HOME FREE

Just like the song, sweet as the poetry. Our short term relationship felt like a decade of long journey.

Every time I see those eyes, every time I hear his footstep. Every morning at dawn, every evening at dusk.

A bedraggled purebred cat, used to be white, fallen from grace, cast away from love. Walking on his hurtful feet, just enough so he can squat to beg under a gawker stall that sell cheap food for the poor, away from his glorious days.

If I could, I would; fly to his side and hold him on my bossom; but I can only run, then, lifting his bones and skin, and nothing more.

Perhaps a little, or a lot. There were countless wounds all over him; the smell of pus was sickening, his fur matted and sticky. Remains of blood, remains of dirt, remains of disease, remains of what he used to be.

I thought it was mange or some sort, but he was not well with normal procedure after a month so the vet sought comprehensive measure and return with a thunder that storm our heart and mind and sunk it asunder.

It was malignant sarcoma; skin cancer, and he was condemned to die.

But whether it would be tomorrow, or whether it will be next year, no one can tell the future.

So ask and we’ll be answered, seek and we shall found. From Europe to States to Asia, we tried it all, and he was nothing but slowly was gone.

And one woman wrote her comment about Bumpy as I tell his journey, that I was holding him hostage and that I should have killed him and free him of his suffering long time ago. She said she would never have the heart to see his “boy” suffer. I was despicable.

She probably met her demise under the wrath of Bumpy’s loyal supporters, my friends, my family, Whiskers’ Syndicate. A woman with pea sized brain like her probably has bean sized heart and wouldn’t even bother to read the other side of the story.

In that darkest before dawn there was that little whisper, that someone’s cat has cancer and was restored by Traditional Chinese medicine.

I was already despicable, I was already an abuser, I was a bad mother. I was bound for hell for taking my boy hostage and let him suffer.

So I took the bottle offered and gave one to Bumpy.

One week, two weeks; all his scabs starts to dry. Third week his wounds start to heal, fourth week he was almost clean.

There were time when he was being stubborn. He stopped taking his medicine and get everything back. I made him swallow all his concoction and he is well. One other time he ran away and we had to chase around the cattery three laps a day, but I summon my help and made him ate his concoction and he is well again.

When Bumpy slept one last time last night, he was clean. His fur white and long, his skin pink. No pus, no smell, no sticky fur, no bloody wounds. Just cat and all his cat-ness.

Now, he is home free.

He walked through the valley of darkness, he ate more than he can chew, he stood head to head with death, and walk in all his glory, in his perfect white fur coat toward the door of heaven.

Now he is home free

He is purring at the bosom of his Creator, flicking his tail at stupid cupid and cherubs and all. His head patted by saints, and he will be cradled by all the angels there are.

What left with me was an old Scot poem,

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On old long syne.

On old long syne my Jo,
On old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
On old long syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;[b]
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

For old time sake, my friend. A life well lived, a game well played.

You are home free.

~ Josie
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GODDESS IN THE NIGHT

Nobody sees her. She was one with the night; creeping under the closed stalls, going round mud and fermented garbage, probably snickering at the smell.

For many, many centuries, her ancestors have been a blessing to man. People have small brains; they forget and they ignore, and all the blessings that her ancestors have freely shared had gone to the oblivion of selfishness and self-claimed superiority. Like several generations before her that fell off the grace; nowadays and – for many – for the rest of their lives, she was seeking a blessing for herself.

She thought the shadow behind her was her tail, though probably she was uneasy that her shadow grew bigger and bigger, eventually swallowing her in thicker black, darker surrounding.

She stopped, and looked up. Where was the moon that her Deity mother promised her before she was born?
But a little grin she found, carved on the face that was looking at her, a woman.

Which woman? The one who will deal small packets with rice and fish, or the other kind who will deal a blow on her already tiny waist?

The woman squatted; extending a long, white stick with most alluring fragrance. Her hunger knew that fragrance too well, but her instinct knew the risk even more.

Yet the next second she found herself on the drier part of the roadside; chewing, tearing, huffing. A little struggle, really. Little struggle compared to days of starvation behind her, and nights of gameless hunting in front of her, if she lost that chance of the present.

That’s why it’s part regret, part fear, when she let her guard down for a little bit, and the woman lifted her high in the air. She had not noticed that she is so tall.

She must have thought the few minutes that felt like forever was a pathway to her demise. She darted off the darkest corner she found first and stayed there, growling. To heck with starvation, though it really doesn’t matter because she probably will be dead soon anyway.

The next day as she snapped out of the dark side of slumber that caused her to sleep, despite all the warnings in her head, she found that fragrant white stick by her nose, this time, on a plate. She was not sure how that woman fit where she curled up, but she was not around, so she ate while her life lasts.

Eventually, she learns that as full as it can be, she is safer where she is now than on the street. Daunting at times, really. She has never seen so many other cats around before; but they are all look healthy, and they don’t really care to inquire her of her past, nor explain the present. The smaller cats came, once in a while, with their round eyes and fluffy fur. Sometimes they play with her tail, sometimes just look at her. When she falls asleep, on particular days she will wake up with several of them balling themselves in her surrounding.

