Sunday, August 21, 2016

“Homeless” by Janice L. Johnston


I must tell you that my nine lives finally ran out. I’m dead. I would like to report from circumstances beyond my control, but that would be a lie.
Before we go any further in this story, I better introduce myself. You can call me Blackie, for that is the name I gave myself. You won’t find any identifying license tag attached to my scruff to confirm my name; you’ll just have to take my word for it. You see, I never belonged to anyone. No welcoming family with arms wide open to claim me.
My birthplace was under a bridge down by the river that ran parallel to town. I was one of four in the litter that had the disadvantage of being born to a feline of mixed lineage. Unlike my brothers and sisters, my fur was entirely black. My destiny predetermined by the colour of my fur.
My mother went on to have another litter which she abandoned shortly after their births. Being the older sibling and scrappy beyond my years, I took on the responsibility for the new arrivals. Scrounging for food to sustain five hungry mouths was no easy feat, especially given my want of nourishment.
For shelter, we had scraps of discarded cardboard. Not much, but it kept the rain from dampening our matted fur. Huddled together we generated enough heat to withstand even the harshest weather. But I knew this could only be a temporary arrangement – I’d have to find safe havens for my siblings.
Casing the neighbourhoods of the town, I quickly learned which ones to avoid due to aggressive dogs that would bark or charge their owner’s fences when they spotted me. Other than the dogs, I could move undetected, my black fur making me almost invisible, especially on nights when the moon was obscured by charcoal skies.
Before too long, I began to find homes that seemed suitable. Then late at night I would take a kitten and leave it on the doorstep, with firm instructions to stay put for the family I’d selected to be my sibling’s forever home. I’d remain hidden in the shadows until I saw the kitten accepted into the family.
I placed my siblings one by one, jealous of the fact that I would not know the comfort of family, but satisfied that my siblings had a chance of security.
As a black cat, I’d quickly learned humans shunned me. All humans I came upon went out of their way to avoid me. Parents told small children not to let me cross their paths. I was bad luck, they said. I didn’t even know what bad luck was. I could go on and on about the injustice of being a black cat.
In my short lifetime, I had plenty of scrapes that left my poor body feeling tattered and abused. I found it impossible to keep my fur untangled from burrs and twigs. I was the favourite prey of the local dogs. I can’t begin to tell you how many of them chased me just out of spite. I found shelter in rickety abandoned sheds or under front porches to lick my wounds and heal as best I could without medical care.
Sometimes, though, if I meowed on back porches then stole away to wait, some kind soul might leave me some tuna or another morsel to tempt me inside. I couldn’t take the chance of them knowing the colour of my fur, so I hid until the house lights went out and it was safe to gobble the treats left for me. 
The night of my death was pitch black, befitting my colour. Earlier in the day, I’d gotten tangled in some rope and debris left in a back alleyway. I was exhausted and distracted at the time and did not have my wits about me to avoid the danger. Now my right front paw was swollen and it hurt to walk on it. Staggering across the darkened streets, I felt like an old tom rather than the young cat I was. I stumbled. The road, still wet from an earlier downpour, was slippery.
The sudden appearance of a black sports car swerving from side to side, apparently driven by some drunk, was upon me too quickly to avoid. I didn’t stand a chance. My body went flying, and the driver roared off into the night, leaving me in my final resting place under the thorny bushes at 38 Dundas Street.
I lay there unobserved for three days as the homeowners enjoyed the summer heat at their cottage. It seemed fitting upon their return that their family dog found my torn body, as during my lifetime I’d run from my fair share of such beasts. The husband, busy unpacking, the van was alerted to my resting place by the frantic barking of the dog.
“Frankie, down boy,” the man said walking towards the bushes. “Oh, my God, what do we have here?”
Drawn to the commotion, nosy neighbours gasped with startled breath upon seeing a rusty hammer beside my body. Instantly, they were all chattering and speculating about my death. Was it an accident? Was foul play involved? Was some sick pervert roaming the streets killing innocent cats? Not at all.
The hammer had bounced off a truck bed some days before I’d been hit by the car and has nothing to do with my death. And really, I wasn’t killed by any single person. It took the whole circumstances of my life to kill me off, one life at a time. Such is a soul’s fate when the world conspires against him.

Janice L. Johnston started writing a daily journal as a teenager and by now has filled too many volumes to count. Her passion for journaling and reading came from her mother and grandmother. Recently taking up creative writing again, she hopes to fulfill a dream to be published. Self-employed as a document specialist, she lives in Ancaster, Ontario.

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