Saturday, December 25, 2010

China the Church Cat's Christmas by Bill Imbornoni

China the Church Cat’s Christmas
by Bill Imbornoni


China is a church cat, which is only to say she belongs to Father Francis and has the run of the rectory, the hall from the rectory to the little church, and the little church itself.

Why the name “China”? A friendly parishioner had given China to Father Frank for company. Father hadn’t felt it right to ask a saint to share her name with a little beasty, so couldn’t find a name to call the cat. While waiting for divine inspiration on this subject, Father Frank would often be heard to say “You’re a fine cat” and “What a fine feline you are.” Fine this and fine that. Hearing Father’s list of fines, a precocious altar boy suggested the cat be called “China,” as in “fine China.” The name stuck.

China was a good cat. She loved her church cat life with Father Frank. She loved Sundays the most. She sensed the way that mass with Father Frank made Sundays seem sunnier for all the people. Father would give a simple sermon full of love and wit. He would loudly lead the congregation in song—his heart hitting those notes his voice could not reach. (In the shower, Father Francis was among the greatest of Irish tenors. Dry he was never quite as good.)

Mrs. Clark played the organ high in the back of the church. China liked to be there when Mrs. C. was piping that organ. When the organist’s feet were not busy working the pedals, China would rub against her legs. China could tell that Sunday was Mrs. Clark’s favorite day, too. The music was Mrs. Clark’s special thing that she could give to God. China saw a feeling in the kind lady’s face, a warm feeling from the inside breaking out, a Sunday glow.

China wished that she could make Sunday special the way Father Frank and Mrs. Clark did. She did what she could. She stayed outside the little church after mass, letting the children stroke her smooth fur, forgiving the naughty ones who would sometimes pull her tail. Still, she wished for more—especially given the time of year. Christmas was coming, and even a cat could tell that Christmas was something very extra special.

It had been a mild December, which was good news for Little Bird. Little Bird was a little bird who had made a big decision: she would skip the flight south this winter. This little bold bird wanted to see what living in a snowy season was like. Little did Little Bird know what was in store for her.

It was two Sundays before Christmas when the weather decided to turn icy cold. Sitting in a crook of a barren tree and beginning to regret her brash decision, Little Bird watched people going through the large doors of what she didn’t know to be the little church. The people looked happy. They must be happy, she thought, because they are going into someplace warm. Chilled past her feathers to the bone, Little Bird decided to fly a loop then do a swoop, then go in for a look.

Little Bird swung in low through the doors, then flew up, up, and up. What a place! There was warmth—and color and sound and something else that Little Bird couldn’t describe (it was the feeling of love all around). She flew ‘round and ‘round the high ceiling, taking it all in, giving the children (and the adults, who were children at heart) such a show. It was as if the circus had come to church.

China was among the first to see the flying bird. The sight momentarily made her stomach rumble, but she decided to put away un-Christian thoughts. When Father Frank marched out to the altar, he, too, took notice of the bird. He welcomed the little bird to his mass and even worked a mention of her into his sermon, saying that he was grateful for the added attraction and wondering what other creature the Lord might provide next week for comment.

Not noticing how noticed she was, Little Bird just flew ‘round and ‘round and ‘round and ‘round, her wings seemingly held up by the prayers that from below were rising toward heaven.

When the people had all left for the day, Father Frank and China walked through the little church together. With the little bird in mind, Father reminded China that she always was given plenty to eat—so no flying snacks, please. China was a little hurt by this almost accusation for a crime not committed, but understood that Father was only trying to protect that little bird. Father asked China to let the bird be; the winged wonder would find a way out of the church and back to the sky.

Little Bird decided to alight in the loft, to watch Mrs. Clark put her sheet music away. Despite her to this point brief stay, Little Bird had made the connection between Mrs. Clark and the music. Little Bird thought of Mrs. Clark as another bird, one apparently unable to fly but able to make music as sweet as any birdsong she had ever heard.

As Mrs. Clark left, Little Bird took notice of the small openings of the organ pipes. She flew up into one and decided immediately that this would be a perfect place for a nest.

Little Bird spent the rest of that day gathering the kinds of bits and pieces a bird uses to build a nest, among them a scrap of paper from the weekly bulletin, the unused tissue of a sniffly parishioner, a few fallen leaves from the altar poinsettias, the lost hanky of a little girl’s doll.

Little Bird packed the pipe until her new nest was in there good and tight.

Her task complete, Little Bird was famished for some food. She flew ‘round the church, not finding much but assorted crumbs left by children who during church had been made to chomp instead of chirp. Looking still the more, she flew up a winding staircase that led to the mostly unchimed church bell. The small bell’s tower was open to the chilly outside air. Here was a way for Little Bird to fly out to forage, then return to her cozy new nest. Upon her return, in celebration, a happy Little Bird flew ‘round and ‘round her newfound home.

China carefully noted each of the Little Bird developments. Though China had successfully fought her instinct to try to make a meal of the little bird, she still indulged her hunter’s eye for detail. She knew just where the nest was. During that week, she occasionally purred a friendly “meow” up toward it. Not knowing a friendly meow from a threatening one, Little Bird decided to keep to herself.

A crisp beautiful Sunday came. As they entered the church, the boys and girls with long memories looked to the ceiling to see if Little Bird was still about. They were disappointed to not see her—though the disappointment would be short-lived. When Mrs. Clark struck some premonitory notes before the opening hymn, Little Bird was startled out of her nest and into flight.

As she played, Mrs. Clark said to herself a silent “oh dear.” It was clear to her as she noodled the keys that she was not hitting one note as she should. She couldn’t know that this was the nest note, that Little Bird’s newly nestled nest was plugging the pipe enough to mildly muffle the sound. No one noticed that note that was not quite, no one but Mrs. Clark. China, who was in the loft with Mrs. C., could see the look of pain and panic on the old woman’s face as she played. China, knowing of the nest and being a more acoustically attuned cat than most, somehow knew that that nest was the source of the problem.

When mass had ended, Mrs. Clark sought out Father Frank and apologized for her poor performance. The Father said it was “not to worry”; he’d not noticed a note out of place and he was sure that no one else had. He would have someone in after the holidays to have a look. Seeing still the upsetment on her face, Father offered Mrs. Clark a spot of tea. China, who had come down from the loft with Mrs. C., was concerned as well, rubbing her softest, most sympathetic rub against Mrs. Clark’s leg. Mrs. Clark was too frazzled to take any tea, too upset thinking of sour notes on Christmas. On Christmas! This most special day was the day she wanted best to play.

Mrs. Clark left church that day with a heavy heart. China knew in her cat heart that something had to be done about that little bird.

But what to do? Christmas was one week away, falling on Sunday that year. China had one week to come up with a plan.

As the week went by, China watched Little Bird, watched everything she did. China didn’t know more about birds than any other cat, but as she watched Little Bird she got the feeling that this was a happy little bird, as happy in this new church life as China was in hers. Little Bird would have told China that herself, if only a bird could talk cat. Yes, that bird sure looked happy in her new home.

New home—that was it! China would build Little Bird a new new home, a new nest somewhere else in the church. She could build a nest, of course she could. If a bird could build a nest, a cat certainly could. (Despite her good intentions, China was after all a cat and couldn’t help but have a bit of an attitude, call it a “cattitude,” where birds were concerned.)

Where to build this nest? The little belltower would be a good place. China had seen the little bird come and go from there. The warmth of the church rose up through that tower and it was close to the outside. A perfect location. On top of that, China could do her nest-building work out of sight of Father Frank and the other weekday worshippers.

Much as Little Bird had done, China gathered materials from the church—more fallen leaves from the altar poinsettias, more paper from discarded bulletins, any this-and-that that the cat could find. The centerpiece of this cat bird nest was a lonely lost mitten that China had found in one of the pews. She knew this would make for a warm cozy nest. (When Little Bird finally would settle into this nest, even she would have had to agree that China had done a pretty good job—for a cat, that is.)

The nest building was hard work. With her cat claws, China was able to climb up the chimneylike tower to the crevice like a ledge where she was working. Once China had even lost her grip and fallen. She saved herself by grabbing onto the bell rope that hung down the tower. No one noticed the small cling-clang of the bell that resulted when China caught onto that rope. China decided that the rope would come in handy—or should I say paw-y—when she put her plan into action.

By Thursday the nest was complete. Little Bird had not noticed China’s efforts at all. She had made it her habit to be wherever China was not, fearful in the way that birds fear ordinary cats. By the next day, China would show herself to be no ordinary cat. For on Friday evening, Christmas-Eve eve, China’s plan would play out.

Friday night’s food was always fish for Father Francis. He’d cook up some fish fillets in a skillet while some favorite music played. The music was important to China’s plan. It would be loud enough, especially if Father Frank was singing along as he often did, that Father would not hear the noise that was going to come.

China always shared Friday dinner with Father Frank ‘cause Father Frank always shared his fish. Father knew there was never a need to call for China on Fridays, on Friday evenings she was a kitchen cat, rubbing against Father’s legs as he cooked, lingering around her bowl waiting for the tasty treat.

As China had hoped that particular Friday, Father did have music playing, a crooner’s holiday tunes to which Father Francis could not help but croon along. China needed Father’s music as cover because she would be making some music of her own in a very short while.

Father scraped first the feline share of the fish into China’s bowl, then onto his plate what remained in the skillet. When Father turned around from placing the skillet into the sink, he was surprised to see that China was gone from the kitchen, and the fish from her bowl as well. Father thought to himself that that was one hungry cat, but besides that thought nothing much of it. He sat to his grace and his meal and his music, pausing for a moment to savor the goodness of it all.

China hurried toward the church with her bait clutched in her mouth, resisting the temptation to bite. She clawed her way up the churchtower, placing the fried fish that she’d taken from her dish into her nest, soon to be Little Bird’s nest.

China now jumped to the rope that hung down the tower, digging in with her paws before beginning to bounce in the air, dangling on the biggest piece of string with which ever a cat had had to play, ringing the biggest dinner bell that ever had been rung for a little bird.

“Ding-dong,” heard the bird. “Ding-dong,” heard the bird. That ringing bell made Little Bird curious, not as curious as a cat, but mighty curious. She decided she would take a short flight up the tower to see what all the racket was about.

China lowered herself down the rope, continuing her bell-ringing bouncing as she did so. She needed to be out of that tower before the little bird arrived. When she was low enough as not to be so high, China jumped off the rope to the floor below, landing on her paws as a cat always will.

Just in the instant China jumped down the tower, Little Bird flew up. Little Bird thought for a second that she’d seen a flying cat, but a flying cat is too frightening a thing for a bird to think about, so she instantly put it out of her mind. Flying up the tower, Little Bird spied the piece of fish in the unknown-to-her nest. What a feast! She flapped above the nest for a moment, wondering how she had never noticed it before. Oh well. Dinner was in the nest, and the nest, with that wooly mitten at its center, looked rather cozy. So Little Bird landed and settled down to eat.

China took a peak up the tower and saw Little Bird pecking away. Her plan was working.

Next came the musical part of China’s plan. As I have said, China was a cat more musical than most: she somehow knew that wind blew out the organ pipes when one pressed the keys of the keyboard. So, China went to the organ, jumped from its bench to the keys, then began to do as she pleased.

It was a dance, it was a prance, it made a wild song. China cha-cha’d back and forth across the keys, making her music in the hope that her paw playing would blow Little Bird’s nest out of the organ pipe. Father Francis, eating the dinner he did not know he was sharing with a bird and singing songs of Christmas as he chewed, never heard China’s song. Little Bird as well did not let herself be distracted from her feast. She was one hungry bird.

China played on, not knowing, though she was hoping, that Little Bird’s little nest was being pushed up the pipe, inching and scrinching its way toward the outside. Like a monkey typing Shakespeare, China did manage to hit some sweet sounding chords in her walk on the musical side. She had to admit to herself that, though she was doing this for a good cause, this musical run was just plain fun.

China continued pussyfooting around on that keyboard until fatefully, finally the nest was blown clear of the pipe and that pipe’s full note came home. It sounded. It sounded like . . like Christmas, clear and pure.

Several blocks away, Mrs. Clark looked up from her hot cup of tea, thinking she heard something, something a little bit in her ears and a little bit in her heart, something that made her feel a little bit less down about going up to church on Sunday to play that organ.

China continued to dance across that keyboard for a bit, dancing a dance of joy. Then with a four-paw flourish she ended her musical career, knowing that her cat caper was a success.

Little Bird was surprised later to see that her home in the pipe had been blown, but so smitten with her new mitten nest was she that she did not nearly mind.

China returned to the kitchen to find Father Francis just as she had left him, eating and singing. China was empty in her belly, but for the good deed that she had done felt filled-up everywhere else. Even Father could see this in China, this twinkle in her eyes, a good sort of cat-that-swallowed-the-canary look about her. Seeing this made Father Frank do something that he had never done before. He got up from the table and cooked another piece of fish for China. He scraped it down into the bowl, then stroked China’s head.

“You’re a fine cat, you are,” he said. “A Merry Christmas to ya.”

Christmas morning came soon enough. Mrs. Clark came to the church, wearing her red holiday dress and not knowing what to expect when she played her first song of the feast.

Father Francis entered the church, walking up the aisle and seeing the joy of young and old, the joy of Christmas—the joy of children who now knew what had been in Santa’s bag and the joy of all who knew that on this day a Savior had been born.

Feeling, too, that joy, Mrs. Clark began to play and—miracle of small miracles—all notes rang true. She beamed as she shared her music with the people and with her God.

Little Bird soared throughout that Christmas service, happy with her new nest, wanting never to leave this place that she had found.

Father Frank’s sermon that day tried to explain the feeling they were all feeling, that feeling that made the heart fly like that little bird above them. Father concluded that the feeling could not be explained, that that did not matter, that it was enough just to feel it.

China, up in the choir loft, shared, too, the feeling of the day, rubbing up against the more-than-happy Mrs. Clark, as soulful a cat as ever there could be.

Father’s final blessing sent the people back to their homes knowing that they had another home, and in it lived a little bird and a fine cat.

END



Copyright Bill Imbornoni, 2009

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy Holidays From Hazard Cat!



Hazard Cat will be back to posting in January. Enjoy your holidays with your favorite cats!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cat Language by Joy Harold Helsing

Cat Language
by Joy Harold Helsing

Sometimes when I try
to speak their feline tongue
they echo me
correcting
my pronunciation

If I hiss a warning
as one starts to sharpen claws
on the new chair
they pretend
they don't get my meaning

They have ways
to communicate
I cannot share
twitches of ears
tail whiskers
fluffed fur arched back
scent
coded cries

Though I think
they understand
my murmurings
in their world
I'll always be
that clumsy
inarticulate
oaf



Joy Harold Helsing is an ex-salesclerk, ex-secretary, ex-textbook editor, ex-psychologist, ex-college instructor, ex-New Englander and ex-San Franciscan who now lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California. Her work has appeared in many journals and she has published three chapbooks and one book, Confessions of the Hare.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Enigmatic Cats by Suan Wiener

Enigmatic Cats
by Suzan Wiener

Cats, the enigmas
Of this earthly world.
Watch as their
Mischievousness unfurls.

They'll stalk a mouse
Or trail a bug,
And with our hearts
They give a tug.

Cats are genuine;
Cats are revealing.
Somehow you know
Just what they're feeling.

They breath new life
As only they can.
Cats, the enigmas,
But somehow understand.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Art by T.L. Davison

After the Lovin'






Securicat

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Kindness of Cats by Carol Ayer

THE KINDNESS OF CATS
by Carol Ayer



Penny was in bed, trying hard for a nap,
Her energy a migraine had sadly zapped.
Rebecca the cat hopped up on the bed,
“Won't you come out to play?” she said.

“Dear Rebecca, I do not feel well,
My head is aching, can't you tell?”

“I only ache when you forget my treat,
Have you tried having something to eat?”

“Please leave me alone is all that I ask,
Won't you go out to the sunshine to bask?”

Rebecca obliged, but she left a bit sad.
She always felt helpless when Penny felt bad.

Later Penny awoke beside a bundle of fur.
“I brought you some food,” Rebecca did purr.

Penny looked around and saw with dismay,
lying on her pillow a half-eaten blue jay.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ulysses the Cat by Jessica Otto

Ulysses the Cat
by Jessica Otto

Stretched in the sunlight
crowning Calypso’s shore,
the black cat dozed,
small blue crabs drown
in a capsized silver urn; cream filled
and slopping beside him.

Why long for plump
tuna steak and cheesecake
crumbs when Apollo
scratches behind my ears
and no storm cloud
threatens olive saplings
with shaking? That
rural stone hearth
plucked from the heart
of the hill my paws pounded
daily is miles away.

Waves lick gingerly
against the pebbly shore
the lambent royal blue of
Penelope’s summer dress.
He is still listless as
he is lifted up by
roughened driftwood hands
and tossed back into the sea.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tom Cat by Jean Airey

TOM CAT

By Jean Airey


He shifted his body on the thick blanket that covered the bottom of the metal cage. This wasn’t his bed. His bed was thick and soft and his bones didn’t hurt when he lay on it. SHE had brought it to him, giving him treats to encourage him to get on it. Scattering catnip on it and scratching him behind one ear as she persuaded him that this would make a good bed. As if he’d needed that. He knew a good bed when he saw one, but SHE had been trained well. He opened his eyes and looked out to the room where other cats were running and playing and, yes, even sleeping over by the window in the sun. He was shut in and couldn’t go out there. He shifted again, turning his back to the cage door and looking at the small litter box in the back of the cage.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do with him,” Rachel Woodman said. “He’s just not eating, and he’s lost three pounds in the last month.”

The small white-haired woman peered into the cage. There wasn’t a lot to see, just the back of a large black cat, studiously ignoring them. “How long have you had him?”

Rachel sighed, “Two months now.”

“How is he with other cats?” Henrietta asked.

“Hates them.”


He could feel a tickle of air movement around his whiskers and turned his head slightly to look out the front of the cage. Yes, there it was, that paw reaching from the cage above down into his definitely belonged to that ditsy white cat. She was the one who thought he would like having his tail bitten. He’d snarled at her and she’d danced away laughing, laughing at him. If SHE had been here SHE would have picked the scrawny thing up and given her a good scolding. He’d tried to do the same thing, but THEY’d stopped him. How would that cat ever learn good manners that way.

“See that darling little Angora kitten? She was just trying to play with him and he tried to bite her. Hello, sweetie,” Rachel reached into the cage and took the white cat out. “She’s going to get adopted without any trouble.”

“How old did you say he was?” Henrietta asked.

“We’re not sure.” Rachel put the kitten down on the floor where it ran off to play with the other cats. “His owner was a retired school teacher from up north. She moved down here about a year ago. Bought a place in one of the older trailer parks. She kept to herself, as far as we can tell; no one heard her talking about a cat. She was going to her car when she collapsed and died of a heart attack. It was only when the police went into her house that they found the cat.”

“No relatives?”

