QUITE SIMPLY

Living in a cemetery, hair scruffy; she would glare at people from afar, and disappear among the gravestones. One said she has many babies, but none lives long enough to see the day they walk on their own feet. Some would wonder, and try to find out; she’d driven them away with claw and hisses.

In the days of old, she’d be quite simply a witch. She’d be hunted, cornered, sacked, banished at best, or worse, burned at a stake. It’s not enough that people kick her around.

In modern days of technology and science, however, she’s quite simply: a carrier of a disease. Her blood test indicated that she passed Calicivirus to her babies, and so whatever she does, she’d never come to the day when she sees them stand on their own feet.

Once we see beyond the curse that haunts her, it’s easy to see that she is quite simply a loving, caring mother. She’d be watching day and night around her kittens, she never wandered far but only for food and water. She neglected herself so she can devote all of her being to her children, perhaps in the hope that if she tries harder, they will finally come to see better days, and those who exercise their curiosity beyond warning and measure, it will not only be cats that can be killed by curiosity.

Actually, the solution for her condition is quite simply sterilization, but for her last batch of kittens to live through their inherited curses and see the light of a better morning is not quite so simple. For one like her, with luxurious hair and beautiful bones to end up in cemetery, it must have started with a bitter story of abandonment, a bitter story of having to live alone in a merciless world, a bitter story of cruelty without cause, a bitter story of survival against even more bitter odds. How could she not lose her trust in the world, and belief only in her claws and hisses?

It took us ages and many degrading smirks of people around, an embodiment of evil who called themselves human; humans who laugh at other human who tried to do the right thing, who waited in hiding to run and kick her (and us) every time we tried to offer goodness. That those who call themselves human, a human who would deliberately spray her with sewer water just when she decided to open a crack in her heart for us to show, is of a different species to us.

When we took her home with a promise of a sweeter world and happier days, these are what said to us: She is just a cat, a stray cat, what a sore waste for you to be so kind, just throw her into the river and help us be rid one more bit of garbage that does not need to exist.

It was really quite simply for me to return the acid spray, that the one who should be ridden from the world is them and their kind: factory defect that escape paradise when the QC angel slept on duty. Or perhaps they are the other side? The one who looked like a snake that has nothing from their mouth but venom, which is why they are at the bottom of society, just like their ancestors cursed to slither on the floor of the earth for all eternity.

For her four babies, we quite simply can only try, giving additional nutrition as soon as they open their eyes. Additional supplements as soon as they can swallow something else other than their mother’s diminishing milk. Additional visit to the vet for boosters, closer watch and intensive monitoring. The real journey was a lot more than what quite simply can be said.

When one of the four fell, she followed us inside, watching us clean and wrap her baby, another she lost just like before. There was no words from her mouth, only a subtle saddened glare, but when we put her baby in the box, she lay vigil all night long beside her fallen angel until the next day, when her other babies called upon her.

How then is she called garbage that does not need to exist? She is quite simply a mother, just a different language, different world. The language that we understand, the world that we come to love.

Only one left from her four babies, when her breasts start to fail her, and she was forced to wean her last man standing early. We quite simply smile when she came to us to lead us to her hero, and took charge over him so that finally, her curse can be broken, and one child she so vigilantly cared for can live to see his happy days alongside her.

She quite simply has been through enough.

~ Josie

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THE LION ON THE FRONT DOOR

He lay there like a lion without a mane, still watching people come and go by at the doorstep of that small coffee shop. I can tell he is old, but those squinting eyes do not signify defeat, it roars wisdom.

The next time I am there for the supermarket across the street, I showed my partner about the watch cat of UNKL Tea and Coffee. He was looking great.

Third time I was there, I saw him curling asleep on the doormat, still. I cannot but marvel at him, at the same time gladdened that people who come there for coffee or tea, wouldn’t harm him. If there was any sign of dislike, they just go around him, and leave him in his heavenly peace.

Two days after, I saw him again, still sitting on that same doormat, in front of UNKL Tea and Coffee, looking around. There was something different, if not amiss, but I cannot quite say what.

I put on my helmet, ready to assist my partner parking the motorbike, when my hand moved voluntarily to touch her back. All of a sudden, I wanted to feed that cat. Even though he looks great, even though he doesn’t seem to be close to people, even though he looked sleepy that day. I told the parking lot guy, an old man, roughly 60s, who often helps us distribute cat food to cats around, that I wanted to check on the cat first.

He said, with rather saddened voice, that the cat had just been run over by a car. Two nights before, after the coffee shop closed, and he walked out of his post to find food. It was long weekend, and cars jam-packed the street. A particularly big car with a long nose crushed him.

He said, the cat seemed to be OK, though. He woke up, he walked away, a little bit limp, and he disappeared in the dark of the night.

He said, the cat was there the next morning, so he thought, all is good in this world.

