Monday, February 28, 2011

When Glorious Eyes Close by Suzanne Conboy-Hill

When Glorious Eyes Close

by Suzanne Conboy-Hill

They had been together forever, sharing their space unconditionally, and delivering affectionate cuffs around the ear at mutually agreed intervals. Now she is gone, the victim of disease that manifested suddenly, mercilessly and without remission. He is lost. He hadn’t known what to do when she began to fail, and couldn’t be with her at the end, although everything possible had been done to allow him that. Suddenly she was not her, she was something else that responded differently and needed less, but also more, from him. He couldn’t manage those changes. He moved away from her.

Now he is alone. There is other company, but he has no relationship with most of them, other than one of dominance and superiority. He can’t show submission to any of these, or succumb to the playfulness she had been able to deliver without threat to his status.

He howls his uncomprehending loneliness, and seeks solace from the one source he believes to be acceptable. It will do. He can still curl up in her arms and she will hold him with affection. But it is not the same as lying together nose to nose, catching each other’s glorious eyes and stretching languorously around each other’s bodies.

Seeking comfort for something he cannot identify, he insinuates himself into her space. She holds him and he purrs, but there is no answering buzz. That feels wrong but he doesn’t know why. Maybe this was how it had always been.

The hollowness inside says no and holds in its vacuum the last remnants of his loss.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Phoebe and Gabriel: A Modern Tragedy by RD Hartwell

Phoebe and Gabriel: A Modern Tragedy
by R.D. Hartwell

Every morning he waits at the door for her. She's not returning, but he hasn't caught on yet. He's young, or perhaps still a bit naive. It's part of his ritual each morning to look for her at the back door before he sits down to eat or goes off to play.

I can't see his tears as well as I can see my own. Perhaps he doesn't cry; either no reason to do so, at least in his mind, or no understanding as to why he should. I wonder how long it will take him to realize she will not greet him at the rear door ever again; or how long it will take for the everyday memory to become only an every-other-day or weekly one, and eventually fade to that nagging, periodic remembrance of only a half-captured image, a fleeting recognition? He's turned now to go into the kitchen for breakfast, having given up on her again, for this day at least.

I've been forced to give up on her too, but for different reasons. And yet, I too still stare out the door periodically, as if looking for her while knowing that we will never see her again. I wonder from which of us her image will slip most quickly? I suppose it's relative, no pun intended, as we are both waiting for a different her. I wonder which of us is the weaker: him, who is young and can more easily replace her loss with others; or me, older, no wiser really, and who knows her loss for what it is and doesn't want to replace her with another?

Gabriel flicks his tail as he turns for the door, his purr lost around the corner of the counter. He doesn't know that Phoebe had to be destroyed and won't be coming to the door anymore. But I do. And if he knew why, he would hate me forever, never letting that memory fade.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Confession of a Cat

The Confession of a Cat
by Changming Yuan

like a pile of compressed fog
caught on a twig at the mountainwaist
the cat hunches on the sofa's shoulder
where i see the whole house of life
genetically domesticated behind the doors
that most hateful human invention

yes, i am a bimental being
as my feline friend has revealed
i can readily detect the moods
of my human family members
often switching my personality
with my drifting kittenhood
as i tease or avoid them behind doors
who know i enjoy solitary stalking
and respect my rented privacy
but none of them was born in the year of my day
since my ancestor was cheated shamefully
out of a ridiculous race in chinese zodiac

the inside doors are ajar or unlocked
but the one facing the free spirits of nature
is always tightly closed, separating me
from my other self born to prefer
to stroll in the wild than sit in the house
once i sneak out of the threshold
i will never give a backward glance
yet I will keep my grooming habit
by using my long tongue to clean the dirtiest
and most private parts of my authentic being
somewhere in the wildness

Changming Yuan, twice Pushcart nominee and author of Chansons of a Chinaman(2009), grew up in a remote Chinese village and has published poems in Barrow Street, Best Canadian Poetry, London Magazine and more than 250 other literary publications worldwide.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Outside Cat by Aralis Bloise

Outside Cat
by Aralis Bloise

As a single woman living by yourself, one of the best things you can have is an outside cat. I know you might be tempted to keep your cat inside the house, and you can still get one for that. But trust me; you still need one patrolling the perimeter of your home.

I know there is a stigma attached to a single woman relying on feline help. We all know the stereotype; Sad, lonely spinster dressing up her cats and having tea parties with them. I’m not talking about that. I have friends; I have dates, thank you very much. But no matter how popular you are, sometimes you end up alone at night…and that’s when the strange noises come out.