“A niece up north. She arranged for all her aunt’s things to be sold. Wasn’t interested in the cat and didn’t know anything about him. The woman must have owned him since he was a kitten, the police said there were pictures of him from a baby on all through the house.” She sighed. “The vet estimates he’s about thirteen years old.”

Where was SHE. SHE had never left him for this long. SHE always came for him. SHE always talked to him when she took him somewhere to stay. SHE took him to places where there were big beds and big litter boxes and toys for him to play with. Even if he didn’t want to play with the toys, SHE always had toys for him. SHE did not treat him this way. He was going to ignore her when SHE came back. Yes, indeed, ignore her for a long time.

“There aren’t very many people who want to adopt an old cat, and, face it Rachel, he is an old, ornery cat.” Henrietta frowned at the cage. Spoiled rotten cat too, she thought, but it was all the woman had had.

“I thought you might be able to find a foster home for him? I’m sure he’d be happier there. If he’d just start eating . . .”

Henrietta sighed again, “That’s a great idea, but our foster homes all have multiple animals of one kind or another. If he can’t get along with other cats, what would he do around dogs?”


He shifted again, exhaling a soft hiss of pain. There, moving on the other hip helped, but his back still ached. He almost missed Bailey. Yes, that old dog was good for keeping him warm. Knew his place too. When SHE had brought him to her home the huge shaggy mutt had come up to greet him, wagging his tail and wanting to lick him. He hadn’t allowed that, not until he was ready. It was all in the attitude, his mother had told him. She’d controlled three dogs that were much larger than Bailey, and he’d learned his lessons well. Bailey had been, well, helpful. Bailey had gone away too. Had SHE gone to get Bailey? He got up to look out of the cage. Maybe SHE would be coming in the door right now. He had to shake his head, the room looked fuzzy.

“Are you sure he doesn’t have an ear infection? He’s shaking his head.” Henrietta opened the cage door and took him out. He gave a startled yowl. She cuddled him to her chest and stroked his head, scratching and then looking into his ears. He started to purr.

That felt good. It wasn’t SHE, but this one knew how to treat a cat, even if she hadn’t asked before picking him up. And she was warm and soft. Now, if he just shifted a little. Much better.

“No infection. He seems to be friendly once you get your hands on him. I can feel his bones, though. He’s definitely underweight.”

“So can you take him?”

“Rachel, I’ve already agreed to take that one litter of kittens and those two Rottweilers.”

“We really need the cage space. If you don’t take him, I’m afraid, well, you know. You’re just so much bigger than we are and you’ve got more volunteers.”

Henrietta wanted to bop Rachel up side the head. Girl, she wanted to say, get yourself out in your community and raise some money, get some more volunteers, don’t keep counting on us to help you. The cat was nuzzling her neck now. Damn, he was a sweet boy. If she could do anything for him, it would be better than leaving him here. Did that mean Rachel’s threats were working again? She felt the rumbling of a deep purr against her chest.

“All right, I’ll take him.” Somehow she’d find someone who would want an old, ornery tomcat. And she would guarantee them that the quiet love of an older animal was just as wonderful as the antics of a kitten. “It’s OK, boy, you’re coming with me.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Not A Pet Person! by Joe DiMino

I'm Not A Pet Person!
by Joe DiMino

I’ve never been a pet person—
Too on the move
For the Petting-groove;
Came along this
Stray kitten…
And soon
I was smitten:
Got a feeding bowl
Not one—but two—
One pink
And one blue ( not close enough yet
To be sure I knew);
Then I found out
And bought a blue cat-bed
(He prefers mine)—
Four kinds of fortified cat-food
To make certain
Healthily fed—he prefers
Canned tuna—not the cat kind,
But Bumble Bee in spring water;
So I named him Whatever:
He loves a little rub
Next to the tub;
Prefers animal programs
When I watch TV—
Has learned to press the remote—
(Please do not quote—any of this!)
For I have a sort of public
Persona as tough
And unyielding,
When it comes to business
Dealing—
Someone not to be crossed;
Have my ideas
Abruptly dismissed
And casually tossed….
Oops—got to go:
Dinner time now
For I hear a meow…

Monday, November 22, 2010

Two Poems by Richard Peake

Catguard

When he’s not roaming
our grandsons’ Peach Fuzz
sleeps on family beds
guarding them.

He thinks sleeping people
need a watchful cat
to keep mice away
in dark night.

When we visit them
for a weekend stay
we feel a lump at our feet
guarding our bed.

We felt accepted
as family when Peach Fuzz
decides to sleep
protectively.


Slow Learner


Long-haired, bedraggled, dirty, underfed,
he came to us a scruffy, half-grown cat.
After several days we gave him board and bed
and fixed a box in house to signal that
Sylvester had signed on as our house cat.
His name proclaimed the fact that he looked
just like Tweety-bird's cat in the cartoons.
He thrived and grew. Every bath he took
unwillingly turned his white paws whiter
and he became the cat's meow quite soon
throughout the neighborhood as he forsook
us-problem cat, too much the traveler-
to dally with his feline friends by night.
He often came back home with bloody bites
suggesting our Romeo should stay home.
Neutered, our pet was less inclined to roam.
He spent his evenings in convenient laps,
a fatter cat who often took long naps.
His expert hunting skills were still intact.
He learned to bring in mice and voles, not birds,
but when quite angry at traitorous acts
placing him on kennel fare (how absurd!)
he killed a pretty bird to tell us that
we had not played fair with our housecat.
He dropped it at the door to make his point
and put his birder master out of joint.
So desertions by family he rewarded
with violent acts to show what he resented.
Then he settled back to tabby status
innocently napping as if full of trust.
He posed on our toilet for photo play
untaught and unrehearsed, yet sad to say
he never learned to flush, but ran away.
I admit this blemish. Except for that
Sylvester became the perfect housecat.



Bio
A native Virginian, Richard Peake became a Texas resident after retiring from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. He published early poems in Impetus alongside John Ciardi and in The Georgia Review and many small journals. Collections of his poetry appeared in Wings Across… and Poems for Terence published by Vision Press, which also included poems of his in A Gathering at the Forks. He published Birds and Other Beasts in 2007. During 2008 and 2009 he won awards from Gulf Coast Poets and The Poetry Society of Texas and published in Sol Magazine and Shine Journal (one nominated for the Pushcart Prize). In 2010 he has published in Avocet, Asinine Poetry, Raven Images, Phantom Kangaroo, valenTRange and elsewhere.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Decatur, Alabama Hazard Cat Drawings. They came over tonight and donated in masses.

Mikie Hazard



Aaron McDaniel




Heather Graham




Kyle Creasy (did two!)





Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Walking the Cat by Tasha Cotter

Walking the Cat
by Tasha Cotter

Every word an upturned ear.
Leaf blowers, trucks, all spark anxiety.
Even the occasional fly bemuses her.
First, all she cares to know is the perimeter.
To know the easy inches of her private indoor view.
She sniffs the known landing strip of doves
And listens for hidden danger.

But mostly, she sits in deep thought at my feet,
Smelling the breeze. I let the leash go loose
And we both try to know the essence of the thing.
The distance is alive and we stare
Past the split rail fence at a little white dog
Romping in a far off yard
Like a poet at play delivering words
To a patient page. I hear a voice
Shout encouragement from somewhere unseen
And the dog returns with the thrown object
Carefully placing it at his feet.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Purrsonal Story Brother It's Cold Out There by Madeleine McDonald

BROTHER IT'S COLD OUT THERE
Madeleine McDonald


The cold weather has brought the cats indoors and we witness Blackie and Brownie, our two neutered toms, take the first steps in their annual round of reconciliation.

Make no mistake: their negotiations are as protracted, tortuous and delicate as anything management and labour ever dreamt up. Like exhausted armies, each side knows that the outcome is inevitable; yet each side insists on observing established protocol.

Not that our cats could be called enemies, far from it. They are litter brothers who have never been separated. A regime of no favouritism has never stopped them keeping a jealous eye on each other when it comes to treats, but they eat ordinary fare from the same dish, darting their heads under each other like kittens. One will allow the other to sit on my lap for a stroke, knowing that his turn will come, but as soon as the brush and comb come out, up they both jump and jostle for position.

By now they are portly, middle-aged gentlemen. There are still mad moments in spring when they sense the sap rising outdoors and skitter all over the carpet. Only in spring do they issue the distinctive ululating challenge that leads to chases up and down the stairs.

Come the summer, they settle down and are content to ignore each other. In human terms they remind me of nothing so much as an old married couple who decided long ago that divorce was not the answer and who have resigned themselves to rubbing along together under the same roof. In the case of cats, of course, it’s the same roof plus the same yard, and ours is large enough to give them plenty of opportunity to live their lives in parallel. They spend sedate afternoons sitting several yards apart on the lawn, or up on the wall observing the doings of their humans.

Cold weather brings them indoors again. With the wisdom of beasts, they know that it will get even colder. So negotiations begin, one step at a time, leaving ample room for retreat without loss of face. For several days we find them sitting a foot or so apart on window ledges, accepting each other's presence. A further week goes by in which we find them in each other's favourite place: Brownie lolls in Blackie's time-honoured winter position, on the dresser by the stove, his spine pressed against its warm metal casing. Blackie in turn jumps from floor to worktop to cupboard top, surveying the comings and goings in the kitchen from Brownie's vantage point. We suspect that the purpose of this manoeuvre is to impregnate themselves with each other's scent.

