February 4, 2016

Wolfie Of The Sea

We named him Wolfie after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. My dad had become a bit obsessed with the man and his music. A few years earlier, at the age of ten, I was forced kicking-and-screaming to watch the film with him at the Corte Madera theatre. Afterwards, he played the I-told-you, you-would-love-it card, to which I refused to give in. But oh man, was he right! From that opening scene in the snow when Salieri is rushed to the sanitarium while Symphony No. 25 in G minor is playing, to the end when the requiem buries him in his own madness, even at ten, I knew that the world was built on the dreams of madmen.

But how did I get to talking about the film? I was talking about the cat we had when we lived on North San Pedro Road. Our tiny house was across the street from San Rafael High School and right on the water. We had a beautiful bay window that looked on a small pier which housed a few boats. I used to spend weekend days, fishing for mudsuckers, that Gonzalo and I would sell to the bait shop for a quarter a piece until we had a ten dollar roll, which we would blow on a few hours of Gauntlet at Pinky's Pizza down the road.

But how did I get to talking about pizza joints? I was talking about the cat we named Wolfie. We had argued and debated the name for a few days, but my dad finally won out because he had let me name our previous cat a few years earlier- Rocky. Yes, I named my first pet after Rocky Balboa. Don’t ask. I guess I got caught up in the emotional come from behind victory, although even as an eight year old I was secretly hoping that Mr. T would win. It would have been strange for me to name the cat Clubbler Lang. Rocky just made more sense.

But how did I get to talking about Mr. T? I was talking about Wolfie. Wolfie was a strange cat, more like a dog really. He would fetch. He would run up to me when I came home. He slept in my bed, on my pillow every night and followed me around the house from the second I got home. They say a dog is a boy’s best friend, well I had Wolfie. On a few occasions, yes more than once, when he had crawled through the window at night, and was playing down at the pier when he had fallen into the water He must have somehow managed to get himself on dry land and back into my bed soaking wet. I remember a few nights, wrapping him in a towel and blow drying him as my parents slept soundly in their room.

Wolfe was a bit batty. He really was like his namesake. I am sure that if he could laugh, it would have sounded like Mozart’s hysterical cackle. He was curious, brave and playful. He didn’t walk, he pranced.

Until the one night when I came home and he didn’t run up to me at the door. We called his name, but he didn’t come. We searched the house, but couldn’t find him.

North San Pedro Road is a two-lane street where people tend to pick up speed right after the school zone, which was right where our house was placed.

After searching the entire house, I went down to the water and searched the pier. Wolfie was gone. After searching every possible place he could be, I headed up stairs and on a whim thought I would look at the front of the house and the sidewalk that ran passed our house. That’s when I saw him.

Across the street near the curb.

I screamed for my mom and dad to come out. The cars were moving so fast, I didn’t know how we could stop their flow to retrieve him. My dad waited for a lull in the traffic and ran out and grabbed him. I remember being so proud of him at that moment. There was an emergency and he was brave enough to bring Wolfie back to us.

Wolfe was not dead, but he was far from alive. He had been hit, but not run over. His eyes were rolled back into his head, and I could only see the whites of his eyes. A small trickle of blood dripped from his mouth and his body was tight and rigid. I grabbed him from my dad, once we were safely at our doorstep. I could tell he was breathing, but just barely.

I started to cry. Nothing hysterical, but a gentle low moaning. I could feel the muscles from my toes to my neck tighten and release with every breath. Tears were welling up and a soft sob was building in me like a flickering flame.

My parents stood by and tried to comfort me, but I am pretty sure that they were crying too. A few minutes later, as we all stood on the front door step holding our dying cat, he let out his last breath, and I swear I could feel his body tightened. The white’s of his eyes shone like an eerie mirror, but I couldn’t see anymore as the flood gates were final opened, and I was weeping uncontrollably.

I don’t remember how old I was exactly, but I know I was passed the age where young boys cry openly. I couldn’t remember the last time I had cried like the night Wolfie died.

It was late and I had no idea what to do next. I’m pretty sure my dad didn’t either, and now years later his solution feels bizarre, but necessary. He went into the house and grabbed a garbage bag and one of the cinder blocks that held up our homemade shelf- the one that stored his records.

“Come on. Get in the car.” He seemed determined in his single-minded pursuit, but he gently pried Wolfie from my arms and placed him on the garbage bag in the trunk of the car. I am not sure why my mom was not invited to come, and at the time I had no idea where we were headed.

We drove in silence toward China Camp, which is a small state park about fifteen minutes down the road from our house.

We arrived in the darkness and parked near a jetty. From out of nowhere, my dad pulled out a rope and tied the cat to the cinder block. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but my dad had earned my trust and I watched him in silence. There were no comforting words or explanation, just a man tying a dead cat to a cinder block in front of his crying son, placing it in the garage bag and walking down the pier toward the blackness and the sea.

We stood there waiting for a few minutes, a lazy crescent moon the only witness. I thought about how Amadeus had died poor and alone. Then we tossed him in.

Cat. Bag. Rope. Block.

It took a while for the bag to fill with water and sink. Once it did, we stared at the gentle ripples transform into waves and disappear into the darkness.

We drove home in silence and never spoke of that night again. I remember staying awake for most of the night, wondering how I would fall asleep without Wolfie next to me on the pillow. 

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