I was shoveling the last spade full of dirt on the dead cat’s grave when the 2-year-old said something eerily ominous.
“He’ll be back.”
Anyone familiar with Stephen King’s "Pet Sematery" knows what that means. The 1983 book, one of King’s most horrific, is about an Indian burial ground, a dead cat, a runaway truck and rampant evil so pure it kept me wide awake for hours on end.
And that basically describes our late Buster, the cat who’d have been be 19 in October. His incessant yowling probably cost me more sleep than either of my kids. Kids can be cranky, but they can also be so euphorically loving that it’ll erase hours of sleeplessness, sass and diapers foul enough to stagger veteran HazMat teams.
But a cat, even on his most sociable days, will never be anything more than a cat.
I never thought hooking up with Val would mean I’d spend the next 15 years of my life under the same roof as a cat. I barely lived with my folks that long, and them I could at least bum money off.
Standing over his freshly dug grave last night, I tried to muster some feelings of affection. Instead, I felt waves of relief. I’m not going to say I was giddy, but I remember feeling the same sensations when I’ve watched a few hillbilly moving vans pull away from the driveways next door.
I do remember one time when our first child was a baby I tried to train him how to use the toilet with a cat seat attachment the inventor sent me after I did a story for National Enquirer about it. Buster resisted with such ferocity that he rebelled by relieving in the kid’s crib, a Shakespearean sort of revenge for a cat.
The last four years were the worst. In 2004, he began having seizures. We said our goodbyes and Val tearfully rushed him to the animal hospital. Me, I settled into what I was sure would be a wonderful commemoration of the cat I never cared for by peacefully watching Tiger Woods win the British Open. A live Tiger and a dead cat seemed a fitting memorial.
But Buster revived ($800). The next day the vet cautioned, however, his demise was likely a matter of weeks, if not days.
Five more near-death experiences later, I said another final goodbye and was shocked when Val returned home with a tidy box full of Buster.
The cat who wouldn’t die finally did.
No more changing litter boxes. No more changing the sheets after another series of eye-watering accidents. No more being jolted awake by his disgusting little cat-food scented sneezes in my face. No more excruciating toe stubs in the middle of the night stumbling to respond to his otherworldly howls for food or water.
No more Buster.
Rest in peace, my smelly little feline friend.
I know I will.