At long last, she learns that when that woman and the other say “Megami”, it means her. They are being some real nuisance, with pills and injection, and she hates them for that. Funny thing, though, she no longer has smelly diarrhea, no longer has things wiggling inside her, no longer has pain in her ears, no longer has hunger not filled, or thirst unquenched.

Finally, maybe just a few days ago, she learns that Megami (=may-ga-me) means Goddess, after that little stripe of gold on her forehead.

So she always come to that name. The name that she thinks suit her, the name of her own right, by ancestry and by birth.
She always waits for that name to be called, for shortly after there will be many delicacies.

She always come to that name: the name that holds her dignity, and the dignity of her ancestors in a high place, as it should be.

~ Josie
paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

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… AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR (2): HOPE FOR DELIVERANCE

After that single flash into the dark sky, came that small sparkle, the only one in the vast milky way.

And then, silence.

I stood up and turn my back; the party is over.

There are many that I have lost; gone with the past year that sank with the moon behind me. What is left of them are memories: the guilt because despite our very best efforts, and the support of all that stood beside us, we lost them regardless. If any comfort, there is that sip of gladness that, long or short, we are doing our utmost to give them the chance that is their birth-right, but has been denied them for many ridiculous excuses.

And there is still hope; like Mama Marilyn (see her picture to find out where her name came from). On nights like this she would have been alone in that empty parking lot inside the SOHO complex. Sometimes with the rain, many times with the wind, often just her and the silence of the night.

Just across the street from where she lays to raise her children, stands a veterinary clinic; but her babies, born as she struggle with even keeping herself alive, looked like goblins.

Their bodies were eaten by fungus and parasites. Their fur all gone, their skin hardened, and their muscles ache. They walked like string puppets.

They have many illnesses, as their mother cannot provide adequate protection through her thinning milk; but inside, they are the same.

They play, they chase, they roll. If they saw us alone, they’d climb our leg with their matchstick-sized bald legs, just so we took notice, lift them up, and put them on our chests.

If we gave them a slow dance, they’d fall asleep and purred.

How we would give anything for time long enough until all their medication took effect and let them feel better.

How we would do everything to make them who they should be: handsome, healthy, fluffy, chubby…

But what they should be turned out to be little angels in heaven.

And their mother who stays to tell their stories about little warriors, who wanders but not lost.

“Meow?”

I saw those two round eyes, looking straight at me; her tail bent gently back and forth, left and right.

When she finishes her treatments at the end of this month, Marilyn will be walking through the threshold of a new chapter in her life.

A new chapter that start with her spay, and then is filled with a story of a cat who took her chances, and lives again.

This time, as she should be.

~ Josie
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ALL THEY WANT FOR CHRISTMAS (6):…AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR

At long last, it’s over.

Worries, horror, shocks, worries, griefs, sorrows, pains.

They were a broken family; one of her three babies had a broken tail, the other had a broken leg, and one more was dead. She herself had to live with a blood parasite eating her alive. All four of them, mother and kittens, had lung infection at one point and intestinal infection at the other. They had to move from one porch to the other during the rain and evacuate when the rain stopped, because no one wants them and no one cared enough for their lives.

Though we failed to help her children, our persistence and your unwavering support saves her life. Blood tests, USG, painful medications, long term treatments, intensive veterinary intervention. She was overwhelmed by the rest of the world trying to turn her life upside down and had various meltdowns along the long holiday season, but she will survive.

We took care of her lung infection, then we took care of her chronic intestinal problems. We subdued her blood parasite, we rid her off her many diseases, one after another; and when on a surprising, yet amazing turn, she came into heat, we managed to spay her.

She will step into the new year walking through the pathway of hope we all lay in front of her.

So this is your Christmas miracle, if you believe in Christmas. This is the blessing of your Hanukkah. Whichever you believe, this is the magic of The Whiskers’ Syndicate.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. No one else in this world can do the magic, only you.

Thank you for turning her world around. Thank you for turning her death into life, thank you for giving her the life she should have. Thank you for opening your heart when others shut their doors.

And thank you, if you would stay with us to make many other story ends just as beautiful as hers.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

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ALL THEY WANT FOR CHRISTMAS (5): LITTLE MATCH GIRLS

If there is one Christmas story I hate the most, it’s The Little Match Girl.

Most of the time, the little match girls (or boys) are the cats I saw on the street. They have nothing. They don’t have parents, they don’t have siblings, they don’t have home, family, friends. They do not have food.

They are cold, damp, wet. They are sick, they are hungry, and they are in pain. Pain because kids beaten them up with sticks, pain because people throw rocks, garbage, hot water, anything, at them. Pain because they have to fight for their lives, and even the winner did not win any food. Pain for the blood that runs freely one time or another, and stain their fur, Pain for the broken bone, pain one can see all over them.

What one cannot see, is the pain from loneliness, pain for being hated for no apparent reason. Pain for being denied life that is given to them, without they ever asked or choose.

This time, the little match girls are us.

