Posts Tagged ‘cruelty’

Inside the Box

January 4, 2016

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1998

Zack is walking ahead of me talking to Zozee, a hairdresser from Martinique who owns five miniature dogs. We’re in his cave-like hair salon even though it’s a sunny day outside. I don’t want to hang around too long, but I understand the importance of seeing friends’ pets. Plus, Zozee’s partner-of-9-years just dumped him, abandoning him in the Gay Village like a dog in a city park.

We go into the undecorated storage half of Zozee’s huge double-roomed basement studio and in the futhest corner from the window, he opens the wooden door of a big, clunky armoir. From the deepest recesses of the armoir, Zozee pulls out a box where five tiny dogs live out their lives in complete darkness, with the rare exception of these occasional visits and daily feedings and  grooming.

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The dogs seem thrilled to see new life forms and to be able to wobble around aimlessly a bit.  I ask if they’re puppies, but no, they’re not. These adult dogs never leave the box. Their pathetic imprisonment and miserable life of darkness and isolation reminds me of my suburban childhood, and I need  to go outside and feel the sun on my skin.

Around other people.

Now.

I pull on Zack’s shirtsleeve, and when he looks at me, I sneer for a second and then look longingly at the window. Exasperated, Zack apologizes to Zozee and says that he needs to “take the boyfriend outside for a walk before he scratches me.”

For the rest of the afternoon, we argue about every aspect of this visit. It starts out being about how ownership and capitalism make us do unnatural things. Then this morphs into a debate about whether pethood is a form  of cruelty. And finally, it’s about whether a boring sex life is what causes most couples to break up.

I believe all these arguments we’ve been having lately are related in some way.

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Nameless and Blameless

August 1, 2011

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The most famous Orangemen family in Steel CIty are the McTuskets who live on Horne’s Road near the abandoned Devil’s Point Shell Refinery. Because Mr. McTusket is in the merchant marines and away at sea most of the time, his affection-starved wife has taken up cat hoarding  as a hobby, with 29 felines calling the McTusket premises home.

Mrs. McTusket has never had any of the female cats spayed or the males fixed. Instead, twice a year, her brother – a wiry bruiser we kids call Uncle Brute – takes away the “extra” kittens.

Where he takes them, no adults will say, but Billy says he puts them in a garbage bag with rocks and throws them off the bridge near his house. I find this hard to believe; Mrs. McTusket has always been known for her kindness to animals. And humans too. So I figure Billy just says this to make his family sound tougher than it really is: working class tough talk.

But when Uncle Brute shows up one Sunday to pick up a pair of fresh kittens, I stick around to see what happens.

On the TV that afternoon, there’s a boring documentary about the ethnic cleansing of the Acadians. In a way, I’m glad there’s nothing interesting on like WWF or a Bronson movie because it means less distraction from the kitten drowning we’re about to experience.

Brute arrives about three o’clock in his red pickup wearing a New England Patriots cap and oversized Moosehead tshirt. He already seems a bit drunk as he stumbles out of his vehicle, but  Mrs. McTusket nonetheless offers him a few beers for his nerves. After drinking the first one, he can barely stand up. His eyes start darting aimlessly around the room, and his speech is slurred and loud – which means we can hear every word he says from the next room.

“I’m too fucking drunk to drive, Wilma. Just bring me a friggin’ bucket,” he says to his sister Mrs. McTusket who never curses herself.

My pulse starts to accelerate so I focus on the tragedy that is unfolding on the TV. As Uncle Brute prepares the bucket… Governor Cornwallis has just brought in New England settlers to scalp the local natives  – the Mi’kmaq.

“Never mind the fucking basement! I’m taking this jeezuz bucket right into that goddamn living room so that everyone can see it with their own fucking eyes!” he shouts, a water-filled bucket in one hand and two pink kittens in the other. The kittens’ eyes are still shut while Uncle Brute’s are wide open and glaring.

Father LeLoutre has just told a crowd to burn down their farms  Then a New England Planter destroys a dike and more Acadian families drown. Then three commercials: dandruff shampoo, Toyota Camry, and Oxfam.

Brute sets the bucket down between my chair and Billy’s. We’re both in our early teens and sort of curious about things like Satanism and cruelty. But Billy’s little eight-year-old brother Herbert and his friend Peter are also sitting in front of the TV next to the bucket. They aren’t curious about cruelty at all. They’re Disney kids. Nervous little Peter hides his face behind the corner of the multicolored afghan he’s sitting on.

But there are holes in that afghan, so all of our eyes are on Uncle Brute’s hands as they submerge the tiny kittens for a few minutes. Even though the TV is still on, I can’t hear the sound anymore. I can only see Brute’s skinny tattooed arms holding the kittens underwater, and hear the silence in their tiny voices.

After about three minutes, Brute raises the lifeless blobs of pink fur up out of the water, as we all sit breathlessly waiting for the triumphal conclusion of our first live animal sacrifice. But as soon as Brute brings them out of the water, they start to cry like little babies. They continue to cry until Uncle Brute puts them back into the water, and this time, for a much longer five minutes.

On the TV at that moment… Robert Monkton has just lead a band of New Englanders up the Saint John River to kill the few remaining Acadians hiding there.

When Uncle Brute pulls the tiny furry bodies up the second time, they’re very, very dead, and we’re all relieved. In a way.

One sleepless week later, Mrs. McTusket has all her females spayed.

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Cruel Summer

May 7, 2010

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While waiting to get off the ferry in Port-aux-Basques, Farfour is noticed by a keen ferry security-guard named Frank Paine: “Hey, didn’t I see you in the New York Post?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” Farfour says meekly. “I didn’t realize you got international tabloids here in the Maritimes.”

“I read it online. And didn’t anyone tell you – you’re not in the Maritimes anymore, mouse. This is THE ROCK!” says the guard, his cellphone squeezed against one of his outer chins. As he finishes saying rock, he drops the cell and puts the startled little mouse into a headlock, while two of his coworkers prepare a tranquilizer needle.

Farfour wakes up a few hours (days?) later in Parc Lafontaine in Montreal. Gay men bask in the Latin sun, while children and their trendy parents scream, play sports and interact with post-modern playground equipment. Farfour notices a man is sitting beside him taking pictures of the lake.

“Hey, how did I get to this nice park, and who are you?” Farfour asks the speedo-clad slim-but-athletic man. Farfour is intrigued by the fashionable man’s studied masculinity and elaborate vocabulary.

“Oh, I’m Julien. I’m the helicopter pilot who flew you here from that moldy ferry terminal in Newfoundland. That’s not all I am, of course. I’m also an Aquarius with a Taurus ascendant.

Oh, I saw how sad and innocent you looked, and I couldn’t bear to hand you over – to let those goons fly you off to some illegal prison full of abused children – like they did to Omar Khadr. One well-publicized crime against an innocent Muslim teenager is enough. We get it. Flying you to Guantanamo to be abused and tortured wouldn’t be helpful to anyone.”

Julien takes the cap off his coconut butter tanning lotion and rubs some on his nose.

“That smells delicious. I feel like I haven’t eaten in days,” says Farfour as Julien offers him the beige plastic bottle.


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