THE TYGER (from Songs Of Experience, 1794)

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Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

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In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand dare seize the fire?

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And what shoulder, & what art

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And when thy heart began to beat,

What dread hand? & what dread feet?

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What the hammer? what the chain?

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? What dread grasp

Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

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When the stars threw down their spears,

And water'd heaven with their tears,

Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

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Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

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William Blake (1757-1827)


This is the story of a cat I rescued through Craigslist approximately one-and-a-half years ago. His name is Sage, and he's a magnificent little gray tiger... a real rock climber's cat who can leap to astonishing heights, pull the hardest problems and traverse the narrowest of ledges. Tremendously fit, he is the picture of health, and his claws are razor-sharp: twice he has slashed my hand and forearm to bloody ribbons, and twice I have forgiven him. He's a willful and ornery little bastard at times, but I admire that in a cat. He's also a scrapper, and will not hesitate to defend his territory and his adopted family... in a scrap, he can be downright mean and ugly, thus he reminds me of myself when I'm fired up, pissed off, and lookin' for some payback. I'll tell you all about THAT in due time. I've befriended some cool cats in the past, including one I thought would never be outclassed, but Sage is highly resourceful and intelligent, and he has more personality than any other cat I've ever met in my life. But let me start at the beginning, and give readers some background information relevant to this story...

Many years ago, had someone asked me, I would have told that person that I was a dog man... one who preferred bonding with canines instead of felines. Don't misunderstand me: we still had cats in the house, but we also had many cool dogs, including several Welsh Corgis (Pembroke), a beautiful German Shepherd, a good-looking Rhodesian Ridgeback with tremendous stamina in the field, etc., etc. At some point in history, I experienced a transformation and became a cat person, probably for the following reasons... less maintenance, highly independent, generally smarter than dogs, the whole nine yards. Perhaps it began with Bubba, my friend J.R.'s cat: when J.R. left for the South Pacific, he asked me to take good care of Bub, since there was a 6-month quarantine in that specific island group and he didn't want to kill the cat by putting it through that bullsh*t. A little over a year later, J.R. unexpectedly passed away, and taking care of "The Bub" became a sacred trust, since he was the last living link to my good friend, skating and climbing partner.

Bubba was a really cool cat (his photo is somewhere on my profile page, I believe), and he lived at the hacienda back when it was the full-on party house... heaps of beer, weed and blow, BBQs out back all the time, music loudly cranked just as it was in the old skatin' days, when huge wooden ramps stood on my driveway and intimidated kooks and posers with heller vertical and overhang. Bub had his own personality, but, in retrospect, I'm not sure he had the same willfulness and scrapping ability as Sage does... Bub could hold his own in a scrap, and he was a pretty big cat, but Sage is a holy terror by comparison, and I think he's probably more physically fit than Bub was, though Bub actually weighed more and could also leap to respectable heights. Sadly, Bub developed an infection of some sort while I was on the road, and he was put down by family members while I was absent, which I did NOT appreciate upon my return... had a bloody row over THAT bullsh*t, lemme tell ya. I don't go around killing animals that belong to others, so naturally it pissed me off to come home to an empty house devoid of pets. Not to mention the fact that Bub once belonged to a true blood brother... the kind you earn through years of hardcore skating and rock climbing, with f#%g blood, sweat & God-damned tears the whole way (not to mention broken bones).

Fast forward to Sage's adoption... we actually had a couple of cats in the interim, but these were both abandoned cats which we took in, fed, and watered. They weren't quite feral, nor were they close in terms of intimate bonding... we fed 'em, watered 'em, looked after 'em as best we could, then they crawled off to die or take up residence in some other yard. They were "outside cats" as opposed to "inside cats"---the kind who never really made it inside to sleep with you. With no cats on the property, I turned to Craigslist: normally, as I've done many times in the past, I would go to the nearest animal shelter and pick a cat or two out of the lineup, thereby saving the animals from death. After being falsely charged and maliciously prosecuted by the crooked scrub queer D.A. here in Dago County, my life and my finances were in ruins, and I wasn't about to waste any money on shelter fees, so I scanned the Craigslist ads until I found Sage's picture. One look at that little tiger-striped varmint and I knew he was the cat for our property... the posted picture showed him on his back, playfully swatting some toy, and his gray tabby stripes really stood out and caught my attention. I didn't get him right away, though, since other potential owners were involved in the Craigslist scene, and Sage's owner was having a hard time parting with the little varmint.

