Saturday, 14 September 2013

Letters from Frank T.T. Wilcott - by Maura Reagan

Dear Unincorporated Bucktooth County Humane Society,

Howdy. Just thought I’d let you know there’s a cat up here. Prettiest little thing I ever saw. Green eyes, chipped tooth, yellowish-orangish all over. She’s been hanging around the Baptist church parking lot, so I thought by now one of them Christian folk would have taken her home and fed her up proper, but none of them seem too interested to tell you the truth. I've seen a couple of kids go after her. Not mean-like, just curious. Reckon they wanted to give her a pat, but their mammas - all dressed in proper suits and hats overflowing with flowers - called them in, and when a mamma calls you in like that you can’t about say no.

Now I know you probably are thinking this cat belongs to some family somewhere. That’s what I was thinking, too. Cat that looks as pretty as this has got to belong somewhere. Maybe she’s just hoping for a little extra love from the Baptists and will go home at nighttime, right? Well, I asked myself that same question for the first two weeks. But you know we got less than 33 degrees last night, so I’m just getting concerned, is all. If I was a cat with a home to go to, I'd've gone home last night. But I drove by the Baptist Church last night - you know, just in case, plus it’s on the way to the local greasy spoon and I was craving a hamburger - and there she was, all huddled up. You could tell just by looking at her that that cat was cold.

So I kept on driving to the greasy spoon. You know the place, I’m certain. Janie’s Place? Yeah, I knew you’d know it. It’s just about the only place in town to get a cup of black coffee and a basket of soggy french fries. You've got your town people, they sit in the tables and chairs like proper families. They order hamburgers and sometimes limp salad, but never the onion rings, and sometimes one of the kiddies will talk their mamma into buying them a strawberry shake. Now, in the booths you've got your out-of-town people. That’s them farmers, mostly. They sit one to a booth and fill the table with whatever they can get their hands on: nachos, hot dogs, tater tots, chalupas, cheeseburgers, onion rings, fried green beans, lemon pie, and at least one pot of coffee each. Them working boys get hungry. And on the other side you've got the counter-folk, like Billy who owns the gun store and Charlene with her Rosco. You might even have seen me up there, last stool on the left? Well, maybe not. We counter-folk just come there for a Co-cola and a jaw workout.

So I figure that if anyone knows anyone who has need of a cat, they’d be at Janie’s Place. I didn’t ask the farmers, bless their hearts, because they’d be all too happy to take a cat in, but the little thing’d probably be eaten by coyotes on her first night out there. Besides, them places is even colder than town.

I hung my hat up by the door and went to the counter to get my Co-cola, as usual, because until 8 pm Janie’s is a family joint and you can’t order no beer. Then I went and started asking round the tables is anyone is missing a cat, or anyone wants to take one in. No one was interested, even though I told them this was about the darn prettiest cat the good Lord ever made. Then two of the mammas got in a tiff at me, said I was stirring up trouble, asking children if they wanted a new pet. I weren’t the one gonna have to clean up after yet another animal in the house, they told me. I suppose them mammas got a point, but they scare the bejeezus out of me.

I jawed for a while with Charlene and Billy, since they know just about everything that goes on in this town. Neither of them knew someone missing a cat, but Charlene said she’d ask around some more. Nice woman, Charlene. Got her heart in the right place.

Anyways, that’s why I’m thinking this cat don’t got no home, cause if no one in Janie’s heard about a missing cat then you darn near know this town don’t got one. But I went to Doc Cole’s Clinic/Dentist/Vet office and I found your card down near the bottom of his bulletin board. I wrote down the address on the back of a pack of smokes so’s I’d remember it when I got home.

That’s my story. Just thought I’d let you know there’s a cat down in the parking lot of the Baptist church and it’s getting mighty cold out there nighttimes.


Frank. T.T. Wilcott


Dear Unincorporated Bucktooth County Humane Society,

You gonna send someone out here to pick up this here cat? I mean, I’m starting to get worried about her out there. She’s looking thin lately. Don’t imagine there’s much pickings down in the Baptist parking lot. And yesterday, Lordy, yesterday I noticed she’s got burrs in her tail, and that ain't right. That just ain't right. Cause you surely know as well as I that cats are very particular about their tails. Keep them cleaner than a Walmart the day after Christmas, they do, they surely do.