I went across the street with a pack of food, and called him, as friendly as I can be. He doesn’t seem like a people’s cat.

He stood up, and limped with three legs to where I stood in the corner.

There was dry blood on his hind leg, there were traces of wounds that started to scab, there were hints of pain on the face that used to look like a lion.

But a lion is a lion none the less.

He walked as straight as he can, using the leg that hurt as much as he can, looking as good as he can.

When I turned around, my partner was already behind me. Looking at him intently, she said we are going to go back to that supermarket, and find a sturdy canvas bag to carry him.

We already have two cats needing surgery then, and one more would break our back, but it seemed like God want us to go further and shatter our skulls.

So we gave him food, told him to wait, ran away, and he came back with us, powerless in his inability to walk properly, much less run.

At least his situation is not as bad as the other two. His hip was dislocated, his pelvis cracked, but he won’t have to lose his leg. He will need to stay put after our vet puts his hip back and pins his pelvis, but then he’ll be as good as new.

He will still cost us a fortune, though, and we already dig deep for Mr. Grey and Bara. Reaching out a few times in social media didn’t quite see our expectation, and other bills and food need to be paid as well.

Yes, the vet gave us credit. Yes, we are allowed to pay later, and in installments, but yes, should urgencies come, we won’t have any spare left in our tab.

The other choice, however, is to let him go.

We went forward with nothing but hope. Hope that somehow we will find a way out of our seemingly impossible financial noose. Hope that help will come, hope that if we try in earnest, the universe will turn in our favor.

And then, hope that one time after all of these ordeal come to pass, he can go back and be that stature of a lion in front of UNKL Tea and Coffee.

Hope that he will get the life stolen from him back.

~ Josie

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Unkl (pronounced “uncle”) is now fighting his upper respiratory infection at the sanctuary and is winning. He has one more week of antibiotics to be sure he is clean and clear, then he will have his leg fixed. The most recent Easter matching challenge paid the bill for Mr. Grey and Bara. If you haven’t already, or if you have spare mercy, help us raise USD 400 to pay for Unkl’s surgery.

ETERNAL FLAME

The day we’re knocking on heaven’s door for Grey; Bara was downstairs, getting ready for his own battle.

In so much extent, his situation is better, though the risk of the surgery is just as great. The guilt from failing to bring Grey back is still an overwhelming pressure. Though cats are said to have nine lives, we would never know which life Bara is on now and we would rather be safe than sorry – life is life, and each one, whether it’s the first or the fourth, is just as precious.

Quoting one of our most respected allies, however: the surgery was always going to be risky, but it was also necessary. And even if it ended badly, we owed it to Bara (and other cats the same) to try. Bara, as with the ones before him, and many more after him, only have us. We are their chance, their voice, their hopes, their lives. They put all nine lives on the line trying to find better days, so if those nine is all they have, we will be their tenth life, or the eleventh, or the twelfth, or the thousandth.

I kneel on the floor so I can see my guy in the eye, and be burned with that flame one more time. The flame that gave me confidence, the flame that emboldened me, the flame that gave Bara his name.

I patted his head, and off he went to the surgery, and I sat there, in the same seat where I spent seven hours sending our best wishes when Grey had his, just ten days ago.

It was not a great sight, when he went back out. There were sutures jutting out and pipes in and out of him, bottles dangling on top; but just one and a half hour it seemed like Bara has done wandering around the after life and thought he’d rather go home to us.

He was grouchy as hell. He was unpleasant to be with and was irritatingly demanding; but that’s what tenth life is supposed to be, so we put up with it.

Few days later, when he insisted he no longer wants his iv, we put up with it. Yet another few days and he thinks he can stand (yeah right), we put up with it. We have our hands full, no really. We have twenty four babies, 4 weeks and younger; they all need mama and there are only two of us, not to mention the blind, the sick, the half dead… But we put up with it.

Of course if Bara is super duper mega ultimate annoying, he’ll get the look that can freeze the flame of hell.

Bara takes his revenge by taking things in his own paw. He stood up, he dragged, he limped, and he walked outside to the hallway all by himself.

He will scream his lungs out whenever someone even sniffs him, but eventually we learn to ignore him. A sniff or two won’t kill anyone, and he was the one who insisted on going to the hallway and join others in the first place.

Bara learned to climb, as of yesterday. He didn’t even make it to the bottom of the shelves that we call Catpartements, but life did not hinder him before, it won’t hinder him today, nor it will hinder him tomorrow. That flame is the one thing that kept him alive with a rotting, twisted leg in that back alley for God knows how long. That flame is the one thing that carried him through the surgery. That flame is the one thing that gives him power to stand up, and live again.

That flame will be the one thing that will keep him going.

