I guess you can call me Boog.
It’s not what most anyone calls me anymore, but it’s what I call myself. Sorta like that episode of Batman Beyond when Terry is all, “How did you know the voice in your head wasn’t real? That it wasn’t really you?” And old man Bruce is like, “Because when in my mind, I don’t call myself Bruce.” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it. Bruce calls himself Batman. I’m still Boog.
“Boog! What the fuck? You dumb bastard.”
I make Outstanding Pajamas. Which is basically just a fairytale. Archetypes. Before that, I suppose I made things that were all inexorably leading me to making Outstanding Pajamas.
I started making things when I was around 19. Writing things. Before then I didn’t really understand what my brain was for. Like, it obviously wasn’t correct, ya know? It wasn’t able to function like everyone I knew was able to function. So for that they throw you in mental hospitals and keep you sequestered away from the rest of the populace. I spent all of my highschool years in a single room designed for kids with disabilities. That’s where they put you in a public school when you’re not correct.
But I liked it. Everyone there was wrong too, in their own quirky ways. There was a cross eyed girl named Tina who used to piss herself constantly, but would always be smiling. The occasional G.D. or Vicelord would get dropped in there and would want to test his mettle and then all the freaks and nation of fucked up mutants would tickle them into submission. You should see shitty bad kids being happy kids when they have structure.
I think Rodney sticks with me most. I don’t know if the guy is even alive anymore. I’m 36 now. He might be dead. People are dead at my age. But the left side of Rodney’s body was pretty useless. Like, he could stand and walk with a crutch, but he was pretty much only competing in a three legged race. And he had this bright way about him. I smashed this bully fucker’s face once for trying to dim it, ya know? Because that’s all anyone wants to do to the sorts like us who they keep locked in a single room all day. They want to stand on you, give their feet a good wiping. So you bite off their ankles and chew.
Rodney always kept it happy, though. Holy fuck they all seemed so happy. It’s nonsensical, but there it is. It’s a big lie, everyone knew it. I’m smiling at you and you’re smiling at me and we’re smiling at her and we’re all just fucking rotting away inside. And you’d see glimpses of it when they’d let us walk to the lunch room fifteen minutes before the rest of the school. Rodney would be on that crutch and he’d be pushing himself down that hallway with vigor, man. Just a look of blind terror on his face. That clock up on the long, long end of the hallway ticking down the seconds before the normal kids would be let loose.
I think of him all the time. Rodney. I don’t know why. He must have meant something.
But if I’d have to pick one miserable bastard that meant the most to me in life, that helped define me and save me, it would be this old mangy cat that I brought in from the Chicago cold. Just a soiled, sad sack. Must have been like 167 in cat years. Teeth ground down, gallbladder clogged with giant stones. His back legs started to not work after awhile. But for a couple of years there, he was good — and he’d arrived at the tail end of a four year long illness that almost took my life in my late 20s.
It’s interesting what life does to you, the way it kicks the shit out of you. Like, I’d felt like I’d gotten the shit pretty thoroughly kicked out of me through most of childhood. Certainly not as tough of a physical go of it as had Rodney to endure, but I’d say it was tough enough to chisel out some character. You get hit in the head with bats, thrown into cellars, spat on and have oversized crazy people body slam you while telling you they’re your new roommate. And I was happy for it – I was happy and content and pleased for all the pain, all that I had to endure, because I woke up every day and I loved me, ya know? I loved all that I am. I won’t lie — I still do it. I still wake up the same way. I can’t help it. I feel attuned to all this whateverness. But I got sick, and then I guessed I would just die. Like, after awhile the pain — there’s just nothing left. You fight and claw but you accept that it might not be enough; that no matter how much you might *want* to live, that might just not be in the cards for you.
I found a doctor, though. Years and years of searching and one guy was not a complete fucking retard and so was able to get me right, get me better. He killed the sickness, but the ramifications, the aftermath, holiest of fucks — stripped nerves and like an extra 150 pounds on my back and shit sticking out of my guts, ya know?
So this cat shows up. I called him Challenge because he’d get shit all over himself and was a pain in the ass to clean. He also wouldn’t eat anything except for like these elaborate fucking things. I would have to make chicken stock from like an actual chicken. Because otherwise he just dies. The vets told me to kill the little dude, but I’d seen those eyes before, ya know — that knowing?
One time — Just one time he tried to do that bullshit that cats all do when they’re done with it and ready to die. He went under this chair in the bedroom, in shadow, in the cold dark dank place. He’d given up. I called out to him, like, “Lil Man? The fuck you at kid?” And I found him there and I told him that that shit wasn’t going to happen. If he wanted to die, he wasn’t going to die alone. He could do it out here, with me, but I wasn’t going for whatever bullshit biological motivation he had compelling him.
And that was that. He never tried that shit again. He’d go to the brink, be on the edge of death, and he’d come to me and we’d be together, and I’d try every fucking thing and we’d figure out a way to keep him going. Like, he’d figure out a way — I would just present the options. Most people I guess they just kill them — whatever’s inconveniencing them. Or if that’s harsh, whatever they’re feeling is going to cause the least whatever the fuck to the kid. But I don’t much go in for it. Because if there’s one thing I know about dying, about pain, it’s that pain is pain. Pain is not death. Pain makes you fight if you let it. Challenge wanted to fight for every breath, every moment. I don’t know what sort of fucked up pitiful life he may have led on the streets of Chicago prior to landing on my doorstep, but I know that cat loved every second of being here with me for two awesome and glorious years. Got to the point that he wouldn’t even take more than two steps outside the door onto the little enclosed outdoor space. I think he was too paranoid of getting left behind again — because the other cats just fucking love that outside space.
