A Prayer for Mr. Leary.

Yavin Koenigsberg

Andrew sat there waiting for the telephone to dial itself and dump his girlfriend of three years for him. He had been waiting for two hours now, without success.

“Stop being a pussy and dump the bitch,” Roger said while fiddling with his video game controller.

“I’m not being a pussy,” Andrew retorted, his eyes still fixed upon the dial, “and don’t call her a bitch. Cynthia’s the sweetest girl I’ve ever met.”

“You’re only saying that ‘cause the sex is good,” Roger said, without even bothering to look up from his game.

“No, that’s not true—“

“Oh?” Roger turned his head away from the computer and looked Andrew in the eyes, “If she’s so damn sweet, then why are you always whining about her?”

“She’s nice, it’s just that she’s a little too conservative sometimes,” Andrew admitted, “and I’m not whining about her!”

Roger chuckled, “Really? Then what the hell have you been doing all night, man? When you asked me if I wanted to trip with you last night, I didn’t realize that we’d be spending the entire time talking about your girlfriend. It was a total buzzkill. A waste of good ‘shrooms. Besides, I’m not your shrink.”

Andrew sighed, “So, do you think I should dump her?” Roger threw his hands up in defeat, “What the hell have I been saying all night, dude? I mean, come on man. She’s not your type at all. Look, you’re always complaining to me about how she won’t go out dancing with you because she’s too scared to go into the city at night. All you guys ever do is rent movies and have sex. What kind of relationship is that supposed to be, huh?” “But she loves me.”

“Dude, you’re hopeless,” Roger picked up the controller and went back to his racing game, “Ok, so what about that time she wigged-out when the cops nearly busted us?”

“She didn’t wigg-out.”

“The hell she didn’t! Dude, first she told you that she didn’t want you smoking pot anymore. Then she said that Damion and I had to stop too. She said that she was just looking out for you. But if you ask me, I think that she was scared that the cops would bust her too if she was caught here at the wrong time,” Roger shook his head, “I mean, she just up and told you to do it. Man, what the hell is she? Your mom, or something? And what about how she’s always nagging you to move in with her? And how she always wants you to go with her to church? I mean, come on man, what the hell do you see in her anyway?”

Andrew paused to think it over. Maybe Roger was right. Three years is a long time to be with someone, especially in college. His mom was always telling him that he should be dating other people. Maybe she was right. He could find another girlfriend easily enough, right?

“OK. I’ll do it,” Andrew picked up the telephone and dialed Cynthia’s number.

“Hello?” Cynthia answered, and now Andrew could feel the combined dementia of three years boiling up inside of him. It was like when a cook leaves something afoul in a piece of Tupperware, and forgets that it has been there for months, but then finding it, opens it up, and is aghast at the rotting present for which he had left himself. Now as Andrew smelled these inner torments, he grimaced at the job that he knew he had to do.

“Hi, Cynthia, it’s Andrew,” he paused.

Roger was mouthing the words, “do it,” to him, but even in that moment of despising her, he respected her enough to dump her on a clear head, and more importantly, to her face.

“Do you want to go out to breakfast?”

Roger threw down his controller in defeat, “Dude, you’re hopeless.”

Hopeless or not, Andrew was confident that he would be able to dump Cynthia once he had gotten some food in his stomach. So he went and picked up Cynthia from her apartment, and they went out to IHOP to have pancakes with strawberry syrup.

Andrew waited until he had finished the last of his pancakes to drop the bomb on her. He gently placed his fork down upon the plate, and looked up at his lovely Cynthia. Her eyes caught his, and he cringed a little at what he knew had to be done. It would be a battle, a fight to the emotional death, and he knew that it would be bloody.

It was she who attacked first, “I love you honey.”

“I love you too,” Andrew’s psyche cringed.

“Honey, I was thinking,” even before Cynthia finished, Andrew knew that this could only mean trouble, “when we move in together, I want to get a little black kitten.”

“Maybe I’ll surprise you for your birthday.”

“Really?” Her ears perked up like when a cat hears the death-throws of mouse caught in a nearby trap. Andrew recoiled as he realized his folly. He had to retreat.