~ Josie

It cost us USD 600 for Bara’s amputation, further treatment (medicine, physiotherapy) will cost us another USD 300 for two months. It’s a humongous amount, especially at this time. Fortunately we have two kind donors who offered USD 500 matching challenge that will end on Easter, so we can pay Bara’s medical cost with half the effort!

Please do not let this chance pass us by. Help Bara walk into the better future he has been fiercely fighting for. Link below will take you to the right place:

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I AM THE STORM

The storm is raging behind me; as I stood there in darkness like a stone pillar challenging the sky. It’s so riotous one cannot hear anything but the fight between thunder and water falling. It’s so fierce there are no place left to dry. But at the tip of my fingers, there is peace. The chain of breaths, the solemn heartbeat, that almost invisible smile, that can be seen only when lightning struck.

The past two weeks is like The Battle on Helm’s Deep; and Mr. Grey at the center of it all. All forces of men, all kind. The long and arduous journey toward the fort, just like how the world is rooting for him to be better, so that he can have his jaw refurbished. The silent worry that creeps to the depth of the soul, the hope that leaks in every step, the deep breath as the sun falls, and that long, never ending night with cold, damp, suffocating wait at the top of the hill: for the break of dawn, or the break of war.

The story predates that battle, with an unnamed blue cat running toward us, as if he can ram through our fence; his cry seared the sky. The untold story of how he lives among princes, when he was still belonging to someone. The crashing of the world when a vehicle hit him on the face and broke his jaw in two. Whether those who call themselves his owner simply showed their true colors; or whether it is Mr. Grey himself who choose to run away in his terror, and found himself lost, there will always be stories left untold. That grey cat was like a sage? mage? hermit? He was like a wizard who kept so many secrets, sweet and sour, as he walked through the world emanating only his wisdom, his youthful smile, his unwavering heart. He is like Gandalf the Grey that comes to see the hobbits at the break of the dawn. He is like the old man the Fellowship look up to, until he fell to his perceived death, when he fought the beast that needed to be beaten for the better future to happen.

Playing that prelude in my head, I no longer see Grey as the victim of the savages of men, I see a hero who stands his ground and fight to the end. Grey is not the smallest of brethren who cower and whimper under the storm. He is the storm.

As the next thunder blares as if to break the earth in two, the power went out. Soon there is that long beep and one red dot in that dark room beamed like a little eye watching. That red eye has been keeping Grey alive in his long slumber, but no matter what reasons, hopes, “what ifs” I piled up, the truth deep down cannot be unheard: I cannot keep that red eye open for too much longer. First thing in the morning I will call my partner and we will be there to see the end.

The lightning that comes next, blasted so bright the rest of that room went bright. From the shade of the corner of the room, it must have looked like my face was split in two, because the vet tech who has been standing there widen her eyes watching me.

I kneel down on one knee and kiss Grey goodbye for that night. I rub my thumb on his forehead between his closed eyes. I let his now clean, soft fur touch the depth of my soul as it brushes through my palm.

I walked silently toward the door, look at my vet, and nod my head: in respect, in gratitude, in admiration. She has been the general who stand in front of everyone, leading the war between life and death for Mr. Grey; for all of us.

I walk to the door and heard one of the vet techs whispers. “She is so heartless. She can stand there with stiff face and sharp eyes and still walk into the storm firm and tall. She made her decisions with straight face. She is like that storm. How unfortunate Mr. Grey to have walked across her”

No one will ever know whether the storm is raging, or playing, or crying or all.

I am the storm.

~ Josie

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THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GLASS

When the vets emerged from surgery room, I was standing with my great expectation overhanging my shoulder. Cannot do anything but try to keep floating in the ocean of uncertainty, tugged between hope, and worry; it was suffocating.

I knew the surgery was a success; otherwise all those faces, framed by green caps, half cut by masks would have looked completely different.

There were three stitches. Stitches? The wires that connected one side of Grey’s jaw to the other were larger than staples. They looked like something out of a horror movie; something a completely twisted kind of psychopath will do.

Actually, those were to save his life; those were to give him the chance to be the cat he should be: the sunshine that always peek through his cloudy fur colour. The merry-making dude who burst out like firecracker and pranced like Quatorze Juillet.

However, the primary concern for the surgery – since the beginning – was not the wiring itself; it was everything surrounding the surgery. His health condition, with that lingering calicivirus that wouldn’t go away because of his depleted immune system, yet the immune system won’t go back up because that broken jaw hindered him from getting the nutrition he needs. The two seizures he had during his hospital stay. The vets suspected concussions that he obtained when he was hit by vehicle, the one event that destroy his jaw (and his future), but there was no way to be certain. There was no way to find out whether it was minor or major, whether it was reversible or the other, and there was no way to find out how it will affect the surgery. There was a way, though, but we would have to get Grey for a CT Scan, which no one has here or out of town, and even if we can get one out of town, even if we amass thousands of Dollars to bribe one or two officers so they will lend some human CT Scan, there is this ongoing pandemic that makes everything so God damned freaking difficult it’s as good as impossible.

