It’s strange what open-ended, splintered memories your brain holds on to.
We were 11. Our friend Shawn had this thing about putting tinfoil boots on his cat. He’d talk about it more often than one would expect, to the point where you realized, He’s not fucken kidding. He really wants to put tinfoil boots on his cat.
Chuck was the cat in question, and he was a beast all the way around: grossly overweight with a bulbous head and squinty eyes, he defied what Siamese cats are supposed to be. He was old and slow and clumsy, which made him hapless, which is why I think Shawn wanted to put tinfoil boots on him: because the chances of him being able to do so were very high while simultaneously having almost no chance of getting injured himself.
Everyone thought Shawn was weird bird, even weirder when he started talking about cutting short whatever we were doing so ‘we’ could go home and put tinfoil boots on Chuck. It was all uncomfortable small talk until the day he invited us over for some casual Commodore 64 video games, and, as it turned out, to watch him ensnare Chuck and finally put aluminum booties on him.
When we walked in the house, Sean was in the living room — his mother off at work — and Chuck was on the couch. Chuck, having the metabolism of a potato and the IQ to match, was lazing about obliviously while Shawn cut small swaths of tinfoil from a roll of Reynolds Wrap. Shawn barely looked up at us. Chuck blinked lethargically at a throw pillow, completely unaware.
“Hi Shawn,” I said. “Um, what are you doing?”
“Finally gonna put booties on Chuckles here.”
The three of us — me, Russ and Tom — stared at him. Tom finally spoke, “Dude, we’re here to play Bruce Lee. We don’t want to put tinfoil on Chuck.”
Shawn looked up from his tinfoil and pile of rubber bands. “Oh come on. Consider it science.”
“Or consider it mean,” I said. It seemed to me that putting tinfoil boots on a cat with likely cardiac problems was not a good idea.
“Nah,” Shawn said, expertly sidestepping the issue.
Then Russ asked what none of us probably would have thought to: “Once you get the tinfoil on Chuck, what are you gonna do?”
Sean had the answer in his mental ammunition chamber and didn’t miss a beat. “Gonna put him on the kitchen floor, turn on the vacuum and see if he freaks. If he does, he won’t be able to run, and that will be hiiillllaaaarious.”
None of us were vets or cat whisperers, but we were pretty sure if you put an overweight 14 year old Siamese cat on a linoleum floor and hit the vacuum while said cat was wearing tinfoil booties rubberbanded around his legs, yeah, we were thinking, he’ll probably freak. If you’re a 14 year old overweight cat, freaking probably leads to not being alive anymore.
The exact mechanics of the debate that ensued are unimportant, but in the end sanity prevailed: the tinfoil was thrown away, the vacuum stayed in the closet, Chuck didn’t Code Blue in front of sink, and Shawn didn’t go to juvy. Shawn did seem slightly defeated, but later came around to admit that it wasn’t a good idea after all. “Cats are pretty uptight,” Sean concluded, authoritatively. Mr. Animal Fucken Planet.
We let the issue rest after Shawn closed the topic with this. We all thought it best not to upset whatever balance his hormones found that made him temporarily stable. We’re pretty sure Chuck appreciated it too.
We didn’t do much with Shawn after that.