Sisypuss: Memoirs of a Vagabond Cat

| May 15, 2013


Sisypuss: Memoirs of a Vagabond Cat


Three paws in the grave, I lie in my cozy window bed and narrate my curtailed life. Except for the days after birth, when I am blind and helpless as a worm and in no position to see what’s what and one other time when my coauthor takes over, I speak for myself. With literary flair I interweave memories of the years before Booley took me in with accounts of his seriocomic troubles: drugs (he enrolls in clinical trials as a work alternative), women, and poetry editors.

Our litter’s born in a smelly doghouse icy as an igloo to a sick and homeless mama. From birth, despite my innate optimism and my brother Bob’s inborn skepticism, Bob and I are inseparable. Our first joint victory is over villainy (exercising teamwork which’ll stand us in good stead during our too-short time together), the thwarting of Simon’s attempts to hog Mama’s scanty milk. A bad beginning.

Shipped off to a shelter, our family’s torn apart: Mama’s put down and replaced by a crazy calico wet-nurse who terrorizes us until the day we’re all adopted. Alice and Simon go off to good homes. Bob and I are released to a bad guy.

He sells us to a dealer who sells us to a lab where “studies” wreck our health, good looks, and spirits before the luck I’ve always counted on sends rescuers who save us from sure death and deliver us to Elizabeth.

Beloved Czarina! With her, her multi-animal family, and friend Manya we find brief happiness . . . only to have it soon end when Death takes her from us too. Her daughter dumps us, grieving and terrified, in a godforsaken swampy wood, setting off a chain of events which taxes our courage and ingenuity to the limit. We barely survive as feral cats in a hell of decaying trees and falling branches, snow and icy rain, bitter wind. Hard times. It’s learn to hunt or starve, shelter in swales under moldering pine needles or freeze to death. It’s dodge hunters and fight attackers. Trekking through that wasteland on harrowing searches for prey and shelter we see makeshift altars strewn with remains of animal sacrifice, organized dog and cock fights, starved animals chained to trees. There also, a try at love leaves me singing the castrato blues.

No wonder the day comes when, ravenous and frozen, Bob and I admit the feral life isn’t for us and strike out to find civilization. Instead, we find tragedy. Exhausted and weak, Bob stumbles into a steel jaw trap and to gnaw off his paw is the only way I can free him. For the days and nights following, I lick his wound, I do my best to keep him warm. . . . He doesn’t make it. Wild with grief, without him and his guidance for the first time in my life, I bury him as best I can under leaves stiff with ice. To this day, I’m halved.

Without purpose or direction I wander until I stumble upon the cat colony edging the supermarket lot where Booley finds me. Soon afterwards I’m diagnosed with a fatal virus against which he and the vet battle with drastic remedies while I wait for a miracle, hang on, and remember things past.


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