So the most important part of the surgery was not the procedure itself, but waiting for Uncle Grey to come out of sedation.

To wake up.

Under normal circumstances it will take at least two hours (often less). Some take half a day; some cats will sleep the whole day out. Uncle Grey: stable, calm, and fixed, slept until today.

That suffocating feeling being tugged between hope and despair is creeping back. Like a psychological thriller. Like being stalked by something surreal, or sinister? Sinister is more like it. Some eerie feeling that haunted me all day long, even as I shake it off my head from time to time, running away by taking care of two other cats who themselves need surgery, plus one blind kitten, five babies Sheilla took from a box floating in the river, ten babies and two mothers stranded in the cemetery with nothing to anchor their lives onto.

We just keep running, keep stacking things, pushing questions away, just keep swimming, just keep working. We are like a maniac in a bout of madness, because being drowned slowly in despair is worse, because thinking about it out loud or in silence won’t produce anything other than more worry. Running away to other work at least brings good to the others.

In two days, we’ll be waiting three days too long; though in these three days too long, we see the vets try everything. In this three days too long we are giving our best, though giving our best is mostly just prayers. It will be ultimately annoying, tragic, unsatisfying, whatever the term available, to end Grey’s remarkable journey by pulling out the plug. He went so far. So far!

Still it will be cruelty to leave him longer than it should. It will be the ultimate crime to deny him his right for our own selfishness. It will be unforgivable to rob him of the bigger plan or the better place. If he wakes up, Grey will undeniably still have to endure a long and arduous recovery anyway.

So I will be rubbing him one more time, now, as I end this piece I have been writing by his side. I wish that by the time I am back on his side tonight, I will see him looking at me, or better, swatting me for ever thinking the worse.

Most of all, though, I wish him the very best.

~ Josie

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IF LOVE IS BLIND

Like a castle in the sky. The tall, white building with large entrances and lots of wide windows that spans two blocks, with the blue sky at the background. If the sun is out, the famous mountain that made the town will be visible behind a thin veil, like the great wall that reach the heavens.

Every day, expensive cars drive in and out, carrying men and women who call themselves “The Representative for The People”, “Spokesperson of the smallfolks”, “Messenger of the Commoners”, or “Watchmen of citizen’s mandate”.

But small as he is, none speaks for his right; even when he is bold enough to sit in the middle of the gateway. Once elected, the windows of those golden carriages, bought by the money from the people they should be representing, would stay black and shut.

A young girl once stood against the crowd and roared “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful”.

His world might be dark, his ears might be small, his voice unheard, but even the unheard voice vibrates so much, we small girls stopped our humble motorbike in front of the barricade, who call themselves “protect and serve”, throw their allegiance only to preserve the arrogance of those who are rich and powerful.

I stood tall in front of their hawk eyes; their stiff faces hidden behind masks. I walked straight toward their towering figures. I stopped right in front of him, down on my knee, and with all due respect, lifted him to rest on my bosom.

Some of those hawk eyes dimmed, as they fidgeted to hide their shame for throwing prejudice. Most just don’t care.

He wouldn’t know what’s going on. At the age where he should roam and wander to see the world, the vision that should build his future was robbed from him. The eyes that would equip him to hold onto hope were gone.

Still he knows how to climb. He knows how to hear, he knows how to love; more than those that called themselves the representatives of the people but never even look at those who gave them their mandates. Smiles, talks and promises are only for a campaign. When all is said and done, and they sat on their thrones in that white palace in the sky, it’s all dark around and they can’t see anything, they can’t see anyone. They have domination to all, but dominion with none.

He knows no sunrise, but he knows when one door is open, he can find a place where he can climb. When he climbs he can hear two voices, and when he hears two voices he will prance upon us.

He knows how many steps would it take to pat on our cheeks. He knows how many rounds of skipping back and forth to get his breakfast, and he knows which leg is whose, when to knead. Sometimes he will still be confused, but whichever leg he kneads, he knows he will have an audience, and his needs will be attended to.

He knows that even though he cannot see, his future is protected, his life is secured.

His hope shall not be lost.

~ Josie

Nachos is 10 weeks old without eyesight. He sat in the middle of the entrance gate of The Province of West Java House Of Representative at risk of being crushed by fancy cars of the senators, seeking someone to hear his voice, but no one cared even to move him to a safer location. He might not see your gesture, but he can feel your love. Let him feel the village that will lift up his voice and give him hope: paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” – Malala Yousafzai. In her book: I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. ISBN 0316322407 (ISBN 13: 9780316322409) Hardcover, 327 pages. Published October 8th 2013 by Little, Brown and Company