My cat got out in San Jose. Monkee and I were visiting my sisters for Christmas and I went to bed thinking he’d curled up somewhere and was dreaming of catching flies and scratching up the couch. The last I saw him he was chilling on the couch while my brother and I were screaming at each other about Donald Trump, but when I looked for him in the morning he was nowhere to be seen, vanished through the doggy door.
We looked up and down the block, talked to the neighbors, called his name. The whole neighborhood knew who Monkee was now and was also looking for him.
I was hopeful he’d come back that night when he got hungry. But he’s not a big cat and my sister lives near the hills and the wild predators that also call it home. He had a collar around him. The neighborhood was canvassed with fliers. We left his liter box out so he could detect his scent. His name and picture was posted on local websites. Surely we’d find him shortly. We better, I quietly thought to myself.
The first full night he didn’t come home, I was surprised. I thought he’d be hungry by dinner for sure.
The second night I worried he had gotten himself stuck somewhere, like somebody’s garage or a shed. Or that half-filled, weed-infested drainage ditch behind my sister’s house.
The third night, my sister mentioned the size of the owls and hawks that live in her area. I began to picture my sweet, rebellious little furball being grabbed and swooped terrifyingly up into the night sky.
The fourth night I had begun to come to terms with the idea that my little buddy might never return and was possibly a victim of a food chain he had no concept of, one that I’d brought him into.
The fifth night I tried to think about other things. The next day was New Years Eve and life must go on. I wasn’t ready to start giving up, but it was starting to look like I had no choice.
Then he walked back through my sister’s doggy door. We all wondered where he had gone, what he had been up to. This is what he told us…
While you guys were all yelling back and forth and making all that racket I decided to step out and get some fresh air. As you were aware, I had discovered how to use that flap on the door the dog uses to get in and out. I had merely intended to saunter around outside and smell a few things, I swear, when this thing I had never seen before came hovering over me.
Just what I feared, a hawk!
I know what you’re thinking and it was certainly not a hawk. It was made of metal and had lights on it. This was something man-made and therefore infinitely more dangerous. It gave me quite the start, so I took off over the fence and onto the golf course. I would never have left the yard if this thing didn’t tweak my survival mode. This thing continued to follow me and I could hear its whirling blades and feel its wind on my fur. I ran and climbed a tree where I watched this thing crash into the branches just above me.
A large human came out of one of the nearby yards and began yelling out a smaller human whom I assumed was his offspring. The smaller human mentioned a cat so my hair stood up real straight, like a porcupine. The father ignored his son, thankfully, and lectured him, instead, about the price of his machine. His face was as red as the bottom of my butt in the morning. Since he was more concerned with his machine that was stuck, I bolted for cover in a large fern that looked like the hair of that guy on the cartoon you’re always watching. The one with all the yellow people.
Anyway… There I waited for the man to get his awful machine and go.
By now the moon was a giant glowing thing and lit up the golf course like nothing I’ve ever seen; and I tell ya, it was something magical. Enchanting. I’m not an easily impressed cat, but the light on the dewy grass and the twinkling of stars and the bugs hopping everywhere made me feel like I’d stumbled upon some kind of heaven.
That’s when I decided to spend the night out…
I figured I’d get back in before you woke up. I know how it is when I see you clinking those bottles. It was going to be a late morning.
I walked around for hours. Everywhere I went there were crickets and grasshoppers to chase. I got to stalk all these insects popping up out of the grass. There were yards to explore, trees to climb, stars to dream to…
And you weren’t there to tell me not to jump on anything!
At this I felt guilty.
I was free and it felt so wonderful. I finally felt like myself, you know. Like a real cat.
His eyes got dreamy like when he lets me scratch his belly. I could never feel more guilty than I did right then.
I slept in a contraption that had three wheels with a bunch of dirt left in it Outside, under the stars. Al fresco I think you call it.
When I woke up a very odd thing happened. It started raining from the ground up! I had never seen anything like it. Once the rain reached a certain height it fell back down in every direction. I was getting drenched, and I do not like getting my body wet as you know from bath time.
I got out of there. Fast! In my haste I ran for a nearby house, to one of those big doors that swing up. In my panic I narrowly swerved out of the way of one of those machines you guys get into everyday. Cars? I swear my tail was inches from being squashed. Boy, I aimed for a corner of the room and hid myself behind some boxes as fast as I could.
Slowly the room began to dim until it was entirely black. The giant door was shut and I was locked in there! My heart was leaping out of my chest like a frog in a slippery swamp. What was I going to do? I needed to get back before you woke up!
