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. “Mister, 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.
“We do have a cat that meets your description,” Morgan said.
“I thought so.”
“Does it belong to you?”
“It belongs to my master.”
“You know, when you say that, it makes you sound like a Sith apprentice.”
The manservants glanced at Morgan’s t-shirt. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
“You boys need to get out more.”
“Look who’s talking. Are you even from this century?”
“Oh—pardon my appearance. I worked at a funeral home before taking the job as manservant. Salem’s Rest, do you know it?”
“Uh—buddy, we kill cats, not human beings—and we definitely don’t bury our dead—we burn them.”
“So did Mister Salem.”
“Let me get you the cat. Is it a pet?”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t discuss Hubbard’s business.”
“Here it is,” Morgan said. The cat was asleep—no, that’s not the right word—the cat was blackout drunk on tranquilizer.
“Charlie sure does over-do-it with the knockout juice,” I said.
“That’s because he got bitten by a rabid dog last year. Charlie got two shots off, before the beast ripped his leg off. He had to have anti-rabies vaccine for five weeks, and that stuff makes you thirsty, but you don’t want to drink water. The surgeon sewed his leg back on and reset the bone. We saw chew-marks under the x-rays.”
I knew Morgan’s explanation was totally ignorant, but I didn’t correct him. He was content in his misunderstanding. A discontented fool is dangerous. Morgan still believed the weather causes earthquakes.
The manservant took the cat, like he was stealing somebody’s virginity.
“You have to give us a ticket, with your information on it,” Morgan said.
“Not gonna happen… besides, the cat won’t be walking around for very long.”
“What are you going to do with it?” I asked.
“That’s my business—or should I say, my master’s business.”
The manservant left, getting into his Lincoln. It was a black sedan.
“Should we follow him?”
“Listen, Andy—we kill cats all day. Why are you concerned?”
“It’s a mystery.”
“That’s true, and we’ve gassed all of our cats for this evening.”
“Yeah—the fire department found two in a tree, and five in the city sewer. We’re low on gas—I need to order more poison.”
“We’d better follow that car.”
“No. Not a good idea. He’d spot us for sure. Let’s just drive-up to the hill house.”
“Can we get through the gate?”
“We’ll have to climb over the wall.”
The night hung around our headlights like black drapes. The stars were tiny pin-pricks, among a sea of rolling clouds. It felt like we were driving to our destiny. Up on the hill, the outline, of the Italian villa, was more like a castle than a home, with a wall, 12 feet tall, enclosing the property.
Halfway up the hill, Morgan turned-off his headlights. There was a drop-off, to the right. I could see emptiness beneath us, blackness, and our impending explosion with one wrong turn. Morgan was driving Hitler’s car—a slug-bug. I wanted to hit him so hard. He was wearing his night-vision goggles that he used for hunting coyotes, or at least, that’s what he told me. Morgan lied to himself a lot.
“There’s the wall,” he said.
It followed the driveway for 50 yards, until, the gate.
There was a tower nearby, and one of those floodlights that wasn’t turned on. The place reminded me of a concentration camp.
“This is as a good a place as any,” Morgan said
“How do you plan on getting over the wall?” I asked.
“We’ll use my ladder.”
“I loan it to Charlie when he has to snake cats out of trees. It’s a foldable one that extends, see.” He popped the hood of his bug and retrieved it.
“It will support, even a guy like me.” He climbed to the top of the wall and looked over. “You’re not going to believe this.”
“What?” I asked.
“Well—do they look well-fed?”
“I can’t tell. All I can see are their yellow eyes. They’re black.”
“That’s bad luck.”
“Only if you believe it.”
“Isn’t that as stupid as saying, ‘Satan is only real, if you believe he’s real.'”
“That’s not stupid. There’s a rational explanation for everything.”
Hearing that from someone who was completely irrational, didn’t put my mind at ease.
Morgan went on, “When we get old, we want company. The older we get, the more cats we want, until, they start breeding. Then, they eat our food, and look at us with sandpaper tongues…”
“Well—you’re heavier than me. Why don’t you drop down and see if they’re hungry?”
“They’re house cats, Andy,” Morgan said. “They’re not Tigers. Even if a cat eats you, you need to die first, for that to be possible.”
Morgan explained this like an expert. “Your body needs to be like Tuna in a can—tender and juicy, for a cat to take interest.”
He sold me, and on the other side of the wall I heard, “Good kitty. Good kitty. You see, all a cat wants is to be petted and fed,” Morgan said.
I dropped down, into the dark, and looked around. Yellow eyes greeted me, like fireflies that didn’t blink. The shadow of the house was not welcoming.
“Quiet—there’s a window,” Morgan said.
We walked towards it, like cats, peering out-of-the-night.
A distinguished-looking man, wearing a smoking jacket, was seated at the table. His manservant walked in, carrying a silver tray.
“Thank you Jiles.”
“That’s not his real name—I’m sure of it,” Morgan said.
We were close enough to the glass, so that we could touch it.
Suddenly, we were inside.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” Hubbard said. “Sit down.”
I did as I was told. Morgan just stared at the man like a scaredy-cat.
“Sit down, Morgan. I’ve been watching you, since you chased the ice cream truck, when you were 12.”
“There’s not much to do in this house. See, my telescope over there?” It was gold, standing on a tripod, looking down, at the town, through a green-house window.
“Mr. Hubbard—if I can call you that—what just happened? We were standing outside of the glass.”
“Magic,” he said.
One word explained everything, and I believed him.
“This house is like Chernobyl. The core is slowly melting down into the ground. Radiation, is contained—as long as somebody is caretaker.”
“How is that possible?” Morgan asked. “There has never been a nuclear plant in this town.”
