I never was much of a cat person. Scratch that, who the hell am I kidding? I hate cats. I loathe the little fuckers actually. The constant shedding, the wallowing in their own boxed shit, the way they always judge you with those beady eyes. Did you know that 43% of the human race is allergic to cats? Okay, I totally fabricated that number, but it doesn't change my point. Which is: I hate cats. Plain and simple, bottom line, etch those three fuckin' words on my tombstone. I can't stand the bastards...but that has nothing to do with the fact that I've just kidnapped one.
I normally don't do this kind of thing. See, I'm a dog catcher. I don't handle cats. But nonetheless, here I am in my "Cozy Canine" van with a wounded feline in the backseat. Look, before you judge me, just know that this is my first time. My job performance review will prove that I am in no way the animal harming type. So even though I do despise cats, as I've already established, I'd never go out of my way to steal one. Unless, of course, I was offered $10,000.
It all started this morning. I was making my routine stop at Mr. Hurglicht's place in the suburbs. He calls me every time the neighbor's poodle shits on his side of the lawn. It's a pain in the ass, but it's also the easiest twenty-five bucks I'll ever make...and chances are I'll make it again tomorrow. When I got back to my van, I had a message on my cell. Sort of. It was more a blitz of rapid-fire Spanish lingo, so all I could make out was an address. 1667 Wellington Court.
The address belonged to a recluse named Baron Turst. Turns out his gardener, Hector, had left me the message; he wasn't as concerned with elocution as trimming the hedges. After being met with a brushfire of untranslatable babel, he brought me in to see his employer...and I fuck you not when I say this Baron guy owned the copyright on "weird motherfucker." Yeah, he actually rolled right out of the library in this plastic sphere; literally, bobbling down the hallway like some hypochondriac hamster in a three-piece suit. I mean, this geriatric piece of work made Howard Hughes and Bubble Boy look like the fucking centerfolds for Model Citizen Magazine.
"I take it you got the message okay, my dear boy?"
"Well, your gardener doesn't quite understand sentence structure, but sure, I got the message just fine." The guy started hacking like he was choking on lung cancer. Then he said, "Good. Good. You have no idea how hard it is to find proper assistance, which brings me to you. Please, have a seat. There is a matter of grave importance I'd like to discuss with you."
That's when the guy in the bubble offered me a glass of scotch and asked me to find his cat. Well, technically, it belonged to his ex-wife. The pet's name was Cleopatra—a calico that she loved more than anything in the whole wide fuckin' world. Turst gave it to her one year before she left him for the guy who invented the spork. Rightfully so, he resents the bitch...but that isn't why he wanted me to snatch the cat. Nope. For the next two hours, I sit there listening to this freak go on and on about ancient Egyptian mythology. About how felines were believed to be the gatekeepers of the underworld; how they could steal your soul while you slept. Blah-blah-fuckin'-blah. I swear I'm not making this up. Anyway, I took the scotch to the head like a programmed alcoholic, which is when Mr. Bubble awkwardly rolled into my personal space.
"That damned kitten stole my soul, boy. And I need you to find it!"
"You want me to kidnap your ex-wife's cat?"
"Indeed. And bring the little bastard back to me."
"I should probably tell you I'm more of a dog guy. Cats aren't my thing."
"You must do this for me. Please. My time is running out."
That's when he offered me ten-thousand dollars to shut up and do the job. A moment of supreme conscience started weighing down on me; like my shoulders were moral dumbbells and my spotter just ran off to take a shit. I'm a fucking dog catcher, not a fucking cat burglar. But, unfortunately, in the end I decided to take the gig. You don't understand. I really had no choice.
See, I'd been broke for the past three months. And I mean bottom-of-the-barrel, lint-in-your-pockets, sell-my-golf-clubs-on-Ebay broke. It's fair to say I liked gambling and was on a bit of a streak; the losing end of one anyway. To top that, I'm one of those suckers who took a sledge in the ass on that whole home loan thing. So when someone flashes ten grand in my face, I gotta burn the conscience and tell that angel on my shoulder to mind his own goddam business. This was a golden opportunity, as disturbing as it may sound, and when opportunity knocks...well, you kidnap the fucking cat if that's why it's knocking.