In fact, before Sage made it to the ol' hacienda, I picked up another cat sight unseen from a house outside Ramona. This was Dixie, a fat older female cat who faced certain death if not adopted... I reckoned nobody would choose a fat aging cat out of the lineup at the shelter, and the poor gal was terrified of the outdoors after being chased by coyotes in that rural area. I drove up there to pick her up and bring her back to Coronado; the former owners gave me a cat carrier or kennel or whatever, along with some other cat supplies, but truth be told, I let Dixie out of the cage as soon as we were out of sight. As a former Infantry soldier who highly values his freedom, I personally dislike being caged and I won't stand for it, since I'm no crackerhead or criminal... therefore, no pet I own shall ever be caged unless it is absolutely necessary. Long story short, the cat rode from Ramona to Coronado while sitting on the headrest of the driver's seat in my Oldsmobile, half-draped on the headrest, half-wrapped around my skull like some raghead turban. If you happened to cruise by in an adjacent lane that day, and you looked over to see some clown driving at freeway speed with a cat wrapped around his head, the cat clearly and constantly meowing like the varmint that it was, well... that was yours truly, doing his part to rescue an unwanted animal from certain death. Dixie is still with us, of course, and she's also part of the story...

I made it to the house without being pulled over by any badge-sportin', firearm-wavin' scrub p.o.s. fagtard kook, and I carefully transferred Dixie by hand from the car to the house. At that time, my brother still had two dogs, so Dixie immediately hid under the couch in the living room. I proceeded to rig food and water bowls in a nearby corner, moving furniture into place to form a barrier for the dogs. I also took the cat box and set it up nearby, just until Dixie became accustomed to our household. She spent the night under the couch, while I slept atop the damned thing, and the call to adopt Sage came the very next day... what I mean is that Sage's owner finally decided to bring him here to his new home. Nice gal, half my age; she had already been by the house once to suss out the property, as any considerate pet owner would do, and although there were other interested parties, she had chosen this humble old beach cottage for Sage's new home. Wise choice... this house has a yard front and back, with heaps of greenery and bushes in which to hide, high fence rails and a smooth round-topped, cement-filled cinderblock wall upon which to walk and survey the neighborhood, cool concrete slabs upon which to rest in the shade when it's hot, the whole shebang. It may not be a fancy, high-dollar, spoon-fed-maggot house, but to a cat, it's F#%*G PARADISE!!!!!!! That's what I was thinking, anyway, before Sage showed up with his owner...

Once doors were secured and Sage was released from his cage, he went apesh#t... smelled the dogs, no doubt, in a foreign environment, so his feline stress levels soared. He took off for the kitchen and rapidly leapt up on our wooden "butcher block" counter, assessing his chances for escape through the louvered windows, which were also screened. I scooped him up off this counter and walked back to the living room, where his owner distinctly said: "I'm surprised he let you pick him up." This should've been a warning to me, but I had no clue what she meant, since Sage had not gone wild and ripped my flesh with his razor-sharp claws... that would come later, when I least expected it. For the time being, it was all groovy, and I understood the animal's fear and apprehension, having been through a similar situation once or twice in the past. I don't include the time I was maliciously prosecuted (at heller taxpayers' expense) by the nasty clam-buffin' strap-on scrub queer D.A. here in Dago County... had THAT bullsh!t in hand when I successfully defended myself in her own rigged courtrooms, go figure. The nasty-@$$ corrupt public-fund-wastin' clam-buffin' scrub queer p.o.s. bi-yatch... ah, to hell with that slimy scrub queer trash, and all of her crooked badge-sportin' goons who've learned how to falsify reports and lie under oath with impunity. PISS ON THE SLIMY CRIMINAL BADGE-SPORTIN' SCUMBAGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Returning to my narrative: I had a sleepless night after Sage arrived. I had taken the trouble to secure every door and window in such a way that he couldn't possibly escape... it was my intention to let both cats settle down for a day or two before I began experimenting with outdoor access. Dixie did not cooperate, of course: she hissed and growled at Sage when he joined her under the living room couch, and he was still so wigged out that he didn't even respond. The dogs were already penned in two rooms in the back of the house, so they weren't really a threat, but their lingering scent was so strong that both cats were having a hard time settling down. In a vain effort to sleep, I turned off every light and lay on the couch... round about zero-dark-f#%g-thirty, I heard yet another loud meow from across the living room (Sage had been meowing constantly since his arrival). This one had an echo, however, and it was followed by more seemingly-hollow meowing, as if Sage were in the depths of a large cavern. Not knowing what to expect, I rose from the couch and turned on a light... Sage was nowhere in sight, but the cavernous meowing continued like Swiss f#%g clockwork.

