But I admit I didn’t really listen.
There are very many things in my mind: sick cats, hungry strays, piled up bills, dead bodies: old cats and adult cats and young cats and baby cats. Mother and her babies, even.
But she didn’t stop talking, and she didn’t stop bringing it up, she didn’t stop repeating, until part by part sinks in to my over crowded brain.
That the cat has a tumor on her ear, and that she brought her to the most famous, elite, and very expensive vet in the whole town and beyond.
That the vet surgeon there had removed her ear, and the cat stayed at the clinic while she silently paya the heap of bills that comes every week since then.
That she sat in the tiny cage on top of other cages receiving the best of care.
The story faded in discord.
Though I haven’t been to that clinic she talked about so often, I know the place well. A tiny SOHO where everyone strutted their fancy purebreds, with nose looking at the sky. A receptionist behind the table, soft spoken, but never miss a spot licking the client’s ass.
Everyone there is soft spoken. Full of praises, full of hope, full of price.
Behind that receptionist, an alleyway with exam room on each side that ends in a windowless back room where people stack things on top of the other. A stairway to the second floor, with dirty, damp, smelly cube for the janitor, where people stuffed mops and brooms and buckets filled with water that turned black from poo and pee, or vomit from those fancy pedigrees that lined up on the sofa with their proprietors.
Along the walls of that backroom are cages stacked against the wall from the largest to the smallest; and inside those cages are pets of all kind. Some with an infectious disease, some with wounds, some trying to recuperate after surgery. Some just sit around because their self-called ‘pawrents’ wouldn’t pay a maid to take care of them while they need to mind their own business.
They live there, eat there, sleep there, pee there, poo there. Yes, stacked against the wall in their respective cage on top of each other.
Peppermint Patty sat on the smallest cage on top of the stack. She was fed with steamed chicken breast, they said. She received ultimate care by the most prominent vet, they said.
But even the prominent vet’s biggest fan – who brought Patty to that vet – knows that Patty did not get better. She is weaker, and sadder, and gloomier, and sorrowful, and sorrier by the day for the months and months she spent there trying to get over her surgery.
With my respect to that prominent vet and many other prominent vets in that clinic, I reminded my friend of the pictures of cat and dog meat market in Thailand or Vietnam we often see in those online petitions.
She put two and two together, but the she looked at me.
I took a deep breath, pulled my hair, and sighed very long.
And Peppermint Patty came the next evening. The saddest, sorriest looking cat in my entire life as a rescuer.
She had a collar that prevent her from scratching her stitches, but who knows how long it has been there, because her neck was raw because of it.
I removed that collar, but it took Patty maybe fifteen minutes before she started to move veeeeeeery slowly to flex her feet. Who knows how long she has been crouching in that tiny cage, because her collar is a tight fit to that cage from one end to the other.
And then, she starts grooming.
She was so pale, like there was no blood left in her. She was so fragile, as if a little flick of a finger would blow a hole right through her.
She was so used to tiny places, she fits herself in tiny nook just her size in my livingroom and stays there.
The next morning I showed her the sun, and she gingerly touched the ray like she never seen one before. I put a plate of minced chicken breast in front of her, and she ate like she never eats before.
I give her a bed, and she choose a sheet of newspaper wet from urine at the corner. I give her blanket, I give her fresh water every day.
The first time she meows, one month later, I was screaming as if we won the biggest lottery. The day she ventured out of her tiny nook, I danced like I am crazy.
In the middle of all these deaths. In the middle of all the sufferings, and the lack of food, and the lack of medicine, and the lack of money, and the lack of sleep, and the lack of everything, Peppermint Patty, the hopeless, gives me hope.
When the only certainty is uncertainty, Peppermint Patty, thin as paper, gains weight.
Her fur is getting cleaner, and whiter, her eyes are getting brighter, her walk is steadier. Her pats are getting stronger, her claw is firmer.
Peppermint Patty, the hopeless, gives me hope.
I never take her to that prominent vet. I take her to my own. That clinic downtown is not half as fancy as the previous, but all the vets there rescue animals, even strays. They serve the dirt poor, and innovate and improvise, so even the lesser of mankind like me, who lives in a commoner’s world, can keep their cats, and still will charge less.
The stark contrast that has driven the rich away from them is the truth. They deliver the news as is, no fancy talks, no false hope, no artificial sweeteners.
When the previous vet’s office won’t let me have Patty’s history, we took matters into our own hand. We did a second biopsy, we did another test. Patty’s tumor is benign: it won’t cause pain, it won’t cause organ failure, it won’t do anything.
It only grows. And the more it is cut, the more it will grow.
Peppermint Patty is hopeless. So why put her back in that tiny cage, cut another part of her and keep her on the stack of cage in the windowless, smelly, damp, dark back room?
Why let her whither, when she is right now glistening?
Peppermint Patty is hopeless, but she gains weight, she is not in pain, she is in peace, she sleeps soundly, she meows, she plays, she grooms.
And at this time of darkness, she gives me hope.