The Nine Lives of a Cat
by Jayne Thickett
I was three days old when God decided He’d had enough of Lucifer’s shenanigans. He crashed through our blackberry bush and only I, the runt, survived. Mother and the rest were obliterated by his unholy buttocks.
“Ah, you poor wretch,” he boomed, kicking dust over the puddle which had once been my family. “Rejects, both of us. I’ll raise you as my own. He’ll see I’m not completely without soul.” He blew hot breath over me, opening my eyes and ears. My limbs stretched and my teeth grew sharp.
“You belong to me, now.”
No wonder God cast Lucifer out. He loved sneaking up behind people and scaring them out of their souls. We roamed the earth, he spreading mischief, I honing my cunning and stealth, until I grew tired of wandering.
“It’s time for you to move on, friend. Since I obliterated your siblings, I endow you with their eight lives,” he said, stroking my thinning fur.
After a few thousand years’ rest, I was reborn into a litter of cats in Egypt. Some pharaoh, witnessing my forbearers’ efficiency in despatching rats that would eat his grain, declared us under his god-like protection. I grew fat and indolent. Imagine the shape I cut as a mummy!
In my third life a couple rewarded my vermin control with a place by their hearth. Eventually, the woman grew round of belly. The baby came in the middle of hunting season, while the man was away. Several days before he was due home, the child took to squalling day and night. On the fifth night, she laid him in his nest. He cried but she was too tired to hear him, and he finally stopped his fussing. The silence lifted the fur along my spine, my tail bushed out. I jumped up into the crib.
A silvery ribbon flowed upward from the babe’s mouth. I wanted to yell, “You can’t have him!” at that other soul-taker, for I knew what I witnessed. I was with Lucifer long enough.
I pressed my nose against his cold lips. I kneaded, as I had while he swam in his mother’s belly, but he didn’t squirm away like a fish.
I was sent sprawling out of the crib, my head ringing. She paced, the babe clutched to her shoulder. When the man returned, his son was dead and his wife half mad.
“’T was the cat,” she cried.
I ran for the door, too slow. The man seized my back legs and swung me against the wall.
I was born the runt again, the fourth time, and that miserable life was soon done.
Next, I adopted an old woman who grew herbs and gave advice to villagers who came from all around for her remedies. But they still pointed the finger and cried ‘witch’. They carried her off, and threw her in the fast moving river. Only death would prove her innocence. As I turned to leave, someone shouted, “Look there! That cat is yon witch’s familiar! Kill it! ‘T is said they climb atop sleeping babes and suckle the soul out of ‘em.”
Lucifer reaped dividends when these superstitious people slaughtered us and the Great Plague swept across this island. For rats did play, while cats lay dead.
I didn’t stray far for my sixth life. One day, a woman swept the alley behind a baker’s as I perused piles of rubbish nearby. She let out an ear-piercing squeal, swinging her broom. I spotted the wormy tail and a plan formed in my mind.
Next morning, the bakery door opened, releasing a cloud of warm yeast and another squeal. Her broom smacked me in the face and sent me rolling across the cobbles. The body of the rat followed quickly.
“Nasty thing!” she shrieked.
I carried the rat back. She retreated. I placed it on the step, sat down and washed the dust from my fur. It only took her a few moments to grasp my meaning. She slid the broom beneath the rodent and flicked it across the alley.
“Come on then, puss. I’ll feed you so long as you prove your worth.”
I became the best rat catcher in Pudding Lane. Until the Great Fire. The baker got his family out of an upper window, but his maid refused to climb out. I paused on the sill as she huddled in the corner.
“Get out, you stupid cat!”
I didn’t need to be told twice. I jumped and ran, flames licking my heels.
Then there was Marie Antoinette, who fed me from her own plate. When they locked her up there were those who would help her, but she wouldn’t leave the Dauphin. A sailor prepared a ship to give her safe passage to America but she arranged for her beloved cats to sail instead. I’m proud to say my descendants still prowl the forests and backyards of New England. A lynx finished that life. Such is irony.
After another long rest, I didn’t recognise this clamorous world. But it might have been over before it began, if not for a young man, fishing in the river as I floated by inside a sack, my siblings drowned already. He plucked me to safety and carried me home.
I must confess to some unsavoury dog traits in that life, like waiting on the porch for him to come home from work. There was something about his dark eyes and easy smile.
His mother loved to hear him sing. So, he made her a gift of his voice. The world changed then. Some called him the Devil, but Lucifer never had those moves.
This final incarnation has been my favourite. How could I resist humans who serve me fish heads on silver trays? More than this, whenever the grandchild visits, I’m permitted place of honour, across his feet, while he sleeps. I’m too old to catch rats, so I bring him butterflies. His smile warms my heart when I set them free.
Jayne Thickett is just about 40 years old. Thereare a number of her writings on the net, and in a couple of anthologies, butthere are lots more in a box under her bed. She recently became surplus torequirements after 23 years as a support worker, and is coming to the end ofhome-schooling her son. She hopes to finally complete her novel, which begansome 8 years ago after a strange dream, and which has caused many strangerdreams since.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'The Fiery Devil Ball'
'In Pale Green Eyes'