The Kingdom of the Cats

A “human black hole,” is reborn under his own house — with his not-so-dead cats.

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Kvetching is an art.

Chapter 1

Dave “Kvetches”

Dave Berg just couldn’t imagine “himself” appearing on the cover of FAART,orAARP, orAARF for Retired Fidos or AARGH for Modern Pirates whatever the goddamned magazine was called. The slick advertising had lain in his mail box since last Monday. 

He was not a 6-foot tall, trim, WASPy guy, with a slightly greying hottie for a spouse. Nor did he ride a mountain bike or wear a Land’s’ End sweater tied around his neck.

Dave stood only 5′ 2″ in shoes — with lifts. He weighed two-hundred and eighty pounds. He did not have a full head of executive hair, or perfect teeth—More hair grew from Dave’s ears than on the top of his scalp. But not more than the hair that grew from his droopy nose. 

His smile? With teeth that only an Englishman or a hillbilly would envy. 

Perhaps an English hillbilly. 

“Crap!” he said, remembering Linda.

Linda Berg, Dave’s wife, would never be the woman with a “healthy, active lifestyle” on the cover of a senior citizen magazine. Linda, the slug, was long gone. She’d run off with Dave’s psychiatrist. 

Both Linda Berg and Dr. Mel Tishman had to get away from “that black hole of a human being.” Mrs. Berg and Dr. Tishman had only met for the first time, and fallen in love ten minutes before their plane lifted off for “anywhere-else-but-where-Dave-Berg-is, USA” Dave never heard from either of them again. 

After his “healthy, active” walk of twenty feet to his mailbox, Dave was even more depressed than he had been earlier in the day, when he’d awoken to discover “Mr. Decay” looking back at him. Mr. Decay lived inside Dave’s bathroom mirror, and this morning he looked like a plucked turkey. Not the little one, but the big prize turkey hanging in the window of the butcher shop on Christmas Day. 

Who’s this guy? What is he doing in my mirror? thought poor, poor Dave.

The photo of the handsome bike riding couple on the cover of FAART or AARP was the last straw. 

So again, Dave had left the magazine in the leaky mail box.

“Let’s see who rots first, Mr. Magazine!” he said while grinning at its mold spots. 

Sunday, July 10 was a “day of hurt.” Dave had once been a reasonably handsome and successful lawyer. Divorce law had worn him down and depressed him until one day he’d tried to strangle attorney Gloria Allgood in front of the judge and the court.

A bad day it was.

That day wasn’t as bad as this day. Dave was sure that this day would be his very last day on Earth.

He decided to crawl beneath his paid-for house and dig a comfortable shallow depression in the sandy soil, 

lie down, 

and die. 

Like many of the brave cats that he had known, he would leave this world without causing a mess for his famil…uh…

“Crap!” he said. 

Dave didn’t have a family. There hadn’t been another human in his life for nearly ten years.

 Even the cats were all gone.

Under the house—they had died there. Nearly all of those cats. A few of his “old” friends, notably Coco and Spook, were among the last two cats to disappear beneath the house four years ago. 

He’d last seen them, staring at him, patiently waiting for death, out of reach.  

His last cat (What was her name? Foo-Foo?) may have ended up under the house as well. She’d disappeared only two months ago, before she’d even been given a proper name. 

Dave had read, “When a cat’s health fails, it will often crawl away, to a dark quiet spot where it can be alone with ‘its maker’ and perhaps, without any muss or fuss, it can calmly and nobly accept death— to gracefully ‘move on’ to wherever it is that they ‘move on’ to.”

Dave could vividly remember the eyes of Coco and Spook, reflecting the beam of his flashlight when he went to look for each of them. Regardless of bribes, they had both refused to come out from beneath the house. He was sure that he’d never see them alive again. They had passed on without any complaint, nor odor, beneath the area of Dave’s living room.

In his later years, two or three of his other cats had probably done the same, when they too went missing. Dave was just never able to spot those sick cats when he searched with his flashlight through the wooden skirt around the home’s perimeter. 

“Crap!” Dave had a very hard time bending down these days. As for wanting to peek under any skirt, he thought…

“Crap!” Dave paused. That thrill was gone as well. 

Show’s over. Drop the curtain.

A handful of the Berg cats had been buried in the backyard years ago. Too many of them became the victims of cars as they raced across the busy street nearby.

Cars. Ten years ago, Mr. Fuzzy committed suicide beneath the tires of “his Dave’s” own Toyota station wagon, as he backed out of his own driveway. All that Dave saw was a black flash in the car’s rear view mirror. 

The very old and sick Mr. Fuzzy had used his last burst of energy to dart behind, and end his life, beneath the car’s right rear tire. 