The endgame is played out on the back of the couch where they lie facing each other, noses three inches apart. Imperceptible shifts in position narrow the gap until, if they turn their heads to look at us, their whiskers clash. Then Brownie, the boss, disposes himself on the cushions, and a few minutes later permits Blackie to join him. After that, it becomes difficult to tell them apart. They form a single furry cushion, curled around each other, noses buried deep under the other’s flank, black fur shading into black tinged with brown.

It's a cold world out there and a truce has been called until spring.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kayzar the Cat by Amy Parsons

Kayzar the Cat
by Amy Parsons


Kayzar is a most unusual cat. His jet black fur has bright blue and deep purple and a blue tuft of fur on top of his head. His eyes are vivid amber and when he stares, he can send chills through a full grown man.

Now Kayzar lives in a forest and keeps pretty much to himself, but on occasion he will venture into the village that lays on the edge of the forest.

This always sets most of the villagers to unrest, as most believed that his presence meant that bad things were soon to follow.

However, this was a myth, but Kayzar enjoyed this as it meant he was generally left to himself, able to hunt and enjoy the brief change of scenery.

One particular morning that he decided to wander into the village, frost covering the ground and his every breath was visible, meaning that the villagers would be especially nervous, as this, to them, was a sign that something extremely evil was about to befoul someone.

Kayzar, however, was not an evil cat. In fact, he was quite the opposite and normally was the one to solve the issues the villagers faced, not that any of them were aware of this. He knew that there was something upsetting the balance of things, but as of yet had not discovered its true identity or purpose.

Kayzar walked as gracefully as any other cat would do, over the partially frozen grass and down a narrow cobbled street, one he favoured as it was usually full of pigeons that he could hunt without being disturbed. Only this time, there wasn’t a single bird in sight. At first, he was uncertain, wondering if he had gone down the right street, even though he had trod it several times before.

When he reached the far end and entered into the village, it was just as still and deserted. Although Kayzar enjoyed peace and quiet, this stillness seemed unnatural and unnerved him. He could tell that something was amiss.

He skulked along, checking down the side streets and alleyways, and even looking into the gardens, for any signs of life. No animal nor person was anywhere in sight.

He walked to one end of the village, still no sign of anyone or anything. He turned to venture towards the other end, but his way was blocked. He stopped dead in his tracks. There, halfway down the main street, was an unusually large black wolf with white markings around his right eye and across his back, sitting staring at him. The wolf was not alone. A tall man in a long, deep purple robe, leaning on a staff, was stood next to it. He had long white hair and a beard to match. They definitely hadn’t been there before he started to explore the village.

The sight made Kayzar uncomfortable, but he seemed to be rooted to the spot, eyes fixed on the unusual pair.

“Greetings Kayzar.” It was the wolf that spoke. “My name is Zoan, and this,” he nodded toward the man, “is Bo’aak,” the man shifted his weight slightly. “And yes, we know all about you.” Zoan grinned, flashing his huge, gleaming white teeth.

Kayzar thought for a moment, uncertain of what to say to this information. “I’m not sure what you think you know about me, but I am just an ordinary cat, albeit with some unusual markings and colourings.”

“Indeed. But that is not what the people of this village say. They believe that you are the cause of all the strange and evil goings on here.” Zoan smiled again, though this time it seemed more wicked than friendly.

“Oh, is that what they say?” Kayzar said, feigning ignorance to this fact. “However, what they are not aware of, is that I have been resolving their problems, putting out the fires, rescuing them from drowning and whatever else may happen to come their way. I wish I knew what was causing all the mayhem around here so that I might put a stop to it.” Kayzar’s tail twitched.

“Well, we have been summoned to destroy you,” Zoan said importantly.

Kayzar smiled at this, which seemed to annoy Zoan.

“Are you not afraid of dying?” he asked.

“I would be lying if I said I was not, however, I am not afraid of dying by your hand...” Kayzar paused for a moment, “because I know that this will not happen.” Kayzars smile broadened at the sight of Zoans bemusement. “I know full well that neither you, nor your silent friend,” Bo’aak was still yet to speak, though he would occasionally shift slightly, “are even capable of such a thing. At least, not towards me,” Kayzar added thoughtfully.

“Enough!” Zoan growled. “Enough talking. It is time for you to die!” Zoan launched himself at Kayzar, reaching the place where the cat had been within a few large bounds, teeth and claws bared, ready to inflict some serious damage, only the cat was no longer there.

Annoyed once again, Zoan spun around and faced Bo’aak, who gave a very minute nod in the direction of one of the houses. Zoan turned his gaze towards the spot that Bo’aak had nodded toward and saw the cat perched on top of a stone wall, smiling at the over-sized wolf.

Snarling, Zoan pounced at the cat again, but again, the cat was nowhere to be seen.

He appeared this time, almost in the exact spot he had started from.

Zoan was obviously getting frustrated with him.

Kayzar was finding all this rather amusing.

Watching as the great wolf spun around again, teeth bared, drool dripping from his snarling lips, he prepared to disappear again, when he noticed something. He saw Bo’aak bring his staff down hard onto the concrete, sending a small flare of green sparks out of the end. Kayzar was uncertain what the point of this was so, as Zoan came nearer once more, the cat twitched his ears and flicked the end of his tail, concentrating on where he wanted to be. Nothing happened. He tried again. Still nothing. He tried for a third time, but it was too late. The giant wolf descended upon him, teeth sinking into his sides.

Kayzar hissed and flailed uselessly for a moment, before being able to turn his body in such a way as to be able to sink his own teeth into Zoan’s leg. Zoan yelped and released his grip on the cat.

Kayzar could feel the his blood matting his fur.

Ignoring his pain, Kayzar now flung himself at the wolf, who had paused to lick his own wound.

Kayzar’s teeth latched onto the wolf’s ear, his claws scratched at his face.

Just then, an earth shattering roar deafened the two fighters, causing them both to stop, still attached to each other.

“What was that?” Zoan said through a mouthful of Kayzar’s fur.

“That, was a dragon,” said a deep voice.

Kayzar’s eyes widened, a dragon. That explained everything, now that he thought about it. It Had been Bo’aak who relayed the information, not the wolf.

“You are certain of this?” Zoan asked the wizard.

“Indeed.” He paused briefly, deep in thought.

“Yes, it all makes sense now; the burnings, the missing livestock as well as the odd villager. How could we have been so stupid not to have sussed it earlier. A dragon was the obvious answer, not this cat.”

Zoan had released his jaws from Kayzar who had also removed his claws from Zoan’s side.

“But what about the legend of the Gen’tu cat? A cat that has magic beyond anything most wizards can perform,” Zoan asked the wizard.

“True. And this cat has certainly shown that he can do this, however, I don’t believe that he has done any harm, now that I have seen how he behaves,” Bo’aak said thoughtfully. “If he was indeed a fire breather, he would have used that power against you.”

“Yes, but...”

“No buts, Zoan, this cat is not the problem. We must concentrate on the greater threat, the dragon.”

“Very well,” Zoan said in defeat. “What do we need to do?”

“We must work together.” He looked at the pair of blood soaked animals. “Kayzar, do you still have your talisman?”

“How do you know about my talisman?” Kayzar asked in surprise.

“I knew Tolin, your old master. I knew that he gave it to you before he died.”

Kayzar didn’t say anything else, he just sped off into the forest, not knowing exactly how the wizard had known Tolin, yet he had not met the wizard before and the wizard had not known that he had never done anything wrong. But then again, he knew that Tolin would not have spoken much about him, the old man had always been protective of what he could do. The talisman had, after all, just been a gift for him to remember the old man, or so he had thought.

Kayzar found the talisman in the tree he had been living in, took it in his teeth and sprinted back to the village.

When he reached the others, Bo’aak had just finished writing something in the dirt with his staff, Zoan sat to one side, a talisman now round his neck.

Kayzar sat next to Zoan, flicking the talisman into the air and caught it so that it went around his neck.

“What now?” Kayzar asked in a whisper.

“No idea, we will just have to wait and see what Bo’aak does, but know this, you must do whatever he asks of you as it will no doubt mean the difference between our defeat and our victory.” Kayzar nodded, still staring at the wizard intently, his sides still throbbing from the fight.

Bo’aak stopped and beckoned the two animals over. They got up as one and went over to him, Kayzar noticing a talisman around the wizards neck too.

“Excellent.” Bo’aak said, not sounding very convinced that they were actually going to achieve anything. “You must come and stand either side of me.” He instructed. Once they had done this, Bo’aak struck his staff on the ground yet again, this time however, a blue light emanated from the top of it and then surrounded the three. He struck his staff again and Kayzar noticed that all of the talismans were glowing red.

Kayzar felt a strange tingling sensation surging throughout his entire body, beginning at his nose and spreading to the tip of his tail. To go with this sensation, he also felt an odd warmth in the pit of his stomach and a burning in his eyes.

He saw that, as well as the talisman, the eyes of the other two were glowing red, as the talismans were, and assumed that this was the burning sensation he could feel in his eyes.

As he watched, Kayzar saw the dragon approaching the village, although still some distance away, there was no mistaking the vast shape of the beast.

Kayzar fixed his burning eyes on the massive creature, watching it drawing ever nearer, but as he watched, he realised that his entire body felt as though it was being stretched and the ground beneath him seemed to be getting further and further away.

Just then a voice entered his head. “This is a very strange feeling.” It was Zoan. “Bo’aak has spoken of this, but I have never experienced it before.”

“What is going on?” Kayzar asked, but before he got his answer, he heard Bo’aak’s voice enter his head as well.

“Do not be alarmed.”

Kayzar knew that the wizard was speaking to him.

“This is the most effective way I know of to defeat a dragon.”



