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The Very Last of Nine Lives
The following two feline characters did exist by both name and order of belonging a few decades ago; and with the exception of “Jordan” and the dialogue itself, the events ‘telepathically related’ between them either did actually occur or in likelihood did occur.
Ceso was a Tomcat on his deathbed. He’d had a life full of injury, mostly through catfights of his own making; however, it was his recent stroke, which left his right leg paralyzed, that was soon going to result—directly or indirectly—in his death. Though Ceso (pronounced Sesso) knew full well that his human family members loved and adored him since the very day they had adopted him as a rejected, black, runt kitten, he also knew that the one closest to him, Jordan, reluctantly intended to put him to sleep if his grim condition did not improve. So there he laid, a very sick twelve-year-old cat, on the sitting-room’s carpeted floor, in the summer sunlight piercing the window.
But, letting out one of his frequent hairball hacks, Ceso noticed movement through the corner of his eye; he turned his head, and, to his dismay, it was a black kitten: Jordan had just brought her home from a household out near the farming community. The kitten, ‘Mimi,’ slowly walked into the sitting room, followed by Jordan, who formally introduced the two felines to each other. Jordan then left the room and hadn’t been gone at all long before Ceso hissed at Mimi. He, spitting and growling at her, then got up onto his somewhat weakened front legs, with his ears pulled back. Their eyes met, and the two felines locked into a telepathic connection.
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?!” he demanded of her. “This is my place!”
Mimi replied with a little hiss of her own; her ears were also pulled back, and her tail went up, with its hairs stretched erect. It was a tense, six-second silence that followed, as they stared at each other with wide-open eyes.
“I’m not stupid,” said Ceso. “I know why you’re here—and I know that it’s not companionship for my sake.”
Having said that, he relaxed and laid back down onto the carpet; Mimi did likewise.
“Maybe you know why I’m here, but I don’t,” she retorted. “I want to go back and play with my brothers and sister. Why am I here?!”
“You’re here to take my spot, as family cat—I’m on my way out. I’m going to die.”
“Die?!” Mimi asked, as her eyes widened. “Where? Here?!”
“No; he’ll take me to the doctor, who’ll do it, but I was told that it’s painless. Besides, it’s my time to go,” Ceso informed Mimi, then took in a deep breath and let it out. “I’m beat. And I feel terrible.”
“Is that why you’re going to die? Are you really old, too? How old are you?”
Ceso then let out an intense hairball hack before stretching out his good leg. His neck muscle then briefly twitched because of a flea bite.
“From what I’ve been told, I’m twelve years old. But the last time I went to the doctor’s, he said that ‘physiologically’ ... ”—Ceso, curling his paws into quotation marks, explained—“ ... I’m more like sixteen years old, probably because of all the beatings I’ve endured at the paws and teeth of other cats.” For effect, Ceso swung his right paw at Mimi’s face, intentionally just missing her. “You know something? I think I’m lucky to have made it past kitten-hood, at all.”
He laid his chin down onto the carpet and slowly stretched out. All was then still and silent for about twenty seconds, as Ceso fell asleep.
Mimi then slowly crawled up to Ceso’s paw and sniffed it; her eyes opened wide, before letting out an inquisitive yet gentle, “Meeeoooww?”
“What?! … No, I’m not dead, yet,” Ceso declared, lifting up his head and eyes opened wide. “I said that he would get the doctor to do it, didn’t I?” A brief silence ensued, and Ceso’s neck muscle again twitched as his eyelids relaxed.
“Why were you lucky to have made it past kitten-hood?” Mimi inquired, just a second before Ceso let out another hairball hack.
“I was locked out of my birth home when I was just two months old—and on a very cold, foggy autumn night, at that. Left to die.”
He then reached over his good leg to scratch his neck before continuing with his story: “I walked out through the open back door and into the backyard, with its tall, wet grass—way over my head. Then the door slammed shut and locked behind me.”
A few seconds of silence followed before Mimi asked, “Didn’t you go back and cry?”
“Till my throat was raw and sore. Nobody answered. Though, early the next morning, Jordan came through his backyard and into mine after he’d heard my persistent crying. He picked me up and put me into his coat, then knocked on the door. Nobody answered, so he brought me here and adopted me,” he replied, as he stared out the open window on the opposite side of the room.
“Remember, Mimi: just give him a lot of purring and murring, and he’ll give you great back massages—he calls it petting. It’s said that this exchange of good deeds is physically beneficial to both pet and host—both are healthier for it and thus even live longer for it all. Maybe it’s true … ”
Ceso’s neck muscle twitched, again, and he reached over his good leg and scratched his neck rapidly, with his eyes open to their fullest.
“F!@#$!*g flea! They can make life a real b@#!, you know! Why the Creator allows their parasitic existence is beyond me!” Ceso cursed, before settling down somewhat. “I guess I’ll be able to ask Him ‘why?’ myself, soon enough.” His eyelids then slowly settled.