Ex kitty mill tom with kidney failure, two ill mothers with their own set of kittens discarded in various ATMs, unwanted gift of one mother and three babies, kittens thrown away and have to bid for his own wee life under BBQ charcoal grill…

Even before I finished telling each of their stories, we took in one kitten dumped with her brother by a deep, rushing river, a miller wannabe who didn’t want to stand up for the challenge threw his supposed-to-be sire on the street.

Last but not least, a mother with intestinal infection, respiratory infection, and internal bleeding in her ear dragged herself for food to support her two kittens. Someone stole her two healthy, adorable kittens, left her rotting in the cold in the market by the garbage bag.

We lost the chap with kidney failure on Friday. The kitten with a broken leg died as we tried to save his life, early yesterday, and her sister, heartbroken and in pain herself, followed the next evening.

One by one, our match burned out, leaving ash, and dried sticks turned into cinders.

Who will buy the rest of our match, as our world sunk asunder? We have spent the last of our savings for cat food that will finish by Christmas, and none for ourselves.

But I stand here, out of the window, looking in. Family gathers, feast and squander. I stand here, by the cold shoulder of my society, so ignorant of others.

I stand here, lighting one more match. It’s a match none the less, it will be ash and cinder, regardless.

I stand here, lighting one more match. I stand here with my hand up high.

These lights, are the lives of those who has no one to hold their hope.These lights are the hope of those whose lifelines were stolen by ignorance and cruelty.

These lights are the love they offer even after all the pain.

These lights are their last chance.

And I will hold these lights with hand up high, for as long as I can.

I cannot change the girl’s story; but I can change theirs.

Are you standing with me?

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

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ALL THEY WANT FOR CHRISTMAS (4): PAST THREE O’CLOCK

Past three o’clock in the afternoon I rode through that small alley by the waterfall. She was there, laying on her side, her eyes closed, maybe enjoying the little kneads of her three babies on her tummy.

She was still there, past three o’clock two days later, just on a different porch.

Her three babies were so fluffy; white with a small number of patches, just like their mother. Sometimes they run around their mother; sometimes they wrestle among themselves. Past three o’clock in the afternoon, now and then.

Past three o’clock in the afternoon I rode through that small alley last week. She was still there laying on her side, her eyes closed, maybe enjoying the little kneads on her tummy, but there were only two babies. Their eyes were dirty, they did not look pristine, but their fur is still white, their tummy is still chubby.

Perhaps, she was just under the weather, just like anyone in this place. It’s hot and humid through the day; cold and rainy all night long.

But past three o’clock in the afternoon, the whispering behind my ear keeps on calling.

“Come back… come back.”

Past three o’clock in the afternoon, I rode to that small alley and found her sitting on the gate of the house by the waterfall.
One of her babies were in the middle of the road, the other one stayed further away. Both too ill to move.

I knocked on the door of the house, and inquired if the cat belongs to the family.

He said no. He said she belonged to another home two houses from his, and led me to the correct place.

A teen in senior high school uniform opened the door.

I asked her if she has a cat, she said no.

I asked her about a white cat with gray tail and three babies, she said yes. She said her friend brought that cat there. Although she explained that she is not interested in keeping any animals, her friend brought the cat along anyway, so she told her friend to drop it off by the porch.

“And the cat will take care of herself”, so her friend assure her.

“Was that the reason there has never been any food, any plate, any water, litter box or any roof for the cat at the house?”

She said she told her friend she has no intention to keep any animals, but her friend said cats are cute and funny and they can take care of themselves.

She is a teen in senior high school uniform, soft spoken and polite, so I sent her my greetings, and told her I am going to take the cat and her two babies away.

She said, “Go ahead”

Past three o’clock in the morning she was still eating, still drinking, as she sat by the window, shielding her two babies.

Past three o’clock the next morning, one of the babies walked up to us asking for food, and we learned that he broke his tail.

Past three o’clock this morning, when their mother was sleeping, I took the other baby who was more sick than the other so I can give her medicine. She never moved, she never walked. She just sat there, though eating and drinking and nursing.

And past three o’clock this morning I learned, that she has a broken leg.

I took both babies and keep them in the carrier. Their mother looking, meowing sad and sorrowful, perhaps asking what I was doing.

I touched her head, saying, I’d bring her the real three o’clock that should have been.

Past three a clock,
And a cold frosty morning,
Past three a clock;
Good morrow, masters all!

Mid earth rejoices
Hearing such voices
e’ertofore so well
Carolling Nowell.

Hinds o’er the pearly,
Dewy lawn early
Seek the high Stranger
Laid in the manger.

And I promised her

Cheese from the dairy
Bring they for Mary
And, not for money,
Butter and honey.

Please help me, masters all!

~ Josie
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Foot note:
“Past Three O’Clock” (or “Past Three A Clock”) is a British Christmas carol, loosely based on the traditional cry of the city night watchman.

The words were written by George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848–1934) to the traditional tune “London Waits”. Woodward added lines to the traditional refrain in a style characteristic of his delight in archaic poetry. It was published in A Cambridge Carol Book: Being Fifty-two Songs for Christmas, Easter and Other Seasons in 1924.

Numerous variations of the carol include an arrangement by William Llewellyn as a “quodlibet” for choir: London Waits (Past Three O’clock).