Now, if you had witnessed this event yourself, you would be shocked into silence.

What Kayzar didn’t realise was that the three of them had some how merged into one being.

It’s head was that of a wolf, it’s huge body was sleek and slender like a cat. There was no visible trace of a human, however, there were wings like those of an eagle, along with eagle feathers. The markings on the beast were a mixture of Kayzar's blue and purple and Zoan's white.

The dragon soared over head. Kayzar thought that he would be able to stretch out and touch it.

“Focus.” Kayzar heard Bo’aak’s voice speak.

Kayzar felt a snarl rip through his throat and past his lips that didn’t come from him. ‘Zoan’ he thought.

As he watched, the dragon landed in front of them. Kayzar felt their own wings flapping awkwardly. “Do not try and move us, leave that to me,” Bo’aak instructed. “Try and let your minds go blank.”

This was harder than it sounded. Seeing your body move, but not actually being the one controlling it was indeed strange.

The dragon considered the strange creature before it, but it soon let out a large and powerful fireball.

Kayzar felt his feet leave the ground as their wings flapped again, this time raising them high into the air, narrowly avoiding the blast of flames.

This was indeed a strange sensation for Kayzar, flying.

Kayzar wasn’t sure how to react or what to do. They wobbled slightly as their wings flapped out of sync.

“Kayzar!” Bo’aak bellowed. “Don’t think. Don’t do anything. Leave it all to me!”

Kayzar sighed and tried to focus on nothing, allowing their flight to become more even.

They rose quickly, the dragon shrinking below them. It wasn’t long before the dragon had launched itself into the air. Bo’aak swerved their body, turning them to face it.

The dragon took no time in drawing level with them, but before it had time to react, Kayzar felt a burning sensation in the back of his throat and a fireball left their mouth. This, however, was a very different kind of flame, it had an energy around it that looked like lightning and it was purple.

It hit the dragon squarely in the chest and it started to fall back towards the earth.

They dove after it, Bo’aak knowing full well that the dragon wasn’t finished.

As Kayzar watched, he saw the dragon shake itself off and pull itself out of the dive, its wings brushing a few roof tops in the process.

Zoan growled again, but Kayzar seemed to be thinking the same thing; it was obvious to him that they were thinking more and more as one the longer they stayed in this form.

The great eagle wings folded behind them, increasing their speed.

Knowing exactly what needed to be done, without resisting and without Bo’aak’s instruction, Kayzar opened his mouth to allow another energy fireball to escape the beast’s throat.

This time when it collided with the dragon, it did not have enough time to recover before it hit the ground, creating a huge groove in the earth where it landed.

Bo’aak brought the beast to the ground with great ease, resting just inches from where the dragon lay.

Zoan moved them nearer to the crumpled form of the dragon in a few short strides.

The dragon was writhing around in pain, flailing its huge tail around, smashing the side of the nearest house.

“Now what?” Kayzar thought.

“Now, we have to kill it,” Bo’aak thought back.

They bounded the rest of the way toward the dragon, Zoan in control, until they were near enough for Kayzar to take control, making the beast pounce onto the dragon's chest. Whilst in mid air however, Bo’aak made them release a much larger and more powerful lightning-charged fireball.

This time the dragon took the full force in its face. It roared painfully before becoming motionless.

“Now to finish the task. We must remove its heart,” Bo’aak commanded.

The beast hesitated for a moment as neither Zoan or Kayzar were entirely sure how they were to achieve this, so Bo’aak took control once more, using the claws on one of the powerful front paws, tore a hole in the dragon’s chest and, clamping vice like jaws around the heart, pulled it from the body.

Blood soaked once more, Kayzar asked, “Is that it?”

“It is,” Came Bo’aak’s voice.

Next moment, Kayzar felt lighter and seemed to be shrinking. They were finally separating, becoming their own true forms.

Kayzar blinked. He found the separation just as disorientating as the initial joining. He was now quite alone with his own thoughts once again.

He looked around and saw Zoan a few feet in front of him, Bo’aak stood a little to his left, still clutching the dragon’s heart in his hand.

“Dragon hearts are good for medicines.” Bo’aak seemed to still be able to read Kayzar’s thoughts, as he had just wondered why the wizard still had it.

As they stood silently staring at each other, the villagers started to return.

Kayzar had forgotten all about them and wondered where they had all been hiding.

He never did find out as, when the villagers approached and saw the massive, lifeless form of the dragon, there were gasps and whisperings as to what had taken place.

Bo’aak was the one who told the villagers the story, though he made it sound as though Kayzar was the main hero of the day.

The people declared that Kayzar was not a threat to them and he was appointed protector of the village.

As the people crowded round to express their thanks and get a proper look at the heroes, a large purple cloud surrounded them and they heard a sound like the crack of a whip and Bo’aak and Zoan disappeared.

And so it was, Kayzar remained in the forest behind the village, but would enter it every now and again, the people giving him gifts, no longer running at the sight of him.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

budda by Scott C. Kaestner

buddha
by Scott C. Kaestner


morning
harry
(the cat)

yawns
mouth
agape

emerald
eyes
aglow

belly
hangs
low

tail
arches
high

he strides
beside me
(purring)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hazard Cat Editor is Getting Married!



I'm getting married to Mikie Hazard on Saturday and will officially become a Hazard! I named the blog after him and now I'm going to be one of them. Posting will resume Wednesday. Give your kitties treats at 2pm central on Saturday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cat's Moving Day by Lida Broadhurst

CAT'S MOVING DAY
by Lida Broadhurst


I'm fed in a different corner
On an unfamiliar floor.
There's new window sills for sunning,
And strange closets to explore.

But when it's time for resting,
Needing comfort for my naps.
I’m so glad that my people
Brought their same familiar laps.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What Happens on Saturday Night Around Here by David Wiseman

What Happens on Saturday Night Around Here
by David Wiseman

Ol’ Creeper’s going to kill somebody tonight
he has knives in his mouth.

Slicks back his hair for stalking, eases
on out the door.

Slides from bush shadow to chimney corner
seeking the small and scared who sneak

from shadow to shadow, nibbling
at the edges of life.

Sits back on his haunches, and runs
his ragged tongue over his lips.

He will wait and slink all night
snapping to action

at just the right moment, sinking
his knives deep and breaking bones.

He plays with the wounded,
and in the morning drinks
milk to wash the blood from his mouth.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cat Eyes by John Miller

Cat Eyes
By John Miller


On Thanksgiving I walked to the gas station because dad’s car blocked mine in the driveway. Everyone was either talking religion and politics or sleeping off the turkey. My kids were in the fenced backyard playing with my brother’s step-children, and it seemed safe to slink off alone. I wondered why I was a loner while I walked to buy a pack of cigarettes. I thought about asking my brother if he wanted to go with me, but I remembered he’d quit smoking two years ago… supposedly. Sometimes when I drove him to his third-shift job—they only had one car—he borrowed cigarettes from me or bought a pack himself. I couldn’t ask if he wanted to buy smokes in front of the family.

Two blocks down and two lefts later I saw an old woman on her hands and knees in her backyard. I was in an alley, a shortcut meant to quicken the nicotine into my bloodstream. How I wished for a cigarette when I saw an old man lying next to her, and I wondered what I should do. I frowned and approached her, and I wondered whether that old man had died. “I’ll bet that’s her husband,” I muttered to myself. I wasn’t about to do CPR on him, and not just because I didn’t know how to perform it.

“Problems?” I asked as I stepped into her backyard with a sigh.

She looked up at me with blood-red eyes, and I jolted when I saw black cat-eye pupils that ached with intense need… sort of like hunger. To stall for time and to get a grip on myself—surely I had gone insane—I reached into my coat pocket and took out an empty pack of cigarettes.

“You look like you could use a smoke,” I told her holding the empty pack before me.

She reached out as I dropped the empty pack and muttered, “Oh, sorry!” The shadow of a plane from the nearby airport swept over us when the empty pack struck the yard. I intended to run as soon as her eyes left mine to reach for the pack, perhaps to hand it back to me, common courtesy and all that. Her eyes never left mine, and I realized the rumbling I heard wasn’t the jet passing overhead, but came from her own lips. The savage growl grew louder as she rose, and I saw blood drip from her long and ragged claws. I was closer now, had a better view of the old man in the grass. Something purple had been ripped from his body, torn away like a chunk of meat from a thick slab of sirloin. The torn hole in his side faced opposite the way I had approached them, and now I saw the purple clump next to his body. From anatomy class in college I knew it was a kidney.

It’s funny how the mind reacts to stress and fear. Shock entered my system and it cloaked my mind somewhat from the terror that threatened to overcome my facilities. A part of my brain screamed in desperate panic for me to run screaming, but another part filled with grotesque fascination as to what sort of creature the old woman was. Logic told me the old woman had the power to bring me down since she was strong enough to overpower the old man—although old, he was quite large. If she could pull a chunk of flesh out of his body like a grizzly bear, what could she do to me?

When she took a precarious step toward me and looked down around the area of my own kidneys, the screaming and panicked portion of my brain overrode the analytical part.

I ran like hell.

Do you remember when you were a child running from an adult, the sound of heavy footfalls behind you and the realization that no matter how fast you were, no matter how quick your little legs moved, the adult behind you was faster? You knew you had it. That is what it felt like as the old woman chased me and her shoes slammed against the earth just behind me. I heard her footfalls that fell faster than my own long strides, and my skin crawled in anticipation of her bloody touch.

