The Beginning of the End
We gave that fat cat everything he wanted, and especially all the food his heart desired.
Raising a kitten that way, as we learned, will create a monster that will destroy everything in its path. He ballooned up to 22 pounds in about a day. Just kidding. It was more like a year, but we thought that was normal for a cat. Well maybe it was, for a cat growing up on the African plains somewhere, eating gazelles and wild dogs, but not for a house cat in Harlem.
After my sister Ari and her husband moved down to Orlando, my parents moved down there with them. I was in my third year of college. Our little apartment in Harlem was empty, except for my brother and Mac.
I came back home for Christmas of 2002. That January, Macaroni got real sick. For 12 years he had had the asthma, the diabetes, but something else wasn’t right. His face looked slightly off-kilter. It looked a little ‘puffy.’ For a few days, he seemed normal enough – stealing food and just being himself, but with a fat face.
Then he started not to eat as much. When Mac didn’t eat, that was a red flag. My brother refused but I thought I should bring him to the vet.
After waiting nearly an hour, I was called in. The room – which I have seen a dozen times over the years – looked smaller than ever. As usual, the shiny, cold looking metal table was in the center waiting for me to lay Macaroni down. I did. Slowly petting him, I knew that whatever was wrong with his face was serious. The vet didn’t disappoint.
How my mother ended up on the hospital room phone is kind of blurry. All I know was that Mac needed to be put to sleep. He had developed cancer.
“Can you do it, honey?” my mother asked.
I nodded my head into the phone, not realizing she couldn’t see me.
“Andy, I know it’s hard, but we all know he doesn’t deserve to live like this anymore. He’s suffered for so long.”
She was right. There was no question about it. Mac wasn’t that old, but his body had been through it all. But now, it was different. Still, I didn’t actually think that I’d be the one to have to kill my cat.
The vet handed me over the papers to sign. “I can’t do this,” I thought to myself, as I tried to keep my hand steady. Tear drops fell and penetrated the layers of the carbon-copies.
I handed the papers over to the lady in the white coat, and she glanced over them as if she had done this millions of times. She reached into a drawer and pulled a butterfly-shaped instrument with a long tube connected to it. She entered the point of the butterfly needle into Mac’s leg and at the other end of the tube, entered a syringe.
Macaroni looked at me and tried to meow but nothing came out.
"I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” I kissed him. “Mac, I’m so sorry.”
I called Mommy back. I was bawling. Mommy kept trying to reassure me that he was going to be OK. But I only heard bits and pieces of what she was saying. And whatever she said didn’t matter, because I was the only one there.
It was just he and me.
The voice on the other end kept reassuring me that he was going to be ok.
“Andy. Andy, listen to me. He’s in a much better place now. He’s not sick anymore. He’s not cramped up in that tiny apartment. Believe me - God will take care of him.”
“I know. I know.” And that’s all I could say to my mother, who was a thousand miles away in Orlando.
“I’m sorry, baby.”