That night I found myself waiting outside of the ex's new home. It was this mansion consuming an entire cul-de-sac, surrounded by giant spork-shaped gates. You know, the type of joint that says: "Fuck off, I just spent your yearly salary at the car wash." All right. Focus. I'm starting to ramble, aren't I? Focus. How about I just tell you the plan? Focus. Okay. The plan was simple. It was easy. Like in-and-out easy. The type of thing a retard could do while drooling through a sponge bath. See, old man Turst made it clear that his ex-wife's replacement hubby was out of town at a national spork convention, and that every Friday night she met the other neighborhood bags for watermelon martinis and a few rounds of gossip at the Hotel Del Fiona. That was my window. I had one hour to break in, break out, and lift that motherfucking furball.
C-L-E-O-P-A-T-R-A. That was the nine digit password Turst assured me would open the back door. He was right. I quietly ducked inside; the adrenaline already building in my throat. Or was it anxiety? Either way, I was choking on the shit. BA-BUMP. BA-BUMP. BA-BUMP. My heart was beating faster than a coke whore in a church choir. "Here, kitty-kitty-kitty," I gently called out. Followed by an ungentle, "C'mon you little fucker...I don't have all night!"
Meow. And there she was announcing herself like the winning digits on bingo night. I followed the cat's faint purring through the kitchen into a drawing room lined with Egyptian décor. Meow. That's where I found Cleopatra. I smiled big, well, until my gut turned upside-down and all my nerves went off like an internal dirty bomb. Why? Because the calico cat purring in front of my face...was also cradled in the arms of Frank "Lightning Bug" Clithauser.
Clithauser and I had crossed paths several times before. He was the local neighborhood bug exterminator, so our routes often intersected...and in keeping tradition, it seemed we both had similar business to see to on this particular evening. The only difference was that Clithauser brought a fucking gun to the party and I didn't.
"What the hell are you doing here?" he asked.
"What the hell are you doing here?" I replied.
After a brief and befuddling stand-off, Clithauser explained to me that the calico cat was worth a million bucks. Yeah, stop the fucking presses, right? During a routine termite spray last Tuesday, it seems he overheard the ex bragging about how she recently insured that calico for a capital M. That's prolly why he turned his pistol on me and shrugged with a moustache twirling smirk. See, Clithauser was no stranger to criminal conduct. He'd done some time for petty shit like purse snatching, and pushing ecstasy to old folks at the assisted living center. These illegal escapades are why, I imagine, there wasn't a single bit of remorse in his voice when he said: "Sorry, pally. This pussy is my one way ticket outta this rock bottom town."
I actually saw his finger tightening on the trigger when..."Meoooow!!" That damn cat went kami-fucking-kaze! It clawed Clithauser's face and leaped to the ground, but the pissed-off exterminator fired a retaliatory shot into its torso. An act of retribution that allowed me time to grab a fire poker and crack the bug-man's jaw, grounding him long enough to snag the bleeding calico and haul some 4th gear ass back to my van.
Ignition. I was reversing out of the cul-de-sac before noticing that I'd pissed myself. The speedometer was pushing 90 out of the neighborhood; however, the exterminator was already on my tail. WHAM! His truck drilled me from behind—that plastic lightning bug on its roof taunting me in the rear view. WHAM! One more shot like that and he'd bulldoze right up my ass like a 450-horsepowered enema. I looked down at the cat in my lap...she was still breathing. Barely. If it was true that these things came with nine lives, well, poor Cleopatra had just cashed one of them in full. WHAM! That one broke that camel's back. I slammed the breaks giving me enough leverage to drop back and return the favor. My counter sent the exterminator's truck into a skid, triple-axeling that son of a bitch off the Liggitt overpass and smack into Sully Bay.
