Barbieri is really and truly gone this time. I am sad - when I got these cats, I was determined not to love them, determined that they were employees and nothing more, not members of the family, not beloved pets.
Welcome to psychic world. Just as I finished typing that, the phone rang. It was a guy who'd seen one of my Lost Cat flyers and wanted to let me know that Barbieri was dead. His body is down at the corner. He was hit by a car. God damn it. God DAMN it. I know I shouldn't let the cats go outside, but we live on such a quiet street, and have such a huge backyard, well away from the cars, and what the fuck was he doing all the way down on that street anyway? I don't really know what to do now. The ground is frozen; I can't bury him, but it seems wrong to let him lie there.
All gray cats are unlucky. My gray cat Zippy, all gray, like Barbieri, was hit by a car too. Fred, aka the most wonderful cat in the world, was gray and white, like Mr. Bill, and he died young of a blood clot/heart attack. Now I'm worried about Mr. Bill. He's been crying since Barbieri disappeared, just sitting in the kitchen and crying. He's the shy brother, the almost feral one, the timid cat who flees from people. He has never been separated from Barbieri since some lovely person dumped them and their siblings on the side of the Parkway.
Which leads me to the original subject of this post, the land of the unwanted: Leicester. Yesterday A & I ventured to Leicester to the Humane Society to see if by chance Barbieri was there. Leicester is a bit grim, or at least the parts of it visible from Old Leicester Highway are grim. (As an aside for those of you who don't live here, Leicester is variously pronounced as Lee-sester, Lester, Lie-sester and so on. There is no agreement between pronounciations and vicious fights often break out. Well actually I'm lying. About the viciousness of the fights.) On the way to the humane society you pass a cemetery and crematorium and then the Eliada Home, which is essentially the orphanage. Then we passed a trailer park with a blurred cardboard sign advertising a 74 Chevy pickup for sale. "So," said A, "Leicester is where unwanted stuff goes - unwanted kids, unwanted animals, unwanted 74 Chevy trucks."
That's exactly what Leicester is, and as we passed Erwin High School on our way to the Juvenile Detention Facility (unwanted teenagers) and the animal shelter, it just got more depressing. The animal shelter was tough to take. It's tiny and overcrowded and not a cheerful happy place, and it's where, of course, I took Jackson. We had to walk through two or three rooms of dogs to get to the cats and I couldn't look; I was praying he wouldn't be there, and he wasn't. I know realistically that he's been put down and is dead by now but I still wish I'd had the courage to put a bullet in his head myself, instead of his last memories being fear, and pain, and the smell and sound of a hundred terrified dogs that is that place.
As we looked at the cats and kittens, none of whom, obviously, was Barbieri, I kept thinking about the pet mega stores: the Super Petz, the PetSmart. My mother says it's obscene (although she buys her speciial dog food there) and I agree with her; there's something terribly wrong about aisles and aisles of gourmet dog food and cat food and toys and special bowls and collars and grooming implements while people are starving and shivering in tents after hurricanes and earthquakes. And to that list I'd like to add: while animals are shivering and dying by the thousands in Buncombe County alone, perfectly normal, loving animals who deserve a good home. There are lonely, broken kids at Eliada Homes and lonely, broken animals at the Asheville Humane Society and all in all, I don't think I ever want to go back to Leicester.