn’t have a routine either. Imagine an animal as OCD as a cat being deprived of a schedule. Add that to the fact that he’s lived outside for the last four years. It’s hardened him, and he’s taken his frustrations out on every living thing to cross his path. He’s killed a rabbit by biting through its skull and eating its brain. He’s taken a half dozen opossums out of this world (that I know about). I can’t even talk about the birds. Twice a week it looks like a blue jay exploded in my backyard. I’ve never even seen a rat around here; I should thank him for that. Just the other day he brought me a decapitated squirrel.
Needless to say, he’s a stone cold killer. He’s the only cat I’ve ever known that has the capability to experience the complex emotions of revenge. If you inadvertently kick him or spray him with the hose, he’s coming out of nowhere to tear some flesh off your careless frame when you least expect it. Nothing is forgiven. Hux keeps score, and he never loses. Only after he feels you’ve paid your price will he cozy up to you.
He is a survivor. After four years outside eating raw, diseased creatures, he’s never had so much as a cold, and the only vet he’s seen has eight cylinders. Say what you will. I’m not getting him vaccinated. Can you imagine the killing machine he’d be if he also developed autism? He would be building model trains out of squirrel heads.
Now, if you’re worried that Hux is the feline that shall meet the end of my blade, relax. We get along splendidly. We have tons in common: We both love fish, hate dogs, and poop outside.
One mourning, about three years ago, Hux weakly limped inside after a savage beating. Hair was missing from all over his body; dozens of bloody cuts dripped around his head. He collapsed onto the cold floor like a shrapnel riddled B-17 that barely made it back from a bombing run. I was perplexed. What could have done this? It had to have been a bobcat, maybe even a bear.
For a few weeks, he spent his nights inside. I hoped he wouldn’t go chasing whatever did this to him, but I knew he wouldn’t let it go. As soon as he got better, he started living outside again. One night, I heard cat screams. I ran outside, and I saw Hux rolling around with another animal. Fur was everywhere. As I approached, the other animal released his grasp, trotted ten feet away, and began to stare at me. It was a cat, a black and white tuxedo clad monster. This cat was ripped. He had the forearms of one of those really upbeat wheelchair basketball guys. He was staring at me blankly, as if I just asked him for his social security number. Meanwhile, Hux, with eyes squinted and ears pinned back, is growling like a jaguar. He charges the tuxedo cat who holds his ground and absorbs the blow like Pierre Thomas picking up a blitz. They roll around some more before I rush over. Tuxedo cat releases, looks at us both coldly, and walks away into the fog. Hux then bites the shit out of my calf. I don’t know if it was for breaking them up or not landing any blows myself. In any case, we both retire inside for the night, visibly shaken, like two mercenaries that had just saw Predator.
Little did I know, this would become the new norm. Three or four times a week, they would get into these vicious fights that would last all night. Weeks turned into years. I can’t remember a time when Hux didn’t have missing patches of hair or scars on his head. And when I do break them up, Tuxedo just trots away and stares coldly at us. His eyes are calm, his ears up, his muscles relaxed. It’s as if he is carelessly walking through a meadow. There is no fear behind his emotionless gaze. After locking eyes with this…creature, I had a bone chilling realization: He isn’t fighting for territory, food, or sex. He’s here to find out what our insides look like. He’s here to rip us open and play in our blood. This is one sick fucker, said the 33 year old drifter who plans to decapitate a cat with a decorative sword.
It’s not like I set out to murder Tuxedo. I’ve tried to dissuade him from coming around by using more humane methods. One night, I got close enough and knocked him upside the head with a flashlight. He felt nothing. I even threw an entire cup of scalding hot coffee on him one afternoon. He was back the next day, didn’t even bring a lawyer. Another time I chased him away with a rotten orange in my hand. After he had gotten about twenty feet away from me, he turned broadside. You could say he made a classic naval mistake. I unleashed a 60 mph orange that landed squarely across his starboard flank. It exploded all over him, and he collapsed before quickly springing to his feet and running off.
I thought that had done it. A month went by without any sign of him. Perhaps the great Hux vs. Tux Wars of the twenty first century had come to an end. Then, one night, I heard Hux screaming. The sound was coming from my porch. It’s a screened-in room, and I always leave the door open to it. I had a brilliant idea: I grabbed a broom and exited the back. The cool of the night air rushed over me. My senses were on high alert. For years, I’ve waited for an opportunity to trap him. I was really excited to beat the everliving shit out of a cat with a cleaning implement while in my boxer shorts. That’s something normal people regularly fantasize about. I crept around and rushed into the room, slamming the door behind me. He was trapped. After tonight, Huxley won’t have to endure another claw mark to his face again. This was to be the beating the beast never forgot.
As I slam the door, the cats stop fighting. Hux runs behind me. We are both staring down Tux as he glares at us coldly from the middle of the room. There he stood, stout and stoic as ever. I raised the broom. I wanted to erase the smug nothingness from his grill and replace it with fear. As I stepped towards him, he turned and bolted. After two strides, he leaped head-first into my screen, crashing through it, tearing the staples out of the wall. He hit the ground with a thud, did a parkour roll, and then scampered off into the mist.
