The Ninth Life
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BEEP… BEEP… BEEP… BEEP… BEEP… “Sigh!” I was just getting back to sleep when the damn alarm decided I’d had enough. Why can’t I just reverse the whole deal? I would gladly work weekends and take five days off with pay. But like everyone else in this big messed up society, I must trade my life for the betterment of those assholes in Corporate. “No bonus this year, things are too tight.” Too tight my ass, they’re in need of a new yacht or a home in Malibu and what an easy way to get it, using my bonus, Bastards.
So here I am peeling myself out of bed, off to another spirit-breaking day at the local factory. Living just outside of Freewater, Mississippi, was bad enough in the summer with all the man-eating Mosquitoes and 99% humidity but having to spend the day in a factory with no air conditioning was almost too much to bare. It was only June and August promised to reduce the population of the little town by 20% if things kept up the way they were going. At least I could enjoy the breeze as I drove in my beat up but reliable 1974 Chevy Convertible. It was the best part of my day taking the little road from my small backwoods house to the factory in Freewater. It was a quiet drive down small dirt roads and one lane bridges. Most of these roads were seldom traveled because few strayed so far from the conveniences of the city. I’m sure they made these just for me.
Today I was running late, this was sure to bring the wrath of Blake Thornton, the plant Forman. I had already been warned once this week about being late and jobs were as scarce to find as nipples on chickens. So I figured I better pick things up a bit lest I be looking for a job counting nipples on chickens. Maybe I need a diversion, perhaps if I had myself a girl or even a small pet, it would be great to find something more to do than just sit at home distilling moonshine. I always seemed to be looking forward to the next batch of sour mash and hell, it was only 200 proof, no wonder I was always pushing being late. So top speed I go, where I stop nobody knows.
I was making pretty good time so far and I was noticing the ratio of time to distance quickly evening out. As I approached the little one lane bridge, I noticed something different. There seemed to be something sitting on the railing, a bird? No, a cat, what would a cat be doing out here in the middle of nowhere. I suppose he wouldn’t need any attention as cats do remain wild animals tamed only by their mood at the time. “Well kitty kitty, that’s not a good place to be sitting if you know what’s good for you.” I said to myself. As I approached the little bridge I put both hands on the steering wheel in anticipation of a possible suicide by car shaping up. You never know what affect loneliness can have on the soul and from what I've seen, cats definitely had one. Yes, I am certain that cats have souls and were probably reincarnated from some ancient civilization that worshiped the feline. After all, wasn’t it well known that cats have nine lives? I suppose a suicidal cat would have to work hard to extinguish all nine. Well I hope this cat is having a good day. I just about closed my eyes as I entered the little one lane bridge doing 40 mph.
As I sped over it, I sighed with relief to see that the cat was still sitting there. Good kitty, maybe I ought to take you home with me, just what I need.
Just in time, and a good thing for me since my Boss was standing there watching the rank and file shuffle by the time clock. Just in time for another long day of torture in the grueling heat.
Another day ended and another dollar stolen by the government. Now for the only joy I get, to race home with the top down enjoying the cool breeze, then its TV dinners and sour mash for me. As I raced down the little road, I was finally feeling better. I was lost in a world of cool breezes and Brunettes. I hadn’t been thinking about the little guardian of the bridge I had passed on my way to work this morning. As I entered the one lane bridge, I saw that the feline sentry had given up his post. Too bad, he could have been enjoying the rich taste of micro waved chicken by dusk.
“What? Oh shit!” I yelled out as at the moment I crossed the bridge, the cat suddenly sprang over the edge of the railing and smack into the path of my car. I was going too fast to do anything about it by now. Thump thump went my tires as I realized the cat must have only been in the planning stages of his suicidal event earlier that day. I slammed on the brakes and looked back over my shoulder trying not to get too good a look at the gruesome event. Sadly the cat seemed to have finally committed the ninth act of suicide and now would be on its way to wherever the tormented souls of reincarnated kitties go. Too bad, I guess considering the tire mark across its chest, having him stuffed and mounted for a problem free pet wouldn’t work out either. I was a little sad going home, almost haunted by the tragic event, I would have to double my ration of grog if I was to get any sleep tonight.
