SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME

Since the start of the lockdown, restrictions, social distancing, whatever the name, us having dinner at 2 am the next day is the new normal. End our day on the 27th hour at 4 am and restart at 7 am is the new normal.

Masks and gloves help, glasses as well. They hide our pale complexions, coarse skin, and red eyes. They muffled our croaky voice, and a little bit of an effort to sound a little bit more cheerful distracts the beholder and make the smile of the listener.

On June 6, some sort of miracle. Despite the seemingly never ending day we somehow finished an hour early, went to our regular, hidden food stall to have a piece of meal, and a peace of mind as we enjoy our 6 hours late dinner, and whistle home. We wouldn’t ask for more. We know the whole world is in pain now and most of all we know full well the animals bear the worse brunt. We only have two hands, but when everyone worried about their own tummies, we can share, because it’s all we have.

Whistling home on ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ won’t distract us from dead roads and dark streets. Actually it lead us to two tiny shadows dancing around as if the background of our performance.

Actually it’s one. One two months old black kitten that will never distract anyone dancing by a small waterway toward the sewer. Next to him sat another, watching.

It’s not that she didn’t want to play, I think; but with mange all over her tiny self and fungus and yeast no less than any other, empty tummy and no mother, There’s a somebody she is longin’ to see, hoping that someone turns out to be someone who’ll watch over her.

Her black little sibling ran away as I stepped down from the motorbike and walked over, but she stayed there, looking straight into my eyes, with that pair of eyes full of melancholy.

When I extended my hand she took it carefully. His black sibling came back, and they both rode with us.

Only two ounces in weight, we couldn’t bathe her though we had goosebumps running through our spine touching her bumpy skin. We couldn’t give her spot on treatment, it can only be used once she is four pounds in weight or four months in age. Our best bet is flea spray. At least one or two parasite gone.

The rest is good food, in the hope she will found the will and build the strength to fight the legion of her demons.

The rest is her, voice inaudible, sitting as close as possible to our foot whenever we had chance to stand still. The rest is her looking at us with her tiny, round, yellow face.

She is like a mini sunflower trying to bloom in the winter, she is like a dainty daisy bracing the wind of the autumn, she is like a budding hope waiting for the summer.

But what if, summer never come? Declining donations force us to degrade from pure wet food to rice and fish, or less than best food we usually give.

But what if we keep going? If we cannot run, we walk, if we cannot walk we crawl; on our hands and knees, or on our tummy.

Just like little Hana (little flower) waiting in her box until we fell silent in our short lived sleep, and creep up to the bed.

When we wake up we will find her curling in peace by our cheek.

Someone to watch over me.

~ Josie

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Post Script:
“Someone to Watch Over Me” is a 1926 song composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin. It was written for singer Gertrude Lawrence in the musical Oh, Kay! (1926). Originally, “Someone to Watch Over Me” was an up-tempo swing, but while experimenting one day, George Gershwin played the song as a ballad, and it stuck ever since.

The song was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1946 for his first album The Voice Of Frank Sinatra, and again by him in 1954 for the film “Young At Heart” (that inspired us to whistle on our way home the day we met Hana)

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Questions, and some answers

If there was a sound piercing the sky louder than the thunder, it was her call.

If there was tears pouring down to earth more than the storm that just passed by, it was her cry.

If there were questions that even God Himself wouldn’t be able to answer, it was her inquiry.

Her cries, fearful and incessant, pierced through the night on that row of shops, with doors as colourful as their vibrant lives; but just like the two months partial lockdown had covered their doors with dust, her hope sunk and dimmed that no one answered her calls.

She just stood there, unsure whether to run toward or away from me, when I finally found her. It was so empty, it’s difficult to separate her real cry and its echoes.

A newly homeless young man peeked from behind the utility station, irritated by all the noises. At least, he did not pick her up and throw her somewhere else to get his peace.

I took her, nodded at the man out of sympathy, and went away. If I cannot help him as much, at least I did not prolong his pain.

