with great rally comes great responsibility

by matthaverty

She’s asking questions again. When I signed on to do this I didn’t think I’d be living a lie for this long. It started as a way to get involved. A fun way for me to act out my lifelong dream of giving people high fives and occasionally handing out gift cards to the UVM bookstore. But it’s more than that now. It’s a responsibility, a creed, a way of life. I can’t take it anymore. The secrecy. The lies. I’m Rally Cat and I don’t know how to stop. 

I was lonely during my freshman year of college. I didn’t have many friends and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t seem to make any of the intramural sports teams. The solitude ate away at me. Then, one night, while watching a UVM hockey game, I saw him: Rally Cat. His sleek fur shimmered in the fluorescent gym lighting as he shuffled around, delighting anyone and everyone he came into contact with. I wanted a piece of that action. I wanted to be inside the skin. 

I followed him home. He was the man even off of the job. He just had so much swagger. I was afraid to approach him, but I worked up the courage. While he was crossing the street I called to him.

sam stillman

“Hey, Rally!” I cried out. 

He turned his vacant smile to face me, the stranger in the night. 

“Go Cats!” I said. 

He stuck his fist in the air as if to say “Yeah, go cats.” 

For a moment I felt peace. I had been gazed upon by my god. But that’s when the Cat Bus came. Before I could warn him, the Cat Bus ran him over. I watched twelve wheels bombard Rally’s body. He lay there, dying in the street and I ran over to call for help. 

I gripped his soft paws in my own hands and looked into his mouth, which is where the guy in the suit’s eyes would be. 

“Be still.” I said, “Help is on the way.”

“No.” He said. 

“What do you mean?” I replied through the tears welling in my eyes.

“You have to promise me. You have to promise me that you’ll wear the suit.” He gasped. “UVM, it…It needs its protector. It needs Rally Cat. Rally Cat isn’t a person. He’s really not even a cat. He’s an idea. A symbol. Promise me you’ll do this.”

All I could do was nod my head and hold his hand. With his final breath, he said “Meow, go cats go.” And then he was gone. 

I’ve been the man in the suit ever since. It was great at first. I was adored by students who didn’t even know my name. By day I was a loner, eating Trix cereal in the Grundle alone but by night, I was UVM’s savior. I was the Cat. 

But it’s starting to become too much. My life outside of the suit is beginning to fall apart. I’m failing my classes. What little friends I had left me because I always have to leave inconspicuously. I’ve abandoned birthday parties, dinners, and funerals all because the people need their symbol. 

I met a girl, and I can’t be with her because of Rally. If only I could tell her the truth. If only she knew how much I wish to be with her. But I can’t. Rally Cat wanders this earth alone. If the people knew who was under the mask it would ruin the illusion. If they knew that behind every high-five, behind every coupon for the bookstore, there was just a man afraid to be known, to be seen, then Rally Cat would be no more.

She stopped talking to me last week. Wants nothing to do with me. I tried to get her to stay. I told her I’d change but she knew I was lying. I knew it too. I’ve gotten close. I’ve taken off the comically large green and gold Adidas and hung up the various Jerseys. But every time I think about giving it all up I remember the promise I made. I made an oath to be the school’s protector and I have to keep it.

If only I hadn’t called out to Rally Cat when he was in the street. I killed him. It’s my fault. How selfish. What a selfish fool I was to call out to a man who clearly does not have peripheral vision. His blood is on my hands and I promised him. I promised myself. Even when UVM sports teams come under fire for various scandals and allegations. Even when UVM gets rid of the Bus Ball. Even when it cuts funding for various programs and then puts up a statue of like, I think the pi symbol? Whatever. Rally Cat abides. He’s the people’s champion. And no matter how much I suffer, I must go on. Curse this life.

Sometimes when I’m in the suit I see her. The other day she approached me. She asked for a picture and I gave my signature Rally Cat non-verbal thumbs up. We took the picture and she said it. “I love you Rally Cat.” If only she knew. That beneath Rally Cat’s vacant plastic eyes is a beating heart that yearns. It yearns for a world where we can be together. But maybe this is enough. Maybe it’s enough to know that Rally Cat can bring people the joy that I never could. When I look out at the crowd during games and I see them, the Catamounts, and they see me, it’s a sacred bond. I am UVM’s silent protector. The baron of high fives and the prince of the night. Rally Cat came to me when I needed him most and it killed him. And I owe it to the world to do the same. I promised and I must keep that promise even if it means we can’t be together. Perhaps one day, I’ll be able to remove the mask, while taking a selfie, and tell her how much she means to me. Tell her how I feel. But until then I’ll give a silent thumbs up and rest easy knowing that someone, anyone, knows that Rally Cat is here for them. Meow, Go Cats Go.

Categories: front page, matt haverty, September 27, side bar

%d bloggers like this: