Today's Bloc Feature has been shared with us by Funny Ha Ha, a magnificent zine that features humour and emotion
According to Founder and Editor, Rebecca Varcoe, Funny Ha Ha has a pretty vague callout that asks submittors to “send us funny stuff”. It can be a hard one, because humour is quite subjective. The zine focusses on writing that might struggle to find a home somewhere else because perhaps it’s a bit weird and experimental, or it’s very short, or it’s a tweet, or it’s just a story that makes you smile inside and outside.
You can also check out a review of the zine by Spook Magazine here!
Also! Printing is expensive, so the gang at Funny Ha Ha have launched a pre-order system through a Pozible campaign, so you can get your hands on a discount copy and special goodies like badges, stickers and photo prints. You can pre-order until August 21 at https://pozible.com/project/funny-ha-ha-issue-four!
by Chloe Walker
“I’ve found a black and white cat on the side of the road and I think it might be Sloane.”
This was not the awkward, sarcastic banter I’d come to expect from my boyfriend’s brother, James. It took a heartbeat to register what he’d said. And then I twigged.
Sloane, our black and white cat. Sloane, who shits on the carpet in hard to reach corners when kept inside against his will. Sloane, who likes to sleep in the sun in the middle of the street, forcing cars to weave around him. Sloane, whom we not infrequently see exiting other houses in the neighbourhood, licking his lips. Sloane, who sometimes comes home wearing a collar and bell we did not choose for him.
Our beloved Sloane, on the side of the road.
I took a deep breath. “Is he injured?” I asked.
“He’s… not in a good way,” said James.
It was late on a Saturday morning and my boyfriend, Chris, was in the shower. I opened the bathroom door a crack.
“Hon…? James is here – he thinks he might have found Sloane. On the side of the road.”
When I was 11 I joined an adult pottery class with a teacher who taught me as much about life as she did about pinch pots and glazing techniques. One evening she told us her philosophy on answering the phone: if it’s important, they’ll call back; and if someone’s died, they’ll still be dead later.
That’s why I never rush to answer the phone. And it’s why I knew there was no hurry to see about the cat. The dead aren’t getting any deader.
Chris, on the other hand, keeps his emotions much closer to the surface, and tried to bolt out the door stark naked. I managed to stop him and yell at him to put on some clothes – he quickly threw on some old track pants and ran out into the street, barefoot and bare-chested.
Chris and James went jogging down the street while I ambled along behind them. When I reached the corner I heard a wail. “It’s him!” Chris cried, to the street, to the parked cars, to the power lines, to everyone and no one.
I caught up to them and the broken body on the ground. The head was smashed, one eye protruding.
“Don’t look!” Chris said, grabbing me to turn my gaze away. “It’s too awful!”
While Chris howled, I power walked back to the house and rummaged in a cupboard for an old towel. When I got back Chris bravely leant down, enveloped the lifeless form and picked it up.
On the return trip we’d only gotten as far as crossing the road when it became apparent that the elastic in Chris’s track pants was less than adequate.
“My pants are falling down!” he managed to tell me between heaving sobs. His hands were full, the body of our cat stretched across them like a buffet tray, so I held his pants up at the back, our procession thusly slowed to a suitably funereal pace.
We laid the little towel parcel on the old couch on our porch, and I finally let myself lose it. “He was so big in life, but his body seems so small!”
Chris wept. “He really was our little man!”
James decided there was nothing more he could do and went home. I sat on the arm of the couch and lightly stroked the towel. We didn’t know what to do. Our house was a rental with a postage stamp sized garden, and even if we wanted to bury him there, we didn’t have a shovel.
I thought about what it was like to view the bodies when my Dad and Grandpa died, how it helped bring some closure.
“I kind of want to have another look,” I said to Chris. “It just doesn’t seem real.”
“Don’t,” he replied. “It will only make you more sad.”
Our other cat, Kaos, came and sniffed the towel suspiciously. “She’s knows something’s wrong,” Chris said. “She’s knows it’s him.”
We decided that the best course of action was to call Chris’s Mum for support. I was 27 at the time and Chris was 30, but parental intervention was clearly the only way to resolve the situation. She came over in half an hour and offered to drive us to the animal hospital a few suburbs away where we could pay for them to deal with the body – fifty bucks for a simple ‘burial’ by incinerator, or two hundred to have the ashes returned to us in an urn. We were broke, so she also offered to pay. It was only polite to opt for the cheaper alternative.
The animal hospital was a huge, not-for-profit establishment where we had often taken Sloane to be cleaned up after a brawl. We’d never been able to get his vaccinations up to date because he was impossible to find for scheduled appointments, and the unscheduled ones always left him loaded up with antibiotics.
It was really busy that day. We joined a long queue and stood there letting tears drip down our faces while the guy in front of us huffed and grumped about having to wait so long just to pay a bill. We’re here to ‘bury’ our cat, you douchebag, I thought to myself while I stared at the back of his head.
We finally reached the front desk and explained our situation – we had our dead cat in the boot of the car and we needed them to deal with it. We paid, they handed us a receipt for a ‘euthanasia’, and an attendant came with us to the car.
At home, with the practicalities finally taken care of, we were able to properly let go and grieve. We lay on the bed and held each other and cuddled Kaos and cried for hours. We cancelled our evening plans. We reminisced, Chris opening up a fresh wave of sadness when he realised, “We’ll never see him do his ham dance again!” (a kind of toddling back and forth on hind legs Sloane would do when there was ham to be had in the kitchen).
In the evening, all cried out, we got up, fed Kaos, and started making some dinner. Chris bagged up some rubbish to take outside to the bin. I heard him open the door, and then stop.
“Chloe?” a quavering voice came down the hallway, “I'm looking at a ghost.”
My mind flashed on that moment earlier in the day when I’d wanted one more look under the towel. I walked calmly to the door and sure enough, there was Sloane, slightly late for dinner. As he walked past us to his food bowl, chirruping cheerfully about his day’s exploits, I noted that his markings were completely different to the other cat we’d just sent to the furnace.
I insisted that because Chris had stopped me from looking at the body at the scene as well as under the towel later on, it was his job to call the animal hospital and explain. To his credit he did it first thing in the morning, and while they were rather perplexed they were able to report that the body was still intact and could be scanned for a microchip. However he did get a personal call back from the director of the hospital who was somewhat concerned for his sanity. “Now, are you absolutely sure that it’s your cat that’s come home?”
Sometimes I see Sloane chasing another black and white doppelganger down our street and I wonder, where was he that Saturday we spent mourning his life? Was he watching us? Did he stage the whole thing? And if cats have nine lives, does that mean we’ll go through something like this another eight times before it’s really The End?
I still have the ‘euthanasia’ receipt.
Chloe’s story used humour to look at a difficult experience, but in and of itself it was just a funny story and it was well written. To me, it was quietly funny, which is something I really like. Also, being a print publication that is released bi-annually, and with content that is often locked in months ahead of time, it’s important to me that pieces are timeless and not overly reliant on current events to be funny. Chloe’s piece is great for that, as it could have taken place at any time, to any one, anywhere.
Rebecca Varcoe, Founder + Editor
Funny Ha Ha
Chloe Walker is a writer who lives in Melbourne. Her work has appeared in Collective Hub, Treadlie, frankie, the Vocal, the Big Issue and Best Australian Stories. She tweets @chloewrites.