I became friends with a guy in high school that lived out near the suburbs. We went to a school that was part of the local school district, that concentrated on teaching trades. Scott was enrolled in the Auto Mechanics program, and I spent most of my school day in the Electronics program. It seemed backwards, I was the inner-city guy learning Electronics, and he was the suburbanite getting his hands dirty.
Anyway, we became good friends, and on occasion, we’d end up at his house, but he never wanted anybody inside. Weird, but whatever. His Dad seemed like a good guy, old-school, definitely a blue-collar guy, and I’m sure he worked hard to move his family out of wherever it was he grew up. I suppose I was a bit jealous, they lived in a much nicer area than I did.
After graduation, Scott and I stayed in touch, and got into all of the typical things recently-graduated guys get into. One day, he said he was moving out of his parents house and he wanted me to move in to his new place. The house was big enough for a family, and it would just be him living there.
‘Dude, how did you buy a house? You just got out of high school!’ I asked, and immediately felt I’d been left out of some secret shortcut to success. Scott worked as a counterman at an auto parts store, how could he buy a house with that kind of job?
‘My Grandma bought this place for me, it’s paid for, no mortgage. Just pay half the utilities dude..’ he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
I moved in and rarely saw him after a month or so. He was spending a lot of time at his girlfriend’s house and so I basically had an entire house to myself for about $140 a month. We’d hang out on the weekends a bit, and one day we were running around and stopped back at his parent’s house. He needed to pick up some tools from the garage.
He was rummaging around in the garage, and I sat in the passenger seat of his car, when his Dad drove up the driveway and stepped out. I talked with him a bit and said that Scott was picking up some tools.
‘Yeah, I’m just picking up a few things too.’ he said and motioned for me to follow.
They had a nice boat, I don't know anything about boats, but it was the kind you could sleep in, it was big. Scott’s Dad walked into the garage and called to his son, and they talked for a moment, before he turned and climbed up onto the boat on its trailer, and disappeared into the interior.
I looked back and saw that Scott was staring at me wide-eyed, and then he looked down at my feet, I looked down to see if maybe I was standing in something nasty, but no, there were a bunch of wrapped-up parcels though. Longer than magazines, but not as wide, and all of them were wrapped in what looked like black garbage bags with tape keeping the wrapping nice and uniform. There were maybe 5-6 of these on the garage floor, and they were lined up, neatly next to each other.
I looked back at Scott, and he hurried me out of the garage, and we said goodbye to his Dad, who was still inside the boat. And then drove off.
It was really quiet driving along and then Scott said 'They’re cats.’
I looked at him, and he was staring straight ahead as he drove.
‘Cats?’ my mind started to process everything, and I’d decided he was telling me that the little parcels on his parent’s garage floor had cats in them.
‘mmhmm’ he said, still not turning to face me (thanks Scott! That could have been weirder than it was!)
‘My Mom takes in strays, and they get sick, some die, so she puts them in the garage.’ his voice sounded like someone was sitting on his chest.
‘Why doesn’t she just call the animal shelter or something? They have to have trucks for picking up dead animals or whatever.’ I couldn’t make any sense of any of this. They lived in suburbia, and their lives were normal and figured out. The crazy stuff stayed in the city.
‘She’s got dozens more inside the house, it’s been like that for years.’ again, that squeezed voice.
I sat there looking at him, and couldn’t find anything to say, what could you say.?
'That's why I never bring anyone in the house, it’s horrible inside, it’s worse than you can imagine. It’s why my Grandma bought me a house, so I wouldn’t have to live there anymore, it’s why my Dad moved away too, it’s just my Mom in there, with her pack of stray cats.’
His Dad had said he was just there to pick some things up, but I didn’t catch on. He said his Grandma had bought him the house, and I didn’t wonder how someone could have so much extra money to just pay for a house outright, I’d never given much thought to why he never wanted anyone in his house, and now, it all made sense.
His Mother, for some (still) unknown reason, was keeping dead cats in her garage. All neatly wrapped in garbage bags and tape. She probably never once thought it might be a bit unusual.
Their entire family had broken apart because the husband couldn’t talk the wife into making changes, he somehow couldn’t explain to her that keeping dozens of strays in the house was a bad idea. I’d never been inside, but I imagined the worst kind of hoarder's house.
‘Mom, I can’t live here anymore, it’s a disaster area here.’ I’d imagined Scott saying.
‘Honey, we can’t live like this, we have to get rid of these cats, and get our house back, I can’t live like this.’
‘Okay, well see you two..’
I used to wonder about whatever happened to his Mom, and that house, years after I fell out of touch with Scott. I imagined that one day she probably just didn’t wake up. Cats aren’t good about wrapping dead humans in garbage bags and tape. I read that cats average about 2 days in a house with a dead person before they start feeding on the body.
Who knows, she might still be alive to this day, living in a small 1-bedroom apartment, with no pets to speak of. If she’s still around, I wonder if she ever asks herself if all of those cats were worth losing her family over.