I held his toe in my hand. The toe had become disengaged from its disinterred paw. I hadn’t meant to dig up the body. In my mania for replanting I excavated an empty spot in the garden, completely forgetting what I’d buried there.
I could have had Nick cremated and tossed his ashes, the way I did with half of Mama. But I couldn’t do that to a creature I loved. A body should be returned to the earth in its original state, even if it’s stiff with rigor mortis and bled out.
Nick was diabetic and I gave him insulin shots for years. Not a people-friendly cat, he preferred the other felines, particularly Maxwell who tolerated being sodomized. I’d find them in the basement on a shelf near the towels, Nick on Max’s back happily humping away, and Max wearing a stoic expression. A vet in New Orleans rescued Maxwell, who, in turn, my mother rescued. Mama was kind to strays.
I brought Max and another cat I’d rescued, Miss Mouse, with me when I moved to New York. Nick was a Yankee cat I adopted from an upper west side Manhattan rescue. My husband and I called him “Baby” the first year we got him. Not long afterwards I got pregnant with our first child, a son.
I reburied Nick’s toe with the azalea. His skull I tossed off into the woods. I found it later, after I’d replanted the shrub. I buried the other half of Mama’s ashes with the corpse of a beloved dog named Comus. Nick wouldn’t have minded. Like my mother, he didn’t have truck with boundaries. Mama wouldn’t have minded either. She loved dogs more than anything.
Lucinda Kempe has had work published Jellyfish Review, Summerset Review, Matter Press’s Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, decomP, and Corium. She won the Joseph Kelly Prize for Creative Writing in 2015 and is an M.F.A. candidate in writing and creative literature at Stony Brook University.