Half Brother

His name is Kaitou. It’s Japanese. In English, it means thief. He looked like a thief, he stole my heart, he hide it so well I never find it, and he pushed me down to roll in the snowball that is now called The Whiskers’ Syndicate.

I was just arrived in Bandung 6 months prior, to an office which boss made an offer to hire me into better place, but the staffs played a nasty prank on me on day one; to a town by the hill that is called Paris Van Java but filled with garbage, slums, and  people kill each other with smile attached from ear to ear.

As I scramble to digest the paradox of this town, where its people willingly bow and smile at you as if you are an angel, talk in such friendly tone as if you are part of the family, Kaitou gave me the crash course into the ignorance, arrogance, and hypocrisy that is the hardcore of this town.

He was only two months old then. Sitting under the scorching sun on a parking lot floored with paving block. He called incessantly, but when I tried to get near him, there is always one person from the office kindly remind me that he might belong to someone.

But he was there three days in a row, so at the end of the third day the office saw an amusing view of the new personal assistant to the Director (of a holding company) crawl under a Mercedes Benz with her half million Rupiah suit for a raggedy cat and walk away with smile (and cat) in tact.

Gossips and discreet giggle would trail me for the next five years of my service in that office, exacerbated into ugly bullying when three months after, the owner of the Mercedes Benz, the mother of my boss, commissioner of the entire holding company and its 22 subsidiaries, founder of the third largest textile industry in South East Asia, made me her personal assistant instead of her son’s, and gave me seven digits monthly salary and made all those dead woods who worked in there for some 15 years or so went mad. Their decade of ass licking (also the core lifestyle of this town) proved futile.

All hell broke lose. Slandering, bad mouthing, traps, intrigues, conspiracy. But as long as there is Kaitou, I am fine. He is the reason I keep going, you know, get up in the morning, put on my suit, went all out on my job, so I can go home immediately and see what other act he made when he welcome me back to my flat.

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As The Whiskers’ Syndicate grow, so does he. He is bigger, stronger, yet gentler. He let the stray kittens nurse on his milkless breasts, he let them curled up on top of him, he show him where the litter box is and what to do with it, he keeps everyone together when I have to leave them for a month following my hospitalization; though I missed him so much I ended up running away, again.

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When Boo joined The Whiskers’ Syndicate, Kaitou spend time “talking man to man” with the prince of Persia.

He followed me from one rent to another when I was kicked out as the number of cats grow. He loves me when I was rich enough to buy him and the other mobsters the best cat food in town, and when there was so many sick cats, that seven digits salary of mine only lasts for five days, and I live off one piece of tomato daily until the end of the month.

Even when I can only give him a piece of fish a day, he loved me enough to keep acting out one installation art every day.

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Posing as “Isaac” from the bible story

Kaitou made sense of madness when my sanity hangs by a thread. He is all the reason that comes rushing back into me whatever storm hit me.

In 2012, my rent was a small bungalow belongs to an elderly lady who likes cat. She lives alone with her youngest son who will soon marry, and although my bid for that bungalow was far than expected, she personally asked her other children to lease it to me anyway, because she wants a friend that she said she found in me. The neighborhood seems calm and since it’s a small alley, there are not too many vehicles (only motorbike can fit)  passed and the cats used to run free on the street  when I am working. Most of the residents there are old couples and their visiting grand children love to see clean, fluffy, chubby cats wriggling and playing on the street although they will run into the house if one tries to touch them.

My landlady lives next door; but the neighbor on the other side has a psychopathic son who was often run loose and attack other people. They are rich, and so no charges made against them and Indonesia law, especially in Bandung, can bend depending on the direction of the largest sum. I found out about this when one morning, that burly man broke into the house as I prepare to go to the office and tried to rape me. He has more power, I have more brain. I tricked him into ramming inside, and slammed the fence on his face.

He ran back home calling his momma with bloody nose; something I really regret. I actually want a broken nose and some loose teeth.

When no law can be used against me, the momma, a seemingly religious woman with her (always) white dress and pretty hijab, resorted to poison the cats. Some were heart sticked.

Throughout that year, The Whiskers’ Syndicate has to cram in tiny cages whenever I am out of the house. They can only roam free over 10 pm, when people slowly drown to dreams.

I tried, with the help of my landlady’s son, try to surround the tiny bungalow with wire mesh, but who can contain a cat?

