one day a few weeks ago, as I took my morning walk up toward Mutiny Bay and back, I saw what looked like the body of an animal----a rabbit, maybe, or a raccoon which had been hit by a car. I cringed as I walked toward it, not wanting to look at the kind of mess a car can make of a small animal. Having accidentally hit a rabbit or possum one night earlier (it managed to run into the bushes, so I'm not sure what it was or if it was a fatal blow), I was attuned to the feelings that accompany that kind of moment in life. There's a fatalism about it, a sense of inevitability, that an animal that runs in front of a speeding car is doomed, unless it is ultra fast or the car driver ultra nimble.
But it was a cat, a large tortoiseshell, a little blood by its mouth but otherwise unmutilated outwardly by its encounter with a force faster than its four feet. I stood there for a moment thinking about my own tortie Lily, glad that it wasn't my girl, and wondering whose mama cat it might be. There's hardly anyone living along that stretch of road, so this cat had been a little ways from home. It's a busy road, too, and I worry about Max when he's out on the loose. Lily never goes beyond the deck, so she's safe, as is Loosy. But a cat in the country faces many dangers.
I continued my walk toward Mutiny Bay thinking about what a lonely death that would be for an animal. Swift, maybe, but lonely, with no one to mourn or cover its body or pet it gently as life ebbs, to talk to it quietly and witness the inevitable. No one to lift it up and carry it away and bury it, except maybe the highway cleanup guys who remove other road kill from the island's roadways.
On Mutiny Bay road, there was a mom standing with her three little boys waiting for the school bus, and I went over to her and stood talking while the bus rolled up and rolled away. "I didn't want to ask this in front of the boys," I said, "but there's a cat that's been hit by a car up the road and I wondered if you know if it belongs to anyone." She didn't know whose it might be and we both shook our heads about all the feral cats in the local woods.
The next day, I took the same walk up the road and the cat's body had been removed. I wondered if it was the county crew who had taken her or if owners had found her. Or it might have been a scavenger animal who dragged the carcass off. It was unanswerable.
But I found myself remembering the cat every time I walked by the spot where she had lain. I walk that road two and three times a week, so I did a lot of thinking about the loss sustained when an animal, beloved or not, is killed.
One day, I noticed an interesting bit of garbage, a couple of sticks that had been deposited by the latest windstorm, I figured, with a bit of white toilet paper ensnarled between them. It looked a bit like an iconic cross, but it couldn't be, I told myself; it's just a piece of trash that looks like a cross.
I forgot about it on a couple of walks but then I noticed it again, right near the place where the cat had died. I took to watching for it, still assuming it couldn't be anything but an accidental configuration of garbage.
Today, I stopped and picked it up to confirm my assumption: two pine sticks, bound into the shape of a rustic cross by plastic ribbon, tied carefully in the back and placed just so on the side of the road, half buried by dead grass, right at the site of the cat's death.
Oh. Oh. Oh.