Thomas Wictor

Who must do the hard things?

Who must do the hard things?

I can’t remember where I read the adage, “Who must do the hard things? He who can.” I admired the “he” in the saying, because I could never do hard things. I was a lost, scared, self-loathing teenager when I read that, and I figured that was was.

As the singer David Crosby said, “I started life as a fat kid, and things never got much better.”

It’s hard enough, I know
To find the strength to go
Back to where it all began
It’s hard enough to gain
Any traction in the rain
You know it’s hard for me to understand

Hard to find a way
To get through another city day
Without thinking about
Getting out

I tried to get out once. Suicide by long-distance driving. I drove from Amherst, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles—a distance of 2916 miles (4693 km) in about seventy hours. I stopped only to refill the gas tank. By the time I arrived in Los Angeles, everything was two dimensional. It looked like I was in a diving simulator, with one screen in front and one on either side.

This deeply silly suicide attempt was the result of learning that someone I deeply loved was doomed to hell because of the sickening choices she’d made in her life, and it was too much for me. I lost interest in living and decided to see what would happen if I just drove nonstop.

I’ll never do anything like that again, because without me knowing it, I’ve become the “he” who must do the hard things. It’s true that great loss can destroy you. But if you survive it rather than let it kill you, you’re forged into something much harder than steel.

In July a cat abandoned two kittens in my brother’s back yard.


They were utterly feral, so we couldn’t catch them. Every shelter in Los Angeles is overrun with cats because our undocumented citizens insist on following their age-old custom of not neutering or spaying. There are maybe thirty cats on my street alone.

So I decided to feed these two until they got old enough to fend for themselves.

I thought they were both females; I named the white-and-ginger one Barbra and the black-and-white one Liza. Well, they both grew little scrotums, so they’re males. Barbara became Brother, and Liza became Lyle.

They’re psychos. A few months back they began attacking me when I fed them in their yard, so I said, “Fine. To hell with you.” We figured they’d move on, but they didn’t. It was the height of summer, and they just sat there, starving and dehydrating. I therefore began feeding the bastards again.

Eventually I got them to eat in my house, but feral cats use food for dominance. Lyle turned into a tank, and Brother is a shrinking violet, so whenever Lyle made a move toward brother’s food, Brother would become too upset to eat for the rest of the day.

Now I had to become the food police, keeping Lyle the Tank form his brother’s food without letting Brother know it was happening. It was almost impossible.

Since Lyle is such a pig, he goes into raptures of greed when it’s dinner time. He runs between my legs and trips me, or he hugs my calk and bites it. He and his brother are gigantic now, and they’re only six months old.


Lyle has a tiny head, but he’s fascinated by water and machinery, so there’s a lot going on upstairs. His paws are twice the size they should be.

Though Brother is timid, he tries really hard to be brave.


Neither cat lets me touch him; Lyle always has burrs in his tail, which I can’t brush out. Brother now lets me get within a foot of him, though he trembles visibly as he tries to control his fear.

The plan was to lure them both into cat carriers, take them to the vet, check them for feline leukemia, and have them neutered.

And then came Man-Bear-Pig-Cat.

I don’t have pictures of him, but he’s a ratty giant with a head the size of a melon. He’s deformed, and he attacks Lyle and Brother at every opportunity. They’re impaired and young, so they can’t defend themselves. The last time I was ready to take them to the vet, Brother showed up limping. He had a huge wound on his left hind leg. I thought that was the end, because he wouldn’t eat or let me approach him.

Within three days he was back to normal. I’ve never seen anything like it.

So yesterday I was going to trap them, but then Lyle showed up limping, his left hind leg held up against his body. Man-Bear-Pig-Cat bites them when they’re running away.

Lyle wouldn’t eat or let me near him. I spent the entire day going outside when I heard terrified cat screams, and there would be Lyle sitting helpless on the ground, his timid brother tying to defend him against Man-Bear-Pig-Cat, who was intent on finishing off his injured target. I’d chase the monster away, but then Lyle would go under the car.

Tim spent two hours sitting in the driveway, guarding Lyle with his ultrasonic siren. Personally, I wanted to use a sledgehammer on Man-Bear-Pig-Cat’s melon.

After dark, I sat by the car and coaxed for half an hour until Lyle came out. He followed me into my driveway—hopping on three legs—and then lay down. He was a sitting duck for Man-Bear-Pig-Cat. Twenty minutes of begging did nothing. Brother seemed to be begging with me, but Lyle just lay there, looking away. So I resigned myself to a long, long night of cat-sitting.

I went to my back door and opened it, and zoop! Lyle ran past me, inside. He was just being perverse, the way he always is. But he was inside, away from Man-Bear-Pig-Cat. Lyle spent the night sleeping, while I ran to the bathroom with my guts boiling as I tried to figure out how I was going to catch him. In the morning I tried luring him with ham, water, toys—nothing worked. He figured out what I was trying to do and hid way back in the room full of stuff from Tim’s house. As I said, he’s a pinhead, but he’s smart.

After a couple of hours, I put on a pair of heavy leather gloves and tried to touch him. The third attempt resulted in him lurching to his feet, ready to fight.

Finally when he came out from under the desk, I put a clear plastic tub over him.


I called Tim, who gently slid the lid under panicking, moaning Lyle. We slowly turned the tub upright and took Lyle to the pet hospital.

He had surgery on his foot and got neutered. They’ll tell me tomorrow if he has feline leukemia or not. At any rate, he’s now going to be an inside cat. We’ll try to find a home for him and his brother, no matter how far we have to drive. If nobody wants them, we’ll keep them. They’ll have each other and a huge house to run around inside, with nothing endangering them. And toys! They’ll get a lot of toys. I think they’ll adapt.

Tomorrow I capture Brother and take him to the vet to be checked and neutered.

We bought a cat trap. Our new policy is to trap every cat that comes on our properties and take them to the pound, where they’ll be sent to cat heaven. All the cats in the neighborhood are feral and savage, so I have no qualms about ethnically cleansing them.

Did I ask for any of this? No. But those of us who can do the hard things have a responsibility to act. As I wrote this, I heard bloodcurdling shrieks from outside, as Man-Bear-Pig-Cat tore the hell out of someone. I went and looked but found nothing. Am I one day too late to save Brother? I won’t know until tomorrow.

But when Lyle and hopefully Brother are inside their fortress, I’m going hunting.

This is Brother and Lyle’s mother.


She’s the feline version of this.


Brother and Lyle’s mother abandoned them when they were babies, forcing me to choose between ignoring them, killing them, or trying to help them. After I spent months patiently teaching them instead of punting them across the street, it looked like they had a chance of being socialized. The mother then showed up with a new litter and began attacking Brother and Lyle. They lost all their gains. She still has power over them, since they know she’s their mother. She’s a violent slattern; under her influence they began biting me, and I could no longer feed them inside my house.

She’ll be the first cat I send to its great reward.

I hate cruelty. Hate it more than anything. It’s the only thing capable of making me into a savage myself. I take no pleasure in what I’m about to do to every cat in the neighborhood, but they’re beyond help. They’re destroying everything, hurting two cats who don’t deserve it, and emptying their bowels and bladders all over my yard, house, and car. Now they can only be stopped.

So that’s what I’ll do.

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