For some reason, the noises never happen when you have witnesses. Or during the day. It’s always when you are alone and prone to exaggeration. Try this experiment: invite at least 7-8 people to your place one night. Around midnight, turn off any music, TV, etc and tell everyone to be quiet.

Wait some more.

You can wait till morning, you won’t hear a thing. Now tell everybody to go home, watch The Omen and then try to go to sleep. It’s an orchestra of inexplicable noises. Inexplicable that is, if you don’t have an outside cat to blame them on.

Some people might argue that cats make some scary noises themselves. After all, a cat in heat sounds like someone is murdering a baby, but I think that just adds to your sense of security. Once you have been able to explain away that unearthly screeching, everything else is simple.

Serial killer in the bushes outside my window?
No, it’s just the cat.

Peeping Tom in the bathroom window?
No, it’s just the cat.

Monster on the roof?
No it’s just the cat.

Let me tell you, my cat Ling outside makes me feel a lot safer than all the locks on my door. And she likes being outside. She gets to run around and explore. She gets to climb trees and chase birds. She actually likes it better than being indoors. She really hated those tea parties.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rick Hartwell's Kitty Cuteness Overload for a Sunday Afternoon

Rick Hartwell has donated five pieces to Hazard Cat and I think if you look at these pictures, you can see why.

Young Maggie


Maggie and Jacob



Emma and Chewy


Bruno and Lily

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Cat Phillippe by Lisa B.

My Cat Phillippe

by Lisa B.

Phillippe, Phillippe, you most sable of cats,
Bringer of all things happy, murderer of rats,
What are you thinking, oh noble lord of ghetto fief?
A castrato at 5 months, it must not be of obtaining a wife.

Phillippe, Phillippe, your eyes do glow,
God’s palate of orange, green, and yellow.
Do those orbs vaguely conceal a soul?
Of conscious thought beyond the scope of human control?
Do you give me comfort when I weep?
Or has your mistress torn the fetters of sanity away
in a single cat-like leap?

Phillippe, Phillippe, a Christmas gift for me,
Better than electronics and in the end much more costly.
You were sick and dying, we did not know,
Thank God for modern medicine, my beloved friend,
and 800 dollars or so.

Phillippe, Phillippe, named after a professor,
you must be more than a little bit clever,
With a cat’s heart from a broken mold
and a personality too precious to be sold,
Phillippe the great and the bold.

But tell me, Phillippe, tell me please,
where were you those two months you took leave ?
When we moved to the new neighborhood,
and I feared you were lost for good?
Until one evening, there you stood.
Did you love me so much that you made sure you to find me again?
Now never roaming far from home,
Phillippe, Phillippe, my most constant friend,
I love you forever, understand?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Friend with the Big Green Eyes by Debbie Bongiovanni-Sharp

Debbie Bongiovanni-Sharp

I have a friend with big green eyes,
Who knows when I'm happy or sad,
She's always there by my side,
And for that I'm so very glad.

When I'm upset she seems to know,
Just how to make me smile,
She is the smartest cat that I've ever seen,
And she does it with so much style.

I'm so very grateful for my cat,
And that is sure no lie,
She is the best friend anyone can have,
The one with the big green eyes.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Josie and Samuel by Jennifer McConnel

Josie and Samuel
by Jennifer McConnel

Josie and Samuel had been the strangest pair to ever grace the old farmhouse. Not only was theirs a friendship of June and November, their relationship transcended even the boundary of species. When Josie was a kitten, the old farmer had found Samuel in the cornfield, torn apart by a coyote. The old dog miraculously healed behind the wood stove in the farm kitchen, due in part to the attention showered on him by Farmer and Missus, but more importantly because Josie decided that he should live.

The farmer and his missus had long suspected cats of possessing occult powers, and Josie was no different in their experience: even as an infant she looked around her with wise, worldly eyes and it wasn’t long before she was involved in all kinds of unprovable mischief. The missus was certain Josie was the culprit who snuck into the dairy and ate the cream before it could set, but there was not one telltale fleck of white on the little beast who sat on the kitchen counter, daintily licking her feet, so the missus couldn’t punish her. She was a tough old soul, like her husband, but she still believed that all Americans were innocent until proven guilty: she applied this belief to man and beast alike.

Because of the skill with which she broke the rules, Josie was already quite the queen of the farmhouse when Samuel arrived. Deciding the old coon dog to be worth her time, Josie spent the months of his convalescence curled up on his shoulder, licking his ear and purring from time to time. The farmer and the missus had never seen anything quite like it, but at the dog was healing and the cream had stopped disappearing, they left the strange pair to their own devices.

