“Cat’s die man.”

It’s always been my opinion that over enough years, an individual’s personality will shape their physical appearance and vice versa. In my life I have been lucky enough to see some truly great people exemplify this, but none better than my dear friend Brent. He’s tall, about 6’1”, but he’s passable for 6’3”. His shoulders are as broad as they come; they fill any common doorway with ease. His hands could crush a can of soda; they are more bear paws than hands. He has legitimate tree trunks for legs and his feet are Shaq like in more ways than one. Now take this lumbering man, give him a permanent smile, make him incredibly kind, boisterous, physical, humble, great at giving hugs that make you feel like a baby in the vice grip of a grizzly, add the fact that I have heard him say maybe one filthy word; and that rounds out Brent. A very short way to describe him is “gentle giant”. I met this bear hugging machine in college, we ended up working together on campus where we “ran” events. He was already a seasoned vet of the work we were doing, so I thought following this big lug around like a puppy, and perhaps learning something, would provide some proficiency in my work…it didn’t. We got along too well to get any work done. We would start making jokes, eat the left overs from the events, and the nights would escape us until we had to work really hard for the last 30 minutes to get the job done. We both made procrastination look like an art form. In a lot of ways the job didn’t feel like a job at all, I have Brent to thank for that.

Along with Brent came the introduction of two other great people. Brent’s long time lady friend and just all around peach Ashley (who would end up becoming his wife). She has and always will be one of the sweetest people on the planet. Brent and Ashley decided to tie the knot early in life, which meant dating through the college years. The kids were just sort of made for each other and fell into one another’s lap. Ashley lived a couple hours away from where we lived. She would come down to visit and make dinner almost weekly. I am talking about real flippin food here. I never cooked and I didn’t have anybody that cared about me the way Ashley cared about Brent. So I would come for the food, throw in some envious day dreams about having a lady friend that cooks, top it off with a little feeling sorry for myself and we would have a pretty good evening on our hands.

The other real champion in our fantastic four was Drew. Brent was tall, but this guy was huge. 6’6” and coordinated to boot. The guy could actually dribble and drive a basketball, so when we would play, Brent and I would look at each other and the same thought would pass through our minds “pass it to Drew and then do the dirty work on the boards right?” Shrug our shoulders and shuffle our way under the hoop incase Drew missed. He didn’t miss often. Drew was Brent’s roommate for a couple years, which was perfect, because they would keep each other in check. Brent was pretty loud and social; Drew was more analytical and sarcastic. They would have some epic arguments as well, not the real kind, just the ridiculous kind. Example of an argument “You’ve never even been to space before, how would you know?” I would play referee and go between watching them argue and watching whatever season of Top Gear Drew happened to be obsessed with at that given time. So that was it; this was the Supper Club. Three dumb dumbs and one princess.

On the nights Ashley couldn’t make it, we had nobody to lead our nutritional conquests. I had a brilliant idea to claim we had found someone to fill her shoes when she was too swamped to make the trip. I created a character “Cesar” who had “recently been hired” to work with us. I told Ashley that we needed someone who could cook for Supper Club if she was going to bail every other week. We would call her in the evenings and in a terrible accent I would mess with the poor girl while Brent and Drew buried their faces into couch cushions and pillows muffling their laughter. “Ello Ashleys, Bren is so in luv whijoo he tell me alla tyme when we was wurkings.” This would go on until well after they were married, but Supper Club is where it all began. To this day it might be the longest and cruelest prank I’ve ever played. “Cesar” would also describe to Ashley in great detail what dish he prepared for Supper Club on her absent evenings. And because “Cesar” was made up…so was the cooking.

On a Supper Club evening Ashley couldn’t attend, we decided to have “Cesar” over and enjoy some deliciousness from a great little “Mexican” bistro called Taco Bell. Brent decided it’d be best for him to go out and retrieve the vittles for Supper Club. In routine fashion Drew and I came to the conclusion that some Top Gear and conversations about how to get better at Call of Duty were in order until he returned with the goods. We were really utilizing our prime years wisely. Drew and Brent lived on the ground floor of the apartment building. One could hear everything that was happening outside the paper-thin walls, in the street, parking lot, half way across the county, wherever. Drew and I heard what sounded like a car chase happening and a few seconds later Brent’s frame came barreling through the door with a bag full of fake “Mexican” food and a continuous shaking of his head; he just yelled “DUDE THIS CAT MAN HE JUST…DUDE THE CAT!”

After we convinced Brent that eating a Mexican Pizza would ease the tension, he calmed down a bit to tell us exactly what happened. Apparently, on his way home a kitty cat with a death wish had run into the street, under his car, and he “felt the bump”. Brent was clearly beside himself at this point and the negative thought train pulled out of the station “what if that cat belongs to a family? What if that cat belongs to a kid? A little girl even?” As I was about to explain that it wasn’t his fault and everything was going to be ok, Drew decided to chime in. With a half eaten taco in his hand, leaning on the wall, and seemingly much to relaxed for Brent’s level of brain activity, Drew said “cats die, man” then took the last bite of his taco. I turned to him trying not to laugh and the other half trying to console my buddy who may have just become a murderer, I said “Dude, can you not!? Eat more T-Bell and let me quarterback this situation.” At this point there was really only one thing for the three of us to do. We had to go and see if this maniacal suicide kitty cat was indeed dead. If it was dead, whom did it belong to? If it wasn’t dead, what the hell were we going to do with a mangled kitty cat?

