I had this cat named Jazzz who loved the Christmas season.

All day, every day, he would sprawl under the Christmas tree on the fuzzy skirt that circled the tree’s base. If you tried to pull the cloth from underneath him, his claws would snikt! out like Wolverine’s and grasp the cloth to pull it back to him. Everyone thought this was hilarious.

They did not know the real story behind his furry obsession.

How could they know that this particular fabric reminded him of his mother’s fur? How could they have possibly known that she died when Jazzz was just a young kitten?

Jazzz lived for eighteen years. He was born and raised on the mean streets of Warren, Ohio; however, his mother, named Beatrice by her masters, was born into a life of suburban luxury. A domestic breed turned street cat after her human family had abandoned her because their daughter wanted a puppy instead of a cat.

Beatrice fell for a lowly ally cat named O’Malley. O’Malley’s carousing led to many sleepless nights for Jazzz’s mother, who was pregnant with Jazzz at the time. When she could no longer tolerate his behavior, she told O’Malley he had to leave.

Meow, was all he had to say before he walked out.

Two days later, he was struck dead by a speeding car.

Beatrice never recovered.

The shock of O’Malley’s death sent Beatrice into immediate labor. The kittens were born premature. Only two would live, Alley (born mere moments before) and Jazzz. As Beatrice spiraled further into depression, Alley developed a flourishing constitution, but Jazzz remained sickly and under-grown. Jazzz’s jet black fur was a mirror image of his mother‘s, but Alley became a spitting image of his father, calico suit and all.

They scavenged a home behind the Holiday bar. A bar that had a glorious dumpster filled nightly with half-eaten burgers that were left by the drunks that frequented the bar.

Times were tough for a single mother with two kittens trying to survive in the mean streets of the big city.

As a young kitten, Jazzz would drift, snuggled in her fur, listening to the cars zoom back and forth on Elm road, only to be startled from his slumber when a car would blare its horn, or tires would screech across the paved streets. Those nights plagued Jazzz with recurring nightmares that perpetually retold the gruesome fate of his father.

And his mother became more and more detached with each passing day.

When her two kittens slowed weaning, she would wander out at night and come back home just before dawn. When Jazzz would ask his mother where she went every night, she would tell him that she could still hear his father crying out from the side of the road, that it was if he was calling out to her, leading her to that dreadful street that witnessed his demise, and that Alley had begun to resemble his father to such a degree, that it was impossible for her to constantly look at him without her heart breaking.

Alley often overheard his mother say such things.

At only a few months of age, Alley began to hang around older cats that had no business hanging around with kittens. Alley would come back home with briars and catnip tangled in his coat. He would insist that nothing was going on.

Meow, he would say.

One night, passed out behind the dumpster, Jazzz heard what sounded like a car wreck. He was jolted from his sleep. As he was about to fade back into sleep, his supersonic feline ears picked up a faint crying.

It was his mother.

Jazzz shot straight up and looked around for Alley who was nowhere to be found. He darted around the Holiday plaza and pinpointed the location of the mewing. Three of Elm road’s lanes were locked in a standstill; one was open to alternating traffic. He raced into the street and a car blasted its horn at him. Startled and momentarily disoriented, he nearly ran into a man who was standing by the accident in the middle of the road. The man kicked him away.

Stupid cat! Get the hell out of here, he said.

Jazzz could hear his mother, but his bruised ribs and the mounting anxiety were constricting his breathing; nevertheless, he managed to make it to her before her passing. She raised her head from the gravel and stared at something beyond Jazzz’s shoulder.

Meow, was all she said before she passed away.

Jazzz stayed by her side long after her passing. He stayed long after the sirens and the tow trucks. He came back home at dawn to find Alley passed out behind the dumpster. Jazzz could not control his anger and he unleashed it on the unknowing Alley. Later that day, Alley left the Holiday.

He never returned. 

For several days, Jazzz would sit across the street from his mother’s decaying carcass and blankly stare in her body’s general direction. That was how I found him, while sitting outside the Dairy Queen on a hot day, drinking a chocolate malt.

What the fuck is that cat looking at? I asked rhetorically.

Who? my friend asked in response.

That cat… across the street.

How long has he been there?

I have no idea.

I finished my chocolate malt. As I walked to my car I looked back to discover Jazzz still there, on the opposite side of the road, staring out-in space. I changed direction and weaved across the street. As I approached him, he hardly seemed to notice my presence–if he did at all. I thought he had been hit by a car to be tossed in such a dazed state. I bent over to pet him. He didn’t run. He just looked up at me.

Meow, he said.

I snatched him up and took him to my apartment building that was behind the Elm road plaza, which was across the street from the plaza where the Holiday bar was located.

His crazy ass fit right in with my weirdness like we had never missed a day.

One of Jazzz’s favorite ways to pass an afternoon was to stare out the living room window. I never thought much of it, just a cat being a cat, or so I thought. How was I to know that he was watching for his brother, who would pass by from time to time, as he cut between yards? Alley would look up at Jazzz with contempt for having a human master and living in such a luxurious apartment, while the rest of his kind had to scrounge and run for their lives.

Ally cats ain’t got time for that.

Meow, Jazzz would say to his brother.

Meow, Alley would say back to his brother.

Though there were but mere centimeters of screen between them, it might as well have been miles of brick.