At the alley I dodged left, and she skirted past me like a ravenous wolf that had just missed its prey. I saw sharp canines in her elongated mouth, her jaw mutated, and her blood-red eyes filled with unholy need to rend my flesh and suck the meaty pulp from my kidneys. I barked a laugh of relief to have escaped death—if only momentarily—and I also laughed at the thought of how smoking kills people, and how my desire to buy cigarettes had brought me face-to-face with death.

Make no mistake: smoking kills!

I don’t know what other people would have thought in that situation, but panic did something to my brain, filled it with chemicals and stress and possibly endorphins—shit, I don’t know. Any logical response I would have had lost out to maniacal laughter and a bout of giddiness. Until the old woman’s shoes found traction in the alley’s loose gravel, and she loped after me again.

Somehow I made it to the street. The loose gravel of the alley offset the traction of the old woman’s shoes, but my sneakers had no problem and I never slid once. In the street, however, I heard something scratch on the concrete. When I turned right to head back home—as if that were possible—I sneaked a look back and saw the old woman had discarded her shoes, and her calves had elongated to something that resembled the lower legs of a wolf’s hindquarters. Long, dangerous claws raked the pavement. Scratchity, scrathity, thump-thump! Scratchity-scratchity, thump-thump! Her claws scratched and paws struck the pavement. Her shadow slid up beside my own as I ran, then her shadow enveloped mine. I felt her hot breath on my neck like some rancid beast from hell, Cerberus or something.

In novels authors tell how fear goads people into almost superhuman feats of speed, bouts of fury for survival, or something of the sort. In real life fear thickens movement and makes it sluggish, like a deer caught in the headlong glare of a car’s headlights at night. I’m not talking about normal fear or even a bout of terror, but primal horrific horror that clamped down on the muscles of my legs and constricted my lungs and throat. I felt my face turn red and I knew I was dead. I wondered if my kidney would look like the old man’s with a slightly different hue.
That was when I saw Jimmy Johnson, the town drunk.

Jimmy never drove a car anywhere because of the countless DUI citations. He rode his ten-speed bike everywhere he went, usually just to the grocery store and local bars. Jimmy burst around the corner with a plastic sack of alcohol suspended from the handlebars, and his face frowned when he saw me. I don’t think he saw the old woman behind me because my body blocked his view, but it registered on his face that collision was inevitable. I leapt high, but at that speed I barely jumped and his handlebars rammed my hip. Shock gelled everything in slow-motion, and I saw his expression’s slow turn to sheer terror when he saw her. As my body turned upside-down, I saw the old woman’s body and realized I was wrong—she hadn’t the legs of a wolf at all, but the legs of a big cat, a lion to be exact. “Don’t lions have round eyes?” the thought floated in my head as my body hovered in space, somersaulted, and plummeted to the ground.

I landed on my ass in a splatter-pattern of red, and I skidded eight feet. Before I quit sliding, I leapt up and sprinted. I felt my buttocks and realized it wasn’t my blood I had landed in, and I risked a glance back. Jimmy still pedaled his bike, but without a head. I saw dark fluid in the plastic sack suspended from his handlebars, and the bulge of the sack seemed the right size for a human head. A broken bottle of vodka littered the street, the acid smell strong enough to reach me from that distance.

The old woman had her back to me, and she had a furry tan-colored head and pointed cat-ears now. A long tail looped from beneath her dress—I hadn’t even realized she’d been wearing a dress in my panic. She turned and charged me again, her body now a large lioness whose dress impeded her movement.

I made it to the corner and sprinted right. The dress she wore bound her hindquarters, and it allowed me to remain in front of her by a good twenty feet. She swiped at her dress with her paw-like hands and snarled in frustration, and her crimson cat-eyes met mine again as I rounded the corner. Distracted, I slammed into a car in the middle of the street, and I slid up its hood. I tried to keep going but two car doors opened and four strong arms held my own. I saw the lights of a squad car.

“Help me, please!” I screamed. “She’s after me!”

“Who’s after you?” the policeman to my right demanded. “I think you scratched the hood of my car, buddy.”

“Probably drunk or hallucinating on drugs,” the red-haired officer retorted.

“What?” I asked, perplexed. I shook my head in confusion and pointed with my thumb over my back. “The cat-woman!”

“Oh, the cat-woman,” the dark-haired officer retorted. “We know all about her.”

“You do?” I said, overjoyed.

The intersection I had just sprinted from was empty. No cat-woman. “She must smell the cops,” I thought. I thought of Jimmy Johnson’s headless body, and I wondered if he still rode his bike on his way home. I began to laugh when they helped me into the back of the car, and the laughter soon became maniacal once again.

“Sure we know all about her,” the officer said. “She believes she can turn into a giant cat with red eyes.”

“She’s a real nut-case,” the red headed officer said.

“But it’s true!” I exclaimed as he shut the door on my face.

They’d locked me inside the squad car with no way out—the doors had no handles, and wire mesh kept me from climbing into the front seat. At least I wasn’t handcuffed, but that wouldn’t do me much good if the old woman—the cat-woman—came back for me. She could break the glass of the windows and… a scream filled the air. My hackles rose along my neck and gooseflesh bulged on my skin. What scared me the most was the scream was my own, and I saw the whites of my eyes in the rearview mirror.

Fifteen minutes later the fire department showed up. “What are they doing here?” The large fire engine rounded the corner, and I saw firemen get out a hose. The house and bushes on the corner blocked half the fire engine, and I couldn’t see what the firemen did. “They can’t be washing away Jimmy’s blood! Don’t they need forensic evidence or something?” I had watched enough CSI Miami to know the importance of maintaining a crime scene. The way the firemen looked at me as they ambled by, secretive expressions, the way their lips hinted at smiles, brought the realization that something was very wrong.

An hour later the police officers came back. I looked up through the glass at “Red” who opened the door for me.

“Everything’s back to normal,” he told me with a feral smile. “Old Lady Jenkins doesn’t have much going for her upstairs, but she’s harmless.”

“But she really did turn into a jungle-cat!” I blurted.

He eyed me with suspicious narrowed eyes, and that’s when I saw them: cat-eyes that starred back at me from Red’s smiling face. Red’s feral smile broadened and he placed a heavy hand upon my shoulder as he pulled me out. I slumped over the trunk of the squad car away from him. Firemen laughed at me. My head swam. He leaned over my listless body, looked at me with those cat-eyes—those fucking vertical slits of nightmare—and I felt myself in a game of cat-and-mouse beneath his scrutiny.

“You saw her transform, eh?” he whispered in a hoarse voice. “Then she’ll be coming after you. You see, the boys in blue and I call her ‘mom’, and the boys at the fire station love her, too. She made us what we are today.”

He let my listless body go, and I slid to the street. He stepped back, and I saw the firemen laughing at me as they wound their fire hose into the fire engine. Shadows elongated from the firemen, the light from the fire engine on the other side of their synchronized work. They got into their fire engine and I watched it slowly pull away.

Red and his partner got into the squad car and took off. I still leaned against the police car as I sat, and when the car left I fell backwards. My head struck the pavement hard, bounced once, and I saw stars on a clear day. The sun shone down. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t scream. All I could do was think, “What the hell? What the hell happened here today?” A shadow slid over me, the sun high above and behind whoever approached. The person became a silhouette against the bright sun when I looked. A hand appeared to help me up, and I almost took it when I saw withered old flesh and long yellowed nails—the old woman.

I screamed and crawled on my back away from her. She just looked down and stepped to my side. I saw her fully once the sun didn’t hang behind her.

“Would you like to learn from me, young man?” she asked with a knowing smile. “There’s a lot you can learn from an old lady.”

My only response was to scream… and I haven’t stopped screaming yet. Screams fill my dreams, the nightmares of crimson cat-eyes that plague me. The psychologist hasn’t helped, but no one can unless I can convince them to believe me. I lost my children, my two sons. Supposedly I’ve gone crazy. That hurt the most, especially the knowledge that Daniel and Sam live in that same city with those… things. My children send me letters with pictures. I see them… their eyes. And I watch, careful to make sure they haven’t become one of “them.” I’ve contacted the Church to inquire about exorcism. The priest laughed at me when I suggested he exorcise the entire city. So I’m alone in this padded cell with no one to trust, no one to confide in.

I received a letter from Daniel yesterday, my oldest son. He’s coming to see me tomorrow. I saw the picture of him. He had red glowing eyes. My psychologist said it was just a trick of the camera, but I know better—Daniel’s one of them now. I have to free him. Death is the only option.

I have to kill my son.

If only they’d let me out of this damned straitjacket.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jenny's Magic by Michael Merriam

Jenny's Magic
by Michael Merriam


"What--what happened?" the little girl asked, staring up at the large orange tomcat.

The cat seemed to smile down at her, looming over her where he sat in a tree. He leaned further over, his large green eyes blinking owlishly at her where she lay on the grass.

"We've struck a deal," the orange tomcat said. "You said, 'I wish I could understand what cats say.' When I asked if you really would give anything, you sighed and said you would a second time." The cat's whiskers twitched in amusement. "So I granted your wish."

Jenny stood. "I can understand you!"

"Yes," agreed the cat. "All it cost was your magic."

Jenny stopped the little dance she had begun. "My magic? What do you mean, my magic?"

"I meant what I said," the cat replied. He groomed a paw, giving it several licks before turning back to her. "You won't miss it.

"But I didn't know."

The orange cat swished his tail. "It doesn't matter if you knew. A deal is a deal."

The cat jumped down from the tree and dashed away.

"Wait!" she cried out. "You can't just take my magic and leave." She chased the cat, but he slipped between some shrubs and was gone.

Jenny sank down onto the grass. "But I didn't even know I had magic," she whispered.