Mr. Fuzzy had become one of those souls buried in the backyard, among the other pets. He was buried beside the various fishes, birds, and iguanas, and directly on top of over $700,000 dollars in gold coin. The gold had been buried in Dave’s backyard by Mr. Alvin Raymundo, the home’s previous owner. 

Dave always lived with the definite knowledge that he’d missed out on everything good in life, so of course he knew nothing about the buried treasure in his yard, or Mr. Raymundo. 

By day, Mr. Alvin Raymundo was a solid citizen and a “respectable” businessman. By night, Mr. “R.” was just a crazy bastard who enjoyed burying gold in his backyard.

* * * *

(Sorry. I was talking about cats’, wasn’t I?)

Together, about twenty cats lay around and under Dave’s house. Most had lived pampered lives within the long decaying downhill slide of Mr. Berg’s miserable life. 

Pili, Meshugellah, Seven-Toes, Gravity, Sylvester (Bubums), Felicity (Flisky), Maui (Mr. Kitty), Einstein, (crazy) George, Coco, Fart, and Spook were among the personalities interred beneath the Berg’s home. 

All were loved. All were missed. 

It troubled, no… it didn’t surprise Dave that he could no longer remember all of their names.

The rest of Dave’s human family had moved out of the old man’s life long, long ago. Either they too had passed on, or left the house because of Dave’s bitching. Most just couldn’t listen to him anymore, and were jealous of the attention showered upon the cats.

On Monday, July 17, Dave paid his bills, closed his bank accounts, and completed and signed his will, leaving most of his money as a gift to a few animal shelters. He cleaned the house, removed the food from the refrigerator and cabinets, and when he was done, he left a goodbye “to whom it may concern” note on the front door, as if anyone, anyone at all, would stop by to say “hello.”

The note read, “I have gone to take a long nap. See you in the next life! Signed Dave.”

No one would even notice that he was gone. Sad, but true.

Across an open field, just upwind of his house, stood the ugly rusting three-story Royal Tallow Glue and Rendering Company. Since 1945, they’d “boiled down” dead farm animals and pets into liquid, later to be made into bars of luxury bath soap. Therefore, nobody would notice the inconsequential smell coming from beneath Dave’s foundation, even if he were to rot like that moldy AARP magazine in his mailbox.

* * * *

On Tuesday morning, July 18, Dave Berg squeezed his flabby frame beneath the back porch of his home. Then he dug a shallow, comfortable indentation in the sandy soil, lay down on top of his new sleeping bag, ate an entire two pounds of See’s triple-chocolate fudge, and a lethal dose of Seconal, which he washed down with his favorite Dr. Brown’s cream soda as he waited for death.

His cell phone lay by his side…. You know, “just in case.”

At two a.m. on Wednesday, July 19, a giant roach ran across his arm. He went back to sleep. 

Not dead yet. 

Six a.m. Friday, July 21, Dave dreamt about various “cat noises” and a short, violent cat confrontation. 

Not dead yet.

Two a.m. Thursday, July 27, he felt a cat sleeping on his feet. 

One hour later, at three a.m., he dreamt about a cat purring on his chest and occasionally batting his nose with a soft closed paw. 

Still not….

Five a.m. Sunday, March 30, Dave opened one eye to see what looked like a catnip mouse and a bowl of milk next to his head. The phone was missing. Still in a haze, Dave thought that he’d heard “almost human” voices around him. A few of the catlike, but familiar voices discussed whether to let Dave “stay dead as planned,” or “join the group.” They voted, unanimously, to “let him live with them in this place” (wherever “this place” was) and “teach him the law” and “the responsibility of nine lives,” when he finally “woke his lazy fat ass up.”

Suddenly, he was looking into the bright green eyes of his ex-tabby cat Felicity, her striped head tilted in her familiar upside-down posture and with her tail tapping impatiently. Felicity stared her comic stare as Dave lay on his side nose-to-nose with the fuzzy girl. Dave was having trouble focusing.

Around them, the frame of the house floated as if it were only a vague outline above a sunny field of grass, surrounded by flowers, trees and hundreds of chattering birds. Mice raced by. A small patch of blooming catnip stood by Felicity’s musical tapping tail. Some trees in the area had grown with ready-made platforms and scratching posts. 

“Felicity?”

Felicity, smiled and then turned back toward the two cats behind her.

Dave immediately recognized the other two. “Gravity? Seven-Toes? It can’t be!” 

Felicity turned and asked the two cats, in perfect Human-ese, “Should I?”

They both nodded affirmatively.

Should you what? thought the groggy old man.

Chapter 2

Dave Enters…The Kingdom of the Cats