My work as an exterminator brought me into contact with death every day, or should I say, I was the one making it happen for 14.95 an hour—not bad pay. At first, I felt sorry for the gold patched cats with innocent eyes. The only reason they had to die was they didn’t have a home. I thought about adopting them, but I couldn’t save them all. It’s how Americans think of genocide in far-away countries—all that killing is impossible to prevent. One feels sorry for millions, but it’s difficult to feel sorry for a number.
I lost count of how many kitties I had killed.
My boss made 20 dollars an hour. He was fat and sat on his ass all day eating subway sandwiches.
“Why don’t people adopt these cats?” I asked.
“Nobody cares,” he said through a mouthful of candy-bar. I could see what he cared about, or didn’t care about. Fit people, beautiful people, have trouble relating to fat and ugly people. They don’t realize, most of us are satisfied by something, and if we don’t have the good life, we have something close to it, even if it disgusts them.
Weeks turned into months, until I felt like a cold-hearted Nazi bureaucrat. I pressed the red button, and the green gas smothered another cat. One of the guys we hired put two cats in the chamber at the same time and turned on the gas. They ripped each other apart before they expired. The guy got fired.
When girls asked me what I did for work, I told them, “I work with animals.”
“Oh—that’s so sweet,” they said. “You must have a kind heart—”
But this story isn’t about my depraved grind… It took-on stranger elements, when a man in a trench coat walked into our establishment. He was tall, as if the kindness in his face had been stretched like a rubber band, until it wouldn’t bounce back. I would have preferred evil, to his smile, that drooped.
“I’m looking for pussy,” he said.
“Are you sure you came to the right place?” My boss asked.
“What do you mean? You kill cats, don’t you?”
“Buddy—there’s a sheriff’s station a block away. Do I need to make a call?”
“I’m looking for a black cat with green eyes,” the man said. “Did one get caught in the last day or so?”
“Let me check my files.” This was a bullshit statement because Morgan didn’t keep any files. He called himself a pirate who burned everything—including his paperwork. The cat incinerator was out-back. The whole town knew. If the government did an audit, Morgan would have me forge the documents.
“Andy, meet me in the back room. We need to check-on our latest inventory.”
I walked back there.
“Something doesn’t feel right, about this guy.”
“Is it the trench coat?” I asked.
“Yeah. Only perverts, school shooters, and detectives wear trench coats.”
“And don’t forget about the mafia.”
“And that too. My guess is that he’s a detective of some sort, sniffing around. Maybe he works for the government.”
“How do we get rid of him?”
“We don’t. Thing is, Charlie tranked-up a black cat yesterday. He shot it with his elephant gun—the cat hasn’t woken up since.”
“Well, why don’t we just give it to the guy?”
“Give it to the guy…trust the guy…don’t you think the guy is up to something? He doesn’t look like an animal lover to me.”
“Morgan—you’ve murdered thousands of cats. Do you really care about what a man in a trench coat might do to it?”
“Murder is a strong word, Andy.”
“Fine—I didn’t know you were sensitive.”
“I am—I read poetry on my lunch hour—didn’t you know?”
I gave up on a serious conversation with him. “Well—let’s just give him what he wants,” I said. “We can always ask him why he wants the cat.”
Morgan laughed. “Really? Do you think we’ll get an honest answer from a detective or a pervert?”
“There’s no harm in asking.”
“You’re right,” Morgan said. “Mr. I didn’t catch your name.”
“That’s because, you don’t look very athletic. I don’t just throw it around, to anybody. My master likes his privacy.”
“Master? You aren’t some sort of manservant, are you?”
“Yes. I work for the gentleman who lives on the hill.”
“No!? He never comes into town.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“And he’s been living there since I was a kid. He must be over 100 years old.”
“200,” the manservant corrected.
To be continued…