Thursday, October 31, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

The cat's not coming out from under the porch. No way. He's curled up like a cheeze puff, and he ain't going nowhere. Sun through the rough boards, striping that cat all up with warm. That cat is fixing to stay. Maybe sling some kittens. You never know.

The boy is staring into the sun, blinking. He's got no shirt on and overalls, and he looks just like a Norman Rockwell, but for the bruises and the skinny. He's acting like he don't care about the cat. He can't afford to have anyone see him being soft. Not for no stray cat.

There's no woman inside and there is no sense of woman around the cabin. There is a low rumble of contained rage. The whiskey is prodding the old man, reminding him of the injustices he has suffered. Soon, he'll yell and the boy will take off running. Sometimes, he stays out for days.

The old man is in a death spiral; he is dancing himself through the flames of mediocrity. He has given up, and he is falling. He is shaking in the blackness of his sorrow, but he can't see out. Every time he starts to care, he drinks the care away.

The highway curls along, licking soot onto the trees. Cars pass through from all over, and sometimes they see smoke whirling into the sky. And sometimes, suburban dads say, "God, it must be wonderful to live out here."

Nobody knows each other. Not for reals. That's just talk.


  1. Can't decide if I'm the cat, the boy, or the old man. Hit some real truths here man!

    1. Painful truths, and the possibility of friendship between the cat and the boy. Hope. A sliver of it. Against the hopelessness of everything.

  2. [not fiction, but I wanted to share nonetheless]

    He thinks I do not notice, and for the sake of dignity, I pretend not to. He walks slower. He takes shortcuts on the way home. He pricks his deaf ears up, hoping to hear one more sound.

    Maggie and I allow him to set the pace of our walks and how far we go. If I am overly optimistic about our path for the day, he will sit, then lie down, waiting for me to see the error of my ways.

    I don’t know what factors he considers in his calculations; whether how far he can go or how far I might be able to carry him should the need arise.

    Some would say this dog is spoiled. Perhaps he is. I’ve only rarely had to say no to him; his own sensibility far exceeds my own.

    I think often of his youth, when first he showed up at my door, uninvited. Fear of coming inside. Disbelief that I would put food in front of him, again and again until he was no longer hungry.

    It took half a year before he would allow my hand near his face, and six months more before I could stand beside him at his food dish.

    We spent weeks learning how to play fetch with a tennis ball. He was skeptical I would throw the ball to him again if he returned it.

    His joints no longer allow him to jump up to catch the ball now, and I am afraid to tempt him.

    I never imagined I could fall in love with such a stubborn creature (one as stubborn as myself). But his stubbornness often has good reason. Times he blocked my walking in a particular direction because there was danger.

    I do not know what he thinks about being deaf. If he is grateful for the silence, or confused why everything is so quiet. His ears are always perked up now, as if he is afraid he might miss a sound if there were one.

    He is clandestine about his aches and pains. It takes him longer to get up from a nap, and I occasionally see him stumble if he runs too fast. He looks over his shoulder, hoping I do not see it, and I try to look away, so he can believe I did not.

    Nights are the hardest. He no longer sleeps all through the night. An aging bladder requires one or two visits outside, and he wakes me as he always has: One slap of his paw on the side of my bed. I get up with him, and stand at the door while he relieves himself outside. I have installed an extra light outdoors so I can watch him, so that he can easily find his way back inside.

    When he lies down again, he gives a sigh. He turns around two times these days, not three, before he lies down. He watches me for a moment, before closing his eyes again. I watch him breathe, his chest rising and falling slowly. And then I turn out the light, and I try to sleep. Before I do, I utter a prayer of thanks that this loving creature found his way into my life.

    I did not know him as a puppy. The vet guessed him to be a year old when he had his first checkup. He was not fond of physical affection until the last year or so. Now, I can pet him for fifteen minutes at a time, and he enjoys it. Perhaps old age really does include a second childhood. A chance to make different choices.

    And so, we live each day. We concentrate on this moment. The bright eyes. The impatience for the first morning walk. His increasing pickiness about what food is acceptable.

    And we grow old together, as respectfully, as gracefully as we can. And I wouldn’t trade a minute of it away, for anything. And I think, I hope, I pray that he feels the same way.

    1. I bet he does, brother. This is beautiful and restrained and filled with love. <3

  3. Been through multiple furry cat children. Deaths have come with no warning, with haste, with slowness, with suffering unnoticed until too late for medicine to save. All but one died with me right there, holding and loving. The one was curled up in his favorite bed, still warm when I found him..... So the message is that fast or slow, the emotion is the same, and the loss breaks your heart.... And then you remember, and they live again in your mind and being,, and you can laugh as you remember. And, as time proceeds and the future comes, you will have the most amazing gift of knowing that you are surrounded by thousands of other people who will understand perfectly: a miraculous family who will remember and love and cry and laugh with you and surround you with their love. That is your miracle. You and the dogs have been a blessing to so many. Thank you for that.
    you have made.

  4. I know he is aging, but you are facing it with more grace and strength than I am, Leland....and you are his family. You are close to him. I only know him from books and blogs and social media, but he's as real and alive to me as if he were lying here by my side. I've "known" him nearly from the beginning; through your words and pictures. He lives in my mind and in my heart. He always will. And when his time comes (hopefully not for many years), even though there will be no more new stories and pictures of him to see with my eyes, in my heart there always will be.

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  6. The sun goes down every day, but it rises each morning. That’s the message that the gurus repeat, suggesting that life has a cycle like the turning of the earth, that our fortune and our temperament follow seasons of their own.

    But there’s only one season and no hope of renewal.

    I used to be an optimist, with a perpetual smile plastered on my face. I used to habitually see the best of people, give everybody the chance to redeem themselves. I used to lower my standards, thinking they were suffering too, letting basic things like decency and humanity slide. There’s never enough time and no time to feel frustrated; turn the page and start over again.

    Start over, start over, start over until we stop.

    I used to feel hope. I used to believe. I used to think everything would turn about. I regularly see people suffering – people with no homes, people who’re dying, people who’re sunk deep within despair – and I used to believe that life would change soon, that honesty would prevail, that greed and hostility would cease.

    I used to feel that once. Like a child.

    And the lesson remains; preach love. Give to others without thinking of what can come back. And bring an animal into your life – there are no better teachers.


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