The last time I took him to the vet, Schubert’s numbers were not good. Not good at all. The vet said, “Well he is 16 years old… his kidneys are failing. When they give out, you will know. How is his behavior?” I reported that he was eating with vim and belligerently ruling over the dogs and sleeping on my feet and violently hating everything on the planet except me with his usual piratical vigor.
There is something wholly charming about an entity who loves ONLY you. Given an opportunity, Schubert would have cheerfully eaten the whole planet, pooped it out into a cosmic litterbox, and kicked sand on it without caring even half a fig for all the lost zillions of eaten and pooped out lifeforms, if only he and I could be evacced to Planet JustSchubert&Joshilyn first.
He was, shall we say, “a handful” if anyone tried to perform indignities upon his august person. Last time, I tried to tell the new vet tech that his body language was saying, QUITE clearly, that if anyone who was NOT ME laid a hand on him, that person would draw back a nub.
“He seems fine,” she said.
“He is not having it,” I said. “I know this cat. You better let me hold him while the doc draws blood.”
“Oh, Mrs. Jackson…” she began in a reassuring tone as she foolishly reached for him and laid her hands upon him, but whatever reassurances she was about to give devolved into agonized screams as her arterial blood arced up to splash the ceiling. In less than two minutes, she was dead. Or at any rate, gone off for some hydrogen peroxide and bandaids.
Then I held Schubert for the vet, and Botty tolerated it, because I asked him to.
His blood came back with very bad numbers indeed, but what cared we for numbers when he was still so exactly his awful and mighty self?
So I took him home. That time. But on the way home, I promised him something. I made an awful, secret promise. Just between us.
This week, he needed me to keep it. He stopped eating. He wouldn’t leave the water dish. He slept fitfully by it in a deflated rag, and when I went and sat by him and petted him, it took ages for him to start his soft old rumble-purr that he only ever made for me. He felt flaccid. Like a spent rubber band. No snap.
I took him back to the vet. No Scott, no kids. Just him and me. Exactly as I had promised. The vet examined him and failed to say, “Luckily I have a great new idea that will fix everything.” Instead, he affirmed that it was time, and he asked if I wanted to stay or go.
I stayed. Do you know why? Because I knew the tech would not hold him right. I knew she would not. No one could keep Schubert from wounding the world except me.
I was not going to help her though. I had another plan.
The tech controlled his head, and the vet had one of his arms, to put on the tourniquet. His other arm was free. And there was a long time, thirty seconds, while my good nice vet tied the tourniquet and got the needle in properly. I was right there, of course, one hand resting on him so he knew I was there. But I had my hand on him gentle, not restraining. I made sure he had that one arm free.
While my good nice vet went about his terrible business, I spoke to Schubert, very sweetly, saying what a good old Schu-bot Botty he was. I told him many nice things about himself, all of which he believed, very few of which were true. I told him how much I loved the fact that he only ever loved me, and I lied to him, too. I told him I had truly only ever loved him, too. I told him I just pretended to like those dogs to be polite. I told it was only him and me that had ever mattered. I was sweet and soothing, as reassuring as I could be.
But inside? I was saying very different, secret things to him. I bent low to look into his one lamp-lit, yellow eye, and what I told him with my eyes was this:
Don’t let them. Tear them open. Kill them all. Rend them, rend one of them, even rend just one the very tiniest little bit open, and I will kill them both the rest of the way FOR you, and rip that tourniquet off your arm and jerk the needle out and snatch you up and take you home, I swear it. Just kill them a little.
But he couldn’t. He was so tired. He didn’t even want to. He lay there under my hand and the needle went in and my vet pumped a horridly cheery-looking pink fluid into his arm. His already slack body loosened. His single yellow lamp-lit eye went out. I stopped saying sweet things because all at once, it was stupid to be talking to it. It was only a hunk of fur and meat, a dead cat on the table. Nothing to do with us.
That vibrant hum, that electric magic, it was gone out of the body; it wasn’t Shubert anymore. The live wire alchemical miracle that was Schubert is gone.
I want very badly to take the whole day back. To not have done it. To have made him stay, no matter how bad it was for him to lie there in his sick, damp rag of a body. To selfishly make him lie there peeing on himself and dying in inches so I would still have the smell of him, the greased feel of his old fur, the white-tipped paws that only ever stayed sheathed for me.
But I promised him. I was the only thing on this forsaken planet that he ever, ever loved. And I promised him I would take care of it for him, if the time came and he was too fierce and willful to let go on his own.
So. There it is.
But oh, dammitdammitdammit. I so wish he had killed them all.