Sad Cat by Mika; for more information visit http://safija36.deviantart.com/

Sad Cat by Mika; for more information visit http://safija36.deviantart.com/

Distemper

by Carlton D. Fisher

She said it was the humane thing to do,
and I didn’t know there were more humane ways
that we couldn’t afford,
especially for just a barn cat,
so I filled the bucket with water,
and tried to get the temperature just right
so it would be like a warm bath—
not scalding like the one his mother had fallen into
when she was a kitten,
burning off half her fur and healing her nipples over
so that he was the only one to survive
out of the litter of eight.

And once it was bath temperature,
I picked Buddy up,
with his one clubbed paw
that had gotten caught once
in the gutter cleaner chain, but healed,
and I lowered him into the bucket,
because my mom said it was the humane thing to do,
because if you don’t stop distemper
it will spread to all the cats,
and they will all get lethargic and quiet
and sniffle and slowly, slowly
just stop living,
but it will be painful and awful and long.

And I watched, as he twitched a little bit,
not thinking, at eight ,
that the water was filling his lungs,
that this wasn’t like just softly going to sleep,
but the distemper had made him too weak to do much more
than flinch a little bit beneath the surface,
wouldn’t even allow him to lift his head above the water,
and when it was over,
I pulled him out of the bucket
and laid him on the towel—
Buddy, who was just a barn cat,
like every other barn cat,
each one of which I had a name for
had held from the day they were born,
had watched as they opened their eyes
and went from dragging their fat kitten bellies
along the bottoms of boxes
to running between the dandelions on warmer spring days.

I wrapped the towel over him,
and left him for my father
who would spread him on the field
like other things we no longer had use for,
not thinking, at eight,
that the coy dogs would come
and drag the body off.

I did it because my mother asked,
because she said it was the humane thing to do.

Fisher

About Carlton D. Fisher

Carlton Fisher’s work has appeared in Assaracus and the Paterson Literary Review, and is forthcoming in Lips, Sugar Mule, OCHO, and Out of Sequence: The Sonnets Remixed. He teaches English at SUNY Jefferson in Northern NY, near the Canadian border, and lives with his dog, Gilbert, five cats of his own, and four cats who he is currently fostering.

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