"WTF???"

I searched the entire living room for several minutes but could not find the cat, even though his meowing was now even louder... I dropped to the floor and searched under skirted sofas and armchairs, but the little varmint was still MIA. Checking adjacent rooms, I came up empty: as near as I could tell, each time Sage sounded off, the cat's meow originated from inside a stuffed armchair, or from the God-damned TV, like the little girl's voice in "Poltergeist." I turned the chair on its side, but there was no trace of the cat to be seen. I knocked on the TV cabinet to elicit a feline response, and the cat's meow emanated from the chair again. Fetching a powerful flashlight, I parked myself between chair and TV and waited for Sage's next vocalization. When he meowed next, I found myself staring at an empty fireplace; we had one of those spark-arresting chain-link mesh screens in front of the hearth, but I could see right through the mesh and there was no cat in sight. Slowly, in utter disbelief, I pulled the mesh screen aside and looked up the chimney flue... from a small ledge high in the chimney flue, Sage looked down at me, two glowing eyes in a field of sooty black. I had checked the empty fireplace numerous times during my search, mind you, but never thought to look up the chimney itself. My education was just beginning, and Sage was the instructor.

A long day ensued at the "Animal Farm"---a day full of meowing, hissing, growling, barking, neverending animal maintenance, etc., etc. By the time night fell, I was in bad shape: I hadn't had a good night's sleep in 72 hours, Sage was still meowing every five or ten seconds, Dixie was hiding under the couch as usual, and nothing had changed. The animals weren't settling down as I expected, and I had conflicting feelings about Sage: I instinctively sensed that he was a cool cat, but he wouldn't stop meowing, and his voice was loud as f#%. I understood how he felt, being cooped up in a strange house, yet I was concerned about letting him outside, since he might run off and never be seen again. Finally, at zero-dark-f#%g-thirty, when I just couldn't take it anymore, I rose from the couch and whistled for Sage to follow me to the sliding glass door which led to the back patio. He warily followed me, and when I slid the glass door and screen aside, he bolted into the night. Stopping only once to look over his shoulder at me, he rounded a corner and disappeared. I didn't get a good close look at him again for three whole days...

I searched the entire neighborhood the first day, cruising around in the Oldsmobile, and finally caught a glimpse of Sage half a block from our house... when I gently rolled to a stop nearby, he took one look at the car and vanished into some dense shrubbery. No amount of calling would bring him out, if indeed he were still within hearing distance. I left a note at the door of the residence, then returned home to call Sage's former owner: I figured her voice might bring Sage out of hiding, and she was kind enough to drive down from Mission Valley, but we had no success in locating Sage, even though we circled the block and asked numerous individuals if they had seen a gray tiger-striped tabby cat. No dice: our search proved fruitless... or catless. I told Sage's former owner that I would continue the search, which I did for the next two days, but I saw neither hide nor hair of my erstwhile house guest. I was a bit saddened by his disappearance, but I figured he would find a new home soon enough in Coronado, and I resolved to check the animal shelter just in case he got picked up by Animal Control. This last scenario seemed unlikely, since Sage was so wary of strangers, including myself, but it wouldn't hurt to call in a description and leave a contact number. Meanwhile, Dixie continued to spend most of her time under the living room couch, where she quietly hung out and studied the feet (or paws) of all passersby.