We piled into Brent’s death machine and headed for the scene of the homicide. I could tell immediately when I saw it this kitty was long gone. It was lying there like a kitty cat pancake, mouth wide open, and blood lining the street, game over kitty. We pulled over and parked the car a decent distance away, to keep suspicions low. As we get closer I noticed something I hadn’t on the drive up, a collar. Brent and Drew hung back, which I guess meant I was elected through a very deliberate process to do the autopsy. As I walked around it looking for any shred of hope that it wasn’t dead or at least didn’t belong to anybody, Brent cried out “What ya think buddy? Is it ok?” At this point there was no use in lying or being nice about it, so I replied “B Man, not only is this kitty not ok, it might be the deadest cat I’ve ever seen.” His head slumped so low I thought he damaged his spine.

After further examination of the body and collar, I realized we were standing outside the address this once breathing cat called home. So we decided it best if one of us approach the house and tell the folks inside what happened. Once again through a flawless round of silent voting I was unaware of, I was again elected to execute the dirty work. I knocked on the door and believed I was going to be incredibly lucky, nobody answered for at least three minutes. As I walked down the steps of the front porch the door swung open to reveal a middle aged women in a tremendous set of matching pajamas, she said “I am so sorry, we were just putting my little girl to bed. Can I help you?” Immediately all of Brent’s fears had come true in one sentence. The cat was dead, it belonged to a family, it belonged to a little kid, and that little kid was a girl; way to go Brent you’re officially a monster.

In the most awkwardly weird way possible I said “I…hi, I think your cat was hit by a car…I’m so sorry. I just saw the collar and thought I should notify you.” I was trying to soften the blow by not blurting out “Your cat’s dead!” but she didn’t pick up on my subtlety.

Her eyes grew large and she started shuffling around gathering boots and a coat. She looked intently and asked, “Well how did he look? Where is he?” surely hoping that I was going to reply with something positive.

I turned to the street behind me and pointed no more than 20 feet away “He’s right there in the street… To be honest it doesn’t look good.”

Once again not picking up on my politeness she looked into the street while putting on the boots. “Well was he meowing? Did you try and give him some water or anything?”

With every question she asked, my guilt grew. I had finally had enough of the emotional ping-pong so I just let it fly “Look mam, I am sorry to tell you this but he’s dead. No noises, no movement, he’s just dead. He barely even looks like a cat. Like, he’s in a shape that a cat shouldn’t be in. He’s flat, he’s a flat cat in the street.”

The look on her face was as if she watched me torture and murder the cat myself. Finally stepping out of the house and onto the porch she said in a snide tone “Well how the hell do you know are you a veterinarian?”

I said “No mam, I am not a vet. However when parts of an animal are flat and there is more blood in the street than in their body, I don’t think it requires a doctor to tell you that it’s dead. Now I’m sorry, but I wanted to let you know and I apologize.”

Tears started streaming down her face. She called for her husband so they could start whatever ritual they might have to send their now deceased family member to the other side. She looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, I’m just upset, we are going to have to explain this tour daughter.” I understood, but now it was time for us to leave before she started asking questions about license plate numbers, and the two big dudes standing a block away avoiding eye contact. “I totally understand mam, I’m sorry about this.” I walk-ran the block to Brent and Drew. Immediately Brent was curious about how she took it…”Oh she was just thrilled Brent, overcome with joy in fact. She invited me to their Christmas party this year.” Brent didn’t find the sarcasm comforting.

Murderous Brent drove us home, with the normal pep in his step completely removed. Totally pepless. Having a big heart is a sharp double-edged sword, you experience the highest highs and the lowest lows; nobody’s heart is bigger than Brent’s. Because seeing people upset gives me a full blown panic attack I was trying everything to make him feel better, asking what he wanted, explaining that it was just an accident, maybe throwing some tasteless jokes his way, etc. Nothing seemed to perk up the big guy. The light had been zapped from his soulful eyes. I made an off hand remark, something like “Too bad Ashley isn’t here, she would fix this whole thing.” I could see the wheels begin to turn in his head.

Another round of silent voting and deliberation brought Brent and Drew to the terrible conclusion that “Cesar” should call Ashley and explain to her what happened. Of all the stupid things I have done, prank calling one of my good friends fiancés to explain the murdering of a cat is in the top three. I picked up the phone a few times to start dialing and every time it felt wrong. Finally I picked up the phone for the last time, I was about to talk my way out of doing it, but I looked over to Brent and he was already smiling. He hadn’t smiled for the last couple hours, which was extremely out of character for the big teddy bear. I just had to dive in.

“Ello Ashleys I hab a story for yous. Es abou a keety…”