Nick James

A Cat Named Mouse

I have lived here in this old farmhouse for many human years, but the memories of my early days are largely fragmented. My adoptive parents and their child had dubbed me Mouse. While I’m still not entirely certain why they had chosen this name for me, I do have my suspicions.
I'm getting old now and I don't have the energy to travel about like I once did, searching for life's meaning. The best that I can do is share my experiences, so that others who are seeking the truth may find some answers from the life that I have lived. With the help of Felix’s catnip, I try to tell these stories in the same frame of mind as I was in when the memories were being recorded in my mind. I must however confess; in my youth I was much more vulgar than I am now.
I have had many dreams and revelations during recent nights, which have slowly been unraveling the mystery of my existence. Felix has been doling out well-timed distributions of catnip and I still believe that I am going through a transformation; yet achieving my ultimate desires seems to be eluding me. My dreams are the only methods I have left that allow me to explore. Walking is difficult, my bones ache terribly. I'm plagued by endless exhaustion. Felix has aged more gracefully, not participating in the daredevil escapades that I have. I don't know what I would do without him.
When Felix and I were young, he was taken away from our family and I sunk into a heavy state of depression. The days became long and unbearable. I could only smell the scent of despair; the sweet aromas of pleasant reality would not return until months after my adoption.
For weeks, I would sit perched on the windowsill, fighting to see through the collection of tears, carefully searching for Felix to return, but he never did. My heart was broken and my love for life was torn apart as my best friend vanished from my realm of reality. Fate betrayed me; I thought we had an understanding and the pain I felt from the loss of Felix was unacceptable.
One by one, my brothers and sisters were each taken away by oddly-smelling strangers and their snotty-nosed kids. Each abduction jabbed a splinter into my being, spreading apart my naïve views on life and revealing a darkness over my understandings. Yet none hurt quite as much as the moment I watched helplessly as Felix was stuffed into a tiny cage and carried off. They even took my little red ball.
Time lagged on until it was just mother and me. She did her best to keep my spirits up. I would often awake to her grooming me, keeping me clean and warm as I spent most of my time in a depressive sleep. I would never be cared for like that again.
As the weeks ticked by, I fell into comfort knowing that my birth mother would always be there for me. Then, one cool spring night, as I dozed in and out of wakefulness, listening to the soft rain drumming on the roof, my world became smaller still.
I fought desperately, trying to avoid being stuffed into my own portable jail cell, while my mother hid away under an antique pedestal table, watching on as I too was being abducted. She never said a word. She didn’t even try to stop them from taking her last remaining child.
I have never cried as much as I did that night, as they took me away from my mother and my home. My cage was placed on the lap of a young boy as the three captors drove their truck away. I was so young and I had no idea where I was being taken to. Even today, I doubt very much that I could ever find my way back to my mother. I had decided in my mind that it is better for me to accept this and yesterday, I held a memorial service for her, finally letting go of all hope from any reunion.
I spent several weeks hiding from the humans in my new prison. Their dog, Jethro really got on my nerves, sticking his nose where it didn’t belong. When the family eventually gave me some privacy and free reign, I spent the time looking out the window, across the yard at their two pigs, Philly and Lilly, who were kept fenced in along the side of a big old red barn.
Behind the barn, over a dozen chickens played around in the hard dirt that was covered with chicken feed. My depression slowly subsided as I watched Jethro, in his daily ritual, hopping into the chicken cage, chasing them all over the place. His long tongue, hung out of his mouth, flapping around as he ran back and forth. He could never stick to chasing one chicken for very long, as his attention would be grabbed by other frightened chickens running by. They looked terribly afraid.
It had been a long time since I smiled, but my mood was forever tarnished by witnessing the repeated abductions of my siblings and by my own kidnapping. I would never forgive the humans, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to be one of them.
After a couple of months being in confinement within my new adoptive parents’ house, I was finally allowed outside. Their kid, Ricky, was the one who insisted on letting me roam free, but his mom decided I required a harness and a leash. Although embarrassed to be seen by the other animals under control of the humans, I reluctantly agreed to their degrading demands.
I laid in the grass, next to a stone bird bath in the front yard, I was invigorated by the thousands of different scents. It was so quiet, so peaceful. Everyone was happy, except me. I still had feelings of anger towards the humans, but if I wanted to return to my birthplace, I would need to gain their trust. This turned out to be more difficult than I imagined.
I was allowed outside with Ricky every day and after each excursion, I began to grow fonder of him and his parents. Jethro wasn’t so bad either; he stopped sniffing me so often, giving me a little bit of much needed privacy. I even got to meet Philly and Lilly. They were pretty much stinking idiots and mostly kept to themselves.
Our next door neighbor had an old farmhouse too. He was tall and old. His wrinkles filled up with dirt very quickly, making his face very dark. He spent a lot of time drinking whiskey on his front deck, with his dog named Doug. From what I understood by the other animals’ actions, he and his dog were to be avoided and even Ricky kept away from them.