She was all bald patches from bad fungus and yeast; not to mention the whole town worth of fleas. She was all growls and spats as she gobbled down the first plate of soft, warm steamed fish, who knows after how long.

She keeps everything to herself, for herself and shun away from the rest of the world. She slept alone, she walked alone, she played alone, she’d run away if she was not alone around the litter boxes.

Why would someone go such a long way to abandon her in an empty business district, knowing full well no one would be there, we cannot answer; but I can show her man are many different things.

Why would someone take her away from her only source of life: her mother, and leave her to die alone and slowly in the middle of nowhere, I cannot answer, but I can show her that in my household, everyone share lives with the other.

Why in this horrible time, when others lend their hands and share their shoulders, someone would have such sick thoughts, we cannot answer, but I can show her that from the time she stepped into my household, there is food in the bowl, water fresh and clean, roof over our head, and the whole living room, and kitchen, and laundry room to chase in with abandon.

How long would we be able to provide, we cannot answer, but we can show her we truly care, we truly try.

How long will she take to move on and embrace her new life, we cannot answer.

But I can show her pats, rubs and cradling, that the love will live for as long as she needs, and many more as she lives.

~ Josie
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DIAMOND CREVASSE

Had I not made that sudden change of mind in a spur of a moment, I wouldn’t have gone to that organic market event.

Had I not go to that organic market event I wouldn’t have met her.

Had I not met her, she probably wouldn’t have existed; not for long.

She was just as big as a toothpick. I can count her bones three feet away, her curves were extreme, she was skeleton at best, probably living dead at worst.

Yet she was bright as the morning sunlight, running from end to end, greeeting people among the greens and the salad, the beans, the leaves.

She was as broad as the blue sky in that beautiful Sunday morning. She was like the prancing wind among the branches of the park where she bid her life – day by day – moment by moment, in that quiet stretch of the street.

A minute or two, she will walk back, sitting away from people busy with their pick of the day, vegs and all, catching her breath and cope with her ruptured diaphragm that made her lungs hanging only at the strength of her throat muscles and the fine threads of the nerves that hold her only life support.

Who knows, whether she was really looking at the crowd, seeking for the next glimmer of hope as she greet people she seldom see, for a piece of food, or whether she just lost in her own mind, trying to figure out what other way she would live, since no one really care about her?

Her left eye were crossed to the right and the right one crossed to the left.

She couldn’t even see it clearly when I, barely capable of holding myself, swept her off her seat and on to the corner, offering her what she has been asking for – clearly to no avail.

She cannot eat much, though I offered her the whole pouch of cat food. She can only stay active for so many minutes before she runs out of breath ahd had to stop to refill her lungs.

But even after she was spirited away to a completely new place, filled completely stranger cats, she is still the sun that shine warmly every morning.

Perching on her favorite window sill near the stove, she never fails to greet us. Sitting on the kitchen counter by the stove as soon as we turn it off, she never failed to catch our attention. A pat, a rub, a kiss. She embrace it merrily just like that win prancing between the branches and the leaves just like her days in the park.

Of course, some days are better than the other, but even when her lungs acted out, when she catch cold, when the food she was trying to finish – no matter how long it would take – was taken over by impudent catlings, she is still a broad as that blue sky when we first found her, and decided she’d be part of our family.

Part of our family with the name that describe her all the way, top to bottom, inside out: Belle.

Whenever our days are long or our hearts were cloudy, Belle will look at us, with her heavy breathing. Belle will call us with her exceptionally coarse voice, Belle will prance to us

And the sky will be blue and the sun is warm and golden. Our heads are hot but Belle, still a skeleton, but a lot cleaner, will be the cooling breeze.

Belle taught us acceptance, Belle taught us to be merry. Belle taught us perserverance, even in the swamp of disabilities that should cripple every other, Belle taught us that if we keep calling, hope will come near.

Belle taught us joy. Belle taught us to be happy.

In the past few days, as illnesses that plague her immune deficiency rallied, Belle taught us strength.