As I stepped out of my car, I stretched and made my way to my little cabin, I glanced a look back and noticed something out of place. “Oh c’mon, that’s gross.” I said, not expecting to have to deal with anything like this. There was a two inch chunk of dead kitty flesh stuck to the wheel well dripping blood and fir. This was not the idea I had in mind for something soft and cuddly to keep me company.
Feeling a little remorse for what had happened, I decided to dig a little makeshift grave in the front of my cabin as a Memorial to the nine lost souls of the one dead cat. I got my shovel and opened a hole in the ground about a foot wide and a foot deep. “May ye rest in peace, or make that piece” I said as I dropped in the little piece of flesh. Well I did my good deed for the day, maybe I would feel better about the whole thing a little sooner.
The next day I was up just about the same time as the day before which made me just about as late. Off I go like the wind, everyday the same thing, well almost the same. I would hope the feline was not part of a suicidal cult. As I approached the bridge going fifty today, I was on guard for the next member of the Jim Jones School for Cats. But something else caught my attention, something I hadn’t considered. “Oh, Geez!”
Thump thump went my tires as I went over the little carcass of the previous day’s tragedy.
“Ooo, shit, I guess I should have thought of that.” I told myself as I exited the little bridge.
I don’t know if it was anything that could be classified as a symptom of some psychotic mind, but when I arrived home that evening I broke out into a ridiculous uncontrolled laughter. Having sped home that day after work and coming yet again upon the kitty carcass, I went right away to the front of the car where as if by some intuitive knowledge,
I knew I would find it. Stuck on the wheel well were two more pieces of kitty. I figure at this point I may need to find a name for the poor creature since it was so far the only pet I had ever brought home live or dead. “Tidbit. Your name is Tidbit. A very fitting name for such a peaceful creature.” I laughed again, “Piece-full. Ha! I crack myself up.”
I got the shovel and exhumed the grave reuniting the little kitty puzzle pieces. I picked up a nearby flat stone and wrote with a marker I retrieved from my car, “Here lies Tidbit, may he rest in pieces” I laughed again as I planted the little headstone next to the grave.
The next day I was up early. I had this thought that I was on some strange mission and wanted to see it through. As I approached the bridge I steered the car just to the left. “Score!” I exclaimed as I bumped over the rear section of the little carcass. When I got to work I went to the front of the car. Shoot, nothing there, maybe next time. Then I heard Jack, one of the factory workers yell, “Hey Jesse” that’s me, Jesse Parker, “looks like you finally got yourself some tail last night!” this bringing chortles from others of the group. I went to the back of the car and sure enough, there was the cat’s tail, stuck in the crack of the wheel well. “Oh, that’s just my new cat” I said calmly. This brought a grimace to Jack’s face and an explosion of laughter from the rest of the guys.
I put the tail in a paper bag and put it in the trunk. It was sad that the only diversion I could find was hoping to collect another piece of the puzzle one day at a time. I was actually dreading the thought of what I would do with myself when the carcass had been completely annihilated. Sadly for me that day soon approached. Since I was the only driver down that little road, I had been fortunate enough to pick up bit after bit of little Tidbit. Today however, instead of racing across the bridge, finishing the maniacal escapade, I stopped at the entrance. I could see that only one piece of the puzzle remained. As crazed as I had been over the last week I didn’t have a heart to finish the game. I walked up to the remaining piece and looked straight into its eyes. The eyes were open and dark. In all the crossings, I had managed to avoid the little skull and now it was staring at me, asking me why. I started to cry, I couldn’t take the look of that tragic soul whether my fault or not. I picked up the last piece of the puzzle and put it in the bag. At least I would give the cat some dignity in death by burying its head in one piece.
As I buried the last piece of Tidbit the Piece-full, I said a little prayer offering up the last soul of the little feline to where ever feline souls go. With the stone replaced, I went inside. I poured a strong drink of shine and coke and sat back, wondering what other things life had in store for me. Nothing as odd as this last weeks experience I hope. I drifted off to sleep.
Upon awakening the next day I found that there seemed to be something missing. For all the unsightliness of the whole situation, it had given me purpose. I had something to look forward to each day. Now the story was at an end, back to the same dreary life of loneliness and over-indulgence of the previous Jesse Parker. As I drove to work, I couldn’t help but feel anticipation as I approached the little bridge. I really didn’t want to go through that again yet I knew somehow I would miss it. Anymore little creatures want to step up the plate, a squirrel or perhaps a dog? No, there weren’t any other creatures with extra lives to throw away, most creatures only got one life, not nine. I found that evening that passing the bridge on the way home had proven the thrill was now gone. I was now back to relying on the feeling of the wind to provide distraction, what a life.
