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.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Self-Taught Witch by Elizabeth Creith

Self-Taught Witch
by Elizabeth Creith


When my cat went missing,
I worked my strongest finding spell
- all-out, no holds barred.
But spells need limits; who knew?

Pyewackett came home.
Pens, odd socks, rings, keys, rain constantly from my ceilings.
Lost spirits drift in my hall.
I don't mind them - much.
It's the lost hopes weeping that
keep me awake.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hazard Cat Editor is Moving

I will not have Internet access until the 12th of October. If I get a chance to snag someone else's Internet, I will post more cat goodies. Until then, hang onto that back screen door.

Marisa's Cat by Fay Franklin

Marisa’s Cat
by Fay Franklin



Marisa had a cat with wings. You couldn’t see them, of course, but she knew they were there. Small, iridescent things, sprouted from delicate feline shoulder blades, fluttering and shimmering and glowing with unknown colours, patterned with tiger stripes and leopard spots.

People might think that a cat could not possibly fly with such little wings. Well, look at a bee. How does that work? Bertrand Russell observed that, for an angel to fly, it would have to have a breastbone thirteen feet long. Maybe they do.

And anyway, Bertrand Russell had thought a lot about cats and wasn’t even sure that they existed. So Marisa expected that he would have found a cat with wings just as acceptable as any other.

Marisa had never seen an angel but was content to imagine that impossible breastbone, as well as the rest of the seraphic bone structure that accompanied it.

Marisa’s cat had a prominent breastbone, but by no means, even cat-sized, did it pro-rata to an angelic thirteen feet. Depending, that is, on the size of the angel. Still, she knew that her cat had wings, and that it flew.

She knew because, when she was down at the bottom of the pit, when she could not get out and everything was black, down would swoop her cherubic, impossible cat, and pull her out. He would catch his tiny, falcate-moon claws in the tangles of her hair and lift, lift, lift, and they would rise together, straight through the window bars and out into the light, she and her cat.

Once, he laid her gently into warm, silky water and hazy jasmine-scented steam, and never even got his paws wet. Another time, he settled her into a soft bed, tucked his wings against his bony flanks, and curled up beside her, purring quietly at a job well done. And there was the time that he rested her into an old wicker chair, in a green-shaded place, and then dashed off across the grass, unfurled his wings and floated off into the summer air in the mazy wake of a butterfly.

And when, at last, it was time for Marisa’s cat to start circling up towards the harvest moon, he took Marisa with him, and they ascended together, dizzy and delighted, into the star-strewn autumn sky.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Amazing Fluffy by Anna Sykora

The Amazing Fluffy

By Anna Sykora




“Tara’s performing,” said plump Clara, serving her son more sauerkraut. The fuzzy, pink-nosed tabby peeked down from a kitchen cabinet.

“Whenever we sit here, she shows off,” Hans said, who was eight.

“Me-ow.” Tara eyed the open door. Reaching her front paws to it, she gracefully shifted her weight and drew up her hind paws one at a time, balancing on the inch-wide door.

Hans and his mother stopped eating as the cat paced back and forth, pointing her feet and rounding her back, fluffy tail erect. Tara’s brother and sister--tabbies with spotted noses-- watched from under the table.

“She belongs in the circus,” said Hans. Placing her paws together like a diver, now Tara slid straight down the wooden door. “Bravo!” he cried and clapped. Tara looked up, gave a little skip and twitched her fluffy tail, and then scampered down the stairs to the basement. The other cats ran after her.

“She’s spoiled.” Clara cleaned her thick eye-glasses with a tissue. “We should ignore her tricks while we’re eating.”

“She’s fun.”

Clara got up and fetched more, steaming sausages. “Speaking of circus, would you like to go? Men with a tractor put up a tent on the field behind the supermarket. I saw seven camels grazing there.”

“Do they have lions?” Hans asked with excitement.

“I saw some tigers on a poster.”