Before long, Samuel was healed. Having a happy dog on the farm lightened the hearts of the humans, but Samuel insisted that Josie accompany him on all of his adventures. Quizzically, the farmer watched as Samuel led Josie across the log that sat on the creek and out of their territory to explore the unknown woods. Every night as dusk, the couple would return: Samuel blissfully covered in mud and brambles, Josie somehow immaculate even after a day spent exploring the forest.

Years passed in this manner, and the self assured kitten grew into a sleek, beautiful cat. Samuel had passed his growing age, and the changes in him were reminiscent of moving backwards: his step began to slow and his bark quieted to a whispered squeak. And still Josie and Samuel would not be separated. The night that Josie didn’t come back from the forest, Samuel sat vigil. He whined anxiously all night, looking out in the direction he and the cat had wandered that morning. And when dawn came and there was still no sign of his beloved companion, Samuel laid his head on his paws in defeat.

When Missus came out to milk the cows, she saw Samuel, frozen in place, and her heart almost broke audibly when she realized he hadn’t even flicked his tail in moments. Dropping the milk pail and stool, she crossed the yard to cradle his head and ease his passing, but her actions came too late. Samuel was gone, and Josie never came back. Farmer and Missus mourned, but the farmer secretly though that it was a lucky thing: if either of those animals had to live very long without each other, he thought, gripping his wife close to him, they would have been lost.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Our Mother Tongue by Delbert R. Gardner

Our Mother Tongue
By Delbert R. Gardner

Dear wife and I were talking of the need
For language, when our two cats had a spat--
The Tiger ambled near the Persian's feed,
The Persian growled, and Tiger went and sat
Some paces off in quiet dignity.
"Cats understand each other in any tongue,"
My pretty green-eyed wife explained to me.
To which I answered, "Yes, the idiom
Is all of language with animals, but still
They have so little to communicate."
"Correct--it's mostly fear and how to fill
Their bellies," she agreed, "--and love and hate."
"Come to think of it," I said in play,
"About the same things humans have to say!

"My father, Delbert R. Gardner, made his best cat friend later in life. Andy, a gray and white tabby, got off to a rocky start by repeatedly bouncing off my father's new hernia incision. But he soon redeemed himself with his devotion to Dad, approaching him each evening with the request that Dad put him to bed in his basket, sometimes with a song. A constant companion, "Andy boy" soon won the accolade "old buddy, old pal" and slept with my parents at night. Other poems of Dad's featuring cats of one stripe or another have appeared in Fine Arts Discovery and Spirit; Dad has also written about bulls, dogs, fish, mermaids, and other creatures. Over forty of Dad's poems and stories have appeared in publications such as The Literary Review, Poetry Digest, American Poetry Magazine, Provincetown Review, and Christian Science Monitor, among others." - Lyn Gardner

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Beast on the Beach by Jean Airey

by Jean Airey

Eddie Barker ran down the beach, his feet making soft plopping noises in the smooth hard area between the waves and the shell-littered sand. It was a middle area, like him, he thought and ran faster. There was a full moon and it cast a light that showed him the empty stretch of Manasota Key ahead of him. Nobody was there, nobody fishing, nobody swimming. Just the quiet night, the waves and him on a hot summer night in 1963.

Being alone made him happy. He was away from his older brother, the jock who won all the sports awards. Away from his younger brother, the geek who won all the academic. Him in the middle, good for nothing, good at nothing. He was better alone. He ran faster, closer to the waves, his feet kicking salt water up on his legs.

He ran up the beach until he drifted into that wonderful world that running hard brought him to. Where he didn’t feel any pain, where he didn’t have to think, where the whole outside world faded. He was content now, in a world of muted peace.

Until he heard the breathing. It was deep and rasping and came from something running alongside him. Lower than his head, at his chest. There was a strange rhythm of other feet hitting the wet sand. Reluctantly, he turned his head to look.

The animal almost blended with the sand, except for the dark ruff of mane around its neck. It was a lion, running with him, its body as tall as his waist, its head reaching his shoulder. It ran looking straight ahead, not looking at him.

He was hallucinating, he thought. Maybe his dumb jock brother had slipped some of that new LSD stuff into his food. He stopped, standing in the small waves, and watched to see what his hallucination would do.

It ran a little ahead of him, then turned and sat down. Golden eyes surveyed him calmly. The dark brown tip of its tail switched back and forth making scuff marks on the sand. He wondered if that meant it was angry. He wondered if it was a bad thing to have a hallucination be mad at you.

He cleared his throat. “Hello,” he said.

The lion didn’t say anything, and the tail continued its metronomic swish, swish, swish. Emboldened, he put his hands on his hips and said, “Look, I’d like to finish my run, if you don’t mind.”

