Behind the 7-11, we found the carcass of a cat. Eric giggled and kicked it. Ants scattered out from underneath. The cat's body was grey and dry. It looked as if the ants had been stripping away even the bones.



"Jesus! Look at that!" Eric stepped on the carcass with one foot and pressed down hard. Crunching noises. When he lifted his foot again, the cat's skull was nothing more than grey dust and chunks.


"Fucking leave the thing alone," I said, because it sounded macho. I was a 14-year-old freshman in high school. I spent two hours after school every day with Eric and his friend Jed ­ and I hated them both.


I was stuck with these fuckers because we lived in the same neighborhood and our Catholic high school didn't have buses. We had to wait for Rich, the senior who drove us home, to finish football practice.


He said he would leave without us if we were late getting to the car, so we hung around the strip mall next to the school parking lot. We each paid Rich 50 cents a day for the ride. He told us he used it for beer money.


Jed and Eric ignored me. Jed picked up a stick and started trying to flip the cat over, but it was too stiff. The ants were crawling over it again.


I watched and thought about cats I had known. What a sick thing, I thought, to be staring at a dead cat. I imagined lying on the pavement with my skull shattered and ants eating away my bones.


Eric was already bored. He tossed open a nearby dumpster lid.


"Hey, Whitney, wanna go for a ride?" Jed laughed and started trying to grab me around the head. I dodged him.


"Fuck off!" I yelled, jumping around Jed, still macho.


"Whoa." Eric said. I jerked to a halt. Jed grabbed me around the head and started to pull me to the dumpster, but stopped halfway. Eric was reaching down into the trash can.