I stayed in my hiding place until I calmed down and my eyes adjusted. There was nothing I could do until the human came back with his car. This was not my fault, I swear.
Once I felt it was safe, I figured I might as well explore. I jumped up on the boxes and pried open the lid with my paw. My curiosity was in overdrive. There was so many new things to look at in the world! I might as well make the most of being stuck out in it.
The box was filled with these shiny objects that looked like miniature humans doing things like throwing balls and running and holding their hands in the air with gloves on, and even one where the tiny golden human looked like he was swimming.
They were all engraved with the same name on the base. Odd little things. A little creepy to keep these in a box.
In another box were all these photographs and in a lot of them were the same people. A few of the people in the pictures were very old and I got an uncomfortable feeling in my fur so I hopped out of there.
In the last box was a pile of magazines. On the covers there were women offering their nipples as if they were expecting to breast feed. It was nice and warm in there so I decided to take a little nap on all those magazines and their warm breasts.
It was many hours until that door rose again and I could escape. I almost ran right into that car again because it was so quiet. You know those ones that look like little stones and sneak along so silently. I caught a glimpse of the driver this time and he had a skinny face with a mustache that curled up on each side. He is probably the one that keeps those little golden men trapped in a box. The sick fuck!
It was dark out and I went back to the house but when I got there the lights were out so I figured you guys were already asleep. What’s another night then?
You know me, I have an independent streak… anyway, the most incredible thing happened to me that night. From across the golf course I saw two other kitties just like me playing in the sand pit so I ran over to join in the fun. When I got there I was shocked to see they weren’t like me at all. They said that they were brothers and that they were pups, fox pups, but they said I could play with them so I chased after one of the brothers while the other one chased after me and we took turns running all around that part of the course where the grass is smooth and there’s a flag planted in a hole. It was the most fun.
But then without warning I felt myself being yanked into the air by the loose skin on my neck and try as I did I couldn’t break free, this creature was much bigger than me. At any second its teeth could plunge into my flesh and rip me to pieces. I squirmed and squealed but it was no use.
Just when I thought I was goner, my new friends came over and begged their mother to put me down. She told them about what it takes to survive and that I was a cat, and they were foxes, but they both looked at her with such sweet eyes while explaining that I was lost and had nowhere to sleep and that I was a really cool cat — they all laughed at that, though I don’t know why — that she put me down and shook her head disapprovingly at her pups, but told me I could sleep in their den and to keep up!
After she had trotted ahead, they explained that it had been three nights since they’d last seen their other brother so she might be a little sensitive. They asked me not to hold it against their mother, that she was a good fox and was only trying to teach them how to be a good fox too. I guess I knew what they meant.
We left the golf course and crept up a narrow trail into the hills. I tried to imitate their springy style of jogging while crouching low. It was fun being a fox. Their tails were bushy and long and I made up a game of trying to run underneath their tails without them noticing. At one point, though, one of the brothers caught on to what I was doing and brought his tail down on me so forcefully I tumbled to the ground and almost fell over the edge of the cliff. It was so funny, We curled up and laughed so hard. We totally lost it! It was great. We got in trouble, though. The mother fox came back and yelped at us to quit clowning around! I felt bad and slunk after them a little embarrassed.
When we got to their den — which was basically just a hole in the ground, if you ask me — the brothers ran in first but I stopped in front of the mother and rubbed my body against her so she knew how grateful I was and she picked me up by the loose skin on my neck, but this time I was completely calm letting her carry me into the den like that, like one of her pups.
That night I slept right in the middle of them. It reminded me of when I was just a little kitten and slept in a cardboard box with my brothers and sisters. All of our breathing was in synch and our bodies rose and fell together. I don’t think I ever purred as loudly as when I fell asleep in that den.
But the next morning the foxes were gone! After I woke up and stretched — I can’t do anything without stretching first — I looked around for them, but they were nowhere to be seen. Even worse, I had no idea where I was.
I climbed to the tallest part of the hill and then up into a tree to get a good view of the area. I figured if I could find the golf course I had a good shot of making my way back to the house. I looked and looked but didn’t see anything, my senses were telling me to head straight down the hill but when I looked to where the sun was rising I saw one of those little flags sticking out of the ground.
At this point I was starving and craving some of that delicious wet food you’re so stingy with… Come on! Imagine if every time you wanted pizza somebody insisted on mixing in kale and spinach? Yuck!
He was right? What was my deal with dry food? Was I just an asshole for no good reason? Alright, I told him. Wet food from now on. He gave me a cold stare and licked his lips I swear he was imagining killing me right then.