Two days passed with no sign of Sage... on the third night following his disappearance, and true to form at zero-dark-f#%g-thirty, I woke to hear a loud meow from the cinderblock wall behind my room. Rising quickly from my bed, I grabbed a flashlight and walked out to find Sage atop the wall, loudly meowing at me as if to say: "WTF, dude??? Where's my former master??? And where's my former home???" My heart went out to him, and I spoke soothing words as I figured out what to do next. I knew he must be hungry and thirsty, so the first priorities were food and water. Coaxing him along the wall, I encouraged him to hang out while I ran to the kitchen and grabbed what I needed: can of cat food, spoon, large saucer, and full water dish. Setting these down in plain sight on the concrete slab of our back patio, I cracked the can after rapping it with the spoon, then dumped the contents onto the saucer. Sage was still too wary to approach while I stood nearby, so I retreated to my room and left the door open as an invitation. I heard Sage lapping at the water, and I crept near the door to see him eating the food, but my open door was steadily ignored, and Sage ultimately vanished after powering down the grub. I considered his brief appearance to be a victory of sorts, and he now knew where to find food and water.

Several nights of patient and careful coaxing led to the next big step: getting Sage to enter my open door. This he finally did, as I lay on my bed reading a book, doing my best to exhibit no threatening behavior. It took two more nights of persuasion before I could ease past him and close the door, but he remained calm and I knew the hardest part was over... the only problem was that he returned to the door in three minutes and loudly meowed to get out. Taking the plunge, I calmly opened the door and ushered him out. I lay back down on my bed to resume reading, and there was a loud meow at the door. I rose to admit Sage once more, figuring it was worthwhile as a means of reinforcing his understanding. Three minutes later, he meowed to get out... this whole "butler to the cat" thing was getting old fast, but I went ahead and dealt with it, knowing it was all for the good. The rest of the night was spent in this fashion, and I never had a chance to sleep. I vowed to visit Home Depot that day and buy a cat door, which I did; best value ever seen in that joint, at $20 and chump change. Promptly installing that sonofabitch, I showed Sage how it worked by holding the door open and gently pushing him through the hatch. It took several demonstrations before he caught on, but he's a smart cat... that night, I slept the sleep of kings, wholly uninterrupted.

By this time, Dixie had become more adventurous, actually traveling from beneath the sofa to beneath a nearby armchair. The chair was low and skirted, thus she had another place to hide from the dreaded dogs. The dogs were promptly schooled at first sight of the cat, and ever afterward, so they never really posed a threat, except in the cat's mind. Sage was nonchalant where the dogs were concerned; one good swat with razor-sharp claws taught each dog to leave Sage alone. Slowly, Dixie and Sage began to unwind and accept their new surroundings. However, they still took an active dislike to one another: this I failed to understand, since one was an older fixed female and one was a young fixed male. Their constant conflict made no sense, but I put it down to their simultaneous arrival (relatively speaking) and the establishment of feline boundaries in their new territory. Hopefully, it would pass with time... meanwhile, I fed them in separate rooms, gave them separate water dishes, the whole nine yards. However, pitched battles still occurred whenever they unexpectedly met while rounding a corner, and the rest of us were subjected to feline screams and caterwauling several times a day. Both cats had full sets of claws, but fortunately neither cat suffered any serious damage. Sage was more likely to initiate a scrap, while Dixie, despite her generally sweet disposition, would vigorously defend herself before breaking the engagement and retreating to a safe place.

Fast forward to my first bloodletting... I had slowly and patiently worked with Sage to make him feel at home, and I was proud of his progress. I knew that he would be a special cat; Dixie was sweet enough in her own way, but Sage was destined for greatness. One day, while Sage was traveling through a room where the dogs lay sleeping on the hardwood floor, I reached down to scoop him up... big mistake. With lightning speed, he exploded in my arms and whirled in midair, raking my hand and forearm with his razor-sharp claws. The resulting slashes must have been a quarter-inch deep in places: Sage has long claws which are honed to sharpness by constant climbing and scratching, and his assault was wholly unexpected. Dripping blood and roused to anger, I yelled at him and he vanished through the cat door... I spent the next ten minutes staunching the flow of blood and dressing my wounds. In retrospect, I understood his behavior: I had scooped him up while walking toward the dogs, and he had exploded out of fear and desperation. Later, on the back patio, from a distance of six feet, I raised my hand to show Sage the scratches... I didn't threaten him any further, just raised my hand to let him know that he had f#%d up by scratching me. By his expression, it was clear that he understood, and that evening he jumped up on my bed to offer his profound apology.

