Two weeks. Two weeks and the dead kitten was still there. Or maybe it was closer to three now. Nick hadn’t made a mental note of when he had first spotted it, but he knew he’d drawn somebody’s attention to it the first day that he did.
“Hey, did you know there’s a dead kitten out on the lawn in front of the building?” he had asked the first person he saw.
“Yes” came the reply, and that had been the end of it. Or it would have been if something had ever been done about it, but day in, day out, on his way into the office in the morning and on his way home at night, he saw the kitten still out there on the lawn, dead.
Nick tried to imagine how it had gotten there, but quickly pushed such thoughts out of his mind. Some things just didn’t need to be dwelt upon. Still, he needed to know if he was the only person bothered by it. At lunch he decided to mention it to some his co-workers.
“Hey,” he said once he felt enough had gathered in the break room. “Have you guys seen the dead kitten?”
“The Dead Kitten?” asked one who was not a guy, but still answered when addressed collectively as one. “Is that some new indie band?”
“No, I know what you’re talking about,” said another who was, in fact, a guy. “It’s right out there on the front lawn.”
“Sounds like the name of an indie band.”
“It’s kind of hard to miss it since we have to walk past in every morning.”
“And night,” Nick added.
“Well, I haven’t seen it,” said a third who had a least a decade on his fellow employees. “I think you guys are making it up.”
“To what end?” Nick asked. “How would we benefit from such a ruse?”
“I know your type,” the third man said. “I know how you get your kicks.”
Nick exchanged a glance with the other guy who had seen the kitten.
“I suggest we drop it,” the other guy said.
“Where?” Nick asked.
“Where do you suggest we drop it?”
“What do you think? The kitten.”
“Eww, I’m not about to pick that up. Do you know how long it’s been out there?”
Yes, I do, thought Nick. About two weeks. Maybe even three.
“Never mind,” he said, tucking into his sandwich. He was sorry he had even brought the subject up.
At the end of the workday Nick revolved to do something about it. Clandestinely he dumped the contents of his wastepaper basket into his neighbor’s and removed the plastic liner. It seemed distressingly thin, but it would have to do. He considered doubling up, but decided it wouldn’t be necessary.
He waited until most of his co-workers had left, observing whether they glanced at the kitten as they passed it or not. Most did not. Either they didn’t know it was there, or it was old news to them. Well, soon enough it would no longer be anyone’s concern but the garbage man’s.
Nick walked out the front door, the trash bag in his jacket pocket. It was chilly, so he had his hands in his pockets as well. As he approached the kitten he glanced around to make sure nobody was watching. Kneeling next to it he pulled the bag out of his pocket and turned it inside out. Sticking his hand inside it, he reached for the kitten’s head, but stopped short of actually touching it. After two (or three) weeks out in the elements, who knew how solid it still was?
Changing tactics, he reached instead for its hand legs, but again stopped himself short. He closed his eyes and tried again, still no good. Try as he might, he could not touch the dead kitten. He considered putting his gloves on, but didn’t want to think of them as the gloves he had worn while disposing of a dead kitten. He knew he’d eventually have to throw them out if he did.
Cursing himself for his squeamishness, Nick looked around for a stick or something he could use to shift the kitten. There was nothing. He stood up so he could scan the grounds better, but the first thing he saw was the front door opening. Not wanting to see who it was – or have them see him out on the lawn – Nick dashed back to the concrete walkway that ran parallel with the building. Stuffing the trash bag back into his pocket, he walked to his car, determined to be more prepared next time.
That was Friday evening, so the next time was early Monday morning. He pulled into the parking lot about 20 minutes before nine. His was the only car there. Perfect. He grabbed the shovel that was lying across the back seat and a heavy-duty garbage bag – the kind that you couldn’t see through. The more he thought about it, the more important that detail seemed.
As he strode toward the building, a sense of accomplishment washed over him, which was strange because he hadn’t done anything yet. As he rounded the corner, though, the feeling drained – not because he saw the kitten, but because there was no kitten to be seen. He walked out onto the lawn and knelt next to the spot where it had been. He fancied he saw a few tufts of fur where its body had smoothed down the grass.
Nick returned to his car and stowed the shovel and trash bag in the trunk. He got in and turned on the radio to kill time until somebody who had a key to the front door arrived. There was a reason he wasn’t in the habit of getting to work early.
That day at lunch he was sitting by himself contemplating a yogurt when the other guy who had seen the kitten sat down next to him.
“Hey, did you see? The kitten was gone this morning.”
“Yes, I noticed that.”
“Did you take care of it?”
The memory of his failure flashed through Nick’s brain. “I thought about it, but no, I didn’t. Did you?”
“Heck, no. I didn’t even think about it.”
“Then I wonder who did.”
“I’ll tell you who,” said a gruff voice. They looked up and saw that it was the older man who had been so dismissive of them on Friday.
“Let me guess,” Nick said. “It was you, wasn’t it?”
“No,” said the man, “although I did go out and check on your stories during my smoke break.”
“So at least you know we weren’t lying,” said the other guy.
“What did you do then?” Nick asked. “Did you tell somebody in maintenance about it?”
“No, I didn’t have to,” said the third man.
“Because it’s spring and I knew they’d get around to mowing the lawn eventually.”