Sometimes I wonder if you’re an asshole to me for no good reason? What would you do if I make you chase a fucking laser around. You think I like that? I know you’re just waving it around, but I got to catch it, it’s something deep in my bones. You wouldn’t understand. But guess what? I can never fucking catch it! Hahaha… so funny!
Anyway, my point is, I was thinking with my stomach and not my natural sense of direction, because I ran for that flag as fast I’d ever run. Boy, you should’ve seen me flying!
When I reached what I thought was the golf course, it was something else entirely. I mean, it was a golf course, but the holes were much closer together, the grass was fake and spiky, there was a windmill that was spinning around blocking balls from entering its little drawbridge and people were eating all sorts of sweet-smelling treats.
It was the strangest thing, I tell ya, but no place for a cat, I’d discover when I went chasing one of the balls and not only did a kid chase me with a club, but I ran straight into the mouth of a mechanical dragon. Why you humans enjoy such nightmarish past times I’ll never know.
Only once that stupid kid with the club smacked another ball into the dragon’s mouth and it popped out some other hole was I able to escape. I didn’t stop running until I cleared that fever dream of a playland you humans conspired.
Well, I ran into even more trouble. I found myself in a terrible building with all these humans grinning and swinging bags around. It was lit like the exam room at the vet’s. People were pushing their way into lines and exchanging dirty paper in their pockets for more bags, and children were crying in sweaters that still smelled new. I hated it.
Different people tried to pick me up but I was having none of it. It wasn’t easy swerving through those groups of people and avoid getting kicked because the ground was this slippery, shiny surface that had me losing my legs from under me left and right. People were hollering, ‘There’s a cat in the mall!’ Which only made me run faster.
After I had lost the mob and was able to slow down I could explore a little more carefully. It was then that I came upon a shocking sight that made me cower behind a trash can in horror.
There were these beautiful dogs and cats in cages, and they were all screaming desperately for somebody to take them home and love them. The people had no idea what these animals were saying. They giggled to themselves while tapping on the glass and taunting them with waves and kisses. The poor animals suffered from terrible broken hearts.
There was a spunky Italian Greyhound that saw me watching them. ‘Please,’ the bitch begged. ‘Won’t you help us?”
I asked what I could do, but the greyhound was distracted by a woman in a scarf that was wrapped around her neck like an anaconda. She had black wire glasses and a big handbag made of the skin of a snake. What did she want with this dog? I was horrified for the greyhound.
Once the greyhound was in her arms she whisked her away before I ask what I could do to help.
The cages were too high for me to reach and if I was caught in there, they’d trap ME in a cage. I was helpless and had to watch this horror from across the walkway.
He paused to let the gravity of the pet store sink in and we took a moment of silence to honor that. His words touched us all.
I tell ya, I gained a newfound appreciation for the life I have in Los Angeles.
He blinked his eyes and I knew he meant it. He continued his fascinating story.
The truly fiendish design of this place, led me farther into it instead of toward freedom. In the middle of this labyrinth, the heart of this slaughterhouse, was a clearing where packs of humans were devouring piles of unimaginable foods. I saw meat on sticks and cones balancing scoops of creamy confection.
I slipped under some tables until I found a few sticks of fried potatoes to eat. It was disgusting, so greasy and salty I could barely swallow it down, but I had no choice. Above me I heard a woman screaming at her kids to put their phones down and their whimpering protests echo into the chattering ether.
I knew the world wasn’t built for a cat, but it wasn’t really made for humans either, I was learning.
I eventually found the exit after what felt like days dodging feet and strollers. I was able to gorge enough on the spilled debris from you humans to last for another day or so.
Once I escaped into daylight I thought my troubles were over. What I was learning from this little adventure, though, is that trouble in this world is inexhaustible. For I must have been in a less desirable part of town because I ran into another cat that was a few moons older than me, that had to live on the street, and he was no lap cat!
I thought he was going to maul me for sure. He hissed at me like he was going to attack, but then I think he realized I wasn’t a threat because he soon relaxed his back and came around for a sniff.
He told me he’d show me the ropes and took me to an alley with these giant metal boxes on wheels. He hopped in and began rooting through trash bags like a lowly scavenger. I told him I was more than willing to hunt for my food, but this was unacceptable.
He laughed at me. ‘Do you think I love this? Do you think I want to live like this? It’s the city, kitty. Better get used to it.’
What did you do? I asked.
I refused. I told him I had just ate.
And what did he do?
He didn’t answer. I thought he was ignoring me but then he jumped out of the garbage with two of the tastiest looking fish I’d seen in my life. He said it was anchovies from a pizza or something, I don’t know, my stomach was growling too loud for me to hear anything.