The lion yawned, exposing giant yellow teeth and blasting Eddie with a powerfully bad breath. He staggered back. “Hey, you oughta brush your teeth.” The lion started toward him and he moved back further, putting his hands out in front of him, “I didn’t mean it, really.” But the lion only walked over, stood alongside him and looked at him.

OK, Eddie thought, he could see and hear and smell the hallucination; could he touch it? Not waiting to lose his nerve, he reached out with one hand and put it firmly on the lion’s head.

There was a head there, there was a hairy head there. He could feel the coarse hair bristling under his fingers. The wide skull was firm under his palm, He could feel the warmth of a living animal. Holding his breath, he patted the beast. The lion purred.

With a yelp, he started running again. It wasn’t a hallucination, it was a real lion. He ran as fast and as far as he could, but the lion kept pace with him, running alongside, making no move to jump on him, its easy stride finally driving him to exhaustion. Unable to take one step further, he collapsed on the sand, buried his head in his arms and waited for the jaws to close on him. He felt the hot breath on his neck and then the rasp of a tongue that felt like it was pulling half his skin off.

The lion lay down next to him. He raised his head and looked at it. Its tongue was partway out and he thought it was laughing at him.

“You’re not going to eat me, are you?” he asked. When the lion didn’t respond, he rolled over and sat up. “Where did you come from?” He put his hand on the lion’s side and the lion rolled over. Just like Gramma’s cat, he thought, and rubbed its belly. Where could such a beast have come from? He’d heard that years ago there had been circus people living on the Key, but could one of them have brought a lion along? And how could a lion have managed on its own for – what – ten, twenty years? The lion was really purring now, and Eddie had to smile.

“Look,” he told it, “I have to go back, now. I’ve run a lot further than I usually do. You coming along?”

The lion did, until they got within a few hundred yards of Eddie’s house and then it stopped. Eddie stopped too, and patted it again. “I’ll be back out tomorrow night, we can run again.”

He wouldn’t tell anyone about this, he thought as he went into his house. This was his lion, and nobody else’s.

As the years went on, Eddie continued to run, and the lion joined him. He talked to the lion as he wouldn’t have talked to any human. The lion never talked back, never told him he was stupid, or clumsy, or foolish, it only looked at him with its golden eyes and purred when he stroked it.

His grades improved, and he even made the track team. His brothers still outshone him – sports for the one and grades for the other, but he knew they didn’t have a lion to run with, and his parents started to brag that he was the one who could handle anything.

And he could, he knew it. He graduated as valedictorian of his class and headed off to college with a scholarship.

But he had to leave the lion.

“It’s only for a while,” he said the night before he left. He held the large head in his hands and looked into the burnished eyes. “I’ll be back at Christmas and I’ll run with you then. It’s only a few months away.”

But when he came home at Christmas, there were parties to go to and friends to catch up with. He thought that Susan Anders even liked him better than just a friend. It was four days before he was even out on the beach again and then it was a beach bonfire with his buddies.

He left the bonfire and ran away from its light and down the beach to where the only light was that from the full moon. The lion did not appear. He called softly for it, but it did not come. He started to run further, but a voice yelled from the bonfire. “Hey, Eddie, come on back here, we’re going to go swimming!” It was Susan Anders.

He waited a minute, maybe two, then turned and ran back.

He did not see the great beast lying in the seagrass, watching him leave. He did not see the pain fill the golden eyes, or the tear that fell on the sand and disappeared.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Marmalade Cats by R.D. Hartwell

Marmalade Cats
by R.D. Hartwell

Marmalade cats and plump muffin mice,
Toasted in dreams all through my head.

Invited to dance in a marshmallow sky,
They pirouette, curtsy; cavorting so high.

Parading across a sleepyhead's bed,
Such visions of mirth and antics are nice.

While memories of childhood cascade all around,
Only death and destruction around me abound.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Cat, The Chicken, The Mouse, and the Fox - A barbeque horror story by F.A. Hyatt

The Cat, The Chicken, The Mouse, and The Fox - A barbecue horror story.
By F.A. Hyatt

There are benefits to Exo-urban living. For one, you get a little more latitude in what you can do with your property. In my case, a fenced free-range-chicken pen. With freedom comes responsibility though, in this case the responsibility was to find out what was going on with my chickens. A raucous squawking sent me barreling into the back yard. Had the cat climbed into the pen? Shin-zu was well fed, and too old to be over impressed with the birds, so that wasn't likely.

The start of summer is my favorite time of year. It heralded the first barbecue of the season, which vies with Christmas as far as I am concerned. Fate, however, had other plans for this day of days.

