In college I played Ultimate Frisbee for the Pan Fried Funk, our college club team. My friends Ali and Pickle11 Like many ultimate teams, we all had nicknames. Mine was Devo. played with me, and we spent nearly every weekend together. On weekends we weren’t away at a tournament, with Pickle’s dorm room neighbor Amy22 Who, as you can tell by the normal name, didn’t play, we’d gather together for campus social events or just to hang out somewhere, often in Pickle’s room. This adventure starts there.
Late one evening, Pickle was chatting with LB while Amy and I did homework in her room33 I’m not sure where Ali was. Like most upperclassmen on the team, LB lived in the second floor of Constitution Hall as part of a campus theme housing44 An apartment with a theme (Funk, in this case) which hosted events open to the campus. LB was explaining to Pickle that his roommate Batman had lost his cat, Moses, and was looking all over the apartment for him. As the night went on, it was clear to us LB was becoming increasingly concerned for his roommate.
A little bit about Batman. He was an interesting character. He was the guy who picked the lock to use the art studio for his art classes after hours. Who magically procured a table overnight for an event, in a town where Walmart closed at 8. Who’d been to the rooms on campus that were always behind locked doors. But as freshman, we mostly knew him as a little unhinged. Much to our relief, a few weeks previous he’d adopted a stray cat, which seemed to have a calming effect. He’d even bring Moses with him to the art studio for late night welding sessions.
And now he couldn’t find the cat, and was becoming increasingly desperate. Then LB dropped a bombshell on us: Moses was dead.
“LB,” we chatted. “You need to tell him.”
But LB couldn’t. He knew how much Moses meant to Batman. And, like us, he was more than a little concerned about Batman’s mental health. We asked how he knew Moses was dead.
“I got home from class and found him dead.”
“What’d you do?”
“I put him in a shoe box under G$’s bed.”
Our mouths were agape.
“You have to help us. He’s distraught. Can you call and try to calm him down?”
We didn’t think this was a job for the phone. We told him we’d be there in a few minutes. He tried to tell us the phone would be fine, but we were insistent. A man’s cat was dead. We had to be there for him.
The three of us walked to the house, and found a concerned LB waiting for us. After warning us Batman was in bad shape, he led us upstairs to the apartment. There we found Batman ransacking the house, calling out desperately for Moses. The other house members were helping, but it was clear they knew the truth, and were just putting in a token effort, hoping to prolong the inevitable.
With Batman out of earshot, Pickle took LB aside and explained that this wasn’t right, he had to tell him. He was reluctant, but gave in. Somehow, he managed to get Batman’s attention and led him back to their room, least he break down in front of everyone.
The house was silent, as people gave up their half-hearted searches and gathered in the common room, half curious what Batman was going to do, half terrified. We heard an anguished cry, then Batman walked out and addressed the room, “I want to see the body.”
LB, head hung in shame, walked to G$’s room. There was a tense moment before he returned with a shoe box.
Batman opened it a crack and took a long look. With a tortured look on his face he said, “I want to have a funeral.”
At this point, everyone at the house was through. A funeral for a cat? That was over the top. No one did that. But they’d indulge their friend. We turned off the TV and gathered around the box. LB presided, and asked us all to say something nice about Moses. Most of us struggled to come up with anything, and even LB could only contribute, “Well, he bit Fricker.”
Funeral complete, Batman said, “I want to bury him.”
We discussion where, on the middle of a college campus, in the middle of the night, we could bury a cat. We suggested floating the box down the Tiber55 The small stream running behind the house. But Batman dismissed that. We suggested burying him out on the Frisbee fields. But Batman refused that suggestion as well saying, “I don’t want to run on my dead cat!”
We were out of ideas, and Batman was getting angry waiting. He ripped the box out of LB’s hands, screamed, “Let’s fucking bury him right here!”, and kicked the box down the stairs.
Silence. Everyone was afraid to move or say a word.
Finally, quietly, someone asked him to clean it up.
He refused, and there was an argument about who was going to volunteer. Finally, LB agreed and went down the stairs.
The three of us waited, trying to figure out how we were going to get out of the apartment if the stairs were still covered in dead cat. Soon, LB started back up the stairs. At the very top, he tripped, shoe box tumbling out of his hands and across the floor.
Where we saw nothing but a stuffed toy.
Moses wasn’t actually dead. Batman wasn’t actually crazy. Moses was missing, but he’d often wander off for a day or two. Batman and LB had started trying to prank us via AIM, and when we offered to come over, they knew they had us. The whole house was marshaled in on the joke, pretending to search and playing along. They’d been sure we’d figured it out a number of times, but had forgotten just how trusting freshmen can be.
We wouldn’t get a chance to prank them back. But there’d be a whole new crop of freshmen next year.