Friday, January 6, 2012

A Shock For The Neighborhood

Day 284: Monday, December 19, 2011

A friend from out of town came over around 12:00 A.M. We slept in the living room. Willy was with us on the sofa bed, but eventually we kicked her out to make love. I woke up sometime later to go to the bathroom and then went back to bed, leaving the door ajar. Because it was warm, Willy soon joined us again and was purring like crazy. Eventually we made love again regardless that Willy was there, but she quickly got annoyed and, this time, left herself.

When I got up again, it was around 11:00; and while I was making pancakes, Willy came in through the kitchen window for her breakfast like usual. I mixed her medication that the doctor had prescribed with her cat food, but she only took a few bites because I think Akimoto-san, the cat maniac, had already fed her. When my friend and I were having our pancakes, she jumped on my lap and I gave her a small piece. She seemed to like it, so I got the idea to sneak her uneaten meds into the pancake, but once she realized what I had done, she was no longer interested.

My friend and I left the house around 1:00. As soon as we opened the gate, we saw Willy beginning to walk away into the distance. She must have just left the house too, but from the kitchen window. When she turned and noticed us there, she came running over to say hello, which was rare since she is always such a princess and it is usually the other way around. I was touched, so I petted her and then we continued on our way. She followed us a few meters then stopped and sat down. I took a few steps more, and then turned back to give her another pat on the head because she was so cute and then said goodbye. It was the last time I saw her alive.

On the way back home, I got an anonymous call. It was from Hayato’s dad and he sounded serious, but since I was getting on the train, I told him I would have to call him back. When I arrived in Hatagaya, I called him and he asked me where I was and when I would get home. When I asked him what was up, he just said that I’d better hurry because it was about Willy. I thought it must have been related to her recent illness or that she had gotten into trouble, but when I saw Hayato’s dad waiting for us in front of the butcher shop, which was still blocks away from my house, I knew it had to be really bad… In one sentence, he told us:

Willy got hit by a car and was killed.


I turned the corner and noticed that there were about eight or nine people standing in front. When Hayato saw me, he yelled my name and came running over, and then I knew it was real... He grabbed my hand and then walked with me back to the crowd. I saw Akimoto-san, his friend Otsubo-san, our neighbors, and some other people that I recognized but never formally met. Our gate was open and on the ground was a cardboard box. I found out that just before the police had cleaned up the mess and put her in it. Incense was burning and they told me the details; and then they asked me what I wanted to do with the body. Akimoto san left and then five minutes later came back with a pamphlet about cremation. Since Hayato’s dad had the day off the next day, he said he would accompany me to the temple because I was totally lost on what to do. And then after that was taken care of, they suddenly asked me if I wanted to see her. Since they had told me that she got hit several times by multiple cars, I hesitated for a second and then got down on my knees and opened it. A white towel was covering her, but the top of her head and a little paw was sticking out, which I used to love stroking… so I stroked it.

Otsubo-san, the other cat maniac who lives in the tall apartment complex across from Akimoto-san and who had fed Willy over the summer, left just after I had arrived. He didn’t say anything to me or to anyone else because I knew he must have been too heartbroken. Akimoto-san, on the other hand, held it together the whole time and even came back with flowers.


...My landlord’s son, who is about twenty-five, told me that he was the last one to see her alive because he had fed her around 5:30 and then left to run an errand. When he came back fifteen minutes later, she was already dead.
A little later, when we all crouched around Willy, he placed his hand on the towel that covered her body and asked, “Hi Willy… Did you get enough to eat before? You are very lucky, huh...? I hope you are still full now…” and then he began tearing up, and then my friend, who was next to him, did too, and then I couldn’t help it and succumbed to it as well.

In the end, it was nice to see all those people there for Willy. The funeral arrangements were going to be expensive, and everyone was nice enough to chip in to help. Akimoto-san told me that after the cremation, we would have to keep her remains in our house, give her offerings, and pray for her everyday for forty-nine days, which is the same for humans, because after the forty-ninth day, the spirit is set free.

My friend and I took the box inside after everyone had gone back home, and I made us some tea and showed her all of the photos of Willy on Talking Barnacles from the very beginning… and we laughed. I realized then how important it was to have recorded everything because moments go by so fast and we forget them so easily. Some other people, who had just heard the news, kept popping in to pay their respects, and then after they were all gone and it was quiet again, I petted Willy and thanked her for the fun year.


  1. The Vagrant Rose of Hatagaya.

    By Cameron

    I always thought she was a kitten
    But she was actually really old
    Ian said so one night
    After she pee'd in the room
    We were about to sleep in.
    "Lock the doors or she'll do it again," he said.

    She once slept on my stomach
    When I thought I had
    Contracted a rare kind of stomach cancer.
    When I awoke in the morning
    She farted on me
    And stared me right in the eye.

  2. This made me so sad. The photos of Willy, your relationship and how in tune she seemed to be with you through the photos were my favourite. A great loss and I hope you get through it without to much pain.

  3. oh i'm so sorry - i always think its odd to say i'm sorry when i hear about death - but i honestly feel only sorry - please take care - my thoughts are with you


  4. As I've been following your blog and Willy, I feel a distant sadness that this happened. The photos were sad but it is touching to see that she was also a much loved cat in the neighbourhood

  5. I felt I knew Willy through this blog.
    Tearing up now.
    Rest in peace Willy.

  6. It totally sucked, but...
    Ian, Yuki, and I are all grateful for all your thoughts and support!
    Willy sends hugs from heaven.

    (PS Thank u for the wonderful poem, cam. It was pure poetry.)

  7. I never met Willy, but I still cried reading this. I'm glad that the police and the neighborhood took care of Willy and then of you -- that is very special, I don't think it would happen here in the states.

    I wish the best for you, and hope that this isn't too hard on you.

  8. My heart broke. :(
    But I'm glad that everyone's there for him.

  9. I'm crying too. 2011 was a tough year. Talking Barnacles helped me get through it. I guess it might be because of the way you made your everyday life into literature, a story, all the little things in place with all the big things too, some things too little to notice, some too big to comprehend, and seeing you do that helped me to make some sense of what was happening in my own life by seeing the literature, the poetry in it. It's a sense that we ourselves make, which may be the only kind of sense there is. I'm very sorry to hear that Willy died, but thank you for sharing this story too.

  10. Sorry everyone if it made you cry...

    Thank you for your comment as well. Everything you said was what I have always been hoping to accomplish with Barnacles. TB is a daily struggle for me during hard times and even carefree ones... so hearing comments like yours and other people's helps fuel me on to keep going.

    I'm glad TB, Willy, my life, friends, and loved ones have affected you and the other readers positively.

    Remember there is always beauty in everything...

  11. I am so glad your photography gave you the opportunity to document so many special moments with Willy and that you have the chance now to look back and remember her every move and eccentricity. We could all learn from you to pay more attention to these tiny moments that we only miss when they are gone. I'm so sorry for your loss.