My choice was staying wide awake until dawn watching them, pacing back and forth, peeking out and back on my laptop to care for Whiscraft, which at that point already grow large enough to produce substantial side income for the sanctuary.

Lazying himself on my bed is Kaitou, who choose to stay and keep me awake instead of joining the rest of the Syndicate frolicking freedom outside.

Except  for one quiet night in February,  when I saw him slipped through a hole in the mesh that the mobsters made, out on his seldom late night stroll.

My hand involuntarily tried to reach out for him. Something in my heart eerily remarked that if I didn’t get him, that will be the last time I see him alive.

He was lying at the foot of the fence in the morning. Unable to jump back in through the hole, he laid there, clearly in pain, tired, clinging to the last of his life awaiting for me to eventually open the door.

He was poisoned.

Immediately I took him in, wrap him in my own towel, the nearest I can reach,  give him fluid, concocted a lot of active carbon, prepare hot water bottle to help his freezing body. Never stopping while continue to curse myself to let him “out to his freedom” the night before. Across the room, the other mobsters were silenced in their own cage.

He take my panic so calmly, like a big brother laughing on his frantic little sister. And when I finally stop whirling around and sit with him and all his props on my lap, wearing the same suit when I first met him, at the same day as the day I met him.

“Don’t die” I hissed, “We finally made it”

I told him “Finally all my bonuses, donations, and living poor for five years, we can buy a teeny  tiny house in the country side. You’ll be free”

He looked at me with his big, brilliant round eyes. He was calm, resolved, unwavering.

He took a deep breath, his round eyes looking around to all other cats in the room, as if passing a silent message only cats know the meaning. He sighed, and then, with some soft flush of wind that hasn’t been there before, he closed his eyes.

And go away.

It takes me a few minutes, maybe a couple of hours, or days, maybe centuries. I didn’t know if time had stood still, or flying like an arrow; but I let him down, wake up, walked like a robot to my bedroom and called my boss.

“I couldn’t come today. I am sorry. My half brother passed away”

and hung up.  It is likely that I heard my boss gasped before I closed down the connection, but who cares.

I went back out, take Kaitou’s body with me, and lay him on my bed.

I didn’t try to understand what’s going on, nor ask why. It happened, and he won’t wake up. I blamed myself for not listening to my usual intuitiveness, but only for a second.

His eyes, his resolve, his gentle sigh. Though it is difficult to accept, I kind of understand it’s all right for him to go. His journey is over, his purpose served. His task from heaven might have been to get me through the five years of hell that would prepare me to a wild world of a breeder capital as the only animal rescue available. His job might have been escorting me to the threshold of a chapter in my life, but he cannot participate in my process of taking the decision. He cannot be the cheat sheet that has been nudging me in the right direction before.

Either I stop in the face of what might be an insurmountable dangers that comes with my passion, or move forward and brace the storm.

A text came into my cell phone. My graceful, kind hearted boss send me her condolences, and give me the secret privilege to take paid leave, longer than the office’s official policy, “because you have always willing to cut your own time and give that extra mile for the company” she said.

I opened my laptop and by mistake, clicked the music player instead of photo album; but as the song that played next softly filled the suddenly empty house, I no longer need photo album.

Every single moment of our lives took its turn, touching me, numbing me, killing me. Every single moment when Kaitou turned from this:

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To this:

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That day, what I lost is not a cat. He is my half brother. Only half.

Because one other quarter of him is my best friend, and the other quarter, my knight in shining coat.

Six months from that day, we moved into our own house, and the new chapter of The Whiskers’ Syndicate began.

And every end of the day when I found myself in doubt. I’d look to the sky, and sing the song I will always remember:

Who can say for certain
Maybe you’re still here
I feel you all around me
Your memory’s so clear

Deep in the stillness
I can hear you speak
You’re still an inspiration
Can it be
That you are mine
Forever love
And you are watching over me from up above

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile to know you’re there
A breath away’s not far
To where you are

Are you gently sleeping
Here inside my dream
And isn’t faith believing
All power can’t be seen

As my heart holds you
Just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me everyday
‘Cause you are my
Forever love
Watching me from up above

And I believe
That angels breathe
And that love will live on and never leave

Fly me up
To where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile
To know you’re there
A breath away’s not far
To where you are

I know you’re there
A breath away’s not far
To where you are

To hear the original song, click here: To Where You Are – Josh Groban

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate


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