#

Jenny told her mother the tale of the orange tomcat stealing her magic. Her mother made appropriate noises of sympathy, then shooed Jenny from the room.

Her father had been more useful. He told her to find the cat and trick him into giving her magic back.

After lunch she packed a small bottle of orange juice and a dozen graham crackers in a backpack. Satisfied with her provisions, she went in search of the cat who had tricked her.

As Jenny walked toward the park, she noticed how the day, which had started out with the promise of bright sunshine, seemed grey. The petunias in her mother's flower bed looked tired and droopy. The dank smell of moldy bread filled her nose and refused to budge.

This made Jenny's own mood gloomy as she trudged along the sidewalk. She began to think it was hopeless. After all, how could she expect to find the cat again? He was probably blocks away by now.

"He's probably using my magic to make himself invisible," Jenny muttered.

"Oh, no, we don't need human magic to be invisible. We can do that on our own."

Jenny looked down at a small calico sitting at the end of a walk leading to an old house. The calico swished her tail slowly.

"What?" Jenny said.

"Cats can become invisible at will, it's part of our magic," the calico said.

"How did you know I was talking about another cat?"

"What else is there to talk about?" the calico said. "You are searching for Grimtooth."

"Grimtooth?" Jenny asked.

"The one who tricked you into giving up your magic."

Jenny sat down on the sidewalk. She pulled her juice from the backpack and took a drink. It had a sour, tart taste that surprised her. Jenny scowled at the bottle of juice, then regarded the calico. "Can you tell me where to find him?"

"No, but you should have no trouble if you look properly at the problem."

"The problem is, I've lost my magic," Jenny said.

"And now you want it back," the calico replied, standing and stretching.

"But how to find him?"

"Well, if it were my magic, I would call back what was mine, not look for who took it."

"So I should call for my magic," Jenny agreed. "But it isn't my magic anymore."

"Isn't it?" the calico asked, rubbing against Jenny's leg. "Although he tricked you out of it, it is still your magic, from you."

"So since it's my magic, I can find it?" Jenny seemed to be getting the idea.

The tiny calico purred loudly. "Very good."

Jenny took another sip of juice and pulled out the stale graham crackers. "But to call my magic I'll need my magic!" she exclaimed. "And he took my magic." Jenny's eyes started to water.

The calico climbed into Jenny's lap. "This is no time for tears, kitten. The loss of your magic makes your world seem joyless, but you must use what you have left to find the rest."

Jenny stopped sniffling and ran a small hand down the cat's back. "You mean I still have some magic?"

The calico sighed and curled up in Jenny's lap, purring. "Of course you still have magic. How do you think you can understand the language of cats? To speak to a magical creature, you must use magic." The tiny cat rolled over so Jenny could scratch her stomach. "I suppose I will be in trouble for talking to you directly. We have rules about these things. I'm supposed to talk in riddles."

"Well, thank you," Jenny said.

"You're welcome," the cat replied, climbing from Jenny's lap. "Grimtooth should never have tricked you; you're only a kitten."

Jenny stood and watched the cat walk to the house at the end of the walk and start scratching at the door.

Jenny's mood was improved, and she walked to the park with a lighter step. She found the spot where she had met the orange cat and considered.

If she did find the cat, she needed a way to trick him into giving her magic back. Jenny was worried. Grimtooth was clever. Would she trick him, or would she make matters worse? Jenny decided to consult her father.

#

"You will need to find the cat's weakness," her father said, "I'd start with either something you know cats dislike or something cats can't resist."

Jenny took this advice to heart. She made a list of all the things cats hated. She checked her fairy tale books and encyclopedia. She made a quick trip outside for one item, then returned to her room and sought out the second thing she wanted. Jenny placed both objects in her closet before running downstairs for dinner.

#

Jenny lay awake. When she could wait no more, she slipped from bed and crossed her room. She went to the closet and pulled out the items. She opened one of her windows.

Jenny took a handful of fresh catnip and rubbed it along the windowsill. She hoped it would help call Grimtooth to her.

She had read in one of the stories that the number three was magical, and in another that names held power. Combined with her magic, she thought it would enough to call him. She leaned out the window and whispered, "Thief who stole my magic, Grimtooth, Grimtooth, Grimtooth, come to me now."

She watched the darkness for the cat, but all she saw was night and shadows, and all she heard was the rustling of the trees. Jenny started to return to bed, when two glowing eyes appeared on the lawn.

"Grimtooth?"

"What do you want?" the cat hissed.

"I want my magic back."

"You gave it up fairly. It is mine now." The cat slunk closer to the window, his nose sniffing the air.

"I didn't give it up; you tricked me. And you didn't even trick me properly. In the stories the victim always has a chance, but I didn't understand what was happening."

Grimtooth glared at her, his nose twitching rapidly. "It doesn't matter if I did it properly or not. Good-night, kitten." The cat turned away, his tail held high.

"I'll call you again. I'll call you until you give me back my magic," Jenny whispered fiercely.

The cat spun around and stalked her direction, tail low to the ground in annoyance. "That would be very foolish, human child. You should not anger me."

"I'm not afraid of you."

Grimtooth settled under the window and bunched his muscles. "You should be. I could sneak into your room as you sleep and draw the breath from your lungs, or claw out your eyes and bite off your tongue." The cat sprang toward her.

Jenny reached for the second item and stepped away from the window.

Grimtooth landed on her windowsill, his back arched and his fur on end. He crouched and hissed.

Jenny raised the water rifle and fired.

The startled cat lost his footing and tumbled gracelessly to the bedroom floor. Jenny ran over and put her back up against the open window. She blasted him again, and Grimtooth dived under her bed. She closed the window, trapping the cat in the room.

Jenny knelt down and peered under her bed. A pair of glowing green eyes regarded her.

"I didn't want to do this, you know," Jenny whispered. "I just want what's mine."

"I shan't give it back to you," Grimtooth hissed. "You would just waste it. You don't even know what you've lost."

"I know ever since you stole it, everything seems dreary and boring. You took my happiness away."

"No, I took your magic. I took your sense of wonder." The cat swished his tail. "May I come out from under the bed?"

"Okay," she said. "I've got the doors and windows closed, so don't even bother trying to get away."

Grimtooth crawled out from under the bed. He jumped up on it and started grooming.

Jenny settled on the bed next to him. "So you took my sense of wonder?"

"Yes. That is human magic. Humans can be amazed at the world around them. Cats cannot. We have a highly developed sense of mystery, and we are more magical than most creatures, but we cannot experience wonder. A sunrise is a sunrise. One mouse tastes much like another."

"It must be terrible to live like that."

"Humans live without it all the time," said Grimtooth. "They allow themselves to believe that things are more important. They pretend to be happy. But they forget what happiness is."

"I won't forget," Jenny protested.

"Oh, but you will. The other humans will tell you it's all childish rubbish until you agree. Then you will be just like them. You'll grow up, have kittens of your own, and spend your days chasing what you think is happiness. Your magic will be wasted. That's why it's best to stop this foolishness and allow me to leave."

"You're not leaving until I have my magic back."

The cat regarded her. "I shall set up a noisy ruckus. Your parents will awake and set me free." Grimtooth jumped up on the windowsill. "Now, be a good kitten, and open the window."

"No."

"Very well," Grimtooth said. He took a deep breath, preparing to howl at the top of his lungs.

"If you wake up my parents, I'll tell them you bit my hand," Jenny said quickly. "I'll act sick and make myself throw-up. They'll think you've got rabies."

"You wouldn't," Grimtooth muttered.

She placed her fingernails against her skin and started to squeeze. "I'll do it."

"You're evil," Grimtooth said.

"I'm nine," Jenny countered.

Grimtooth locked his eyes on Jenny's. "Very well."

Jenny started to smile, but a buzzing filled her head and the world went black.

#

Jenny awoke on the floor of her bedroom. The sun shone through the window, warming her face. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. Grimtooth lay curled up in a ball on her bed, watching her. The cat stood, jumped from the bed, walked across the room, and leapt to the windowsill.

"Meow."

Jenny stood and walked to the window. She pulled it open, and the smell of fresh-cut grass and morning flowers filled her nose. Grimtooth leapt to the ground below. He turned toward her, hissed, and bounded away.