#

The next day, a man with a moustache came to the door with circus discount coupons. While Clara took two, Tara--hiding under a table--slipped outside.

When she hesitated, near the hedge (she wasn’t allowed to leave the house), the man grabbed her and stowed her in his bag. He’d sell her fur to some old German lady, to warm her aching knees at night...

Weeding the garden, Clara didn’t notice Tara had disappeared. That evening, she brought Hans to Circus Bellini a few minutes late. After they bought tickets, a frizzy-haired girl opened the tent flap as if performing a magic trick. Inside, the tent looked much larger, rising to a shadowy height.

Seven shaggy brown camels already trotted around the ring in spangled blankets. Their pot-bellied trainer wore a long, black gown, a scarlet turban and golden slippers. He shouted at the camels and they halted and hung their heads right over the barrier. Children shrieked with joy, and their parents frowned in the hot, sour stench of the animals’ breath.

“Let’s sit in those chairs right next to the ring,” cried Hans.

“Soon as this act is over,” said Clara.

The young ringmaster, who wore a red cap with a tassel, joked how the smartest people in Pappenheim had gone to the movies instead... Hans and his mom sat through a juggler who broke several plates, and a tightrope walker who didn’t do much. Then a skinny clown chased a poodle around the ring, swatting at him with a butterfly net. The dog darted between his legs or jumped right out of reach. Finally he pulled down the clown’s pants--revealing polka-dot boxer shorts.

Meanwhile Tara chewed her way through the thief’s bag hung up in his trailer. Nobody clapped when she dropped to the floor. Soon she grew bored, rolling a grape in circles--so she ate it. When the trailer’s door opened, out she skipped; she ran through the grass towards the loud music.

The man with the moustache scrambled after her. “Catch me that cat!” he yelled at acrobats waiting outside the tent. Tara scampered around the field, among performers, animals and props. When she caught the smell of huddled cats she wiggled between metal bars.

Seven tigers, drowsing in a pile, opened their bloodshot eyes. One got up and started stalking her, so she scooted back out of the cage. The man with the moustache grabbed at her fluffy tail and missed, but then a poodle in a rhinestone collar yapped at her.

Tara climbed a ladder leaned against the tent. When the man poked her with a stick, off she leaped--right onto the neck of a horse trotting into the ring. Riding backwards, she clung to his mane as he broke stride and plunged. The pot-bellied trainer, Mr. Bellini (now wearing a fur cap and high boots with his black gown) cracked his whip and then pointed at the tabby cat.

At this, the ringmaster announced: “Ladies and gentlemen, making her debut in our show--the Amazing Fluffy!” People applauded.

“I never saw a cat in a circus before,” said Hans.

“Looks like an accident,” Clara scoffed, “like the rest of this fleabag circus.” But she was smiling wide as Hans.

As the horses trotted in patterns and the lighting changed from blue to red to yellow, Tara worked her way down her horse’s neck, turned around and rode like a hero.

As she passed within a yard of her owners, “That looks like Tara!” Hans burst out.

“It can’t be,” said near-sighted Clara.

When her horse left the ring, Tara jumped off and ran away. “Find me that cat!” shouted Mr. Bellini, who owned the circus and trained horses and camels, was married to the woman who trained the dogs, and the father of the girl who hung by her hair. “Find her, and I’ll make an act with her to write circus history!”

During the intermission, Hans and his mom strolled around the field. The circus folk were hooking metal gates together to build the tiger cage. Tara groomed herself and took a nap behind the acrobats’ teeter-totter. Shaggy camels grazed in their paddock as the sun set in a golden blaze.

Hans and his mother stopped in front of the tigers, who prowled their trailer as if they’d lost something.

“Maybe they know they’re next,” he said.

“It’s time to go back for the rest of the show.”

Now the tigers came running into the cage through a passage of small ones fitted together. Their pink-cheeked trainer, who looked l7, wore shiny black overalls and yelled at them in Polish. A middle-aged blonde stood watching closely, just outside the bars.

