Martina walked the golf course waiting for her father to arrive, like she did every morning. She was irritated at him for always being late. She was trying to help him damnit! It was this kind of irresponsibility that got him into this mess.
Her father was the mess. He was aging rapidly and his Alzheimer's was running the golf course into the ground. For the past several years he'd forgotten to pay the taxes. Just forgotton. That was why she was now attempting to get him out of debt. He'd staunchly refused to walk away from the business, however. She had degrees in marketing and hospitality, not to mention the fact that she'd grown up on this course. She knew all the regulars and they loved her.
When she was little, she loved coming to the course. She loved the feel of that grass on her bare feet. When she was really little, she used to get into trouble for taking her shirt off, like her brother did, and lying down and rolling on the ground, feeling the grass on her chest.
Now, a grown woman in her thirties, she hated coming in the morning. She hated the cold ankles that came with wearing tennis skirts and ankle socks before the sun was up. She hated that, even though she was on time, early morning golfers would arrive before her to tee off. She wanted to arrive, have a few calm moments to unlock doors, read her email, and collect herself with a cup of coffee before facing customers. More than anything, she hated that her father was never there for opening.
Her emotions were set before he'd arrive. She was angry. He would forget his sunglasses or a license or a tool he'd brought home that they really needed to do work on the grounds that day. And she'd be disdainful of his condition and the results. Downright pissed at the thing he'd forgotten and the necessary trip back to his apartment to get it. He'd be the object of her anger over a condition neither of them could do anything about.
This morning was no different.
It was chilly. She could see puffs of condensation sprawl when she exhaled. She was wearing a sweater, but a sweater and bare legs aren't enough. She stood next to the large storage building where they kept the carts and the riding lawn mowers and ladders and all other manner of equipment. She squatted down and rubbed her cold calves, wishing she'd gone in earlier to get a cup of coffee for the wait. Then she noticed the cat.
The thing was haggard. It had blood caked on its brown fur. It stunk of puss and putrefaction. It's pathetic-ness was directly matched, if not surpassed, by her compassion and the flood of caretaking she felt. She reached her hand out and kissed at it.
"Here, kitty. Here kitty, kitty. I'm not gonna hurt you. Come on over here." she cooed, kiss kiss.
It's nose met her fingertips and she saw that it was missing an eye and sections of it's face. Yet it purred when she pet the parts she dared to touch. She was afraid to pick it up. And afraid not to. She didn't want to get blood on her clothes or grow attached to this scraggly mass. She didn't want to deal with the three steps ahead her mind had already traveled. But she felt compelled to help it. Like, God herself had dropped this needy mess in her lap to fix. Like a small child whose been told by a stranger that of course he can have that piece of cake- that's what god was doing to her with this cat. She would have to help the thing.
She picked the thing up as gently as she could and carried it into the storage facility. There was a small office there with unclaimed lost and found items. She dug around in it and pulled out the softest items of clothing she could find. She made up a cardboard box for it and grabbed a thermal wrap from the gift shop to keep the thing warm. Then she started making contacts.
She emailed friends and friends of friends to see what to do about the cat that was surely dying. She would have called but it was only 6:15 am. In the process of caring for it, she saw that one large section of the cat's left forehead and ear were hanging in a flap. It made her stomach lurch, but she distracted her mind until it passed.
She left the cat and peaked to see if her dad was here yet. He wasn't. Idiot.
She compulsiving checked her email. She must've hit refresh a dozen times. Nothing. 6:31.
The truth was, this was a barncat, she reasoned. Which meant, you didn't grow attached to it. It was part of the scenery like the gravel in the parking lot or the pansies in hanging by the entrance. This barncat had been attacked by something. Maybe it had been another cat, or a coyote (though the coyote probably would have eaten the cat,) or maybe a racoon. There were often juicy trash bags a racoon would enjoy, left outside the kitchen. She really needed to talk to the kitchen staff about not leaving those bags out. They attract vermin. And a pest problem was the last thing they needed.
She'd come to help with the business a few months ago, after finding out that her father was facing jail time for failing to pay taxes for all those years. She'd pled the judge to consider her father's mental incapacitation from the Alzheimer's, but he was still considered competant. Apparently, all you need to be 'competent' is a pulse. So the judge had not allowed her to take over his business matters and help him unless he voluntarily gave it up to her. He was ultimately responsible for the back taxes. She would only be able to do whatever her father allowed her to do to help. She did some creative book keeping to get the courts some money to keep him out for now. For now.
Her father had never been especially organized or business savvy. But he'd managed to start the business from scratch and keep it for all these years, even so. Where was he anyway?
She thought about what to do about the cat. Her mind wandered over the possibilities. In her mind, a kindhearted veterinarian came to the course and offered to take a look. He cleaned the cat's wounds and gave Martina some ointment and some instructions. The cat got better and moved in with her. It was a devoted companion that lived with her until she was old.
But it was a barncat. And you don't get attached to such things. Plus, she had enough caretaking to do with her father and the golfcourse. She didn't need another thing to need her. The expense was no small thing to consider either. She certainly couldn't afford vet bills right now. Especially for a barncat that wasn't hers. Not really.
Still, she couldn't do nothing. It wasn't right to let the thing suffer. She remembered seeing her father hit a mouse over the head with a shovel when a barncat got ahold of it when she was a little girl. She'd cried and cried. Her mother had tried to explain about suffering then. Shovel to the head. That's what people sometimes did. It was more humane than leaving things to suffer. She shuddered, and disregarded the idea. She didn't have such a brutal, close act within her.
The cat would have to be put down though. It was suffering. And it trusted her to take care of its suffering. So her options were to incur a vet bill that she could not pay. Or to shoot it.
She thought about shooting it. Shooting it was fast. It was less close range than the shovel. It was quicker. With the shovel there was the possibility she would lack the fortitude for the requesite amount of force. There was no such risk with shooting. She'd only shot a gun once and had visibly startled every time a shot went off. But what other option did she have?
She knew where the gun was. She went to get it. 6:49.
She loaded bullets into the clip. Three. Just in case the first one was jammed and the second one wasn't enough. She knew she couldn't take it, if she had to reload. She felt terrible enough about the suffering the cat was going through as it was.
She stalled another fifteen minutes or so then went to the cat. She brought it some creamers she found in the mini fridge by the coffee maker. She brought the ultra-pasturized, round, white containers to the cat. An offering. The cat sniffed politely, and declined.
She stroked it. It. She was about to kill an it. She didn't know how to tell a male cat from female. She attempted to peek at its butt. She didn't know how to interpret what she saw. Somehow this made it worse. Why would the universe entrust the suffering of something to her if she couldn't even determine gender?
Tears began clouding her eyes as she gently stroked the cat where it was not injured and listened to it purr. Purrrrrrrrr. It looked up at her and she felt it's suffering, it's plea for help. She raised the gun.
"Tina?" Her dad called.
And her feelings thickened. Her father took the gun and told her to wait outside. He was her powerful dad again and she was just a scared, little girl.
She waited outside. Trying not to hear, she listened that much harder. She heard one shot and the tears poured from her.
He came out to where she was sitting on the ground without a care for her skirt or any other part of her appearance. He kissed the top of her head.
She suddenly desperately needed her dad. Needed him to be her dad forever in the way children who are sick or have had their feelings hurt need their parent. Her sadness about the cat mixed with the desperation of the situation with her father. With her need for her father, her anger evaporated. She was grateful now. For once, he'd gotten there right on time.