Weeks passed, and Dixie began hanging out on top of the furniture instead of underneath it, since the short-legged and lethargic dogs could not possibly reach those heights. She also began roaming the house and she even ventured outside, which was a great step forward for her... I showed her how to use the cat door, just as I had shown Sage, and she picked it up just as quickly. After being ambushed by Sage while making her way through the door one day, she took to cautiously peering through the clear hatch cover each time, just to ensure that Sage wasn't lying in wait on the other side, ready to pounce and rake her with his claws. Sage can be a real troublemaker at times... by now, he was well established and quite comfortable, not only throughout the house but throughout the entire neighborhood. He freely ranged every night, making his rounds and occasionally scrapping with some neighbor's cat. These were especially loud confrontations, and they usually took place at---you guessed it---zero-dark-f#%g-thirty. The typical scrap would begin atop the cinderblock wall, Sage and his opponent facing each other and growling at first, with the overall pitch steadily rising in a crescendo of furious caterwauling... I can't begin to tell you how many times I rose at 0230 or 0330, hastily threw on shorts or sweats, grabbed a flashlight and hastened outside to break up these loud confrontations.

Similar confrontations occurred inside the house, with Sage ambushing Dixie at every opportunity. Have you ever watched one of those National Geographic specials where some hungry lion pursues a hapless wildebeest, antelope or zebra, ultimately leaping and raking its prey with razor-sharp claws??? Well, I watched Sage do this countless times to Dixie, although he never really raked his prey too hard with his claws... otherwise, she would've bled out and gone to that Great Catnip Patch In The Sky. I guess it's some sort of game with him, and Dixie sometimes rakes him with her claws, just to let him know that he's not the only cat in the house. To this day, these two feline @$$clowns carry on in this manner, creating unnecessary drama in a house that needs no more theatrics. No need for any cat to "tread the histrionic boards" (a la Mark Twain) in this house, lemme tell ya... if they pulled that nonsense while I was out camping, I'd shoot 'em myself, if the coyotes hadn't already bagged 'em, and good f#%g riddance. But cats will be cats, and according to the Oriental Zodiac I was born in "The Year of the Tiger", so I'm somewhat partial to the furry little bastards. I think I have nine lives myself, considering how many close scrapes I've been through, and how many of my former friends and schoolmates have already met the Grim Reaper...

There came a day when some little varmint rodent strayed upon our property, and it was time for these "Great Feline Hunters" (as opposed to "Great White Hunters") to earn their keep... I had to drag the God-damned cats (one at a time) to the rodent's location against the wall in a backyard flower bed, then point them in the general direction of their "prey" (six inches away). Dixie took one look at the fearsome baby varmint rodent and hauled @$$ in the opposite direction, which action I forgave since she had been chased by coyotes earlier... I suppose a young mouse or rat resembles a coyote in bright f#%g sunlight. Then it was Sage's turn, and I figured the little varmint rodent was toast... Sage hunkered down and made like one of those National Geographic lions on the Serengeti, creeping forward with twitching tail and then softly batting the rodent (no claws) a few times, using rabbit punches as if to say with an Italian accent: "HEY, WHATSA MATTER YOU???" When the terrified rodent failed to respond except by shaking in fear, Sage lost interest and wandered off to deal with something more entertaining. Having kept many rodents (mice, hamsters, etc.) as pets in my youth, I didn't have the heart to prang the little wild varmint rodent with a tempered-steel shovel, so I resorted to some verbal abuse toward the cats, scoffing as I said:

"HUH!!! SOME GREAT HUNTERS YOU ARE, YOU MISERABLE BASTARDS!!!"