Her skeletal body, her shiort breath, her bad vision, her lessening stamina. She had to wear thicker clothing every day to keep her warm enough.

Yesterday, for one last time, Belle pranced between us. If we cannot be in the same place at the same time, it’s okay, she tried again, and again, and again, just like the the day we met her, last year.

Once in a while she will walk back, catch her breath, but she will always call us back, until we finally put our overfilled platter of life down, and sat beside her.

She greeted us one more time.

Only this time, it’s not a good morning.

It’s a good bye.

~ Josie

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THE NEW NORMAL

Though my regular vet clinic offered me the privilege of an online consultation (being their client for over ten years) I wouldn’t know how to begin. I wouldn’t know what to say; half of the cat I am holding is bent to one side, and the other half is bent to the other.

It’s not just her bones, not just her spine. The rest of her organs went to the same side of the bent.

I mean, how do I explain? “Doc, I have a cat whose top half all on the right and the bottom half are all on the left”

Well, maybe I was paranoid. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just hernia. Still I took the cat to see my vet, with appointment very well in advance. Vet Clinics can open, in my part of the world, but they can only take a certain number of patients, and open their practice for only a half day.

Curiosity kills the cat (rescuer).

“She had been hit”, my vet said, as she examined the cat. “Quite a long time ago”

“She has been hit in the mid section, while she was walking, and the impact was so hard the rest of her organs were pushed to the other side and it got stuck to the inner side of her skin”

Who knows what sort of jumble is inside there.

“How did she survive, if the incident were so horrible?”

“What about you ask her and share me the story? It must be fantastic”

It must be, but never mind, I would never get the answer then. Knowing she broke nothing, was not in any pain, and is functioning as a healthy cat – aside from her S shaped body – is in itself a fantastic news.

Taking her back home, though, I watch her peeking through her carrier, all the way back, with sheer wonder. Her face, then so tired, so old, became so young. Her eyes, usually indifferent, became so round.

By the red light I asked her what she has been watching. She looked at me, with eyes screaming “Wow!” and she went back to sight-seeing.

When we got home, she jumped out of her carrier, skip and trot to the back, and straight to the food bowl.

What is the point, right? What is the point of going back to the past and make a mess to correct things, while we have the whole future waiting for us to make?

Sometimes it’s difficult for her to manoeuvre, but if she cannot just bend, she makes a U Turn. Sometimes it’s difficult for her to eat from a bowl on the floor, so she brings her kibbles to a low shelf and eats there, keeping her chin straight. She eats slowly, but when others try to take over her food, she always finds another bowl.

We made a small table for her to raise her bowl to the height of her chin and she enjoys it. We give her personal space, so she can eat at her own pace. The rest of the day, she is free to do whatever she likes.

What seemed to be a perpetual sinus problem, eventually stopped. She was no longer emaciated, she can stand firmly, she can walk normally, she can run, she can groom, she can jump, she can climb. Her fur is clearer, her eyes are brighter.

Sometimes I see her chase imaginary butterflies, sometimes I see her turn leaves and peek into crevasses. Sometimes she just sleeps with a smile on her lips all day long.

Do I really want to get her on the operating table so she can be back to normal?

But even if I insist, which part of her, or her life, that is not normal?

Norma went inside the house one afternoon to play with the kittens, and asked for extra food.

I gave her the extra food. I pat her head took a mask. Nowadays, I never left without it. I took gloves from the box. Even though it’s so hot during the day and I feel like my hands are cooked, I wear it anyway.

Then I grabbed my bag. After I got to know Coronavirus, there is always a bottle of sanitizer inside; wipes, tissue paper, and more cat food than ever before.

Normal is coping with the game; and Norma taught me it’s the only way to win.

~ Josie

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THE BOX IS OUT THERE

Two pair of eyes, glistening in the deep black of midnight; bright as if the stars had fallen in that empty, lightless field by the military complex.

The small box that encased them was a little bit too much to the middle, but there was no fear, no worry; just the curiosity powered by youth and innocence.

