Thomas Awful’s Daily Defeats: The Ones That Got Away

a freak on a leash

Today was what those pensive and horny Ancient Greeks might have described as “a real bummer” of a time. They wouldn’t have really understood the source of my irritation and despair, because none of it was centered on how to calculate the heaviness of the Earth’s ass or what should be done about those freakish Macedonians or anything like that. Sure, some shit approached earth-shattering, but mostly it was the usual succession of benign sucker-punches bearing down from all directions that don’t so much as keep you on your toes, but on the ropes. It was the sort of day where life subordinates your ass and turns you into a lump of depressing meat and hair, just a sweat-soaked, busted, ridiculous dumb-ass swinging limbs wildly. Victory might still literally be a possibility, but yeah, it ain’t, not really, not in the Thomas Awful Cinematic Universe. Still, that final crushing defeat is at least an ending, at least an outcome. It means rest and rest is an elixir for the obliterated. Don’t listen to the covetous fail-lords in their stained Tommy Bahamas shirts trying to take your Participation Trophy away because trophies given freely and with love produce a disgusting society that looks askance at exposing frail children to the elements. I say the fucking most of us deserve a Participation Trophy for this life thing. Life, man. How strange it is! Like, almost moronic, if you think about it! But hey, we’ve got music and Indian buffets and alternative-history novels and some other good stuff, so it’s not all Prodigy’s “Firestarter” and brimstone.

The silver lining of today was that there is now a turtle living in our house. He or she is a red-eared slider. He or she has one of those cute grumpy faces, one that belongs on chiseled pre-Old Testament critters that frankly don’t give a damn. We’ve named this crotchety miracle Dirt. We came upon Dirt while strolling through the park, complaining about our other stupid goddamn problems when two kids fishing by the pond rushed to show us what they had caught. They had hooked a turtle and it was bleeding from the mouth, screaming nearly silently. We were like, oh my fucking God, kids these days, and then we walked away. We had walked for about ten seconds before we decided to turn back and attempt to buy the turtle with the bloody mouth. We gave the kids $25 dollars and walked home with a turtle. We hope he or she makes it. I don’t want to think about that too much, because Dirt has a future, I hope.

So, of course, I begin to reflect on those other times, the times that I failed to save an animal’s life, because I’m not a veterinarian or Radagast the Brown. Not like, you know, failing in the way that I spent the night before a test sequestered in my treehouse burning my old action figures instead of learning how to factor equations and thus earned my F. More like, this is what you want and this is what you are gonna get because all the shit that has led up to this moment, all the shit that you have just intruded on is about to pull out the abacus and settle accounts. A guinea pig named Beauty is buried underneath the treehouse where I burned my old toys. A German homeless man named Bob buried her there. Bob is also dead now. One day, when I was probably eight or nine, Bob, who used to do some work in our yard for my dad, told me that it was Hitler’s birthday. I was like, okay Bob, that’s cool. Beauty was an unforgivable death, I think. I was a kid and I liked Transformers and Ivanhoe and being alone, and I didn’t really want a guinea pig in my life, because they are just sort of useless and boring. I mean, I had parents to care for her, but maybe they felt similarly. Beauty died, and I didn’t really get sad about it for several years. Even now, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel. Animals die, humans die, I was barely a person, and I never really looked into Beauty’s eyes anyway. Anyway, I don’t feel good about it.

Tiger was worse, but I probably think of him even less. He was a feral kitten and we brought him inside and then soon after he died. He was in my life for less than a day but that it was still pretty dang emotionally devastating, because you know, cats are my very particular jam. One thing I do recall quite clearly: Tiger did not look like a tiger. Not at all. He was straight-up grey as hell, no hint of stripes or orange fur. I mean, the years take a pick-axe to your memory, so even when I concentrate he’s just a blurry grey thing with his eyes clothes, swaddled and still. Maybe there were details implanted in the intervening years. Sometimes you fill in the blanks with stuff that might not strictly be accurate, but it feels true and it makes everything at least start to make some fucking sense. People get unhealthily obsessed with things making sense when something dies.

Ebony was a dog. If you guessed that Ebony was a white dog, then you are bad at guessing what colors dogs are, which is fine, because it doesn’t come up that often. Ebony was kind of a dummy, but she was nice and dopey, as dogs tend to be. I was in high-school, or as I like to call that period of my life: the dry-humping days. I didn’t know Ebony for very long, but my girlfriend at the time rescued her and then did all the things you are supposed to do for eager but confused dogs who strike it rich by finding that one person who wants you more than all the other dogs in the whole dog saturated world. For awhile Ebony had a pretty sweet life listening to the Ataris and watching Gone With The Wind and then one day she got out of the house and ran into the street and got hit by a car and died. She was a good dog, but then gone. Not forgotten, but not never really mentioned either.

Benito Juarez Drunken Tiger III was a kitten yet another ex-girlfriend claimed from a litter discovered in her friend’s garage. He was a kitten, so he was a character. A real rascal. He seemed to get sick very suddenly, and within a day or so he was dead. This one was rough. We buried him on the banks of a creek in San Jose. I dug the grave with my hands because I had forgotten to bring anything that could even be considered a shovel’s understudy and then we covered him with chalky grey earth and medium-sized rocks and some leaves and sat and watched the brown water of the creek move very slowly for a long time. We didn’t say anything. That’s basically how most of our conversations went after that. Benito Juarez Drunken Tiger III was a supremely excellent little fellow, and he, I do still think about. Probably because his starter-kit personality I later saw re-imagined in Roast Beef’s own disposition when she was a kitten. Curious, and not afraid.

In that one movie in which he was constantly gardening, Ralph Fiennes portrays a British diplomat (gardening constantly!) who is basically a well-meaning dude but very much member of his class. At one point he admonishes his frightfully embarrassing and radical wife, played by Rachel Weisz, for having the annoying opinion that she should try to save every abandoned, hopeless, orphaned, sick, dying, and/or doomed child in Africa. There are millions of people, you can’t save them all, Fiennes shouts at her, as if she didn’t fucking realize that she can’t literally save everything in the world that deserves to be saved! Wanting to begin the process of making the world a better place, goofily naive as it can often seem, shouldn’t be mocked. It’s too precious for that, you dead-souled creep.

The white man’s burden and savior complexes aside, I just checked on Dirt. He or she seems good, and I think he or she is going to make it. All swimming around and looking like a cool-ass grouch. I hope Dirt okay in the morning. And I realize more than ever, that I don’t want to forget all the other animal buddies I’ve failed over the years. Failing is fine, I mean, it isn’t fine exactly, but forgetting, that’s the unforgivable thing.

Beauty, Tiger, Ebony, Benito Juarez Drunken Tiger III. You existed. And you were good.

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