Cute as the baby rodent was, we all know they're disease vectors, thus a chemical banquet laced with bacon grease was laid down in the crawlspace beneath the house and all access was secured, so the cats wouldn't wind up dying ugly deaths as a result of their feline cowardice. Hey, call me sentimental... I didn't prang the rodent with the shovel (which was in my hand, the stationary rodent quivering with fear right there, front and center---would've been the easiest thing in the world to do, unless you were born poor and knew what it meant to struggle in life), as I hate killing animals when they are simply following their instincts. In an ideal world, all animals would harmoniously coexist, with just a few scrub "feeder animals" gettin' whacked... the ugly chemical banquet laid out under the house was harsh, but at least I didn't have to prang the poor little bastard with the shovel, splattering blood everywhere. Didn't have to clean the shovel either, which was a plus. I'll tell ya straight up, since my visits to the islands, I don't kill ANYTHING unless it's absolutely necessary. I actually pick up snails off the sidewalk at first light and lightly toss 'em into nearby brush, even though I know they'll mack the shrubs and hedges in due time. Same goes for caterpillars and other bugs, with the exception of Brown Widow spiders: those I'll mercilessly annihilate, as they pose a serious health hazard to my elderly mom with medical issues. Best way to handle THEM is to grab a flashlight and go out in the wee hours, holding a can of "Spider Killer" in readiness: the nasty critters will be hanging upside-down in their funky webs, with their red hourglass markings clearly visible. Gotta destroy the spiky egg sacs as well (they resemble WWII sea mines), otherwise they'll be back in strength, bearing grudges and looking for some payback.

Back to my story: Sage is a very active cat, and he can leap to astonishing heights. I first noticed this the day after he arrived, when he pulled this perfect dyno (a rock climbing term for an active lunge or dynamic move) from the floor of the kitchen to a small cleared space atop a 6' storage cabinet. Landed just as a cat should, with his paws in perfect position atop the cabinet... I'm a climber, so I notice those things, yeah? I began to watch him more closely whenever he appeared to be preparing for a vertical jump: I soon discovered that this cat was a phenomenal leaper, clearing our back fence with one easy bound, pulling a "stall maneuver" en route (as in vertical skateboarding or extreme BMX) before leaping down to the deck on the other side. I watched him climb trees in our yard as if they were nothing, easily reaching the uppermost branches before chillin' out and making like an African lion, legs draped on either side of a high branch. At night, I'd hear the little bastard leaping from the nearby cinderblock wall to our roof, landing with a soft thump... a patter of feline paws would soon follow as he made his way across the flat roof sections. I even heard him land on the northwest corner of my room one night, which meant that he had leapt from the old shotgun shack carport... a gnarly "canyon jump" across our back patio, with Evel Knievel and various professional skateboarders looking like complete chumps by comparison. Thinking of this, I smiled while half asleep: I knew this cat was special.

By this time, the routines of the two cats rescued through Craigslist were fairly well established. Dixie was a homebody, programmed by coyotes in Ramona to never stray too far from the house... granted, she would venture into either yard and explore each area with some timidity, but she wasn't the WANDERER that Sage was. I can hear the tune now as I think of the little varmint, and I can recall every scene from the movie ("THE WANDERERS"). Sage is a real tiger, and he'll range for hours every night looking for trouble... how that works is he'll head out to stooge around for a bit, then he'll come through the cat door and leap up on my bed to show me some unconditional love, followed by a trip to the kitchen where his grub is unfailingly laid out on a bench. Once he's done grinding some food, he'll head back out the cat door to stooge around a bit more, etc., etc., ad infinitum. Not a bad nightly program for a little gray tabby tiger, and he has all day to chill out and sleep indoors, with choice feline accommodations readily available... like I said, this house ain't no spoon-fed maggot house, but it's paid for and it's comfortable, thank you very much. My very next essay will be on the slimy stinking unlocal spoon-fed maggots who now dwell on our corner, but THAT'S another story... look for it this weekend under "MY SCUMBAG NEIGHBORS" (tells ya how much I respect these slimy unlocal greaseballs and dirty f#%g swine). Anyway, the two cats were now stylin' pretty hard, since the dogs were already gone, having passed away one after the other... the house was now a "cat house" (not to be confused with a "cathouse"---since no hookers were present).

I woke one night from a sound sleep to Sage's loud and anxious meow, as if he were trying to tell me something... I'm big on "Feng Shui" and I like open space, but I have some plastic Sterilite storage bins, cardboard boxes, and outdoor gear neatly stacked in one corner of my room, and Sage was busy meowing away while looking anxiously toward this stack of bullsh!t. Zero-dark-f#%g-thirty, of course... I rose groaning from my bed to see WTF the little tiger-striped bastard wanted, and he alerted like some Chesapeake Bay retriever, pointing at some invisible varmint hidden somewhere in the stack. I moved the nearest box, and a rodent hauled @$$ like Ben Jonson on steroids from the corner to the space beneath my bed, with Sage following hot on the trail of the offending varmint... I'm standing there in bare feet, with visions of rabies, bubonic plague, Black F#%g Death, etc., swirling through my ten-percent head, and the cat's chasing this friggin' rodent around my room like NASCAR drivers at Talladega. The rodent finally opted out of the circuit by scrambling through a crack in the corner behind the door, with Sage screeching to a halt behind him just like Tom in those "TOM & JERRY" cartoons... it was ridiculous, yet it was also comical in the extreme. It took awhile for Sage to settle down, pacing back and forth as he was, but he finally joined me on the rack and chilled out, with my soothing words allaying all feline self-doubt.