Cats is tidy like that. My ex-wife Margie was the same way. She said she had one of them noncontagious diseases that have three letter names. Popped pills for them all the livelong day, she did. Doctor just kept giving her more. Fancy doctor from the city, he was. I don’t trust them newly graduated, boy-faced doctors with their button down shirts and those lab coats. You can see your face in the shine of their shoe. Nowadays they just pass out pills like they’re Halloween candy, don’t you know? And how’s that supposed to fix anyone, giving them whatever they want whenever they want it? When I was overseas, the doctors didn't have time to be carrying around pills for every kind of imaginary A.B.C. disorder. If we was in pain, they gave us an M&M and we pretended we thought them candies was real medicine. It darn near broke the doc’s heart when a man was writhing in pain and all he had to give him was a pack of M&Ms.

Back to the point at hand, that cat can’t live on the remnants of Sunday brunch - fancy stuffed hardboiled eggs or the toast sliced thin as paper. Now, I was not going to feed this here cat. No siree. I know how that works. You feed them and they don’t ever go home. So don’t get fussy with me, but I bought a turkey melt and a tuna salad sandwich at Janie’s. I drove my truck to the Baptist church and parked out front. Then I tracked that cat back behind the dumpster. I put the tuna sandwich on a paper plate and set it out, patient-like, then crouched down and was preparing to wait a long while. Well, sure enough she come out like a shot and set to eating that tuna. I was up so close, close enough to touch her, but cats is skittish so I didn't try. But that’s when I noticed the burrs in her tail. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: it ain't right for a cat to have burrs in its tail.

When you going to pick up this cat, say? I done told you twice where she is. I ain’t gonna keep feeding her tuna sandwiches. You better come get this cat, you hear?


Frank T.T. Wilcott


Dear Unincorporated Bucktooth County Humane Society,

I am just about to have a conniption over this here cat. I was telling - I say I was telling - them people down at Janie’s about how I done wrote to you twice and never got so much as a “how do you do” in reply and that cat was still out there freezing to death. They was shaking their heads, all shaking their heads and saying what a shame it was that no one was taking care of this helpless creature, which God did not put on this earth to suffer. That’s what they was saying. Then Billy done said, “Well, why don’t you catch her and take her out to that there animal shelter?” So I said, “I’ll about do it, I swear on the Holy Bible I will. But I don’t know how to catch a cat.”

Now you ain't never seen a greasy spoon with more ideas for cat-catching than Janie’s that day. Charlene was all for teaming her Rosco and my Beauty together for a cat-hunt. But I said, no, no, that won’t do. Don’t want to give the poor animal a fright. She’s been through enough as is. Can’t be setting the dogs on her.

And in case you was wondering why I don’t just take this cat in myself, it’s because of my Beauty. She’s the best coon dog I ever had. Surely she ain’t brought in any prizes. And she never brung down five coons in one night like Carlene’s Rosco did June two years back. But I’ve had Beauty for a long time and she’s getting old. Some days she barely has the energy to wag her tail. I have those days too.

Ever since I got back from overseas, I’ve felt the need for a dog. When I don’t have one around, I get so lonesome I don’t know what to do with myself. I just lie in bed all the livelong day. After a few days I get fed up with that and go into town to the liquor store and buy myself some of that whiskey I can’t afford. I drink till I’m blind, then Doc Cole or one of the state sheriffs comes and gets me down from the roof. But a dog never let me get that far. Don’t even let me stay in bed all day. They come in and nudge their cold nose under my hand, then dance around so’s I know they got to pee. And when an animal’s got to pee, that gets you up right quick. I can’t take care of myself most days, but I can take care of an animal, and they take care of me so it works out just fine.

That’s how I met Margie, don’t you know. She was a dog groomer. Used to do them big fancy dog show circuits. She wound up in a little store right here in the center of town, and I kept bringing in my coon dogs for a scrub after they got skunked or mudded. She said I took right good care of my dogs, how must I treat my women? Still don’t right know the answer to that question. Margie must have, though, because one day I come down from the roof and she was gone. Day after she left, I bought me my Beauty. Wives just can’t beat a good, reliable dog.

Now Beauty ain’t been one for chasing for years now. She’s too old, bless her. I ain’t so worried about bringing in a cat and having my Beauty terrorize it. But I’m worried the cat will be scared stiff of my dog and run off. Cats is peculiar about dogs.

That’s why I don’t want no cat, see? I ain’t taking it in. I was set for catching this here Baptist cat and bringing her out to you, since you can’t be bothered to come and get her yourself.

Billy said I should use one of the traps he’s got in his stores. They’re humane things for catching rats and skunks and coons. Once you got them inside, you take the trap out far as you like and open the door and let the critter free, sending a prayer up to baby Jesus that it won’t find it’s way back to your home.

