Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Kitty Kitty

My column from this week's paper.

Dead Cat Drama
One deceased feline in one cheap sweater makes for one lunatic encounter.

By Mary Duan

Those of you following along may have noticed that from time to time, I use this column as an ongoing piece on the rough theme of tales from the hood. I live in Oldtown Salinas, in an egregiously large Victorian we bought out of foreclosure, and the remodel of it will never, ever be complete. There’s a funeral home on one side of us that occasionally hosts parties with bounce houses, and an office building across the street where a religious-driven success group meets all hours of the day and night. (Did I mention they’re rhythmically challenged? The clapping, bass and drums are never in sync.)
Among the stranger things that have happened since my husband and I bought the complete wreck of a home: We were finishing dinner one Sunday night, heard gunshots and I opened the door to find the Salinas police had shot a pit bull that had gone on a runabout through the neighborhood; the pit bled out on my lawn in front of the pomegranate bushes. Twice, when my kids have forgotten to lock the doors while they’re inside, they’ve found obviously stoned people wandering through the dining room. One of my tenants intervened in a screaming match a local restaurant owner was having with someone trying to drive down the shared alleyway, and the owner then turned on him (this will become important later).
And then there were the two guys who used my porch as a party pad early one morning, blasting banda music at 3am, before the party turned bad and the two got into such a loud fight that the police were called, a taser was used and I’ve been subpoenaed to testify.
Nothing, though, could have prepared me for the most recent adventure, or as I’m calling it, “The Curious Case of the Dead Cat in the Sweater.”
My oldest kid was home from work and walking his girlfriend out to her car so she could go to her own job when a woman wearing a uniform from the aforementioned restaurant approached and started shrieking. “Do you even care there’s a dead cat laying here? It’s been here for three days! When are you planning on taking care of this?
“You people,” she hissed, “are despicable.”
Sure enough, there it was: a dead cat, wrapped in a dark blue polyblend cardigan, laying in the gutter, one lone paw sticking up in the air. It may or may not have been there for three days—I have no idea—but it was definitely there now.
I called the restaurant and not-so-calmly suggested they keep their unhinged waitress on a leash, or at least away from my kid and my newly acquired dead cat. And that’s when the Facebook message came in: “Have you seen THIS?” a friend wrote. The woman had taken a cell phone picture of the dead cat with my house looming in the background, written a narrative using my name and address, pointing out that the house belonged to me and that clearly my tenants (she thought the guy she was screaming at was the tenant who had the alley encounter with her boss) have turned a blind eye to the poor dead creature.
“Despicable!” she intoned.
Suddenly, I went from being the neighborhood sucker where all the hard-luck-case dogs come for a free meal to a blood-thirsty abuser of dead cats. One of her friends wrote, “I never liked the Coast Weekly anyway, now I boycott!”
Aside from the obvious question—if the waitress knew the cat was there for three days, why didn’t she call animal control herself?—we now faced the issue of what one does with a dead cat when it’s past 5pm and animal control is closed.
I did what I always do in crisis: Called my friend Carmela Moreno. She’s like Wolf from the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction. She came, examined the situation and said, “I need a shovel and a contractor’s garbage bag. Go.”
The cat was shoveled as gently as possible into the bag, the bag was tied and Carmela drove off with it in her trunk.
The next morning, Saturday, she walked into Salinas Animal Services to tell them she had a dead cat that needed proper disposing. One of the nice little old lady volunteers piped up and asked, “Is that the cat from 226 Pajaro St.? I heard all about that on Facebook.”

Mary Duan is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at

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