As I came around the bend on the last leg of my journey home, I was confronted by an unknown feeling, something like the feeling I got when I would catch a glimpse of Rita’s nipples when she would lean over in her loose top at the little soda shop in town. It was an instant rush of adrenaline that alerted the body that there was something important to be seen or understood and just the briefest moment to do it. Though I couldn’t make out what I was seeing I was suddenly feeling ill. I stepped on the brakes bringing the car to an abrupt halt. The best I could make out was that there was something wrong with the fence. What ever it was I didn’t want to go any closer, my mouth had become extremely dry and I felt as though I were hanging by a thread off the side of a bridge and with one false move, would be experiencing some horror that would spell the end of my miserable but much coveted life. I really didn’t know what to do next. To go closer was to uncover the reason for my sudden fear, my greatest fear being that I WOULD uncover the reason and it would not be something I could hang with. As I sat there, my knee seeming to develop a mind of its own sending my leg into little micro tremors, I tried to reason with my brain about what I was seeing. My eyes insisted that a branch had fallen against the fence or a large barn owl had found roost but my mind kept insisting, Dead Cat! What ever the thing that obstructed my sanity from rejoining my self-conscious, I knew I had little choice but to move forward least I give up my happy home and leave now, never to return.
I let my foot off the brake, glad it had not been the uncontrollable one and let the car inch forward. I felt pretty comfortable at this point since I was still a few hundred feet from the answer and I had some time before I would have to deal with it.
But the closer I got, the less comforted I was. The insanity of the situation was not finding remedy with each passing moment of visual clarity, on the contrary, it just got worse. Now that I was within one hundred feet of the horrific specter, it was unmistakably clear, it was a cat, my god, and it was THE cat. It was now clear that this could be no other feline visitor, come to pay its respects. My heart was now pumping 4/4 time and my breath growing shallow. I was trying to decide if I were going to be its next vengeful meal or if it was just waiting for a little micro waved chicken. My god, the visual horror I was seeing was too much to take in. I knew that as I collected the little pieces of feline in my crazed puzzle building escapade, I had left a few pieces here and there, if I had only known, my god if I had only known, I would have gladly gone back and retrieved each piece with the methodical diligence of a crime scene investigator. If only I had left it alone, it would probably have gotten back up and walked away to carry on in one piece. But Nooo I had to get freaky on it.
Now the poor creature looked as though it were having problems with an infestation of Wood Boring Beetles. The missing pieces were still missing and the cat looked like it had reassembled itself without first looking at the directions. I thank the Lord I had collected as much as I had else I loose my lunch from the site of it. I would have to argue with myself for sometime to come about whether preserving little Frankencat’s head was the right thing to do. At least it still had two eyes that in my favor did not glow in the dark. I stopped the long procession of inching forward right along side the once dead cat sitting on the fence.
I guess this was the moment of truth, I wasn’t sure what would happen next but I had seen enough horror movies to know it would probably start at my neck and work its way down piece by piece, devouring every scrap leaving the local authorities with an unsolved mystery to be blamed on some undeserving soul. I sat there, waiting, sweating, now starting to relax a bit. The cat continued to sit there looking at me, its mangled tail swishing to and fro nervously and its dark cat eyes looking right at me. Then I screamed as the cat launched itself into the air coming straight for me. I closed my eyes waiting for the sharp claws and teeth of a supernaturally strong reincarnated cat to separate my head from my body. Purrrrr….Purrr…..Purrr…… the cat whispered in my ear. I opened my eyes realizing that my pants now needed changing. The cat stood on the back rest of my seat rubbing its head against mine. I guess it was the latter of my fears that became my reality. I suppose I was now obligated to house and feed this ghostly cat, my dues for not leaving the dead alone. I had brought this on myself and except for the smell, it wasn’t so bad. I now had a pet that was certainly unique and needed little attention to its health and well being, it was already dead after all. It’s amazing what a little Fabreeze
will do for a dead cat, that and an occasional piece of micro waved chicken. As I sat on my porch stroking my cat, trying to avoid getting my fingers stuck in the missing pieces of little Tidbit, I realized I had been wrong, it still had one life left.