So Billy sold me one real cheap. I thought there was going to be a movement, a relative migration from Janie’s to the church. I thought everyone in town was gonna come together to help me catch this cat. I thought we were gonna do this as a community, friends. But all I got was a few pats on the back and “Good on you, Frank”s. I went to the parking lot alone and set out a trap with a tuna salad sandwich at the back, cause I know she likes them.

Well, sure enough, next morning, I had caught me a cat. And Lordy, cats can wail when they is upset! She just set about crying and crying till it darn near broke my heart. I put her in the shotgun seat since she was so scared. I thought to warm her up a little with the truck’s heat, but if she appreciated it she didn’t let on none. She just cried and cried, sounding just like a baby, and I had to stop up my ears before she started bringing on one of them flashbacks. Last time I had one of them on the road I ended up in a ditch and Charlene had to get her truck and winch to get me out.

Your shelter is mighty hard to find, friends. I drove down just about every back road in Bucktooth County. Had to stop passing farmers three times for directions, but none of them knew you. But I’ve got your address memorized by now, yessir I do. And I found you, even with a screaming cat making the hair on my arms stand on end. I found you there, at the end of that dirt track, next to the pond that’s already got a thin layer of freeze on it. I stepped out of the car and it was so cold that my breath fogged up the air. How could you let a poor, defenseless creature like this cat be out in cold like this? Shame on you, I say, shame!

I got the cat out of the truck. By this point she was having a conniption of her own, thrashing about so much that it was all I could do to work my fingers around the metal links in the cage and clutch her to my chest. She got me once or twice with her claws, but my skin is old and tough so it didn’t do more than sting pretty bad.

I went in through your door, making that insipid bell tinkle. Your humane society smells like Doc Cole’s office, like dog food, it does. I put the cat on the floor and pulled my hat off, then waited for a spell, thinking someone ought to have heard the bell. I looked over the posters on the wall, and the racks of leashes, collars, beds, and squeaky toys. For a shelter that is so gosh darn hard to find, you is mighty optimistic that anyone is going to adopt a dog from you, friends. 

Finally a body come out and I cleared my throat. She looked at me like I was a rude boy in a classroom and she was the hose-wearing teacher. I ain’t been looked at that way since I dozed off in church five summers back. I don’t remember which one of you she was, but she had hair piled on her head and those horn-rimmed glasses that went out of style while I was overseas. She was wearing a name tag with a paw print on it, but I assume you all wear them and I don’t remember the name anyway so it don’t really matter. I pointed at the floor and said, “I got this cat.”

She didn’t say nothing, so I kept going, “Can you take her?”

Then she tapped the desk with her two-inch, blood red nails that I wouldn’t trust nowhere near no pet of mine. And she said, “No.” And I said, “Why not?” And she said, “Cat shelter’s full.” And I said, “But I done wrote you a letter.” And she said, “Sorry” but I knew she weren’t. I asked for her name, because I had a mind to put it down in this letter of complaint. She told me, but I said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t remember it.

On the way out, I slipped on a patch of ice and twisted my knee up bad. I dropped the cat cage and she set wailing again. I cursed and picked her up and said, “Sorry, lovey, sorry.” Then I limped back to my car and put her in.

I ain’t keeping this cat, you hear?

Frank T.T. Wilcott


Dear Unincorporated Bucktooth County Humane Society,

I hope you’re happy. I’m keeping the darn cat. But if she darn well has any darn kittens you darn well better expect a darn box of mewling furballs on your doorstep.

And I sure as heck ain’t naming this cat, you hear?

Frank T.T. Wilcott


Dear Unincorporated Bucktooth County Humane Society,

Rosanna had kittens. Three black and three orange. You can have a black one if you want, but I’m keeping the rest. Beauty is mighty fond of them and the sight of her romping around with them makes my heart darn near melt. 

The other day Rosanna got out on the roof and nearly gave me a heart attack, so I called the fire department to get her down cause my knee still aches and I couldn’t do it myself. I was worried one of the kittens would wind up up there, so I nailed the door to the roof shut. I did, I did.


Frank T.T. Wilcott


Dear Unincorporated Bucktooth County Humane Society,

Beauty died last night and I’ve been feeling lonesome. I nearly didn’t make it through the night without popping some M&Ms or calling Margie, but Rosanna caught herself a rat and was so proud that I had to get out of bed and compliment the little lady.

I just wanted to write you one last time to let you know I done changed my mind. You can’t have Lucky, Pokey, Jim, Tinsy, Cora, or Whiskey. And especially not Rosanna.

Until next time,

Frank T.T. Wilcott

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