The Cat Who Made Flyer Points

993 words 

Title: The Cat Who Made Flyer Points; 
By Kim Blank
Enough has gone by, enough water under the bridge. I feel, 
at last, I may have the inner strength to come out and talk 
about The Accident. 
Acceptance is my muse; my patron is Time.

Five years ago. A sunny day. A Saturday. A yuppified 
dead-end street in deepest, dark Victoria. Somewhere 
the sound of  candy-crazed kids bouncing on a trampoline.

I'm in the livingroom, deciding whether to write a letter to the
editor of our community newspaper defending NIMBY 
mentality, or to clean the kitchen. Tough choice. Not much in it.
The doorbell rings. I go to the door. My ten-year-old daughter
joins me. It's probably one of her friends.
But it's not. It's a guy from up the street.
"Your cat. I think I hit your cat. With my car."

My daughter has already bolted down the stairs. She calls,
"Cinders, Cinders...".

My neighbor's car is stopped in front of our house. A black, late 
model Volvo station wagon. Tinted windows. Nice car. His 
picture-framing boutique must be doing well.

I walk out to the road. Cinders is sprawled out just behind the
car. Irregular breathing. He doesn't look good at all. Not at all. 
A little blood coming from his nose and mouth. Out of his ear, as 
well. His head looks like it must have been hit pretty badly. Not a 
pretty sight. 

Daughter is crying. Kids gathering around.

My mind clouds. I say, "I think Cinders has had it." Cinders isn't 
I continue, "I think I'd better put Cinders out of his misery." I remember 
my Dad having to do this when our dog, Zipper, was more or less 
squashed by a bus.

My daughter looks at me. Her eyes are glazed with tears, but her
jaw is firm. "No. We're saving Cinders." She wipes her eyes.

Then she says it: "We're taking Cinders to the vet."

Geez, I think. But before I think too much longer, she has our
recycling box out on the road, and is carefully lifting limp Cinders into it. 
Cinders is not even two years old.
"Come on," she says.

In the car, she talks to the cat. "You'll be okay, you'll be okay, boy." 
The cat makes a couple of quietly painful meows. Last words, I think.

At the veterinarian's. In the waiting room. We check Cinders in at the 
desk. He is taken from us, recycling box and all. A large sign is behind 
We sit. We wait. An hour of holding hands and thinking. Cinders
will probably have to be put down. I'm thinking sixty-five bucks, tops. 
Poor little thing. Not a bad cat, really.
We are asked to come back to talk with the vet. He's wearing an
argyle polo shirt. Nice haircut, too.

"I'm afraid it's not good," he says. "Your cat's jaw is shattered, and 
there seems to be some internal bleeding. Could be bad."

He looks at me, not at my daughter. Also avoiding my daughter's
glance, I ask, "You mean...he should be...put down?"
"That's an option."

My daughter's gasp demands we turn to her.

"No way," she says.

I feel a bit weak. I try to think. "And to try to...fix him?
What'll that cost?" I'm thinking, one fifty, maybe two hundred bucks. 
I could spring for that, maybe.
Ten-year-olds know how to pick their words: "Cinders is a living
creature. Part of our family. How could put a price on that?" The last 
time she spoke to me like that she managed to get a new 18-speed 
mountain bike. 

There's no answer. The vet looks at me. Maybe he's smiling. 
Maybe he's trying to look understanding. Maybe he's thinking 
about buying a new sailboat. I mumble something, anything, 
and I'm probably nodding, slightly.

We're back in the waiting room. Another hour. Pictures of dogs 
and cats all over the walls. Pamphlets on fleas prevention and 
spaying. Cinders' name is called at the desk. We come forward. 
The reception lady has some things written down. She reads 
the notes and ad libs from them: "Cinders will have to have his 
jaw wired. He may need some other minor reconstructive facial 
surgery. He'll be in for a few days so we can watch him. We're 
not sure about the internal bleeding,."
While I think about Michael Jackson's nose, my daughter asks, 
"Will he be okay? Like, when everything is done?"
"No way to tell. Maybe."
I look at the bill. Holy smokes...medications, x-rays, surgery of 
this, sutures of that. Room and board. What, no color t.v? No room 
service? I sign. At least there'll be some flyer points.
On the way home, I must look a little glum. My daughter attempts 
to cheer me up. "Don't worry, Daddy, Cinders will be okay."  I 
nod and give her hand a guilty squeeze.
Five days later, after a few phone calls from the vet explaining
some complications that need confirming in order to press f
orward with medical history, we pick Cinders up.
I sign. I gasp. More flyer points. Lots more. Enough to get me to 
Siberia? Sixty-five bucks was a long, long time ago.
Cinders pees all over the seat on the way home. Eight lives left, 
I think.

That was five years ago. I've moved on. Last year I almost
individuated, but that was before the hot water tank had to be 

That's another story.
Again I'm thinking about cleaning up the kitchen. Nothing really
changes. Cinders, our black cat with the face-job, is stretched 
out beside me, probably thinking about spitting up a fur ball or 
wondering which furniture to scratch up next. I think I'm going to 
be okay.

Dr. Blank has published four books of literary criticism and other 
odd pieces. He lives in Victoria with a wife, a son, a daughter, 
a cat, a dog, and a guinea pig. Spare time is spent teaching at 
the University of Victoria.

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