The next day, we went outside to survey the damage. Hux and I looked at each other in disbelief.
Something became frighteningly obvious: This wasn’t your average cat. I started to toy with the idea that a demon or something could be trapped inside of it. That’s when the dreams started. Sometimes, I’d wake up in a cold sweat, hearing cats fighting, only to go outside and find Hux peacefully sleeping on the deck. One night, I had a dream I caught up to Tux, and I grabbed him and choked the life out of him. With my hands around his neck, I locked eyes with him, listening to him whimper until he died. Then, I looked over and saw another identical tuxedo cat laughing at me with red eyes because I had killed his good twin or something. I felt a rush of guilt wash over me, and I woke up feeling like a piece of shit. This was getting weird.
Not long ago, I borrowed a raccoon trap from a buddy of mine. Needless to say, Tux was either too big, strong, or smart for it. I whizzed a baseball three inches over his head as he scaled a five foot fence one afternoon. He regularly mocks me by leaving footprints all over my car. I’ve slowly fallen into a clownish Wiley Coyote character. I’m going to start ordering dynamite from Acme soon.
As I’m fairing worse, Hux is getting better. I’m still finding a lot of Hux’s fur on the ground after the fights, but I’m also starting to find some of Tux’s too. I notice the fights are now starting to happen closer and closer to my front door. It’s like Huxley had a plan.
Two months ago, the unthinkable happened. I’m awakened one Saturday by the sound of Hux’s blood-curdling screams. I don’t bother looking for a weapon. This sounds urgent. I open my front door, and there they both are, clutched together on my doormat. Hux is clearly holding on to this beast while being bitten on the neck. He peers up over Tux’s shoulder and sees me standing there. His face seems to say, I’ve got him for you, but I can’t hold him forever. Do something. Please! All I had on me was my fists. I didn’t want to murder Tux. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but the first thought that popped into my brain was, What is the hardest you could punch a child this size without killing it? and I let that amount of strength build up in my muscles, and then I brought down my fist directly on his ribs. I hit him so hard he actually bounced up off of the tile like a rag doll. As he tried to catch his breath, I followed with an open-handed left to his face, spinning him around. Hux looked at me like I was a hero. Perhaps I was. I won’t argue. The stunned beast slowly caught his breath and limped away. His face was still blank. That’s when I got to thinking, maybe he’s not a monster at all. Maybe something is just wrong with his face, and he always looks like that. Maybe he has cat Aspergers. Maybe I just beat the shit out of a mentally disabled cat. If that’s the case, I’m truly sorry, but my money is on demonic possession. Anyway, “he’s definitely not coming around anymore,” I thought.
We’ve lived the last few months in complete serenity. The dreams went away. Hux’s scars are finally healing. I can sleep at night. We both can. There is happiness in this home again…until yesterday around 3 AM. I hear a deep growl. The growl of a jaguar. The growl that found its way through ten thousand years of domestication into this gray, short-haired bird-assassin that I share a plot of land with. I jump out of my bed and rush into the night, leaping over bushes, bushes I can’t see but know from memory. I sprint into darkness, searching for the noise. The dew and freshly-cut grass stick to my feet. The moon is full. I’m getting closer to the sound. It’s Hux. He’s growling and staring off into the night. What is it boy? I ask, crouching down beside him. I lift my head and see the faint silhouette of a hulking feline in the distance. Between two trees, in the middle of the yard, those lifeless eyes blankly shine back. Nothing is ever finished. Nothing is ever over. This realization washes over me in a wave of dread spiked with adrenaline. In the abyss of darkness, the darkness stares back. It waits. The three of us became one in that moment, all understanding what all life is terrified of learning: you can’t stop what’s coming.
So yes, I have a plan, and it involves cat treats, a narrow corridor, and a decorative sword (guns are too impersonal for this) and becoming a cat murderer. On this earth, it ends in blood, or it doesn’t end at all. And if I see him on the other side, this dance will be resumed. Hux and I will wrestle him for eternity between the dark matter and stellar dust in a boundless intergalactic afterlife. Our battles will be turned into constellations by the ancient peoples of different worlds. This is the only story, a story as old as time itself. A man and his buddy cat squaring off against a destructive, malevolent entity. I don’t know if the road to redemption is paved with the decapitated skulls of problem cats, but I’m about to find out.
So call the cops or Sarah McLachlan or whomever is in charge of keeping the heads on stray cats; this is happening no matter what. And if I do time for this, I’ll walk the yard proudly, shoulder to shoulder with murderers and thieves. I’ll wear my orange jumpsuit like a badge of loyalty to my buddy Hux. I’ll knowI did all I could to make this world a little bit safer, safer for my little gray friend. If you understand the meaning of the word pals …well, you’ll need no further explanation.