Covert Operation Calico by L. Lisa Lawrence

The story you are about to hear is true.

Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Since no one was actually innocent, I didn’t bother.

There are friends you call in the dark of the night, when you need someone to help move furniture. That was my friend Houston S Wimberly the Third.

There are friends you call in the dark of the night, when you need to move a body… Apparently, that would be me.

When Houston called late one night, distraught after finding his dear sweet kitty, Callie the Calico laying lifeless on the chair she had been napping on earlier that afternoon, I instructed him to wrap her up and put her in the freezer until we could come up with a plan. It wasn’t the most dignified thing to do, but it served two purposes. To put her and his guilt for carelessly throwing his jacket onto the chair she was on and not noticing her out of his sight, and to keep her body from starting to smell in the summer heat of his non air conditioned third floor apartment.

The next day, when we were both rested and had time to think, we discussed ideas for her final resting place. Both of us being artists, meant that those ideas were going to be… uh… creative.

OK, some of them were flat out weird. Initially, he wanted to try to bury her in Wright Park, a one hundred year old arboretum in the heart of the city. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been a great place. Guarded by two goddesses to the North and two lions to the South, the park is home to an amazing collection of trees and flowers, a beautiful conservatory, our winter sledding hill and a then headless statue in the pond we liked to refer to as “The Lady of the Lake”.

There was no place in Tacoma quite as cool as Wright Park. Of course, that location was not without challenges. During the day, crowds were there enjoying the paths, playground and the slimy wading pool. In addition to the human crowds, were the “Urban Commando Squirrels From Hell”, cheeky, fearless little creatures that looked cute, but were in all actuality, a highly organized crime ring. Roaming the park in packs, they would strategically place themselves in the middle of the trails to stop walkers and stare them down with an unspoken, yet very clearly delivered, “Gimme’ yer nuts and no-one gets hurt”.

At night, a different, more nefarious crowd took over the park, lurking in the shadows of the dark central area out of sight of the surrounding streets and neighborhood. It was not a place you went at night to commit a low level criminal act. This was no place for amateurs.

Once I convinced him of the impossibility of getting away with burying a dead frozen cat in one of the highest traffic areas in the city (never mind us here with the shovels, we’re not doing anything creepy at all), we came up with a more fitting location for Callie’s last resting place. It was still a bit risky, because there had to be laws about where one can bury a dead cat.

I was willing to bend a few rules neither of us were clear on in order to help a friend honor the life and passing of his beloved fur child. It certainly wasn’t going to harm anyone, so we came up with another location in the area of a nameless park, with a nameless zoo, next to a nameless body of water. It was perfect

Neither one of our employers would have looked kindly on us if we had been arrested while sneaking around with a shovel and a body, so we had to make sure we pulled this off undetected.

And so, with the help of a third co-conspirator, “Covert Operation Calico” was born.

When I go covert, I go covert, and planned down to the last detail, including what to do and say in every possible worst case scenario. Callie was getting a respectful and sacred burial.

The more serious I got about pulling this off, the more hilarious my friends thought my stories and planning were and the goofier they got.

I had advised them that since this was a covert operation, that we would need collapsible shovels or spades that could be concealed our day packs, and at least one pack large enough for kitty, who needed to be wrapped up so as not to draw attention to the fact that we were hauling around a dead frozen cat.

I had several stories ready to give the authorities in the event that we were stopped or questioned. The first story would be that we were out hunting for (out of season) Chantrelle mushrooms or geocaching. The stories would become more elaborate as we got further into the operation.

We parked far enough away from the crowds that we could get the cat out of the box and into the pack. This is when the first logistical challenge made itself known. In his grieving state, Houston hadn’t wrapped Callie up in a towel or t-shirt to put her in the freezer, he had wrapped her in a very thick bathroom rug which was now frozen to her stiff body. He must have had one big freezer.

We decided against taking the heavily used wooded trail, and instead chose to take the shoreline from an unnamed beach to an area that is difficult to get to and not heavily traveled, especially when it is raining, the tide is rising and the sun is going down.

The cat would not fit in the backpack due to the large rug she was wrapped in and the odd angles her stiff legs jutted out of said rug. Seriously, how did all of this fit in his freezer?

We walked down the beach as casually as we could, I with a frozen dead cat hanging out of my day pack, with Houston walking behind me making sure that the body didn’t fall out pretending that we were going out for a picnic. Morgain had her bright orange backpacking “poop trowel” in the side of her back, like a beacon saying, “Hey look at us!” At that point, our cover story changed to, we were going out for a sunset picnic which we over packed for, and Morgain has to poop a lot.

We were like three naughty kids out on an unapproved adventure giggling at the absurdity of it all.  Of course, we started laughing hysterically which did not help us avoid drawing attention to our allegedly covert activities.

Things got complicated when we reached our destination. Some local teenagers had chosen the same isolated area to smoke pot. They didn’t want to light up in front of the old folks who could be narcs, and we didn’t want to bury a body (even if it was feline) in front of any witnesses; so both groups stood there staring at each other, reminiscent of a scene from “The Good The Bad And The Ugly”.

We didn’t have time for this foolishness; the sun was going down and the tide was coming in. We had no intention of needing rescue and being on the evening news.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the kids, apparently disgusted by the turn of events wandered off down the beach and we were able to explore our options away from their prying, judging, bloodshot eyes.

I had a story prepared if we were caught with the dead cat at this stage of the operation, but it was a good one, and I’m going to save it, in case I ever need to use it again.

After searching up and down the beach and bluff, we decided on what we could only describe as a “natural cathedral” overlooking the water. The digging wasn’t easy considering the tools we brought had to fit in our day packs and Morgain’s bright plastic poop trowel certainly wasn’t designed to chip away at clay. We managed to dig a proper sized hole and release the now partially thawed Callie from her blanket.

The three of us solemnly laid Houstons’ beloved fur child to rest in her cathedral with the beautiful view of the setting sun, sang “Amazing Grace” (despite the fact that we were all certified heathens) and spoke a blessing. We then sat their in silence contemplating life, death and friendship until the incoming tide began lapping at our feet.

As we began the long trek back to the parking area, we commented on what a beautiful little ceremony it was and that anyone, human or fur child would be lucky to have one like it.

Rest in Peace Callie.

*Lisa is an award winning writer whose work is featured in every issue of South Sound Magazine.  She also contributed three sections to the South Sound User Guide and her work has appeared in many international publications. Her work encompasses: technical, spiritual, political, garden, home, cooking, urban farming, sustainability, inspirational, humor and travel writing as well as web page authoring, social media and blogging. See more of her work at wildcelticrose.net*