Jenny looked out at the new day and smiled in wonder at its possibilities.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Halloween Cats - Bad Cat Week

Since it's Halloween time and we just had Strange Black Cats, prepare for another Bad Cat Week starting tomorrow. These cats, what will we do with them? Read about them, then lock them out of our rooms while sleeping!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Strange Black Cats by Vincent Daemon

STRANGE BLACK CATS
by Vincent Daemon

Strange black cats
In the orange fires
of the Autumn night
Jumping through flames
Licking the purple
Full moon sky

The sky where witches fly
Invisible
To the eyes

Unseen like the ghost
Roaming misty
Graveyards alone
Eternal misery
Spirit bemoans
A simple confusion
Of life and Death

Like ivory draped
Skel’tons in black
That gently rub
The spooky black cats
Purring the Devil’s
Soft hallowed song
Like cauldrons boiling
All night long
Strange meats and vile treats
Scabby blisters on the tongue

Black magic tricks
The dead get their kicks
A thousand licks
To the center of the soul

Strange black cats
Open their mouths
Laughing white
Clowns come out
And sneaky-peek
All about
Then disappear
In midnight fear
Toothy black cats
Grinning ear to ear
Like Jack o’Lantern smiles
But only once a year

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Three Cats' Christmas by Don Royster

Three Cats’ Christmas
by Don Royster

Three cats under the Christmas tree
Buster, Sister, Mama Peaches
All purring their yuletide carols
On this the night before Christmas.
They’ve kneaded their joy, now they rest
Curled up next to tinsel and snow,
Dreaming their dreams of Santa Paws
Meowing his jolly ho-ho-ho,
Hoping for some kitty-katnip
And a ball of yarn for their play.
Maybe a mouse or even two.
They dream and sleep this night away
But soon will come the Christmas morn
And all will be right with these three
For they will wake with a good stretch
And a big yawn under that tree
After a game of give-and-take.
They’ll hurry for their bowls of food
And munch and crunch and lick their paws
Clean and they’ll be in the best of moods.
Then they’re off for the Big Outside.
But before they rush out they take
One last turn ‘round the Christmas tree
Just so the three can celebrate
How long long ago a Babe
In a manger lay in the cold
Without a blanket or cover,
And no more than a few hours old,
When one scrawny and feral cat
Crawled in and curled about the Child
And kept the Baby warm that night.
Let Him sleep with a sweet, sweet smile.
The morning came, the sun did rise
Up east and warmed the Child below
While the cat slinked away, no more
To be seen but all the cats know:
How that Cat gave all that he had
Enough to keep away the freeze.
So now in heaven there’s a Cat
That never has to scratch for fleas.
As our three cats go out to roam
This Christmas day they take delight.
It was one of them, some Unknown
Company to Jesus that night.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Note From Editor

Many thanks to those who have donated their pieces. It helps Hazard Cat stay alive and purring. Just to diffuse confusion based on some emails I received, I am still paying for submissions I contracted. I offered contributors the option of donating in order to help with the financial side of things until my jobs settle down. I moved to a new house and moving is $$. I run Hazard Cat out of my own pocket and make no money off it. I just darn love doing it. Again, thanks to my contributors.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The House of Half a Hundred Cats by Katherine Tomlinson

THE HOUSE OF HALF A HUNDRED CATS
by Katherine Tomlinson


“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” --Jean Cocteau.



The mission began, as they often did, with a call from a concerned neighbor. Something was just not right, the caller said. She was worried about the woman who lived next door to her. The old woman lived by herself and hadn’t been outside for awhile.

Roz, who ran “No Cat Left Behind,” asked the caller why she hadn’t phoned the police. The woman replied apologetically that her neighbor had “a lot of cats” and she didn’t want her neighbor in trouble with Animal Protection if nothing was really wrong. The phrase “a lot of cats” is a subjective one so Roz told me to be ready for anything, including the possibility I’d find the old woman planted face down on her kitchen floor, with ragged bites taken out of her corpse.

It had happened before.

I took one of the newbies on the run with me. Viv was an earnest college kid who was already burning out. Every time we went on a rescue she ended up with one of the cats. I’d given her the standard lecture—You can’t save them all—but she’d just looked at me with tears welling up in her big brown eyes and I’d given up.

I was the same way when I was her age. At one point in my thirties, I’d shared my apartment with five cats, a tuxedo, a ginger tabby, two Siamese and Collette, a tortoise shell Maine Coon who stuck to me like Velcro when I found her as a skinny kitten in a downtown parking garage. She was 22 when she died and I grieved so hard I vowed I’d never have another cat of my own.

The caller had said her neighbor’s name was Louanne Bettis and that she was 71 and recently widowed. Her home was a modest ranch-style place on a corner lot. A free-standing garage was set back and to the side. As we approached the front door I caught a whiff of the ammonia stink emanating from beneath the garage’s roll-up door. That was not a good sign.

Viv knocked and to my surprise, Mrs. Bettis answered. She was short and stocky and looked much older than 71. She was dressed in a threadbare track suit too small for her bulk and bedroom slippers that had been slit to allow her bunion-covered feet to bulge out of them for comfort.

Her eyes were blank as she listened to us explain why we had come. She claimed not to know any of her neighbors and complained that people should just mind their own business.

As we talked at the front door, several cats appeared at her feet, their tails held high which means “Hey, what’s going on?” in cat-speak. Viv reached down to pet a little gray tabby, and I took the opportunity to ask Mrs. Bettis how many cats she had. She suddenly looked defensive.

“A couple,” she said, avoiding my eyes. “I have the room,” she added. She stepped back from the door. “Would you like to meet them?” Viv and I shared a look and entered. I heard Viv stifle a gasp as she got a really good look at the living room. There must have been 20 cats lounging around—on the chairs, the sofa, the bookcases, the television. (It was tuned to Animal Planet, I noticed.)

The house was in utter disrepair, with cracks in the windows, peeling paint on the walls, holes in the floor and a thick blanket of cat hair coating everything. As Mrs. Bettis moved through the house, a fat, floppy Ragdoll came up to her and bumped his head against her hand. She picked him up and he attached himself to her shoulder, nuzzling her neck as if he were nursing. I could hear him purr from five feat away.

With the cat still clinging to her, Mrs. Bettis took us out to the garage. The overhead light came on as she opened the door. Viv gagged from the toxic stench but managed not to vomit.

There were at least 30 cats in the garage and only one litter box I could see—the cat sand long ago turned to cement. Unlike most cats you see in these hoarder scenarios, all the animals looked like they were in great shape. Their coats were groomed and free of mats. I didn’t see any runny eyes or hear any raspy coughs. They were sleek and well-fed and affectionate.

Mrs. Bettis surveyed her cats with pride, seemingly unaffected by the reek. She clearly loved her cats. And that’s the sad thing about hoarders. They’re usually lonely people who think they’re doing a good thing when they adopt so many animals. They don’t realize that what they’re doing isn’t necessarily in the cats’ best interest. They don’t know it’s also against the law. They don’t realize it’s a sign of mental illness.

I went back in the house with Mrs. Bettis while Viv stayed by the truck to get some air and unload the cat carriers we’d brought. I explained that we were going to help her find homes for her cats and she started to cry. “Don’t take my cats away,” she begged. “They’re all I have left.”

I asked her if she had any family living nearby and she said she did but that she didn’t like to bother them because they had their own families. She showed me a framed family photograph that had to have been taken a good 30 years earlier. Her late husband had been a handsome man.

Viv came in carrying a couple of kennel cartons and we convinced Mrs. Bettis to let us take as many as we could accommodate in one trip.

When you’re out on missions like this, you sometimes have to do triage. There are always way too many cats and the pounds are full of potential pets whose days are numbered. Viv stuffed the carriers with the short-haired white and black cats we called “cows” and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that we’d have a hard time adopting them out.

She had tears in her eyes as she looked around the room and I knew she was trying to figure out a way to rescue just a couple more. I took pictures of the remaining cats and when we got back to the cattery, I posted a video on YouTube. We got a lot of comments on the order of “Leave the poor woman alone,” but we also got offers from people who wanted to adopt every single one of the cats we’d brought back. Buoyed by our success, I put together a convoy of rescuers and we headed out to Mrs. Bettis’ to pick up the rest of her cats the following week.

We arrived to find the house the center of frenetic activity. There were two news satellite trucks parked at the curb and five patrol cars lined up on the dried-out grass of what had been a front lawn. The house itself was open and empty. Not a sign of a cat anywhere. As I watched, EMTs loaded a body bag into an ambulance. I told everyone to stay put and got out of the truck to find out what was going on. My first thought was that Mrs. Bettis, distraught over the idea of losing her beloved animals, had killed herself.

“It’s not the old lady,” a young cop said before the Detective in charge of the scene walked over and told me to get lost. I walked slowly back to the truck, looking over the small crowd that had gathered. I spotted a thin woman who was watching the goings-on with the avid eyes of a born gossip. She caught my glance and drifted over, eager to spill what she knew to an appreciative audience. I wondered if she had been the woman who’d made the original call as a “concerned neighbor.”

The body, she told me was not Louanne Bettis but her husband. He had gone missing a little over a year ago under what had been called at the time “suspicious circumstances.” The police had come and searched her house but no one had spent too much time in the garage. The police had shown up early that morning after getting a tip to search the garage for the remains of Al Bettis.

They’d arrived to find Louanne and her cats gone and the garage door open. They’d found skeletal remains buried beneath the litter box. Identification was pending, but the skeleton was still wearing his wedding ring and odds were it wasn’t some stranger. Weird thing, added the neighbor, the phone tip had come from Louanne’s own land line, so the police had just missed her by an hour or so.

* * *


They never found Mrs. Bettis, but in Palmdale, a small city northeast of Los Angeles, an animal rescue group noticed there was suddenly a colony of 40 cats foraging in a dumpster behind a Ralph’s supermarket. Overwhelmed, they sent out a bulletin to every cat rescue organization in California . We were full up but when Roz heard the story, she asked me to go to Palmdale and see what was what.

When I drove up to the location in the “No Cat Left Behind” van, I was met by a middle aged man who looked like he’d just mustered out of the Army—brush cut gray hair, rock-hard body. Not your stereotypical cat lover. He was wearing a vintage Lynda Barry t-shirt bearing a cartoon of a poodle with a Mohawk. He told me his name was Bill Clinton, no relation.

He told me he had some volunteers coming in from Lancaster who’d agreed to take 20 of the cats and asked me if we could take ten. I said sure because I knew that’s what Roz would say.

One of the cats came up to me and rubbed against my leg. It was the fat, floppy Ragdoll I’d seen Mrs. Bettis cuddle. When I picked him up, he stuck to me like Velcro and started to purr. Bill raised an eyebrow and smirked. “Sucker,” he said.

I named the cat Churchill. Churchill seems happy enough, but after living in such a large social group, he gets lonely when I’m away at work. I think he needs a brother or sister to keep him company.

I’ve got the room.