Alan Ott


Cute Bunny


Enjoying a lofty afternoon in Watsonville, fresh from the move back from Santa Barbara. It was a welcoming relief to be in the old haunts of Santa Cruz County. I was to be a house caretaker for two weeks while the cat's dad was away. Main duties were to keep the house from burning down and the cat loved and fed. Having previously co-parented this curiously crafty ankle biting tabby feline it was a pleasure to look after the come and go devil- may- care animal. In spirit he was much greater than the confines of the villa. The great outdoors were as much his access as the bathroom window open. The open window was Mudge's escape, his privilege to follow his cat instincts.

By the third day of being back, things were pretty routine. Through the day I would be away at my old job in the machine shop. Mudge was assuredly resting on and off during my workday. His routine was mixed with fight or flight, hunting, soaking up the suns' rays or bringing in treasures intertwined with eating his food. Paying bills, working, shopping, getting stuck in traffic was not part of Mudge's schedule. No - he was part of the divine order, which implicitly states that cats are exempt from the dull routine relegated to humans. One late afternoon I arrive home. Mudge nowhere to be seen. I knew he would be in for a quick survey of any new developments that may interest him. Perhaps I would leave an open can of tuna out - forgotten. Or maybe a catnip toy would do. Mudge arrives. There is nothing unusual today save for the peculiar odor of something fermenting. Funny that, I don't recall fermenting anything. In the country, there could be a host of smells. For then I would make no connection between odors and cat instincts. Only for now the house had lingering stinks within it. (Len will get this)

Each day would go by and after a full day of work it would be time to go out into the foray of greater Santa Cruz and socialize with friends. Perhaps a quick beer or two could be forced down. Coming back to the house late would have me only think of the pillow. Content and relaxed I plopped into bed. Residues left over from primitive man and beast simply was not a concern. Someday that lingering odor must be dealt with. With good luck it may even leave and join the upper stratosphere. Perhaps there was flat denial of the fact that there could possibly be something rotting away inside the main room. Didn't really notice anything obvious. Besides, cats always leave their gifts in to be readily noticed. Hmm. Well, it was entirely too late in the night to deal with that foulness.

This process went on for two more days. Late night returns with a definite lack of interest in sources of strong odors. Tonight it was really building up to a fine level. Temperatures during the day were in the optimistic range. Late summers in Santa Cruz County can get hot. Buzzards circle around for the sweet aroma of rotting corpse. Grasses dried give up their usual green and wheeze in the dry wind. Rabbits hide away from predators in the dry grass. They never know when a hawk or mountain lion is going to consume them.

Saturday morning; It was time to pull together and start this new day after a particularly tough night. After a mug of Len's coffee, (coffee with a trace of water and half-and-half) I decided to end the procrastination. The foul rich odor was in fact lingering. The source boiling with pungency that interfered with local radio operations. My nose was at its maximum olfactory intake capacity. Waves of horror ran chills through the imagination, yet it was simply a rotting smell. How bad can that be? The rich odor seemed to be pulled beneath the spare bed. Funny that, there was no corpse in the bed. How about under the bed? Well, hard to tell. There was quite an assortment of exquisitely wrinkled wrappers. Twisted and forgotten papers, receipts, plastic coffee lid, old socks. Certainly these are everyday inorganic objects. How is it that they marry with the finite smell of days past?

A partial cleanup did away with the first layer. On the floor laid quite a surprise. Framed by nearby crumpled paper and a forgotten pack, was a deceased rabbit. "How did that happen?" one could ask. The author of that special prize carefully obtained fleshy tidbits, a series of prime bite size morsels. Mudge had done his job well. He was known as a generous cat. There was plenty of flesh left in the dried decomposing form that 900 neighboring maggots had found the ex rabbit to be a delightful treat. Their task of eating the gift rabbit was quite a busy scene. This initial shock was shortly followed by a few choice words very shortly followed by a gag reflex. Armed with a broom it was time to launch with major efficiency the sweeping of said guts and maggots quickly into the dustpan. A few maggots were left behind in the first iteration, but they were asked to remain still until I came back. They did and quickly they joined the first roundup. Intensity of such an odor could have only been properly cured by oblique procrastination. Mudge had left a lovely gift. If only he could have left it on the doorstep. A skilled hunter he was. With the great rural landscape to have a well- rounded menu to choose from, Mudge would never be short of some recreational killings. A set of fine points and teeth coupled with an instinct of his early predecessors, Mudge would never be short of good clean fun.

Mudge's dad of course was hundreds of miles away. There may have been a slight discomfort in the air, but I have heard no reports of foul air.