Don’t they know that even though in the dead of the night, cars will still pass by, and most of them speed up, tempted by the empty road?

Soon the light that flared up dimmed. I jumped down from my perch on the motorbike and took the box. They looked at me, still with round eyes full of wonder. I hope they did not see, nor sense my horror.

We thought, well, maybe when they reach home, they will know what sort of life they should worry about, because certainly it’s not an empty street and a warm box in the cold of the night.

But all the aliens that come swarming, some with one eye, some with a limp, the other lose a leg, and others with their own grotesque appearances, those round eyes were getting rounder, brighter, full of wonder. In the coming night they were wandering around the house patting one, sniffing the other. Play with each other, sleep with everyone.

There were some interruptions, when after few days they showed symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infections, rampant with the damp and rainy town, and lack of food during the lockdown; but even when they had to go back to the box and face mist spewing from the nebuliser, their round eyes never run out of wonder.

They remind us of a pair of detectives, who keeps on looking, although the whole world would not care.

The grey one is male so he is Mulder, and the white one is female, and therefore she is Scully.

Even today, when they recovered and renewed (thank you for the nebuliser, everyone!) They do not run out of curiosity.

The truth is still out there.

~ Josie
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Jerry or Zombie – The cat who needs that new nebuliser: a rescue story

Do you see that pink tongue? It’s my ultimate joy. This chap came a long, long way since I grabbed him on February 21st.

He lived in a strip of a horrible 6-lanes road that never fell quiet. Crossing the street is futile, and those who tried their luck never return on their feet. There was nothing on his side but a single gas station (with no store), car workshop, blacksmith workshops. There are probably sewer rats that he somehow can catch with that severe cross eye, but when I saw him, he was crispy thin – literally, with dirt and grease mud all over him; his saliva dripping as he walked as fast as he can on that smeltering hot asphalt and concrete that paved the roadside.

Lifetime malnourishment had cut his system wide open for calicivirus, that gave him painful blisters everywhere in his mouth. His tongue cracked and bleeding, he can’t stop salivating.

Yet he lives. Though he has to walk miles and miles to find bits and scraps, he lives. Though he had to lick from metal tap that burn the dripping water in that gas station, he drinks.

When I first gave him food, he jumped and grabbed my hand, with claw stretched. He gulped his share, and followed me with round eyes for more. When it’s time for more, he will slap, claw, bite everyone to get all the food he can stuff in his mouth. It hurt him and his savage ways made his mouth bleed worse than ever, but he lived without food for the rest of his life. Should I expect a gentleman?

His name is Jerry, but his attitude and traits earned him his nickname.

Zombie.

It’s so difficult giving him medicine. If he thinks I have food, he will grab and claw my hand until he is convinced otherwise. If he thinks I have harmful objects (like bottles) he will attack me, thinking I will throw it to him to push him away. Most of the time I just mix his medicine with his food, but once he is better and can taste, he will kick his plate upside down until I gave him food without medicine.

Cleaning his stuffy nose is a challenge on its own. I have to wrestle him, wrap him in a towel or blanket, clean his crusty nose, and throw him into the nebuliser box, and then let him scratch and bang his crate when the steam fills in the crate. The more he moves, the more he went mad, the more he breathes, the more medicine is inhaled into his lungs.

Nowadays, he barely suffocates anymore. He still claws, he still bites, he draws blood from us time after time, but all the cracks and blisters in his mouth are healing. He eats better, he is healthier faster. I learned many new tricks: from mixing his medicine with syrup, wrapping a pinch of powdered pills into balls of meat, to give him a bowl of broth, call him to look the other way and switch his bowl. Whatever works.

Jerry still drools on everything because he no longer has teeth except for two fangs, but he is all right in every other way.

And he still hates our noisy compressor nebuliser, but hopefully we can get him that ultrasonic nebuliser soon, so his ears can rest easy.

One day he will stop being Zombie. One of these days, he will be one heck of a handsome Jerry

~ Josie

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PS: picture is from the newest to the oldest.