29. God damn the man

Jesse moved like an automaton.  Morag had warned them about having gear for the job, and so he had thick gloves and a face mask, which would prevent the larger chunks of torn-off fur and caked dirt, faeces and urine from getting into his nose. His clothes, which he would not wear again — since he would throw them into the trash bins in the back walkway and traipse into his apartment naked before he ever brought them inside, and to hell with the landlady — were covered in dark green one-use coveralls with a hood, and he had waterproof booties, because Morag said they’d need them as well.

Jesse and Michel started the process of moving the dogs. They had put down tarps in the back of the truck at Morag’s insistence to keep the worst of the crap out of it. Michel started staging the largest of the animal carriers at the kennel entrance, carrying eight at a time, balancing them all like a waiter. 

Through a combination of craigslist ads, personal contacts and a couple of very helpful veterinary techs at the closest clinic to his apartment, George had lined up 40 animal carriers.

George and Morag walked over to the house.

George unlocked the front door of the house by pretending to use a bump key and Morag said, blankly, as the door had to be forced by the corpses of five cats, “I’ll cry later.”

“These two are alive, but their kidneys are shot and they’ll have to be euthanized,” George said, finding signs of life further down the hallway.  There were ten more dead cats by the back door.

They found seven live cats in the house and lost count of the dead ones.

“We didn’t need all those carriers after all,” George said. “There are only four here that are likely to recover.  Do you want me to euthanize the ones that won’t make it? The idea of moving them so they can die in relative comfort somewhere else has no appeal.”

Morag’s face crumpled.  Then, thinking of the suffering George meant to end, she said, “Okay, but I can’t watch.” In a stronger voice she added, “I’m taking these four and then getting some air, if there is any in this hellhole. God damn the man!”

George moved through the house and wrung the necks of all the dying cats.

Jesse, who was weeping behind his safety glasses, helped Michel put one stinking, almost lifeless dog after another into carriers.

Only two dozen of the cats and dogs had survived.  One of the horses had been forced into a tight one-legged hobble, and the wound it had caused had gone septic. The other horse and the pony, although they were merely matted coats over sacks of bones, looked more or less fit to travel. The only animal that didn’t seem to be on the point of death was the pig, and Jesse was too sickened to give much thought as to why that might be.

“Georgios,” Michel called as he emerged.

“Coming,” George said.

He saw the horse and sighed.

“I’m afraid I might make it suffer,” Michel said.

“What?” Jesse said in disbelief. “Can’t we save it?” He was still in the comfortable universe of calling a vet when you had a problem with a farm animal.

“I can’t believe the horse is still alive,” Michel said. You could hear its ragged, noisy breathing.

“Jesse,” George said, “The horse has a systemic infection. If we walk away it will be dead in hours anyway; if we transport it we’ll be making it suffer out of guilt and not out of a compassionate understanding of its true condition.” He gestured. “Some room, please; he’s going to fall over.  I’m going to stop his heart.”

George put his hand on the horse’s chest. The horse collapsed, stone dead.

“What did you do?” Jesse said, hardly breathing.

“What I said I’d do,” George said, without much emphasis. Looking at Michel, he said, “Are there any dogs too sick to be moved?”

Michel said, “Not anymore.”

“What?” Jesse whispered.

“Look a little green, kid. Are you gonna be okay to drive?” Michel said. “Don’t have a license but I don’t let that stop me.”

“You drive?”

“Sure, I’m not proud like George here.”

“You’re too proud to drive?” Jesse said asked George in disbelief.

“I’m not responsible for the constructions people put on my behaviour, only for my behaviour,” George said. “But if you will forgive my lapse, I know exactly how I’d behave if the owner of this property were to appear in front of me right now.”

“Me too,” said Jesse.

“Me three,” said Michel. “Mama told me not to kill humans but for him I’d make a very exceptional exception. Let’s get the fuck out of here.” He led the remaining horse and pony out of the barn and up the ramp into the truck. Both beasts promptly lay down. “I’ll stay in the trailer with them,” Morag said, rejoining them. “My headlamp died, can I borrow yours?”

“Sure,” Jesse said, handing it over.  “I’m never going to want to look at anything again anyway.”

“Well, I hope you look at the road, going home,” George said, in that strangely toneless voice.

“If we are leaving, where are we going?” Jesse said.

“Fort Langley. I’ll text George the address.”

“And they’re expecting us at three in the morning?” Jesse confirmed.

“Yes. After that it’s only two more stops, though, since we didn’t get the number of animals we were expecting,” Morag said, “One in PoCo and the other in New West.”

The horse and pony rallied enough to get up and slowly come down the ramp. Morag’s riding buddy Deb burst into tears and put her hand over her mouth when she saw them. “Do they have names?” she gulped.

“Marta and JoJo.”

“I’ll call you, we gotta haul ass,” Morag said. They hugged and Morag got back in the truck.

“The vet’s coming in the morning,” Deb called. “He’s gonna want to know where they came from.”

“That part’s easy,” Michel said. “Some crazy animal rescue type did it, you have no idea who.”

Jesse, unable to help himself, handed over his earnings to Deb. “You’re going to need it for vet bills.”

The drop off in PoCo was for the dogs; New West was for the cats.

It was just dawn when they turned in the truck. To Jesse’s astonishment, George said, apparently to him, “Why don’t you crash on the couch?”

Michel said, “And in the morning I go to Kima?”

“You can go now, if you feel like swimming,” George said.

None of this made sense to Jesse. “I can stay at your place?”


“Bet there’s no toilet paper. Or soap,” Michel said.  “Humans like toilet paper, they’re actually very fond of it, temporarily anyway.”

George checked. “Yes. We’ll be walking by a 24 hour grocery, so we can get a few things.”

“You’ll have to forgive me for how spartan my apartment is,” George said. Michel said something, probably in Greek, and George said, “There’s a balcony.  I know you don’t sleep indoors.”