“So, how are your classes?”

“They’re exactly the same as when you asked me about them yesterday,” she frowned.

Perhaps it wasn’t the most opportune time to dump her, Andrew thought. He tested a different method of attack, “My roommates and I are thinking about going out dancing tonight. I was wondering if you would be up to it?”

Cynthia grimaced, “Andrew, you know that I don’t like those kinds of places. They’re just too sketchy for me.”

“What do you mean, sketchy?” Andrew forced his armies back to the front line. He could smell that the battle was now turning in his favor, “They’re completely safe. The place that we’re going to is in a decent part of town, the security is tight, and the atmosphere is pretty cool.”

“Look, I just don’t like raves, OK?”

“It’s not a rave, it’s a club.”

“It’s still the same music and the same kind of people, so I’m not going,” she said between her teeth.

“Why don’t you ever want to go out anymore? I mean, all we ever do is—-watch movies.”

There, he had brought out the heavy artillery. Her troops were taking serious losses, and he knew that soon her ranks would break.

“I mean—-honey, don’t get me wrong. I love you. It’s just that—“

Andrew had called out the airforce. He was ready to drop the bomb, but Cynthia must’ve still had some defenses left in her arsenal. Just as he was about to open his mouth and give the order to detonate his nukes, Cynthia spilled her milk all across the table. Breakfast, and thus Andrew’s second battle with her, had been utterly ruined. He knew that he had to retreat his forces and consolidate his losses.

“Oh jeez,” Cynthia gasped as she tried to clean up the milk by dabbing it with her napkin, “I’m such a blonde sometimes. I’m sorry honey.”

“It’s OK,” Andrew whimpered, “Let’s just pay for the meal and get out of here.” Out on the road Andrew realized that something had to be done. He had only one choice left to make. Should he dump her there in the car, or wait until he got back home? Surely it would be better to kill the relationship in the car, for he could always take her back to her apartment if she began to cry. Andrew had his troops in position, so he made his move.

“Boy those pancakes were wonderful.”

“Yes,” Cynthia bemused, “They were in fact. Thank-you for taking me out to breakfast. It’s so nice to see you. I know we’re both busy with college, and we hardly ever get any time for ourselves, so it’s great to spend these few moments with you.”

Andrew cringed. His psychic forces had been beaten back once again, and now he had to make another foray into the lines of battle where men do shed their heart’s blood for the love of their wives.

“Cynthia,” he said, momentarily taking his eyes off the road so that he might stare into the eyes of his beloved, “There’s something we need to—“

And that’s when they hit the cat. It had walked right out into the street as if it hadn’t seen the car at all. The tires hit him square and center. Thump thump.

“My god, did we just hit something?” Cynthia cried out, her eyes like the cover of a sappy Hallmark card.

Andrew pulled the car over to the side of the road and put the blinkers on.

“I think I ran over a cat,” Andrew said while slowly looking back in the direction of where the cat now laid flattened upon the asphalt. He could see that its paws were still twitching.

Now Andrew’s mind faced him with two possibilities. The first was to sit there and comfort his girlfriend who was about to burst into a widowed bemoaning for the cat. The second was to face the cat. Who was dying. On the road. By the car.

“Where are you going?” Cynthia whimpered.

“There’s a shovel in the trunk,” Andrew got up out of the car.

Cynthia leaned her head out of the window, “You’re going to bury it?”

Andrew stopped and looked at her, then the cat, then the shovel. He didn’t need to say anything, and soon Cynthia burst into a torrent of crying. He walked back to where the cat laid in the road and finished it off. Thump thump.

Once the ghastly deed was finished, he picked the cat up with the shovel, and tossed the body onto the grass just as he would’ve done if it had been snow in the road. Then, leaving the shovel next to the cat, he returned to the car.

“There’s a cul-de-sac just over there,” he said, pointing in the direction of some houses, “Perhaps the cat belonged to somebody who lives there.”

Cynthia looked up at him, her eyeliner was melting all over the place.