I thought you were full? I asked.
Are you kidding? These were anchovies! I pounced on it and gulped it down in two or three bites! You know in Ancient Egypt they considered cats to be gods?
I looked at him and waited, but it seemed he had forgotten his point.
By now I really needed a nap.
What was this cat’s name? I asked.
He’s a stray, he doesn’t have a name.
I asked, How do you know who you’re talking to? Monkee turned his head sideways and gave me such a pitying look I questioned my own sanity. There’s probably as much about his world that I don’t know that he doesn’t know about mine. If my sisters weren’t standing there listening to all this with me I’d never believe his tale.
I woke up from my nap and it was already bedtime. That night was worst night of them all. As you know, on the third night it rained.
He gave me such a cold look the points of my fingers tingled with electric shock. I saw in his eye a disappointment I don’t think I could ever erase. An acknowledgement of the fundamental dynamic in our relationship. One of owner and possession.
I was in a treeless part of town. There wasn’t anywhere to take shelter so I walked the bedraggled boulevard in a slow drip. On the windows people had scratched angry messages. Instead of the dewy grass there was broken glass reflecting orange street lamps that made a humming sound in the silence and shown the rain like long silver ribbons.
I didn’t think the people in this neighborhood had much of that paper in their pockets, and that is why everything was broken and sharp here. I’m starting to see why that stuff is so important to you humans.
In the window of one of those threatening little stores, were those magazines with the breastfeeding women on them. It reminded me of that garage I slept in at the start of this whole journey. It was starting to feel like I’d been lost forever and would never get found. I’d fear I’d end up without a name — like that other unwanted cat.
Don’t Monkee me! I was getting soaked. You know I hate that. I was eating garbage. It was awful. I ended up sleeping under a Christmas tree that somebody had thrown out because it reminded me of the one here.
We looked in the living room where the Christmas tree still stood with all its ornaments and tinsel.
But it was not the same. Not since the day you carried me away from my brother and sister had I felt so desperate and doomed.
I remember the day well. I remember being so proud of myself for saving him. Now I felt like some kind of monster.
The next day would be entirely different however. I had no idea what I was in store for. You see, I decided to just find a busy street and walk along it. Surely somebody would stop for such a cute kitty walking down the street.
Monkee was an adorable cat.
So I just cruised along a road I had no idea where it went. With every car that passed I felt more and more invisible. Every sinewy inch of flesh tingled with uncertainty. I knew my hair was a matted mess and I didn’t care. I was hungry again and lost and the world was just a loud, threatening place.
I wanted to get home.
I began to run. Something told me I had a lot of ground to cover. I went into full-borne sprint-mode. I don’t know why I was running, just that it was all I could think to do right then. I was out of my mind.
I ran into the road. I don’t know why. I was just a maniac. You’ve seen it, when my ears are tucked behind my ears and my pupils get all diamond-shaped and pulsing. I wasn’t trying to get hit, I just lost control. It was stupid.
I’ve been there.
I was aware I could get flattened by one of those cars at any second but I didn’t care. My state of mind was so frantic I just wanted something to come along and stop me.
Instead, I ended up stopping it. One of those little hippo cars. It was the same car that almost ran me over that first day out. I was saved! I couldn’t believe my luck when the driver got out and left his door open. This was my chance to get home.
I ran for the car and leaped in before the human could snatch me. Cars were honking at him, so he quickly climbed back in and turned on the wheel and drove us a few feet over to the curb. He stopped the car and turned around.
It wasn’t the man with the mustache. It was another man. This guy was younger looking, a little peach-colored in the face, and wearing a sweatshirt that unzipped in the front and could cover his head.
‘Well, hello there.’ He said. I meowed at him in a friendly, adorable way, because although I hate to stoop so low as to put on the cat charm, I was desperate and in need. ‘What am I going to do with you?’ He asked while scratching my ears.
I purred to complete the sale and he drove off.
We pulled up to magnificent iron gates that swung open for us. I was surprised that a man in such an ugly car owned such a large house, but I could tell he took pride in his humility because when people came up to help he shooed them off and carried me into the house himself.
Boy, was it impressive! Not only was it huge and there were endless rooms filled with all kinds of furniture to jump on and hide under, but there were amazing toys and gadgets that he and his employees were playing with. They kept yelling, ‘Mark, Mark,’ and would bring him new things to look at.
