Lex Luthor: Lost Cat
I stopped to brush his hair back from his forehead, and Jonah was actively crying at this point. I clearly didn’t know shit about helping a kid get over a lost cat.
I let Jonah hang the posters.
I carried the ragamuffin collection of construction paper, torn-out notebook pages and cardboard pieces in a basket under one arm, and had a big roll of duck tape in the other hand. My palms were sweaty and I had to use my teeth to tear each piece of tape. Each poster required at least two pieces of tape, Jonah insisted. I was beginning to wish I had packed scissors.
He chose where we walked around our little neighborhood, which signs and electrical boxes were the ‘best to look at’ and he hung each poster with his little hands, his stubby fingers ruining more than one piece of tape with their childish lack of dexterity. It was lunch time and the sky threatened rain. The air hung down on us like a plastic sheet, coating the skin and making it hard to breathe.
“Mommy, why did Lex run away?” Lex was the cat’s name. Dad had picked it out, back when Lex was a kitten and Dad actually enjoyed his antics. Back before he left the kitchen door open too long and the little feline followed his nose out into the night air. Lex had been the born of a neurotic tortoiseshell mother who over groomed his head, he was bald when we brought him home. I knew the fur would grow back but the name stuck.
I looked down at the stick-figure cat on the posters, the blotches of crayon color that vaguely represented the cat’s markings, the phone number in bold black letters that he had so studiously written on each sheet. It was a six-year-old’s hope and nothing more. I knew Lex wouldn’t be coming back. I just didn’t have the heart to tell Jonah.
“Sometimes kitties, especially boy kitties, decide to run away. They get into a lot of mischief in the wild and it’s a lot of fun for them. Sometimes they come home, but sometimes they don’t. He might find a lady kitty to hang out with. You know how you like to play with Sarah every day? Maybe Lex wanted to find a friend like Sarah.”
“But I played with Lex every day,” Jonah said, it was half-question and half-whimper. I sighed, I knew I was going to be horrible at helping him cope with this, but I volunteered anyway. Alex had to work and I didn’t want to make Jonah wait another ten hours to hang the posters when he’d worked on them so long the night before. I looked down at his face and his eyes were red, there weren’t any tears yet but they were coming. I stopped and knelt down, pulled him close, his sweaty little head under my chin.
“I know you did, honey. You were a wonderful friend to Lex, and he loved you. It’s hard to understand why cats do things, sometimes, because we’re not cats, you know? They think about stuff that we don’t. They like to hunt and scratch and hiss and purr.” I stopped to brush his hair back from his forehead, and Jonah was actively crying at this point. I clearly didn’t know shit about helping a kid get over a lost cat. “Let’s just hang these posters, buddy, that way we can get home to the phone in case somebody sees Lex and calls us.”
I felt so cold saying that, because part of me just wanted to get home before the rain started. I knew Lex wouldn’t come back, we wouldn’t get a phone call. If he hadn’t already been hit by a car or snatched up by a bigger animal, then some other family had already found him and given him a new home. That cat was too cute for anybody to just walk by him. He was young enough to still look like a kitten. People always want kittens.
Jonah gave a little sigh and a hiccup and started walking down the block. I tore off another piece of tape, the glue stuck on the bottom of my teeth, the edge jagged. Jonah pointed at the next electrical pole, still damp from the morning rain and sticky with old tar. The sheet we flattened on the wood was of lined notebook paper, the wetness and the tar started to seep through the back almost immediately. I bit off another strip, let Jonah tape the bottom, and looked back down the straight street at all the stick figure cats on all the poles and boxes and signs. We’d only covered four blocks. It felt like miles.
A police officer walked out of the diner a block north and saw one of our cardboard posters taped below a stop sign. He walked up and tore it right off, put it in the trash can outside the diner door. It took everything I had not to cry, the abrupt nature was so metaphorical I could hardly breathe — naïve hope trashed, just another lost pet and life lesson. My little boy learning about sadness and the eternal, bottomless pit of ‘what if’ all because my dad decided he didn’t like a stupid cat named after a DC arch-villain.
I thought about all the Super Man comics at home in Jonah’s room, comics that we probably wouldn’t be able to read for years because Lex Luthor always comes back. Fuck.
Time to invest in the X-Men.
originally published on Threshold Guardians are My Whole Life 06.01.2015