One day, as I sat outside in the grass, Ricky got permission from Mom to release me from my confines of the metal leash. My heart raced as I was about to realize my newfound freedom. My eyes were opened wide. I perked my ears up to listen to the most optimal direction to flee. Then I heard the click and my harness relaxed around me.
I stood up, completely free, but I couldn’t run. I couldn’t leave another home. I kind of liked it here. Ricky was nice. I even called his parents, Mom and Dad. The other animals made me laugh, a lot and I really needed that. As much as I missed my birth family, I felt accepted here and I couldn’t betray my new family’s trust.
Weeks had gone by and I hadn’t seen the harness or the leash since the day that I sat outside and Ricky released it. I was lying outside alone in the soft grass. It had been a while since Ricky had mowed it last, so the blades of grass weren’t very prickly.
“Mouse?” said a voice in the distance.
I recognized that voice. My heart fluttered as I came to the realization of who it was.
I ran up to him, catching his scent and verifying my assumptions. We rubbed up against each other. I can’t describe the feelings that I experienced as well as I would like, but having been so upset with fate over our separation, I finally felt relief that life was not against me.
“What are you doing here, Mouse?” Felix said.
“I live here. How did you find me?”
“I live down the road. My new parents are really nice. They let me go for walks on my own.”
“I haven’t left the yard, yet,” I said, holding back my tears of joy, “I missed you, bro.”
“I missed you too.”
We spent the morning catching up. Felix had a step-sister now. Her name was Belle and she was a bit younger than us. I couldn’t wait to meet her. His new parents had a couple kids of their own. Their oldest boy had gotten Felix addicted to catnip. I wasn’t too pleased having heard about his drug problem, but I never held it against him.
The weeks and months passed by, bringing us new experiences that we would never forget. As I grew older, I became upset with the rules and restrictions that my parents had placed on me. My attitude changed. My jealousy over their lives as humans propelled my own desires to transform once again, but that wish had seemed forever out of my grasp. Fate appeared to be teasing me.
Felix dropped by one summer afternoon as I was curled up on a heap of hay in the old barn’s hayloft, “Hey, Mouse. Did you give any thought to my offer?”
“Yeah, I’ll do it. Do you really think I’ll get some insight into the transformation?”
“Definitely. In fact, the memories of your past will become stronger.”
I had given it a lot of thought. Felix was kind to not pressure me and encouraged me to come to the decision on my own. I took a deep breath as Felix spread out some catnip on the floor of the hayloft.
“So what do I do?” I said, unsure of how to begin the process.
“Just inhale. Your body will do the rest.”
He was right. I felt my mind open up as reality became clearer. I couldn’t hold back the love that I had for the catnip. I dove into the pile as Felix watched, laughing. I rolled around. Pieces of catnip clung to my fur. Then the memories came rushing back.
“Was I really a Mouse?” I said.
“If that’s what your mind tells you, then it must be true.”
“Maybe I’m delusional, maybe I don’t really exist at all. What if life is just a dream and the catnip just brings me closer to understanding this reality?”
“You can’t analyze it like that. You’ll become paranoid, delusional and eventually, your realization of life will slip away and you’ll cease to exist. Just enjoy the trip,” Felix said, trying to comfort me and pull me back into a semi-lucid state of existence.
The feelings brought forth from the catnip persisted for hours. After the initial shock of losing control of my mind, things became startlingly obvious. My desire to transform, to become human, was eclipsed only by my wish to understand my past, my previous life as a Mouse. My name could not have been given to me for any other reason than to elicit the memories of my infinite transitions.
There must be some deeper meaning to life than only the persistence of matter changing from state to state, collecting into forms that allowed for the culmination of conscious observations by the universe as it experienced itself. My struggle for understanding ultimately led to my own demise, as the simple, day to day events that would transpire caused frustrations and the feeling that I was battling fate.
I fought back against my own mind in an attempt to maintain some semblance of normalcy. As time passed, Felix helped my change from a cat that wished to understand the meaning of life, to one that focused on achieving its desires. Months of catnip experiences trickled by, until one day I felt my life fading away during a period of heavy usage. Terrified that I would lose my chance to transform, I gave up the nip.
Now I am old. I continue to find myself jealous and resentful of my adoptive family. My attitude towards them has continued to strain our relationship. I am constantly frustrated by their habits. I had learned at a young age, that while I posses the ability to communicate, they either do not care or they cannot understand me. These stories that I share happened many years ago and chronicle my progression through life.
Felix, my brother and closest friend, has been with me throughout my struggles. While he may use nip religiously, I will never hold that against him. He has been supportive in my quest to change who I am and I don’t think that he has any idea how much he truly means to me. He is more than family. He is more than a friend. He is made up of the same matter as I am; matter that has been drifting through space, sent from the bowels of an exploding star and collecting together in this tiny part of the universe.
So why do I feel so alone?

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