I have a thing in my handbag that resembles a pool ball. About the same size, it lights up with a skull and crossbones whenever it’s shaken, and it gets shaken a lot because it‘s in my handbag. It flickers with rainbow lights, taking me by surprise when I reach in for my phone or wallet.
The old cat is not dead yet. She has some nasty lumps including one on the back of her neck. I’m convinced this is her identification chip trying to work its way out of her body. Bob, are you listening? I tried so hard to get your cat registered when that local council bylaw went through, but all the vets had chucked out their records post five years and for an environmentalist who had fought so hard for that law and bequeathed me your cat, you were a bit light on her details. She’s gonna die an unlicensed fringe dweller, your beloved Ebony.
Just know that I’m going somewhere here folk, for anyone bewildered by my tangents. We organised Bob’s wake, ten years ago now, because he wanted a wake of the living dead. He wanted to be there for it, and for his living wake to be predicated upon the Day of the Dead, years before the Mexican festival became sexy in Western culture. We found a wheel chair and dressed it up with fake flowers and a disco ball for him. We got the band back together. We decorated the house with flowers, glowering skulls and images of Clarissa. Then we busted Bob out of the hospice and we partied with him until he was sick and tired of us all. He died a few days later and we all quietly hoped that tipping him out of the wheelchair on the driveway that night hadn’t contributed to his demise.
It’s been ten years since I started A WineDark Sea. It’s been ten years since Bob died. He was my first friend who died of natural causes instead of by their own hand in this little harbour town and I still don’t do death that well. His death was big for me and it taught me a lot about humanity and humility. I did the rounds of the vets. No juice. ‘Bring her in and we’ll scan the chip and sign the papers,’ several vet nurses said to me on my attempts to make Ebony legal. But I’d already decided against bringing Bob’s cat to a surgery unless it was for the green dream. It would upset her too much. Those other deaths during that time upset me too, but that’s another story.
The old cat who Bob bequeathed to me is still alive. She must be 18 years old. ‘No way,’ say the Elders, shaking their heads. Recently Ebony became ‘incontinent’. I write that with a parenthesis because I know it is her passive-aggressive nature that made her shit under my bed. She hates me. After all, I am a human. She loved Bob, but she does not like humans. She loves my Mum who visits once a week but that's because Mum feeds her sardines, However, since I’ve had the conversation out loud with Mum about Ebony’s final visit to the vet, the cat has rallied, valiantly, and headed straight for the kitty litter.
And that disco skull and crossbones pool ball at the bottom of my handbag?
‘Maybe when Ebony finally goes, the batteries will go out on that ball,’ my friend said to me recently, when I showed her the ball, still glimmering after ten years. Another friend had brought it to Bob’s living wake, in the spirit of the Day of the Dead, and I’d found it in the garden the next day. It still lies in my handbag, a decade later, flashing its grinning skull when I least expect it.