Un chat a neuf vies, il joue pour trois, pour trois il s'égare, et pour les trois dernières il reste.
A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays.
I. A woman in a red coat stands in the window, peering in at me. A little boy dressed in a blue sweater sticks his head out from behind her shyly. His sweater has a tiny snowman patch on the collar. I can’t hear voices outside of the shop, but faces melt into laughter and the woman clutches the little boy’s hand, pulling him closer to her to stay warm. His cheeks blush from the bitter cold, but they curl up as he smiles at me. I stretch a paw closer to him and spring up, pressing my nose against the glass to greet a petite hand reaching out to touch me. It finds only the glass window and the boy’s smile disappears as he is led away from me, his blue coat disappearing into the crowd. A small door to the right of me swings open. My eye is drawn to it and a pair of hands reaches in and lifts me out. “This is one of our Persian variety.” I snarl as unfamiliar fingers reach around my soft coat and stroke my fur. The man pulls his hand back and thrusts me back into my cage. Unwanted again. My face is hidden in my paws as I lay back down with my ball of yarn, defeated. A flash of light glimpses in the cage next to me as another kitten is taken out. I wait to hear the click of the lock signaling his return, but it doesn’t come. I peek my head over the edge of my cage. A couple is holding him along with a brand new collar. A sinking feeling of jealousy rises in my chest and bubbles in my throat. Creak. My cage has been opened! As another pair of hands lifts me out, a bell rings, the door to the shop opening. I don’t have time to think before making a decision. I leap out of a woman’s arms and onto the floor at breakneck speed, slipping through the door and out onto the cold, snowy pavement. A man shouts behind me and I sprint into the road, my goal the end of the curb across the street. Squeal! Tires screech as I feel a burn spread across my rib cage and down my paws. I’m not sure if the screaming noise is coming from me or the brakes.
Un en bas, de huit à dépenser. Ce n’est pas la fin.
One down, eight to spend. This is not the end.
II. My brothers lay around me and drift in and out of sleep peacefully. I nuzzle my paws against my mother. I haven’t been alive in this body for long, but I already know it will be a fun and carefree one. The fuzzy blanket around me makes me purr. “Goodnight!” I perk up as the girl with the braids enters the room. She seems lovely. Her hands are soft against my fur and comforting. The barn is chilly and her hands provide much appreciated warmth. I dream that night of warmth, the sunshine and heat against my body. When I awaken, the heat does not leave my skin. It rages, flickering and singeing me as I cry out. I cannot see my brothers through the smoke but I hear their shrieks. I cough on the flames, fighting to find my way out but only discovering more heat. I lay down on the now ashy blanket, giving into the warmth and letting it envelope my small figure. My breaths come raspily, few and far between becoming fewer and further between before I shudder and stop. I have never known warmth could be such a terrible thing.
Deux en bas, de sept à dépenser. Ce n’est pas la fin.
Two down, seven to spend. This is not the end.
III. Millie is a kind owner. She never forgets to leave me a saucer of milk and the door open, so I may wander as I please. Paws sinking into the field grass, I come home filthy often. My white fur is clean once again after a bath and I am ready to begin the day anew. The day has started off rainy today and the water pitter patters hard against the window. The prospect of getting wet leads me to curling up on the couch and closing my eyes. I am jolted back to my paws by a flash, followed by a deep rumble from outside. Springing off the couch, I cower under a chair, folding myself into a ball. The lightning flashes again and petrified, I run out of the house and under the porch. Another loud rumble sounds, but this is not one from the sky and is not from far away. Hooded eyes glint out of the darkness of the porch and stalkingly move around me. I turn in a circle to face them, backing up to press my fur into a concrete wall. They creep closer and I whimper softly. My whimper becomes a scream as the creature lunges, tearing at the flesh on my right leg. They back up threateningly and disappear. I sit in darkness as my leg explodes, the pain making me dizzy. As I try to stand, fatigue overtakes my small body and I collapse, feeling the soil give in against my whiskers. I am so tired.
Trois en bas, de six à dépenser. Ce n’est pas la fin.
Three down, six to spend. This is not the end.
IV. Bright light fills my eyes as I’m dragged out from the cardboard box that has been my home for days. I peel my paws away from my chest and cry out, letting fresh oxygen enter my body and fill my lungs. Hot, human arms surround me on all sides and I breathe in again, inhaling the bitter smell of alcohol and unwashed bodies. The people laugh greedily, tossing me from one to another before I am left with an unshaven, foul scented man. He smiles, revealing yellow, rotted teeth and sets me down on a table. Other cats surround me, each skinnier than the last. They flash narrow eyes at me. I do not understand until I am thrown into the center, a ring, with mean-looking cat. He snarls and jumps on top of me, nipping at my neck and pulling at the soft hairs over my skin. I whimper and paw at the table, creating scratches in the wood surface. The faces around me fill with amusement. I stare at the other cats. Why aren’t you helping me? My vision blurs at the edges as I see little green slips exchanged between men. The fresh oxygen no longer helps, and my ribs feel shattered. As my opponent strikes down on my chest once more, my vision spots into black entirely. “Told you the newbies never last.”