“What about the others?” asked Mimi. “Weren’t there other kittens?”
“You mean siblings? Yeah; two sisters and a brother,” he replied, letting out yet another hairball hack. (I actually had another sister, but she died at birth.) But they didn’t have an obsession with open doors, like I did. I had a tendency to wander through any open door, especially the back door. Mr. and Mrs. Shultz probably thought I was in the house with the rest of the kittens, then shut and locked the door just before going away, somewhere.”
“If I knew where, don’t you think I’d tell you that in the first place?!” was his abrasive answer. “You’re not too bright, are you, Mimi?”
Then, to her amazement (eyes opened wide), Mimi noticed and stared at the small, cloud-like formation just above Ceso’s left eye’s pupil. “What’s that?! What happened to your eye?! Does it hurt?!”
“It’s called a battle scar,” he returned. “And, no, I don’t feel anything, anymore.”
“I got clipped by Bonzeye, two houses down,” Ceso said, half closing the scarred eye. “He’s a real creep, you know. Stay away from him. He’ll scrap you whether or not you’re a girl.”
He then let out another intense hairball hack, as Mimi inquired, “How long ago did it happen?”
“A long time ago—alright?” Ceso replied, before yawning.
Mimi, suddenly sitting up, and her eyes opened as wide as they’d go, saw that he had only one fang in his mouth. “What happened to your teeth?!”
“Too many questions!” Ceso snapped, his eyes opened wide while letting out a reverberating hairball hack (the hacks seemed to only worsen).
Mimi took a step backwards, and a dozen seconds of silence passed as Ceso regained his composure. Completely disregarding Mimi’s latter question, Ceso went on about Bonzeye: “He clipped me just before I got ‘neutered’”—Ceso again curled his paws into quotation marks—“about eight years ago.”
A brief silence followed, and then Mimi asked, “neutered?”
Ceso seemed to have not even heard her one-word query, but rather he mused: “Now that I think about it, maybe the two incidents are somehow related. It’s said that cats—especially males—get into a lot of fights when they’re not neutered. And that fight with Bonzeye was the fight of my life,” Ceso emphasized, again half closing the scarred eye. “I was gone for three days; he, Jordan, told me that he and his family thought I had wandered off somewhere to die. I almost lost my eye, you know.”
“What about your teeth? Did Bonzeye knock them out, too?”
“No, Bonzeye didn’t ‘knock them out, too’,” Ceso corrected her, with thick sarcasm. “They fell out.” He then stretched his body, his eyelids relaxed, and a muscle twitch appeared to move from the tip of his tail, along his back and up to his neck.
“Fell out? You are old!”
Ceso took in another deep breath, sighed and then released what would be his very last hairball hack. Following another moment of silence, Jordan walked into the room with a pet’s traveling cage and with heavy tears in his eyes. He slowly picked up Ceso and gave him two kisses on his cheek. The two felines stared at each other as Jordan slowly, gently placed Ceso into the cage, closed the cage door and left the room.■
Frank G Sterle Jr
One Weekend, One February: A Loss & Find
It was at least dusk on a cloudy Friday night
and our precious, sweet, whiskered feline was quite missed,
not answering our calls, indeed nowhere in sight;
where could’ve she gone, we thought, that feline too free
when the bell she wore should’ve told us where she’d be.
As the clock tolled nine, we were stricken with worry
and we called out her name as we roamed the still streets
but the night’s silence revealed naught of her story.
The hour neared twelve as we feared tragedy,
‘Mimi, come home!’ we called her in futility.
Oh! the grief of belief that one so loved is lost
—the pain of conviction that we’d see her no more—
put doubt to the notion that love is worth the cost.
When dawn greeted us from very few hours’ sleep,
we prayed that she’d come home, ending worry so deep.
Looking outside, we saw naught of her we adored
and it sunk like heavy lead down into our bleak souls
that we’d never again hold her—she, whose spirit soared.
‘I’ll take a last look around,’ sighed one who loved the cat
as he put on his coat to seek where she may be at;
‘It’s for naught,’ my thoughts said, ‘we’ll not hold her again,’
as I returned slowly with heavy heart to my room
where I viewed my cat pictures as I did now and then.
‘Come! Come and see who’s here!’ exclaimed one after a while,
bursting into the house, flanked by Mimi with a smile;
‘She was locked in the neighbour’s shed,’ said the one, with a grin,
‘and she cried as I neared and called for her,’
holding her close to his bosom, scratching her sweet chin;
she then ran to her kibble and salmon and fresh cream,
having naught to eat forever to her it would seem.
My mind drained of energy from that night’s loss of hope,
I took to sleep next to Mimi, my precious feline,
while thinking, Oh, what about next time—how will I cope?
To have loved and then lost is for some better than naught,
though such a concept is too simple, I was cruelly taught.
Frank Sterle Jr