One thing I've noticed about Sage: he's a friggin' mattress hog. I'll carefully place him alongside me while I'm lying down, or I'll place him at my feet before nodding off... next thing I know, I'm fallin' out of bed while Sage is stretched full length sideways across the center of the mattress. The little varmint weighs about one-seventeenth of what I weigh, yet he invariably takes the mattress every time... I haven't quite figured out how he does this, and sometimes it's a real pain in the @$$ trying to shift him out of place when I'm half asleep, with the willful little bastard resisting hard and pushing against me with all his might. He's a strong little varmint too, with all the leaping and climbing he does: his muscles are hard and well-defined, his sinews and tendons like thick and powerful elastic cords. I've never met a cat with a greater ratio of strength to body weight... if Sage ever turns to a life of crime, he'll be "Public Enemy #1" and I'll have to alert the dumb@$$ Feds. You'll see me afterward on Jerry Springer, working the story for maximum exposure and artfully whining about how I was "traumatized" by the cat.

Sage is classic when he's asleep... he makes these long drawn-out sighs of contentment after subconsciously shifting position, and they are hilarious. He also suffers from the feline version of Tourette's Syndrome: his paws and his facial features twitch at intervals, and so does his tail. One night, while I was reading in bed, I noticed that Sage was in the middle of a dream... his paws and facial features were twitching faster than ever, and he lashed his tail in his sleep. I laughed softly as I wondered what was going on in that little walnut-sized brain of his. Suddenly, with a loud hiss and a growl, he sprang at least a foot into the air (from the prone position, lying on his side), to land crouching on all fours, ready to scrap and looking around in bewilderment, as if to say: "Hey, WTF?!? There was an enemy cat here a second ago!!!" I had to laugh out loud at his comical expression, but he stoically ignored my laughter. Yesiree, this cat is highly entertaining at times, and he doesn't lack personality...

I usually feed Sage and Dixie dry and canned cat food (unmixed), served in ceramic bowls and saucers. I use old newspaper sections as placemats, and toss 'em whenever they get funky. I buy Friskies Seafood Sensations in the bag, as the cats seem to like that flavor, but the cans of Friskies are a different story. I try to mix it up a bit with the cans, alternating flavors to add variety. Sometimes, the cats will let me know that the canned food I selected for that day's meals is not up to their exacting culinary standards... the food itself an affront to their delicate and refined feline sensibilities. Dixie does this by sniffing the wet food, then ignoring the saucer while turning to her bowl of dry food. Sage takes it one step further by sniffing the food, then scratching at the newspaper beyond the saucer in repetitive motions, as if he just took a steaming dump and now he wants to cover it up, out of standard feline courtesy developed through generations of domestic cats. Whenever Sage does this, it is absolutely hilarious... the first time I witnessed this comical scene, I roared with laughter, and to this day it never fails to amuse me, even if I did f#% up and choose the wrong flavor of canned cat food.

Sage has always been a smart cat: he learned early on that the water from our tap tastes better than the water in his bowl, even though I change the water in both cat bowls two or three times a day. Now, when I'm in the kitchen and Sage wants a drink, he leaps up onto our central "island" where the sinks are located and waits by the main tap, looking at me as if to say: "Hurry up, dumb@$$!!! I'm thirsty here..." I'll obligingly turn the tap so a small stream of water flows, and Sage will lean over and lap water from this vertical stream. My brother and his girlfriend just visited from Germany, and one morning I asked her to take a couple photos of Sage drinking in this fashion; when they send a DVD with all their vacation photos, as they promised to do, I will post pictures of Sage drinking from the tap. When he laps water from the stream, he keeps his eyes open and looks off into space... sometimes, I'll put my head down directly across the stream from his and look into his eyes, making comments from Monty Python or squawking "HEL-LO!!!" like a friendly parrot. Sage routinely ignores me whenever I do this.

