Skinny and grey

he leapt into my trailer

then looked around nervously.

I popped a can of cat food

and he chomped away as his

eyes darted around at the

mysterious and dark

surroundings.

I already had cats

so I put him back outside.

About a week later he

appeared at the back door

looking even skinnier and

greyer in the harsh light.

This time I put him in the car

and drove him to the vet.

The vet showed me that

the he was covered with

caked fecal matter and fleas,

and we could both see that his eyes

were oozing yellow goo.

He put the anti-flea solution on him,

gave me some antibiotics,

cat shampoo,

and vitamins for him.

The cat was very old

and had missing teeth.

When I got him home

I told him he could stay.

I would be his

retirement plan.

I figured I could do better

for him than nature had.

I gave him a bath and

kept him in the bedroom

where he rested his tired bones

in a premium cat bed and

ate voraciously. He’d had it

rough outside, so I even

got him a bubbling cat fountain

and a glow-in-the-dark collar

with his new name and info.

engraved on a heart-shaped tag.

As I rested on my futon,

he lay on my chest and looked

at me. When I turned on my

stomach, he jumped on my back and slept.

And when I turned on my side

he managed to balance there,

his head held up proudly

like the Sphinx.

Then the diarrhea came

and came.

No big deal.

I cleaned it up.

He was more than worth

the effort.

He’d been neutered

before he came to me,

so I guessed that he’d been

someone’s cat but then

abandoned.

People are beasts.

Sometimes he made it to

the litter pan.

He did his best.

The vet advised trying

boiled chicken and rice

for a while to settle his stomach,

so I cooked

for the first time in many years.

Then, about a month after I

adopted him, he stopped

eating altogether, wouldn’t

touch the chicken or the

different brands of cat food.

He couldn’t

even get up. The vet said

he was moribund and had

reached the end.

I didn’t want him to suffer

or die

alone when I was at work,

so I stayed with him as the vet

prepared the needle that

would help him pass. I told

Francis that his soul could

follow me home or go ahead

to that painless place

where I would be with him

again someday.

Afterwards I stayed in the

exam room with him for a

while. Then I took his collar

and put it in my pocket.

You are my boy, Francis,

and I was lucky to have you.

I will follow you home

someday.

— Fyodor Bukowski

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