“Magic—you idiot! I was using Chernobyl as a metaphor. Magic is more dangerous than an atomic bomb, if it’s not contained.”
“How did you become caretaker?”
“I don’t want to go into that.”
Hubbard lifted the lid on his silver tray. There was a dead cat.
I felt like throwing up.
“Do we have to stay?” Morgan asked.
“Just hear me out. You work for minim pay. Your education comes from Netflix and the News. I can provide you libraries of Latin, that will open-up your world, so that you can conquer it.”
Hubbard made a sweeping motion with his arm, and the walls gave way, to a tremendous library.
“I’m done with school,” Morgan said.
“You are a fool,” Hubbard laughed. “The cats have to be kept inside the walls. If they get out, they will spread evil wherever they go. They’re like demons, that can’t be killed. They need to be eaten, one by one. Slowly, you will absorb their power—slowly, you will retain their spirit.”
“What do they taste like?” I asked.
“Barbecue Sauce.” Hubbard dipped a piece of flesh into Longhorn BBQ, and smiled like a rabid dog.
His jaws chewed on the kitty, with a grin. “I’m tired of eating pussy,” Hubbard said. “One day, I want to die.”
“That’s morbid—have you considered seeing a psychologist?” I asked.
“If you listen to the tapes from pop psychologists, you will get a dose of propaganda, that makes you crazy. The interesting fact, about that, is that everybody in society will affirm that you are sane, after you drink the cool-aid. They will tell you it’s normal to mutilate yourself as a man, or to question whether or not you even are a man. All one has to do to understand people, is to read books 100 or 200 years old. If we get rid of books, we will only be able to read the present reality, and because books are online, the old ones, the unpopular ones, the wrong ones, the “racist” ones, will be deleted. The public will applaud, and there will be no need to burn them.”
Morgan looked at Hubbard, the way a fireman looks at a cat in a tree. He had to go up there. It was his job, but he didn’t want to. Hubbard needed to be rescued. He had lost his mind.
“Sir, why are you eating cats?”
“Not just any cats,” Hubbard said. “They’re black—haven’t you noticed?”
“I guess I have, but why?”
“They keep me alive. The black cats have green eyes and nine lives. When I eat one, I absorb their power. I don’t know if you boys know anything about reincarnation, but those cats are female demons and witches from the past. If they are let loose on society, they will kill the male cats, and the females won’t be able to reproduce. Then they will try to be adopted by lonely bachelors who feed them and take care of them, and these beta-males will wonder why their cats don’t love them back.
I could tell Morgan was wishing he had a strait jacket. Hubbard had spent too much time by himself. That’s what thinking and too much reading will do to a man.
“Sir—you need medical help,” Morgan said. “You’ve been isolated for too long. You need culture. You need to listen to the radio and watch the news. I recommend the latest Star Wars movies. They will show you that women with purple hair should be running the galaxy.”
“I have culture, young man. I read Crime and Punishment. I gaze at Van Gough. I watch eternity in the stars. The people in your town are like dogs. They need a master and they can’t live on their own. Jiles!”
The manservant entered.
“Escort these trespassers off the premises.”
“We’re not going anywhere,” Morgan said.
“Then you will die.” Hubbard raised a double barrel shotgun to eye-level. “I’ve got one shell, for each of you.”
Then Charlie ran into the room—our Asian cat catcher, and fired a dart into Hubbard’s neck that swelled like a grapefruit.
“I do it for money,” Jiles said. “I don’t believe his ideas.”
“Okay. You can go.”
“It’s good to have an Asian cat catcher on call,” Morgan said. “Now, why don’t we let the cats go, and take Hubbard to the hospital.”
“But what if what he said is true?” I asked.
“You don’t believe in magic?”
“Actually, I think I do. The glass vanished, remember?”
“That’s because it was never there in the first place,” Morgan said. “It was an illusion—just like all of those library books he stole to fill his bookcases. There’s nothing worth reading—it’s just fine print. Nobody reads the fine print.”
He unlocked the main gates, and the cats walked out in single-file.
“That’s weird,” Morgan said.
“What are you going to do with the library books?” I asked.
“I’ll call the city major, and have them burned. Those are lies from the past. Hubbard, was full of lies.”
We left the house on the hill, but the knowledge left behind, kept itching at my mind. It was a place I couldn’t scratch. I would have to read, in order to scratch that itch.
That’s why, I made several trips to that house, in the dead of night. I recovered one volume at a time. There was enough for 7 swimming pools full. Most of them, went into storage. I paid, under an anonymous name.
In the town, cats were being killed every night. It put Morgan and I out of business.
“I’m going to have to deliver pizzas for a living,” he said.
“Do you think it’s the black cats?”
“You don’t really believe that guy? Maybe they need to lock you up.”
“I don’t know what I believe.”
“Well, that’s the difference between you and me. I listen to the news and the radio. I’m informed.”
Across the nation, female cats were being murdered, by anonymous ninjas. It was thought that there was a virus, but the scars, and slash marks, and piercings were undeniable.
I started reading in my spare time. Soon, I made-up my mind. Not long after, they burned Hubbard’s house down. The old man had been smart. He had a whole section of his library devoted to feminism. He wanted to study the enemy. Well, that’s what I left in his library. The firemen burned them up, without reading them, which doesn’t strike me as very strange. We don’t contemplate a match before it burns.
Charlie got a job, working for the mental hospital as a janitor. I met him in the corridor one day.
“Why are you here?” He asked.
“I just wanted to check-up on Hubbard, to make sure he’s doing okay.”
“That old man is crazier than a bag of books,” Charlie said.
“Well, I like talking to him. He is well-read, and I like discussing things with crazy people.”