“I think that it would be good if we could find out whose cat it was,” Andrew repeated. The idea of facing the sobbing owner of the dead cat appealed to him more than facing the sorrow that he intended to bestow upon his soon to be ex-girlfriend.

“What, do you want to go door-to-door or something?” Cynthia shrugged.

Andrew nodded, “I’ll take one side, you take the other.”

Cynthia gathered herself up, and followed Andrew out to the houses. They knocked on the doors, one by one, to see if they might find the owner of the deceased cat.

Andrew now faced a new doorway to terror. He realized that he might encounter behind one of these doors an innocent looking girl of six perhaps, and that he would have to tell her to her face that he had, “sent little Muffkins to heaven to live with daddy,” or some other crap like that. Instead, what Andrew found behind door number three was an aging hippie and a house full of cats. The aforementioned gray haired, thin boned, pot smoking cat lover stood tall and foreboding like Mt. Doom in the doorway of his townhouse.

“Can I help you?”

“Do you own a yellowish cat with a white dot on its chest?”

The aging hippie, who could have played the part of Gandalf in a live-action version of Tolkein’s The Hobbit, looked puzzled for a moment.

“Well man, I got a lot of cats, but I think I might have one like that,” he said while trying to utilize a rarely used section of his burnt-out brain, “Why, did you hit him with your car or something?”

Andrew nodded his head, “I’m afraid so, sir.”

“Bummer,” the aging hippie shook his head, “Well, I knew Mr. Leary would get it out on the road one of these days. He just wasn’t the type of cat to die lying down.”

“Excuse me?”

“Mr. Leary—-my eldest cat. Man, I traded a half sheet of triple-dipped orange sunshine for him at Dead show back in eighty-six. He was all yellow like good California blotter, and he had the coolest little white spot of fur near his heart. Does that sound like the one you hit, man?”

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” Andrew said, looking back towards the road, “I kinda hit him with my car back there.”

“Double bummer. Well then, I guess we had better go take a look at him. Hold on, I’ll go get a trash bag,” the hippie then promptly disappeared back into his lair which must’ve been the home for a half dozen cats or so. Andrew could see three clearly, but could hear the calls of many others who chose not to peek their furry little faces at the man who had just run over poor Mr. Leary.

Andrew turned and called out to Cynthia, and she hearkened him as when a cat hears the sound of a can opener and comes closer, thinking that it’s dinnertime. When she reached the door, her eyes widened, a thin gloss moved over them, and she let out a quiet squeak as she saw the half dozen cats who lingered near the doorway.

“This must be the place,” she said while going down on one knee to pet a young Persian who purred softly as she gently teased the fur on his back. The aging hippie returned with a pair of rubber kitchen gloves and a trash bag.

“This is the gentleman whose cat I ran over,” Andrew said.

“I’m glad to meet you. Please, call me Dan,” the hippie said, “So where’s Mr. Leary?”

Andrew led the quest out to the road, and when Dan the Gandalf-like beheld with his eyes the bitter remains of poor Mr. Leary, he knelt down next to his fallen friend.

“Well Mr. Leary. I’m sorry to see you go, but I’m glad that I didn’t have to kill you myself. This poor bastard of a cat was older than sin, blind in one eye, half deaf, and definitely dumber than nails. Couldn’t catch a rat’s ass if he cared to chase one,” Dan scooped up the remains of his friend into the bag, twisted it shut, and said a quick prayer, “Aum namah Shiva. May you find better couches to serve as your throne in your next life. So long Mr. Leary, from now on the only place you’ll be sleeping is in the ground.”

The three of them stood there by the road. Cars drove by unaware of what was going on. Dan held the bag as his cheeks began to moisten. Cynthia looked away in disgust, her eyeliner still painted like a parody of Alice Cooper.

“Ya know man, I should thank you,” Dan said while searching for the bowl in his pocket, “I was going to have him euthanized, but there’s something about killing someone you love that I just can’t do. You know what I mean man?” Dan took a hit from the pipe and passed it to Andrew as they walked back to his house.

“Yeah man,” Andrew smiled and took a hit from the bowl as Cynthia looked on in indignation, “I know what you mean.”

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