Clarification on the Events of September 20th, 2012.

Fact: Cats do not like fire.

Fiction: It is appropriate to call the local fire department if a cat is stuck in a tree.

Fact: Burning a cat while it is alive constitutes cruelty against a companion animal and is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Fiction: Good intentions and ignorance are applicable excuses for burning a cat while it is alive. Possessing either of these will allow a person to avoid prosecution for burning said animal.

Fact: A cat would rather burn to death in a tree than jump down.

Fiction: Cats always land on their feet. They do if they jump, I guess, but the cat in question did not jump.

Fact: Droughts are becoming more frequent with the increased impact of humanity on the world’s climate.

Fiction: It had gone a year without raining.

Fact: A late summer shower occurred three weeks prior to the incident, but it happened in the middle of the night, and it didn’t last long. I might have been the only person in town who was awake to hear the rain patter on the roof. You were sleeping next to me and only groaned when I poked you in order to listen to the rain.

Fiction: I used lighter fluid to set the tree on fire.

Fact: It was plain old gasoline.

Fiction: I did not like the cat. I had never liked the cat and was against getting the thing in the first place.

Fact: If feeding the cat, giving it water, and taking out the litter every week can be construed as liking the cat, then I really liked the cat.

Fiction: The fire department was called to get the cat out of the tree.

Fact: I did call the fire department prior to the tree burning, but it was only to ensure that the fire did not spread.

Fiction: The fire started at the base of the tree.

Fact: The fire started on the limb where the cat was perched. I had gotten a cup and filled it with gasoline. I threw the gasoline via the cup onto the limb and then used the grill lighter to reach the gas-soaked bark.

Fiction: The fire spread slowly.

Fact: It all happened fast as hell. When the gas caught, a little fireball went up and the cat backed away from it. The fireball caught the dry brown leaves and lit them up one at a time until the entire crown of the tree was wreathed in flames. The wind picked up and tiny pieces of ash fell on my hair. At this point, I was too busy staring at the tongues of flame moving up and down the bark to pay attention to where I set the plastic jug containing the gasoline. The jug was at the base, and when a particularly large leaf fell to the ground on fire, the base of the tree caught fire and things got out of hand.

Fiction: The charred remains of the cat were cremated by the humane society.

Fact: I thought it cruel to cremate the cat. It had had enough fire already. I took the cardboard box its remains were in and buried it a foot deep in the woods behind the duplex we had shared. This was after I had been arrested and after I had been released from Central Booking and after you cried and after you had said it wouldn’t have worked between us anyway and after you packed up all your things and went to live at your friend’s house but before you called the next day and gave me the address to forward you mail.

Fiction: Most things turn out alright in the end.

Fact: The tree is charred and dead. The cat is charred and dead. With the thousand-dollar fine and the cost to remove the tree and considering you are not here to pay your half of the rent, I had to move out of the duplex in which we spent the last three years building a life.

Fiction: The cat, though burned and subjected to cruelty, rests happy in a shallow grave in the woods behind the duplex we had lived in together.

Fact: I saw you the other day at the grocery store comparing two cantaloupes. I wanted to apologize to you, but instead I set my milk, cereal, and frozen waffles down and walked out of the store. I drove to our old duplex and walked around to the woods in back. Some wild dog or coyote or maybe just some bored kids had dug up the grave, and the only thing left was the rotting cardboard box. I don’t know where the cat is. I’ll probably never find out.

Jacob Euteneuer lives in Akron, OH, with his wife and son, where he is a candidate in the Northeast Ohio MFA. His stories have appeared in Hobart and WhiskeyPaper, among others.

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2 Responses to Clarification on the Events of September 20th, 2012.

  1. Pingback: Spotlight: Eunoia Review | MFA Stalker

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