Dammit, that was close. My ass was puckered so tight you could squeeze lemonade from it. In time, I started thinking I was in the clear; that maybe my luck was under new management. That was before a rigged-up Winnebago came out of nowhere and blindsided me in a painful but otherwise well-timed shellacking. The last thing I remember, vaguely for that matter, was Cleopatra catapulting over my head and through the windshield. Another life bites the dust.
When I opened my eyes, I found myself inside the Winnebago surrounded by three goons in velvet scarves and tight jeans. Gangland hipsters. And if anything creeps me out more than cats, it's hipsters. In no time they were giving my face the ground beef treatment. My left incisor split; only one of three oral casualties I'd suffer at the fist fuck factory while they fed me all-you-can-eat knuckle sandwiches. After my free makeover, the hipsters parted to reveal the meanest motherfucker in North Bay. Prince Albert. The hot water was boiling now, because as far as cold-blooded murder goes...this asshole had a few trophies on the mantle. Sure, the guy's mug was a mosaic of piercings (not to mention he's gayer than a boys town keg party), but tinkerbell or not, Prince Albert was the one fella ya didn't want calling you for a meet and greet at one in the morning...or ever for that matter. Now, I bet you're wondering what I was doing there with the heavyweight champion of "bad motherfucker." Well, simply put, Prince is the local bookie. The same one I owed six large to for layin' down my 401K on Friday's horse races. Translation: I was about to have my caesar tossed being that it was deadline season on outstanding payouts.
"Please! Don't kill me! I got the money!" Those were the first eight words that sprang from my lips after Prince Albert popped his switchblade and rested it against my right nut.
"You got the money on you?"
"No. But I can have it tonight!"
"You got any proof, Lover?" He smiled wider than Elton John in a prison shower.
"Yes! A cat! At the side of the road!"
"A cat? Well, how fucking reassuring. Does it live in a hat, Sam I fucking Am?"
"Just...just trust me. This cat belongs to the Turst Estate and it's worth $1M."
Looking back, I should've left that last part out because for the first time, Prince wanted some pussy. He demanded I lead him back to the wreck where he could snatch the cat and hold out for a reward. I tried convincing him that Cleo was probably just a bloody heap of roadkill by now, but he insisted we go make sure. Dollar signs were blinking in his eyes like cheap neon—never a good thing seeing as how people got dead when Prince got greedy. And in this particular case, those people were me. How in the fuck did I get into this mess? This was just another ordinary day; one that started with dog shit in Mr. Hurglich's lawn. How did it come to this?!
My van was near-totaled on the shoulder. One thing was certain; if it wasn't going to be my last night alive, it sure as hell would be my last night with a job. Then...meow. I panned down to find the wounded cat purring at my feet. I swiftly scooped her up, surprised as fuck to find her breathing. Maybe she was some kind of mystical animal? I mean, the fact that she was alive played on some inherent sense of the fantastical. Regardless, Albert grabbed the cat out of my hands. I forget what he said next, but it must've been something relatively nefarious since his hipster trio drew their guns on me in glorious unison. But suddenly...BAM! Prince's head went off like a fucking piñata! All three hipsters shriveled along with their stone-washed balls once they spun to see Clithauser staggering from the moonlight with an anxious pistol. The gunplay that followed only lasted 6.5 seconds, but the Cliff's Notes version is that everybody killed everybody. The only survivors were me and the calico...who had, rather unluckily, taken two more hits during all the belligerent violence. Those few remaining lives were going fast.
I raced to my van, grabbed an animal first aid kit (it was for canines but what the fuck), and gave Cleopatra a quick dose of Deracoxib. I should have read the label first. Something I realized after the cat instantly shed its fur and started swelling like a giant herpe. This stuff was definitely not feline proof. Meooow!! So I jabbed the kitten with a tranq and made off quick.
I got back to Turst's place as fast as I could. Needless to say, the Baron was a smidge confused when I handed over a bald-as-fuck calico with multiple gunshot wounds.
