My Housemate’s Dead Cat

by a contributor

Ian Starttoday

My housemate’s cat died a few days ago. On my way out to International Relations class, I came across Zippy’s flat, lifeless body on the tan carpet in our living room. I had never before been so close to anything dead—unless you count insects and roadkill. But this animal, with its handsome, dark gray coat, was something I’d seen alive before. It was something I’d touched, and considered, and a couple times even slapped across the face for scratches it inflicted.

I bent down and pushed gingerly against the cat’s hind leg—only confirming what I had already known to be true. As far as I knew Zippy wasn’t sick, and he wasn’t particularly old. So I figured he ate something that killed him. He was always chomping down large clumps of my housemate’s wool sweaters and vomiting soon afterward.

Zippy and I might have traded blows once or twice, but Sarah, my housemate, could be pretty awful to him—leaving him in the bathroom for entire weekends for pestering her and knocking over her beauty products. I, myself, would let him out, but then she’d stick him in there again. Sometimes, she’d leave a note on my bedroom door that read something like: “he’s MY cat.”

It wasn’t long before a profound sadness came over me, and my eyes grew wet with tears. Soon I began talking to Zippy about how he was in heaven now, how he could have all of the wool his little heart desired and never get sick, how he’d never get locked in the bathroom again.

Then I called Sarah and told her the news. She fell apart, and I could hear the voices of people trying to console her on the other end.

“What happened?” she asked when she finally got back on the phone.

“I don’t know. Maybe he ate something he shouldn’t have. I was in my room having a nap, and later I opened up the door to leave for class. That’s when I saw him, and weirdly, I knew right then.”

I was actually in my room masturbating, but I didn’t think this piece of information was vital to this story.

“Oh my God. I saw him just this morning, and he looked fine. I… I can’t believe it.”

Sarah cleared her throat, and I heard her say something I couldn’t make out to someone who I assumed was beside her.

“I’m a mess, you should see me, Kel,” she continued. “Will you call Animal Control and have them take the body? You don’t mind?”

“You’re not coming home to see Zippy?” I said, a little shocked.

“I just can’t—please, Kel?” she cooed. “You’re better at dealing with these things than me.”

“Sarah, I really think you should come home,” I responded, suddenly angry. “I am already late for IR. And he is your cat.”

She took an audible breath.

“You’re right Kelly—he IS my cat, and if you please, I’d rather remember him the way he was when he was alive.”

She said this with a touch of annoyance.

“It would be too disturbing to see him the way he is now.”

“Okay,” I said after a few moments.

“Thank you, Kel.”

“You’re welcome.”

I hung up, took another look at Sarah’s dead cat, and walked out the door to go to class.

Ian Starttoday has work forthcoming or published in Apocrypha and Abstractions, Eunoia Review, Foliate Oak, and He lives in Northern California with his wife and two cats. He once entertained the idea of starting a lit magazine devoted to cat-themed fiction.

See Ian’s list of 5 Things tomorrow in our ongoing contributors’ series.