sleeping in the rain helps me forget things like I am going to die and you are going to die and the cats are going to die but it’s still good to stretch out and know you have arms and feet and a head, hands, all the parts, even eyes to close once more, it really helps to know these things, to know your extensions and your limitations, but why do the cats have to die, I think that the world should be full of cats and full of rain, that’s all, just cats and rain, rain and cats, very nice, goodnight.
–“Storm,” Charles Bukowski
My cat Hades died of a heart attack this morning in the vet’s waiting room. She’d been having trouble keeping food down for quite some time, so my dad brought her in for an X-ray. She was curled up on a chair next to my dad, hissing at the other animals, when she rolled onto her back as if she wanted my dad to rub her belly. When she started to slip between the two chairs, my dad suspected the worst. The vet tried to revive her for over an hour, but he couldn’t – she may well have been dead the moment she rolled over onto her back. My dad and I are still stunned – just last night, Hades was frolicking around, mewing for ice cream and whatever else she wasn’t allowed to eat.
An old friend of mine likes to trot this poem out when cats of his acquaintance die. This is, thus far, the only Bukowski poem I’ve ever liked, perhaps because my back brain recognized its pertinence before my front brain did. Hades was a kitten when a college housemate “plucked her out of the rain,” as my friend Deb so beautifully put it, and introduced her to our midst. A security guard discovered her and nicknamed her Storm, and shortly thereafter we had to find her another place to live. So she went to live with the friend of another housemate and was returned to us when she peed in the friend’s dad’s suitcase. We hid her in the attic for two months until spring break, when I brought her home to my dad. What was supposed to be a temporary stay ended up lasting over thirteen years, during the course of which she terrorized our declawed cat Cecile, knocked an Entenmann’s cake off the top of the refrigerator, kidnapped a cheap stuffed bird of mine and chewed off its wings, bit and scratched any number of humans who wanted to show the big, beautiful gray cat some love, and, yes, peed in my dad’s suitcase. (It was a cheap suitcase; there weren’t any clothes in it, and my dad doesn’t believe in returning cats to from whence they came.) But she also snuggled up with our diabetic cat Sally the night before she died, and with her humans when we were sick, and she liked to roll around on her back and down the stairs to the rec room, and she meowed like a cat in a picture book, so articulately you could almost see the word balloon coming out of her little cat maw.
Rest in peace, dear little gray Hades. You were long among us, and yet it’s never enough. May you have all the salmon Fancy Feast and toy mousies you ever wanted. We miss you terribly already.