Notes From Tha Cove – Curiosity Didn’t Kill This Cat
By Bill Boyles
So I’m just going to warn you from the start, a cat dies in this one. And it’s not pretty. So if that’s going to bother you, please stop reading. I didn’t kill the cat, there was nothing I could have done, and the mores about animals are different in Samoa. I don’t want to hear it, so don’t waste your time emailing me or whatever. So I can’t really date this one, but it if you put my feet to the fire I would guess late in 1998, maybe early in 1999. It was after they gave us the new uniforms, I can remember that. I was living on Sinalele Beach. My family had taken in this little kitten. It was very very young. It came from the village above the beach, but it had wandered down either because it was an orphan or because it had been driven off by its family. It only had three legs, you see. One back leg was totally mangled below its knee, and it ended in a stump. I have no idea how that happened, but I will say that both the staff and the villagers often found it funny to throw puppies, cats, and kittens off the cliff. Why, I do not know. But that is one way the cat could have ended up down on the beach. Anyway, whatever reason the cat was down on the beach, it was, and my family had taken it in as a sort of pet or mascot. We would all chip in a little of our meals for it. We pet it and loved it. We named it “Tripod”, for obvious reasons. I don’t know how long we had him, but it was definitely long enough for us to get attached. I’m not really a cat person, but he was so little and so cute, and I do love animals in general. He wormed his way right into my heart, cold as Paradise Cove had turned it, and I think the rest of my family was the same way. There was just one little problem. We weren’t supposed to make the cats and dogs into pets, and we definitely weren’t supposed to have Tripod at all. And if we got caught, bad things were likely to happen to us. So we kept him a secret as best we could, and we were aided and abetted in our little conspiracy by certain staff members who were kinder, and more lenient and understanding than others. All too soon, however, our secret was revealed. Word came down from above: Tripod had to go. We were fine with it when it was told to us. He was a nice little cat, kitten really, and we wished him well. But then it was explained to us that Tripod had to die. We were close to refusing. The staff pointed out his missing leg, which was looking kind of gnarly and not healing well. We still balked. Finally, we were told flat out we had to do it, or else. Or else in Paradise Cove was never something you wanted, never something you played games with. It sucked for us, and it sucked worst for Tripod, but he was going to have to die and apparently we had to do it. We discussed different ideas for killing him, in order to make it quick and painless. Someone suggested bashing his head in with a big crock, crushing his skull. Someone suggested wringing his neck like a chicken. They weren’t going to give us a knife, so cutting his throat was out. We went on and on. Eventually, we decided that drowning him was best. We decided to tie him up inside a plastic trash bag with several large rocks and throw him in the ocean. He started to freak out when we put him in the bag. We threw the bag into the water and it sank, but after a moment he popped back up, swimming furiously. We realized he had clawed through the trash bag. We didn’t know what to do. Finally we decided to do the same thing again, but use a heavier and much more durable empty rice bag. So someone waded out and got him, but him into the new bag with the rocks, tied it up, and sank it. But again little Tripod popped back up. The will to live was incredibly strong in this little kitten. I was dying. I seriously wanted to cry, but of course that would have been a huge mistake. At this point we were totally stymied as how to do this. Some of the staff and kids began throwing rocks, trying to hit him, but they missed and he just kept paddling around. It was really getting ridiculous. The staff started to get pretty pissed and started yelling at us to kill him. We didn’t know how. Things were getting pretty tense. Then one guy from my family figured out how to do it. He waded out into the water, grabbed little Tripod, and held him underwater by the tail until he died. It was pretty sad, but mostly I grateful I wasn’t the one who had to go do it. I think that would haunt me badly. Just being a small part of this whole crazy story haunts me. But it was him or us, and in Paradise Cove that was never a question, just like it would never have been a question for little Tripod. That’s the story of killing the cat, and this was Notes From Tha Cove.