Once I finished reliving Baraka and my conscious self returned to the real world, I found myself diving right into an anger-induced comma in the middle of the road. Images of my dad’s happiness and a couple screenshots from the first movie I’ve ever hated in my entire life filled my dizzy brain. The resentment was slowly shutting down every active brain cell. But, just before I lost both my sanity and my consciousness, a sheet of paper carried by the wind trail left behind by the orange van bitch-slapped me in the face. I snapped out of it immediately after the blow. Given my current state, I found myself unable to feel anything but gratitude towards the thing that had just interrupted my silent breakdown. So, as a token of my appreciation, I decided to read it. Any piece of text that makes me momentarily forget something like Baraka even exists deserves to be read.
I noticed there were several phrase written all over the paper, like the words “LOST CAT” or “We call him Thriller but he never responds”, but I found it extremely difficult to give half a damn. Not because I’m a heartless human being but because the image that covered about 70% of the flyer itself was breathtakingly superb and demanded my whole attention: a black and white picture of a cat wearing a pair of cardboard glasses and a bowtie while in the middle of making a Thriller move. It was, in a word, awesome. So much so, that I was about to have it framed so I could look it up every day of the rest of my life. Unfortunately, that plan had to be momentarily scraped due to the fact that I did know the animal portrayed was. Only instead of dancing its butt off to Michael Jackson’s tunes, it laid frozen, wearing a poor-quality garden gnome costume, right there in my front lawn.
Gradually, the urge of returning my feline garden protector to its rightful owner took over me. Not because I was willing to sacrifice my own fleeting happiness for anyone else’s, but because the phrase “REWARD OFFERED: $200” shone despite its comic sans-ness. For weeks now Mr. Sandberg had been nagging me about paying him, at least, two of the fourteen months of rent I owed him, and the probabilities of me finding any job at all during the following two months were less than zero. As such, cashing in on this lost pet reward seemed to be the only solution to my economical woes so far. It had to be a sign from the man upstairs.
The address mentioned on the flyer was not two streets down the road, giving me the chance of actually earning two hundred bucks in less than fifteen minutes. After carefully folding the piece of paper and stashing it inside my mailbox, I waved hello to the crazy guy that walks a stuffed green ferret every morning, grabbed the frozen cat off of my garden and was on my way. I suppose having a huge smile on my face was as rare thing to behold back then as it is now, because every single member of the town’s “official unemployed job hunters society” out on the street looked at me as if my head had turned into a completely functional beehive. Even Phil, one of our oldest members, asked me if I was okay before boarding our official job hunting bus. “Benner netter”, I said.
I kept on walking, imagining how much would four hundred fifty cent coins weigh in my pocket. Every step rendered me even happier, picturing me finally eating food that did not taste like cheap plastic. But, two houses before I reached the end of my financial journey, I had to stop mid-step. Something was very wrong, and both my heart and my brain knew so. I suddenly realized the awfulness of what I was about to do and I couldn’t go on. Holding the costumed cat popsicle under my arm, ready to exchange it for money, made me feel like a guy selling frozen corpse of a child to her mother. Even the vaguely skew-eyed look of the feline gnome considered me an insensitive bastard. And it was right. It would be morally reprehensive to charge any money for the cat I was carrying. The correct thing to do was to first thaw it out so that, at least, it looked like it was alive.
Back home, the first thing I did was to stuff the poor cat into the microwave oven. 99 seconds would do the trick. However, prior to starting the procedure, I remembered the gruesome fate my pet chicken had suffered when my four-year-old self tried to warm her up one winter. My second alternative was to defrost it out with the help of a blow-dryer. This turned out to be impossible, given the fact that I have never owned any blow-dryers. Sticking it out outside, waiting for the sun to thaw its ice coating would take too long, as well as being a potential danger to my business operation if anyone with a real heart noticed the presumably dead cat. The only option I thought was left was the cheapest and most natural I had at hand: using my body temperature.
It was approximately 9:00 A.M. and I was about to jump back to bed for business reasons. I seized my best blankets from the floor, grabbed one of the many books I’ve been putting off, tucked the cat popsicle in, and cuddled up with it, patiently waiting for my body heat to deice my future paycheck.