Quatre en bas, de cinq à dépenser. Ce n’est pas la fin.
Four down, five to spend. This is not the end.
V. It’s a bumpy ride back and forth to the farm. We cross the fork in the road and then follow the dirt path to the bridged river that connects to the fields. I ride in the bed of the truck with my sister, snuggling into her and playfully swiping at her ears. She bounces out of my reach as we hit another rock and to the edge of the truck bed. I reach to her paw, missing it by an inch. The truck rocks again, sliding me into her. We giggle and lay back, looking up at the sky. My sister taps my paw, telling me that the bridge is up ahead. Together, we sit up to get a look at the fish surrounding the banks. As the truck hits the beginning of the bridge, a stone gets trapped in the wheel and it skids loudly, sending the truck careening into the air and us into the creek. I gasp under the cool water and inhale the river, blinking as fish circle around me in a rainbow of colors. The water above me increases as I sink into the bottom of the creek. The moss tickles my fur and I struggle to keep my eyes open, searching for my sister. A tint of white near the bank catches my eye and I gather my remaining strength to propel myself to it, hitting wet fur and pulling her into me. The black carries us to the dirt foundation together and we close our eyes. I always wanted to see the fish up close.
Cinq en bas, de quatre à dépenser. Ce n’est pas la fin.
Five down, four to spend. This is not the end.
VI. My little boy and his father always were the ones to feed me, or wash me. Mother was usually in bed. When she came home from the doctor, with the tubes down her nose and pulling the tank, my boy cried into my fur all night. In the morning the tears ceased but the look in his eyes did not. Mommy is sick, he would whisper to me. We can’t take care of you anymore. I should have known something was wrong when I was packed into the car with my bed and my toys and brought to that shiny white office where it smelled like bleach and plastic. A blonde lady with kind eyes took me into a room and with apology in her eyes, thrust the needle into my skin. I could see my boy crying in the window, his cheeks stained, but my eyelids were so very tired and they shut tight. My hearing went soon after and I drifted into a deep blue sea where the tides carried me home and my boy waited for me on a sandy beach, happy at last.
Six en bas, de trois à dépenser. Ce n’est pas la fin.
Six down, three to spend. This is not the end.
VII. My stomach feels empty and hollow, like a bowl without milk or a home without a family. The pains in my stomach sharpen again and I pull myself into a ball to protect myself. The chain around my neck scratches at my fur and rubs the skin under it raw, burning me. I am so devastatingly hungry and my throat aches for water. My tongue is dry and I poke it out of my soft lips, pulling at the grass around me and chewing it to keep the hunger pains at bay. As the sun goes down, I sink down with it, my knees giving out from under me and collapsing to the hard dirt. I have no energy left to stand and lay sprawled on the ground, the chain tugging at my neck and suffocating me slowly. The night beats on steadily and the stars begin to disappear, leaving tiny flecks of light that entertain my tired eyes cast on the sky. No longer sure of what is real and what is not, I reach out to them, beckoning them to carry me away from them towards their celestial freedom. I lower my gaze and rest my head as the dark blue lightens to shades of pink and orange, greeting a new day. The sun rises, but I do not.
Sept en bas, de deux à dépenser. Ce n’est pas la fin.
Seven down, two to spend. This is not the end.
VIII. My bowl of food remains full and my hair covers the carpet around me. Kylie pulls me close in my last moments, giving me comfort as I throw up again into her lap. She does not pull away and instead wipes my snout off with her shirt. I close my eyes and let her carry me away with her voice. She tells me of wonderful stories, where the prince gets the princess and the dragon is slayed. I know she is thinking of my dragon and how she wishes she could slay it for me. I nuzzle into her, letting her know that I forgive her. Some dragons cannot be vanquished.
Huit en bas, d’un à dépenser. Ce n’est pas la fin.
Eight down, one to spend. This is not the end.
VIIII. The smell of warm cookies waft out of the oven, filling my nose and my senses with pleasurable memories. The old man sets his cane down and sits in his rocker chair, his breathing hard. His hands reach up and clutch at his chest, his neck turning purple and his mouth open in a silent scream. I leap off of the chair and to the closet, where I bring out the only thing that I know brings him comfort. Clutched in my mouth is a small blue sweater, fit for a little boy, with a small snowman on the collar. By the time I get back, his breathing has stopped and his eyes are frozen open. I spring onto his lap and wrap the sweater around him, sinking into it and closing my eyes as well. Together, we do not wake up. Together, we are found.
Neuf sont faits, aucun à dépenser. Ce pauvre chat a atteint sa fin.
Nine are done, none to spend. This poor cat has reached his end.