“I bet that’s his mother,” Clara said. “She sells the tickets too. Everybody does everything; they just keep changing costumes.”

The young trainer got five tigers to sit up on their stands, rewarding each with a treat of meat. Two bad cats roared when they didn’t get any.

Suddenly Tara, chased by the poodle, scampered into the ring. Children shrieked as she slipped through the bars of the cage. Kicking over their stands, two tigers ran after her, and the others bounded after them. The trainer held up a hula hoop and Tara jumped through it, followed by the tigers. The audience cheered and applauded wildly.

“Ladies and Gentleman, the amazing Fluffy!” cried the ringmaster, now wearing a too-large tuxedo. “And you’ll never see another act like this if you live 100 years. So remember the Circus Bellini, and tell your friends and neighbors about us. We may be small, we may be poor, but we train the most wonderful animals.”

When Tara raced past on top of the barrier Hans cried: “Mom, that’s really Tara! I recognize her pink nose.” The tabby fled the tent.

“Tara should be safe at home,” said Clara uneasily.

Two tigers were wrestling in their cage, a third rolled her stand around like a toy, and a fourth roared at the trainer while the blonde woman poked her in the back with a whip. The clown attached the passage to the cage, and pushing and prodding, the circus folk helped drive the flustered tigers back into their trailer. Then, to the sound of exciting music, they hurried to break down the big cage. (The music ran out before they finished.)

Hans fidgeted while Mr. Bellini made a big white horse trot in place. “Mom, I tell you it’s Tara. Please believe me, mom.”

“This afternoon a circus man brought us the coupons...”

“Maybe he stole her, mom!”

Now, the Great Rocco (they recognized the juggler who broke plates) rolled the crocodile out in a trunk, let him out to crawl for about two yards, and then packed him back inside...

Finally, in a swirl of dry ice fog and to the sound of dreamy music, Flying Bettina stepped into the tent, trailing a white scarf 30 feet long. Tenderly Mr. Bellini helped his daughter fasten her hair to the cable that would tug her aloft. As the music swelled and Bettina soared, Tara chased the scarf across the ring.

“Tara!” shouted Hans. The audience roared as she pounced, sank her teeth into the flimsy scarf and flew upwards, clamped on like a bulldog. High in the air Bettina frowned.

“Please, don’t drop our cat!” Clara yelled, waving. People laughed: was this part of the act?

The ringmaster hurried into the ring, waving the clown’s butterfly net. Bettina dangled Tara on the scarf about 5 yards above the net. The clown improvised a drum roll on a metal garbage can...

“Hans, wait right here!” Clara climbed over the barrier as Bettina dropped the scarf and the cat into the net. The ringmaster carried Tara away, Clara at his heels.

At the close of Bettina’s sailings and flailings--while Hans wondered what had happened to his mom and the cat--the entire troupe of 13 performers came prancing back out in their shiniest costumes, to take their bows.

Last of all strode the ringmaster, holding the Amazing Fluffy tight, who wore the poodle’s rhinestone collar. He held her up to the north, south, east and west, to the evening’s best applause.

#

“If people could train cats,” Clara said, “they’d be in every circus.” She was sitting with Hans at their kitchen table, eating limp sauerkraut with onions and apples. “The problem is cats only do what they want.”

From upstairs came an amazing crash. “Where’s Tara?” cried Hans. They heard a loud thumping and stood up as their wicker laundry hamper came bumping down the stairs, all by itself. When it got to the bottom, the lid flew open--and out jumped Tara.

“Tadaaa!” cried Hans and applauded. This time Clara joined in:

“Guess she just wanted a toboggan ride. No harm done: a few more dents in our wooden stairs.”

Tara twitched her fluffy tail, gave a little skip and scampered down the stairs to the basement. Her brother and sister followed her. What would she do next?