Everything in his house was controlled by a computer on the wall, including the heat which was kept at a very comfortable 71 degrees. I’m telling you, this man had it all, he certainly didn’t have a box of golden men hidden in his garage. They were kept on glass shelves perched above a roaring digital fire.
That night I ate the best food of my life. He had his chef make my dinner out of fish and carrots and potatoes. And I was allowed to eat it off a plate right there on the table. I could taste the freshness, the actual ingredients, not like all that junk in Friskees you unceremoniously lump into my bowl every night.
I always thought he liked Friskees. He sure gets excited when I pull it out and starts weaving in between my legs with no regard to getting kicked. Like a little junky for the stuff! Monkee was being unfair if you ask me, but he ignored my frown and went on.
And I drank the best water, he poured it from a bottle, like a glass of wine. He even poured it into a wine glass. He said it came from Norway, which is a country I supposed. It was a different kind of cold. Like a deeper cold. It’s hard to explain if you never tasted it.
I hate it when Monkee humble-brags.
That night he took me into a room that looked like one big computer and put these wires into my head. I felt a tingling sensation in my scalp as this machine buzzed. Some of his employees were wearing these giant goggles over their eyes. They squealed that they really could feel what it was like to be a cat.
Oh, my god, Monkee. You’re the basis for Virtual Reality! Everybody in the world can walk around in your paws now. I laughed. What a lucky cat owner I am! You’ll be famous, in a way.
At this he shrugged and licked the padding on his paw.
So then what? I asked.
I took a nap of course! l’d been up for a whole three hours! And the house was so comfortable and warm, I went out like a light. But when I woke, I started to miss L.A. again.
Los Angeles? I asked. I knew he meant me, but wouldn’t say it.
Yes, I miss watching the cars from the apartment. I wanted to go home.
So I went looking for a doggy door when I noticed an opened window and hopped out. What a mistake! Two ferocious, unruly Rottweilers came snarling and barking after me. I took off at full sprint. Out in the open was this crazy machine like a giant version of that one from the golf course. Some weird instinct made me run straight for it.
Even though its wings were making a massive commotion I could hear Mark’s voice shout ‘Who let the dogs out?’ and other people laugh at that. I’ll never understand human humor, I tell you.
While everybody was trying to round up the dogs I jumped into that strange flying machine and hid under a seat. It was so loud in there it made me body shake.
All of a sudden I felt us rising into the air, like we were flying. My God, you know how I hate being picked up, and here I was being lifted into the sky in a thing I’d never seen before. I didn’t dare move.
We flew for a while and then I could feel us going down to the ground again. Mark got out and just like that we were heading up toward the clouds again. This time I got used to the movement and a little curious so I hopped onto the seat for a look.
It was amazing. I could see the houses and lakes and mountains and it all looked so small and organized. Like a toy that somebody put together. I never realized how much of everything there was.
We were all in a gentle awe listening to Monkee describe seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
There were people in black suits riding into waves into the sand and the way the sun reflected on the water made it look like a piece of the ocean was on fire. Just when I began to wonder if the sun was nothing but a ball of fire, the lady in the passenger seat turned around and noticed me for the first time and pointed me out.
‘We’re not allowed to carry pets in a helicopter,’ the guy flying this contraption said. The lady reached back to grab me. I swear she was going to throw me from the helicopter if she caught me, so I tore into a frenzy and threw my body everywhere and hissed and scratched wildly as I tornado-ed around that little clear bubble. She screamed and hollered and tried to swat me away.
The guy flying yelled at her to be careful just before I leaped onto him and he fell forward on the little joystick thing and we started plunging toward a neon field of green.
I fought for my life while they battled this little joystick thing. Arms were flying and my claws were digging into flesh as the helicopter zigzagged and bobbled. Sky and ground somersaulted around. The screaming and the whirl of the helicopter become one physical blur of noise that seemed to be crushing the air around us. The women screamed we were going to die and I could tell that she thought that was a really bad thing.
At this point Monkee saw something in the corner of the room and his eyes followed it. It was a dust bunny being blown around by a fan. His pupils enlarged like a supernova as he prepared for chase. Monkee! I snapped my fingers. Then what happened? I asked him. His pupils settled down again and he answered me.
I saw that we were just above the golf course and I jumped on that joystick so that the helicopter dropped onto the ground in a loud bang. She opened the door and on the way out I gave that bitch one last scratch.
We laughed. We were so relieved to have him back. Monkee’s so funny.
In the breeze I smelled my the sweet scent of my shit floating along like a long river, leading me back here. Thanks for the leaving the liter box out.
We were all in stunned silence by his story. He tilted his head and looked at me.
Nothing to say?
I looked down and smiled.