Several months passed for Jazzz without seeing Alley. Jazzz would quiz random strays about his brother as they walked past his window. Then one day, he heard the terrible news that a pit bull had ripped Alley to shreds while he was crossing through a neighboring lawn. Jazzz was heartbroken. The bond between the brothers was forever lost, without a hope to ever be mended.

Jazzz lived through many tumultuous moves with me over the ensuing years; but then, a terminal illness fell upon the furry wonder. Within a month, he grew gaunt from emaciation. He could barely walk. He’d look at me and open his mouth…but no meow would follow.

He was a tired old man whose time had passed.

I took him to the veterinarian. I knew there was nothing that could be done beyond putting him down. I still had to try. In the waiting room, I filled out a questionnaire that asked me how much I would be willing to spend to save my pet’s life. I knew I was in the wrong place. Jazzz and I didn’t need capitalism. We needed a shaman. I still proceeded through the motions of western medicine.

There’s nothing I can do, the vet said.

No shit, I thought.

But I can end his suffering right now for an additional fee, and we can dispose of the body, but that is an extra charge also, the vet said.

I wasn’t thinking about currency at the time. I just ignored the good doctor. I looked over at Jazzz. He was reposed on his side in the tiny cat carrier. He looked at me through the carrier’s small bars. A look very familiar to me. I thought of all the institutions I had been caged in for no good reason. I thought of all the times I just wanted to be left alone, but this world just kept poking and prodding me. I walked over to the cage.

Are you ready for this buddy? I asked.

He lifted his head and gave his silent meow. I grabbed the carrier and walked out the room. The vet seemed alarmed.

You’re not getting the shot? he asked.

He’s not ready to go yet, I replied.

The nurses cast disapproving glances upon me as I exited the premises. I suppose they thought me cruel.

Two days later, Jazzz would be dead.

He had been sprawled on my chest for nearly fourteen hours. Suddenly, he let out a cry. He tried to stand, to only fall back over a second later. I could tell he wanted down. I picked him up as gently as I could and placed him on the ground by my bed. He tried to sit up for a moment, but he again fell over. His breathing was labored.

I knew that his time was expiring.

I had just finished reading parts of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I fancied myself a magic man. A guide for his passing through the horrifying membrane that separates the corporeal from the ethereal. When we leave life, the horrors of our worlds claw at our psyches in desperate attempts to cling to the reality we had grown so accustomed to. To help overcome the overwhelming fear of letting go, a holy man whispers soothing thoughts to the soon-to-be deceased.

Is that not the point, to not be alone when we die?

For someone to hold our hand and tell us that they love us?

To say that everything is okay and it all makes sense?

So, I laid my head by Jazzz’s side and my hand across his side–the same side that had been kicked the night of that horrible accident all those years ago–and I told him that I was there, that I will always be there, that everything was okay, and there was nothing to worry about.

Jazzz thought of his father.

He thought of his brother.

He thought of his mother.

He thought of me as I thought of him.

And then, he was gone.

I remain vigilant for his return. I look in the eyes of young kittens to catch glimpses of his personality shining through. It has been declared that energy can never be destroyed. A powerful energy is emitted from an individual’s personality. The more developed their individuality becomes, the more this energy takes a definite shape. A shape distinguishable from a gazillion other energy sources floating around in the multiverse. Residual traces of a strong character will accompany its nebulous spirit through its sojourn from our plane of existence. We are all on the wheel. But will we meet again on our next spin?

I think…we will.

I miss my furry Bodhisattva.

My little man.

My friend.

http://zenspeaknine.com/

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Comments
  1. Tibetan Book of the Dead……one of my favorites….. and yes cats have a spirit/soul too and they know when they want to come and when they want to go.

    Take care Carl 🙂

    • Thank you Angela!
      I started my second book, which will be a novella. It has been difficult, the crossover back to writing prose. I’m finally unleashing the style that I have been fine-tuning since fourteen. This piece is about the closest thing I’ve done that matches the prose I see developing in my head. For me, style trumps all else, no matter how perfect the writing, it is all for naught if it does not stand out, fiction at least. That is why I like poetry, a lot more freedom in structure.
      What have you been working on? When are you going to do a compilation of your work for the press? I await the arrival of your words in a format I can hold in my hands and carry around.
      Peace from the belly of the beast…

      • Wow, good for you! Would like to write a novel myself but I love the quick finish a poem gives me, don’t know if I would have the patience for something as long as a novel.

        Ya wish I had a book of my poems to hold in my hand as well. If all else fails I will simply buy a printer and ink and make a few copies myself, properly bound of course. I would certainly love to give you one 🙂

        Am actually hoping to get back to my painting. Have a series rolling around in my head. Time time time and motivation motivation motivation……..Peace to happy writing to you Carl ::-) Hugs ~~ Angela

  2. you could publish it right now, this very second. WordPress has taught me a lot about writing, it has especially taught me to not give a fuck what people think and just keep writing. We are here to leave a mark, and by mark I mean a scar, sure, not everyone enjoys getting the scar, but imagine all the great stories we’d miss without the scars. I guess what I’m saying is that it isn’t about the sales or the popularity for me anymore, I’d like to say that it never was, but deep down I had stupid hopes like everyone else, it is about setting it in stone. We are divine messengers with but little time to get the message across.
    Painting, oh my dear, how you always strike these chords I so want to hear…
    I need to see these. Painting is my first love, and I only write because I never developed a talent for it. I hate reading sometimes, but I never tire of looking at paintings.
    I hope to see a pic of your work soon. Maybe if I sent you money you could do a print for me?

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