I made the gauntlet of my yard just in time to see a thin brown form whisk away into the scrub, towing a mass of feathers. A quick count of the captive poultry left me disheartened and angry. The fox had made off with my Alpha Cock, a Rhode Island wonder, ruler of its small domain. The bird was also my only good breeder.

This activity had also mildly attracted the interest of my wife, who entered the yard at a more sedate pace.

“We still planning on having a barbecue this weekend?”

It took a few seconds for me to switch gears. I pointed inarticulately toward the chicken pen and gargled, “my rooster!”

Clara gazed uncenteredly in the direction of the pen. “Your rooster what?”


“It escaped? That's what the noise was about?”

Defeat settled in. Clara was not going to get excited over my loss. We share many things, but concern over livestock was not one of them. A stray cat, (how we acquired Shin-Zu) or an abandoned Starling, that was different. My chickens, or pet spider, were somehow not part of the clique.

“A fox grabbed it. I'll have to check the fence, and get another cock.”

“Oh, that's too bad. Do you think the cat will be safe in the yard?”

I let out a breath, and composed myself. “Yeah, she should be okay. Foxes aren't given to eating cats.”

“Alex, the barbecue?”

“Why not? I'll clean the grill after I check the fencing.”

A hole had been scratched under the fence at the back, big enough for the fox to get in and out of. The dirt pack there was pretty hard. I hadn't thought it necessary before, but evidently some kind of masonry barrier would have to be set down around the cage perimeter. Pulling some rock together, and a little wire repair occupied me for some considerable time, but eventually I retreated to the house, and called the poultry farm I deal with, to arrange for a replacement cock. That done, I made it back into the yard intent on setting up the grill. Clara followed me, toting a bundle of cleaning supplies, and a bag for the ashes. It was clear I wasn't going to get off with a quick scrape-down this time.

Opening the grill top revealed another surprise.

“Oh, isn't that cute! Look Alex, a baby mouse!”

It lay there, half curled up like a tawny fuzzed toe. Some field mouse had nested here and abandoned this present, for some reason. I braced for the inevitable.

“Don't touch anything!”, Clara breathed. “I'll go get a shoebox!”

It didn't look to be in very good shape. Certainly it wasn't, unfortunately, trying to escape my wife's attentions. Clara returned with her new mouse house, and carefully transferred the rodent out of the grill.

“I wonder if we shouldn't leave the grill alone. The mother might return.”

Thinking fast, a flame grill-free summer looming before me, I replied, “Not likely. Mice litter. There's only one here, so it was probably abandoned, when it couldn't scramble out with is mates. It's probably sick, Clara, I don't think you should bother with it.”

This was the way wrong approach.

“I'll have to take it to the Vet and see. Be a dear, and finish the grill while I take it to the clinic.”

This would absent my wife for a couple hours, likely. Alone, I decided the quiet might re-attract my chicken predator back, or some of his friends, so I retrieved my shotgun and a couple salt loads and began cleaning out the grill where I could keep one eye on the pen. I let old Shin-Zu out and went at the grill with a vigor born of irritation.

The 13 year old cat had been off her feed for weeks now, and just sort of propped herself down near me, mildly interested in the jerky movements of the scraper and ash shovel as I removed the last seasons dross.

Squawking rose up from the pen, so I squinted along the rear fence line. Looked like movement in the shrubbery. I grabbed the shotgun, reared up and fired off a shot of salt. I figured the noise would scare off my problem for a while, until I could fix the fence up.

The old double barrel went off with a satisfying wham. Suddenly remembering Shin-Zu, I looked down expecting to see the cat bolting half-way across the yard for the nearest tree. Instead, it lay stiffly to my left, all four feet straight in the air. Then it fell sideways and didn't move at all. Cripes, I thought, not now. I knelt down, and inspected her. The cat was dead as a door nail.

When Clara returned, there was a major pandemonium ending in another useless trip to the vet confirming that the cat was beyond all but divine resurrection, due to a heart attack. Altogether, about thirty-eight dollars in vet bills, about my average summer charcoal budget. The new cock would cost another twenty-five, and of course, we would immediately start window shopping pet stores for a new cat...Call it my steak budget for summer grilling. I had just enough time left to finish cleaning the grill, which it turned out, had a large hole burnt through the bottom, once the fire-pan had been taken out. No grill.

We dug a shallow grave for the cat, and everything considered, it was now too late to cook any kind of decent dinner, let alone barbecue anything, even if I still had a grill. The mouse had stopped moving, despite the eyedropper loads of antibiotics and vitamins the Vet had proscribed. I took charge of it, and with solemn ceremony, fed it to my pet spider, the only living thing in the household to have come out ahead today.