Thank you, everyone who entered or intended to enter the essay contest, but please stop. We already have a winner.

In case you are one of the few who missed out on the excitement, allow me to fill in the details. Some time ago I wrote a column titled “Cat Available to Good Home.” In the article I explained how my construction crew found a mummified cat in the foundation of a home we were rebuilding and the fruitless effort I made to find someone who would take on the cat and give it a loving home.

Who wouldn’t want a mummified cat? The maintenance is limited to keeping it dry and dusted. There are no vet bills, no cat food to supply and certainly no hair balls to clean up. On the other hand, unless you’re a very private person, you would have to constantly explain to others why you were in possession of a dead cat.

Anyway, I proposed that interested parties write to me and explain how their acquiring a cat cadaver would benefit society as a whole in the academic sense and not as an object for any kind of entertainment.

The winner of the essay contest was a certain Lawrence Forcella, a commercial entomologist by profession but with a keen interest in all things dead.

Mr. Forcella’s winning essay hit all the right notes. He presented himself as an intelligible individual who could write in complete sentences, and even though he referred to himself as “Abaddon, Lord of the Locusts,” he did not come across as a wacky member of a fringe fraternity. He assured me that the cat would be used for academic purposes and not as a throwaway Halloween decoration or a piñata for some rowdy entomological shindig.

In addition, he played the pity card, revealing that he lost out on the last cat mummy that was available to him back in 1997. So moving was his essay that the judges unanimously awarded him the title “Custodian of the Cat Cadaver.”



A meeting was arranged where the feline artifact would change hands. Since I felt strongly that the dead should not be handed over in a paper bag or department store box, I decided to build a wooden funerary box. Truth be told, I did consider a perfect-size cardboard boot box from Zappos. Even though the idea was a shoe-in, it seemed irreverent. On the other hand, if it had been a box from Hats.Com then who could resist putting a dead cat-in-a-hatbox?

A coffin-shaped box that is broad at the shoulders would have been overkill considering his humble background, so I chose to construct a simple pine box; one that I could quickly whip out before Lawrence arrived. Also, the fact that I had pine boards on hand figured into the equation.

You just can’t place a naked corpse into a pine box so I lined the bottom with soft plastic packing foam. What’s that? No, I had no velvet or satin on hand. I’m sorry.

Borrowing from my experience wrapping gifts, I folded the cat into a plain purple tissue paper so that when you opened the lid of the box, which was fastened with two screws for added drama, you wouldn’t have a dead cat staring at you as if you just broke into his private abode.

The meeting to hand off the former cat took place at a property that could pass as my own house. Was I going to let a guy who is driving miles to pick up a mummified cat know exactly where I live? Heck no, anyone who has anything to do with dead cats might turn out to be some kind of weirdo.

As it turned out, Mr. Forcella seemed normal enough, but then again we met outside in broad daylight. He did bring a charming woman with him, and good thing, because her gracious presence took the edge off any awkwardness normally associated with picking up a dead cat.

Lawrence was polite enough to be thrilled, even though the cat wasn’t exactly in “like new” condition. We screwed the lid onto the case and placed it into the back of his vehicle (Lawrence’s vehicle, not the cat’s) and they all drove off into the sunset — if you consider northeast close enough to call it that.

So that’s it. No cats, no more essays please, but don’t be discouraged; I’m considering giving away my entire collection of empty paint cans. Stay tuned.