Thomas Wictor

Catastrophe: Why I hate my neighbors

Catastrophe: Why I hate my neighbors

If you read my memoir Ghosts and Ballyhoo, you’ll learn about Syd the Second. I’m absolutely convinced that he was the reincarnation of Syd the First. The reason I call Syd the Second the Cat Who Saved My Life is that he set a magnificent example of how to overcome trauma. Though a maniacally untrustworthy and violent feral when he came to us, he tamed himself out of his desire to be a good cat. His self-salvation makes the catastrophe that my neighbors have inflicted on me even more depressing.

First, Syd the Second.


He looked and acted exactly like Syd the First, and though he loathed all other humans, he showed no fear of Tim, my mother, or me. It took him eight months to tame himself. He had hissing, kicking, screeching nightmares, so his life was very bad before he showed up here. Everything scared him: toys, throw rugs, hoses, fireworks, cars, street sweepers… Whenever he’d see me, his first reaction was to open his eyes as wide as they’d go, as though he were about to run, and then he’d relax.

His breathy meow was the same as Syd the First’s, he had the same giant fangs, and he liked it when you sang to him as he ate. He also walked right into our house without hesitation the first time we opened the door for him. Ferals don’t do that. We had him exactly one year to the day—August 22, 2010 to August 22, 2011.

Syd the Second first appeared as a kitten. Nobody in my city spays or neuters their cats. What they do instead is drive the litter miles away and abandon it, just like the garbage they leave behind our house.


I learned over the past year that there’s no such thing as obliviousness. People are completely aware of the cruelty they inflict. They just don’t care. The whole notion of the unsocialized, boorish, crude, rude, self-centered, but essentially goodhearted bear of a person is a crock. Everyone knows exactly the consequences of their actions. They’re indifferent to them. This is why I now don’t cut anybody any slack whatsoever. “Harsh”? You bet.

A feral cat recently gave birth to three kittens in Tim’s back yard. The mother was skinny and ratty, almost mummified looking. My choices were to ignore the cats, to catch them and take them to the pound to be gassed, or to feed them. I’ve taken animals to the pound to be killed; after 2013—a year in which I danced with death every single day—I can’t do it anymore. So I put out food and water bowls.


The cats ate and drank. One kitten disappeared early, but the two survivors live in the back yard. When we had Syd the Second, we hated the idea of him having to jump the six-foot board fence every time he wanted to come in and out of the back yard.


We haven’t painted it because the house has to be demolished due to flood damage caused by the autistic Basque neighbor next door. When his kids were little, we’d hear him vomiting at two in the morning because he’d been drinking beer since he got off work. It sounded like someone having his toes smashed with a hammer: “EEEEEEOOOOOOOAAAAAAAA!”

It scared the kids. “What’s wrong with Daddy?” they’d wail to their mother.

“Daddy’s pukin’,” the mother would burble, as if she couldn’t be prouder.

So to keep Syd the Second from having to leap like Supercat over the fence, we cut a cabbit hole at the base.


After Syd died we bricked it up, but the mother feral got in anyway. I didn’t want to unbrick it. One day, however, I saw her making the six foot jump holding a kitten by the scruff of the neck, so I opened up the cabbit hole. And what I feared would happen has indeed happened.

Every feral or outside cat in the city comes to this back yard now, because we’re the only residents who don’t own dogs. The spherical bipeds next door to Tim have a human-goat-dog that sounds exactly like the loveable Cody.

I used to wonder how people could stand noises like that, but then I figured it out. Having such a dog makes it impossible for you to think. People hate thinking, because they’ve made so many bad decisions that their lives are disasters. Noise blocks out the voice crooning, “Loser. Loser. Loser.”

Now Tim’s back yard is the biggest cat toilet in the city. Every square inch has been crapped in.


There’s so much cat manure that the yard is like a feces museum. The smell is unbearable, and we had to put down boards and make a shit-walk to keep our shoes clean.


You can see the little paw-scrapes in the dirt next to the boards. All those mounds are cat droppings.

And the other thing I knew would happen has happened. The feral mother cat is in heat again, wandering around, going, “Goblabluh-bl-blow? Gobleeah-bl-bluh-blow?” There are at least three tomcats with giant nutsacks trying to nail her. She’ll be knocked up again by next week. In the meantime my entire property stinks of tomcat urine. Cats that haven’t been neutered or fixed are like Germans, obsessed with toilet issues.

I don’t know what I’m going to do. We can’t have a cat factory in Tim’s back yard, so tomorrow I’ll see if there are any feral-cat rescue groups that can come take everybody away. Here are the two kittens. They’re too skittish to approach closer than ten feet, and I’m sure they have feline leukemia.


Maybe I got a message of support. Yesterday in the late afternoon, I heard a cat that sounded exactly like Syd the Second. Opening the front blinds, I saw this on my front porch.


To keep from scaring it, I went out the back door and around to the front, where I took two photos.


And another.


Cats’ eyes don’t usually glow in the daytime. My father was afraid of Syd because of his eyes. “That cat looks evil,” he’d say. “His eyes are like flames.”

Here’s a closeup of the first image. Nothing strange about it, except for the glowing eye.


The camera shutter closed when I pressed the button for the second image, and when it opened, the cat was gone. Here’s a closeup of the second photo.


Obviously it isn’t clear enough to make out, but to me it appears that the cat’s hindquarters are turning to smoke. Or dematerializing. In fact the entire cat-body seems to be going transparent around the edges. Compare it to the black handrails and mailbox.

Syd, if that was you, thanks. But please-please-please don’t come back for good until Tim and I are settled in Texas, okay?

That’s a good puss-puss.

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