Lately, during his nocturnal ramblings, Sage has taken to galloping down the concrete slab which forms a passageway between our house and the nearby cinderblock wall. The louvered window in my room is always open, and this window overlooks this narrow passageway. Sometimes, if I'm lying awake in bed in the wee hours, I'll hear Sage descend from the wall and gallop down this concrete slab, his little paws sounding like muted horses' hooves galloping across the prairie... I don't know why he does this, but he does it unfailingly at zero-dark-f#%g-thirty. Maybe he just likes the rush, and he knows he can haul @$$ on the smooth concrete slab without worrying about his leg going into a gopher hole. Maybe he's chasing another critter, although I never seem to hear any other galloping varmint paws. Maybe he just took a big ol' hit off a rockpipe, and the little crackerhead is exuberant... feeling the effects of what one deceased friend of mine used to call a "bell ringer." Hard to say what goes on in that little walnut-sized brain...

The other night, I woke to hear caterwauling in the distance, somewhere down the block. Sage came in minutes later with tufts of fur awry in places, as if he'd caught a few blows during a recent scrap. Didn't seem to bother him, though, and soon he was purring away at my side like an APU (in trucking, an Auxiliary Power Unit or small generator). He's a tough little bastard, and that's why I like him so much. He's a survivor, just like I am, despite having my life practically ruined by the corrupt p.o.s. scumbag perv D.A. here in Dago County... that slimy unlocal strap-on scrub queer and her lyin' criminal badge-sportin' goons did a number on my former life, but now I'm gearin' up for a legal scrap to expose these crooked public-fund-wastin' trash once and for all. I heard Cynthia Sommer was given the green light to sue the creep, the creep's criminal associates and the Feds... looks as if I'm next in line, and I'm gonna hammer that dirty p.o.s. scrub queer D.A. in court (and in the media) like nobody's f#%g business. Good thing I kept all that evidence, yeah??? No slimy criminal perv sh!tbag and her crooked goon cops negatively interfere with my life and get away with it... we're talkin' OLD SCHOOL LOCALS HERE, HARD AS NAILS, BITCHES!!!!! Time for that slimy criminal scrub queer and her lyin' badge-sportin' greaseball minions to get DROP-KICKED like I'm STARRIN' in the MOTHERF#%G NFL... and GOOD F#%G RIDDANCE. Let the scrap begin, cuz' I'm not worried: I HAVE SAGE ON MY SIDE AND HE'S A REAL SCRAPPER, NOT TO MENTION MY BEST FRIEND WHOSE FAMILY OWNED & OPERATED THE FIRST AND OLDEST SURF SHOP HERE IN TOWN FOR 35 F#%G YEARS.

My family has well over a century of combined military and judicial service to this country, so I don't take kindly to crooked lyin' badge-sportin' trash protected by a nasty clam-buffin' unlocal scrub queer D.A. interfering with my life and threatening my freedom, which I value very highly. You don't know me, and I couldn't care less... I have all the friends I need to see this conflict resolved once and for all. Despite the unlocal trash and spoon-fed maggots who now overrun this town of my birth, I have all I need in terms of legal combat readiness. I'll also be sh!ttin' all over the punk-@$$ bitches involved in this ongoing public-fund-wastin' fiasco... that includes the slimy scumbags who moved into my neighborhood after our old neighbors passed away. Look for my essay on those scumbags next, entitled (what else?) "MY SCUMBAG NEIGHBORS". WTF, I have nothin' better to do since my former life was ruined. Piss on these unlocal scrubs and the badge-sportin' criminal scumbags who routinely protect them. All I can tell these douchebags is: "BRING IT ON, SCRUB QUEER TRASH, AND LET'S GET THIS F#$%G PARTY STARTED!!!!!" You had your shot, and now it's time for me to tear ya new @$$holes, in cyberspace and in court... you f#%g cowards don't pose any physical threat, so I'll take my satisfaction out of hammerin' ya hard by other means. Sage will help me with that, since he's a scrapper and he likes to walk across my keyboard... "ADIOS, UNLOCAL FAGTARDS!!!!! YOUR DAYS OF CRIMINAL BULLSH!T WILL SOON BE DONE."

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