"Good heavens, what happened to her, boy?"
"There were some slight complications, sir."
"Complications? What complications?!"
"Well, the cat got shot. Repeatedly."
"Excuse me? This feline has been shot?!"
"Hence the complications."
"This is unacceptable! What have you to say for yourself?!"
"Ummm. I guess I'm more of a dog guy?"
As you can imagine, Turst was beyond furious. He obviously wanted the cat returned to him in pristine condition...with all nine lives firmly intact. Hell, I couldn't blame him. What good is a soul with three bullet holes in it? Just food for thought. Anyway, Turst had a tantrum inside his bubble. Heart monitors spiked, stress calibrations went red and every piece of take-home hospital equipment he was hooked up to took a turn for the worse. Within seconds, ole Tursty went pale. No, he wasn't having a heart attack...yet...but he did see what I didn't.
Click. It was Hector. Technically, that clicking sound was Hector's gun, but it was in Hector's hand so the predicament itself was very Mexican. Turns out that greedy weed-whackin' fuck could speak perfect English, and his illegally migrated ass had been waiting in the bushes until I got back. He stuffed the calico in a lawn bag while describing how big his cojones were, and how he intended to ransom the pet back to Turst's ex-wife...a plan I ensured him was by no means original. But, however this enchilada rolled, shit had been hitting the fan and decking my face all night, so what the hell was one more stand-off? Especially with a side of beans and rice.
The tension was so tight you could hang laundry from it. Every heartbeat was pounding harder than the last, when suddenly, in an unprecedented resurgence of life...the cat was out of the bag! Hector screamed as the calico pounced! He tumbled down the foyer steps, cracking his neck—the only shot he could squeeze off ricocheted around the room before doubling back and bursting the Baron's bubble like a wad of gum. Turst, looking to be in the market for a new toe-tag, took half a breath of fresh air before succumbing to the heart attack you've all been waiting for. The shitty part was that after the slug blew Turst's wad, it found its way into my abdomen.
Within seconds, I was lying in a puddle of B+ DNA just waiting for that moment...you know the one, when your whole life flashes before your eyes. But my projector must have been jammed because nothing happened. Zilch! Call it mental constipation, but nothing was fucking flashing! Then again, maybe there was nothing worth remembering. My life, or lack thereof, had been pretty uneventful up until this moment. No achievements. No lasting impressions. If I could sum it all up into one adjective it'd have to be...mediocre. So there I am, singing the long farewell, when Cleopatra climbs up onto my chest and looks into my eyes with this stare so deep you'd think she was probing my brain. Maybe she was, because what happened next could easily be filed in the fiction section. In fact, I still can't believe it myself. Somehow, that cat saved my life. I took a deep breath and blinked my eyes. There was no more pain. I felt reborn. I felt like I'd been freed in some way. It was as if that cat and I shared a spiritual moment; like maybe we were locked together in some unfathomable twist of fate. You have no idea how right I was.
I slowly looked down to find my dead body sprawled on the marble. The word to really emphasize there is dead. I frantically jumped up and limped to a mirror in the foyer, which lo and behold, revealed that I was now peering through the icy-blue eyes of a hairless calico. It seemed that Cleopatra and I were indeed sharing something sacred; something I would never have sole custody of again. My soul. This sense of overwhelming awe began suffocating me as I stared into that damn mirror, realizing that I would spend those leftover nine lives as a feline.
Did I mention I was never much of a cat person? I used to hate cats. All the constant shedding, the wallowing in their own boxed shit, the way they judge you with those beady eyes. Frankly, I used to loathe the little fuckers. Until one of them gave me a second chance and took me in...literally. I sit there for a moment; take another deep breath. Maybe I could learn to like cats. I dunno. To be honest, I'm more of a dog guy. Would I ever be able to get used to this?
I stare at my new reflection in the mirror. Minutes pass. Then the most unusual thing happens. I purr. It actually feels good, so I do it again. And again. And again. And again...
See, I think I'm already starting to come around.