My first exposure to the idea of death came not from a human, but from the anonymous carcass of a cat.

When I was about eleven, I walked to and from the bus stop every day through a field near the apartment building where I lived. In late summer, early fall, the field was populated with scrubby waist-high grass, broken bottles, discarded clothing.

On this particular day, just to the west side of the path, lay a cat. Her eyes were closed, and she lay very still. I drew closer, reaching out to touch her, but she was not asleep. My fingers pressed the unresponsive, tepid body. It jiggled a little, revealing a host of worms I hadn’t seen initially.

I gasped and stepped back, tears leaking out in my surprise. The difference between live cat and dead cat was so clear, so stark and unambiguous–there was no question that this was not only just a body, but that it held nothing of the cat who previously inhabited it. This was a thing.

I had no choice but to continue walking through the field that season as the carcass slowly melted into fur and bones, then nothing. I marked the spot well in my memory, and walked far over to the other side of the path. But each day, I peeked. I couldn’t help myself.

I suppose I spent some time wondering where the animate part of the creature had gone, leaving only a dessicating corpse to frighten children. All I truly learned was that it left no trace, and that our human coffins held only bones.

6 Responses to Cat

  1. Ralf says:

    What are your thoughts on life now? Do you still think about it?

  2. Cat says:

    D’you mean life as in “what makes something alive” ? I think about it from time to time, but I haven’t put a lot of brainpower to it, because at this point in time, I can’t know. There are people asking those questions who are far more qualified to find a quantifiable answer. It just isn’t my field. I’m more comfortable saying I don’t know than rushing to some unfounded conclusion in the name of reassuring myself.

  3. Ralf says:

    Yeah, that was basically what I was asking. I’m assuming the qualified people you are referring to are scientists?

    I suppose I’m still interested in your atheism, particularly when you show otherwise rational attitudes like your comment on ‘rushing to some unfounded conclusion’. 🙂

    There seems to me a certain dichotomy inherent in some atheists’ statements of “There is no divine.” coupled with “There are things we don’t yet know.”, where I would have expected the first of these statements to be “I don’t believe, but don’t know, that there is divinity.”

    You are, of course, perfectly free to hold whatever beliefs you choose to. When they contradict with other beliefs you hold, you have to live with that. It makes for good argument though. The scientific mind loves the finger hold of nearly invisible contradictions… 🙂

    All the best,


  4. Cat says:


    Atheism is not “holding a belief.” It is the default. The idea of a god is patently ridiculous, and never enters into my equation.

    I’m sorry to be harsh, but I’ve been through this a hundred times, and I’m tired of being subtly attacked in this manner by people who profess to be friends. It’s offensive.


    PS: Don’t forget to leave milk and cookies out for Santa Claus.

  5. Ralf says:

    Okay, I won’t try to engage you on that topic again then. It wasn’t a subtle attack but an attempt to communicate about a complex abstract concept that I take seriously. I thought maybe that when you advertise your whatever-you-want-to-call-it through news feeds on your web site you’d also be interested in discussing it. Sorry if I upset you.

    How’s film school going?


  6. ernie says:

    Thoughtful. I run a ferret shelter here, I have had many die in my arms and have wondered the same thing. Just had to tell you that. 🙂