Fuck, I’m talking a lot about the cat, I guess. It’s hard not to. If you’re here, it might be because you’re my mom — but if it’s because of anything I’ve ever made, anything you’ve ever seen or read or whatever. That’s because of Lil Man. No two ways about it. Without Lil Man, without Challenge, I don’t come back; without him I never find my way back; without him there’s no fight, there’s no work, there’s abso-fucking-lutely no Outstanding Pajamas.
And then he died like you’ve never seen an animal go. His heart went, which meant his lungs couldn’t keep the fluid out anymore. People go the same way when their hearts suck it. He’d survived surgeries like getting his gallbladder removed even as ancient as he was, but he was so emaciated at the end, so fucking old. I knew this was it.
I was sitting at the computer working on a script and usually he would come over and meow and snatch the fabric of my pants for a pick up. I don’t know why, but he liked to be held like a human baby — like on his back? like that. He liked you to cradle him with one arm and then put the other arm lengthwise down the middle of his body so that he could squeeze it and fall asleep that way. Weirdest fucking animal. But that morning he came over, I gave him the obligatory pick up, but the fluid was starting to seep. It had happened before, had had his lungs drained of fluid. The process was so painful, though, that he couldn’t deal with the vet in the end. Once upon a time he couldn’t give a shit less about vet visits; but after those fluid drains, it just emotionally destroyed him to go. I suppose they’re some violent fucks, vets.
Had it seemed tolerable maybe I would have brought him in that day, but I knew when he patted me on my leg — like, this was it, kid. Time to go. You know real death when you see it.
So I stopped writing and kicked on some soft music and built him a little bed near this water fountain thing he loved to drink from. There’s a bookshelf here beside me so I just laid on the floor beside him and grabbed the nearest thing — it was a Buffy trade paper back from season 8 (Time of Your Life. The one where she meets Fray in the future). I read him the whole thing. Like really spirited, doing all the sound effects, showing him the pictures. His eyes were glassing over and his mouth was pretty wet. He was just really old. Really rough life, I guess. Can’t live forever. Who the fuck would ever want to?
So I finish the comic and I put it to the side and I can tell he’s having a little trouble blinking, and I thought — I always kept a dose of pain medicine after each of his traumas. So I had one from a few weeks prior and that shit, haha, oh man. Like, you can’t tell if an animal is exactly happy or is exactly feeling the feelings you may want to interpret them as, but those drugs would do it for him. He’d be feeling shitty or in pain and just a drop of that stuff on his tongue and he would just…mellow. Drift off.
And I guess that’s what I wanted. I wanted him to know he was loved. I wanted him to not be in pain. And more than anything, I wanted what he had — a choice. I told those fucking vets. He’ll die when he’s ready to die. He’ll die when he’s supposed to die. He was constantly happy, constantly affectionate, constantly amazing to everyone who crossed his path. And yeah, sometimes he’d get the shit kicked out of him, but he always came back — until he didn’t, until it was the end.
I gave him a droplet of the pain medicine, and in about five minutes I could tell his breathing had eased and he was feeling less of whatever was coming on. And then soon after it was like he was on autopilot. There wasn’t much left of him there. His eyes were drying out. I tried to close them, to help him blink, but it wasn’t happening. I put the tip of my finger in his water bowl and dabbed the tip of his tongue and that was when it struck. He started to convulse and I knew that that was it. I got on all fours so that I was over him. So much agony — more than I guess I’d really allowed for myself to experience prior — it all built up, but you hold it. I just wanted to keep my voice in such a way, wanted to keep that light happy way about it. And so I was over him and I’m right in his ear and I’m telling him how much I love him and that I’ll love him forever. Just forever. Told him that he saved me and that he wasn’t alone. And then his legs sorta straightened and then his body relaxed and he was gone. And I broke down. Because all you want is to go with them, ya know? He had the perfect death, and I just wanted to go with him, to not have to be alive anymore, to not have to live in a world without this cat in it.
I’ve seen people die, had friends get shot to shit just for going to get a burger. But nothing ever moved me like Lil Man. I can’t imagine anything ever will again.
But once is enough. I feel blessed for it. I think a lot of other folks might have missed it like most folks miss most things. I got to be there and be a part of this perfect thing, all of the perfect moments long before it.
And I always consider love to be my religion. True Love my God anchor. I’d lost the ability to love, I think. At least properly. I’d become such a dark thing, maybe a thing that was born dark to begin with and that just settled into comfortable darkness as life took bleaker and bleaker turns. I didn’t think that kind of love could exist for someone like me. But in that moment, when I was standing over him, there was nothing. It was pure love, unfettered by personhood, by consciousness. With his perfect death and perfect fucking cat life, he tapped me back into the stream of all of it. Showed me that I still had a chance if I scratched and clawed and gave everything — including the dark stuff. Give it all.
“My only Challenge”
It’s fuckin whatever, but I whisper it to myself all the time. When things get tough. I don’t even know what it means. It’s like they’re words someone else is telling me to say, but they’re there. My only Challenge.
So I make something now, a fairytale. Is that my sole challenge? I suppose I still want to die everyday, still want to be able to finally be done and to let go, be with Challenge, be back in the rift, but I won’t. There’s still darkness to conquer. That long hallway. The clock at the end. A perfect death.
My only Challenge.
My only Challenge.