Oliver the Cat: Rough draft from my new novel featuring Sid Yiddish

FORWARD: The story is about a talking cat who sets out on a journey of self discovery

Having a voice is like, and I know this is crude, but it’s like pissing. If you never had to take a piss it wouldn’t matter, but once you do that pressure is going to build until it comes out. As satisfying as it is to relieve that pressure, it is arguable whether or not it has done anything for the rest of the world. Still, I was bursting. I longed for the philosophical conversations with Dave or in Maggie’s warm voice. In the cold dead of night, trying to divert my thoughts from the cold, I would blather away more or less coherently to Gray and White, though she hadn’t a clue nor really cared what I was talking about. Still, just to hear myself, like some sort of urban Robinson Carusoe, I’d talk politics, muse about nothing, recap events of the day or talk about the weather, anything to keep my mind active. I might have even improvised a poem or two, but it still wasn’t enough. I might as well have been on a desert island, talking to a soccer ball with a dirty palm print for a face!

One icy cold morning during a foray to the deli dumpster I noticed a curious character at the bus stop across the street. I should preface that. He was odd, not so much that he was strange looking, relatively speaking, but more that it was far too cold for anyone to spend much time in one place. And yet, the fellow was sort of slouched on the bench, like a rag doll someone had tossed there; a somewhat plump rag doll.

At his feet was a hopelessly worn black backpack with ancient anmd tattered airline tags still attached to one strap. His tennis shoes, stretched to the limits by layered sports stockings were so weathered and filthy that I thought he might be homeless. He was surrounded in a thick blue workman’s insulated coveralls and an even bulkier green ski jacket with a faux-fur lined hood that was bunched behind his head. The jacket was open. The zipper no longer worked.
A knit cap hid most of his brow. It was an oddly unnatural shade of light brown, and left only his scraggly grey beard and red nose exposed to the frigid morning air. I wasn’t immediately certain that shade of brown even existed in nature. His eyes were lost to the shadows beneath the hat. I was reminded of a forlorn and even brooding garden gnome fallen on hard times. There was a sympathetic air about him that drew me curiously to the edge of the street.

A well dressed woman sat beside him, briefly fishing for something from a handbag. The fellow seemed bothered by her presence, perhaps by the juxtaposition of their circumstance, or from something else. I watched with infinite delight as he leaned back to eye the woman up and down with obvious disapproval, but with a sense of innocence and whimsy, which the woman, momentarily taking note countered with a grimace that belied ultimate disgust.

Refusing to be condescended to he pulled out a can of sardines, picking out the oily canned fish without removing his mittens. He held it out, dangling it in the frigid air between them, thick droplets of yellow oil falling to the bench between them. He offered it to the woman, though through the tangle of beard and mustache it was impossible to make out his mouth. With a thoroughly horrified look, the woman stood fled from the bench. As he downed the sardine I saw him smile with supreme satisfaction.

I laughed, catching myself a bit should someone notice, and He was perfect. Not perfect, but the perfect person for my needs. I was desperate for some conversation and who would believe this character if he said he’d been chatting with a talking cat? By the looks of him most folks would believe he had frequent conversations with talking cats, not to mention stop signs, space aliens and aquarium fish!

Traffic was heavy and slow along Adams Street. I waited for the light and traffic to stop then sprang from behind a newspaper box, between the forest of legs along the sidewalk and into the street. Without breaking stride I cleared the street, past a taxi cab and beneath a newspaper delivery truck in barely six long leaps. I leapt onto the bench beside him and gave a long loud sigh. He looked down at me for a moment, then drew a sardine from the can and laid it down on the bench between us.

“Go ahead, little, fella,” he said. “You must be starved.”

“Actually, no, I began. “Well a bit. I actually came over to meet you.”

He downed another sardine as if it was a normal thing to hear a talking cat. “Okay, well that’s odd.”

“Don’t be alarmed,” I said quietly. I cleared my throat. “You’re not crazy; I really am a talking cat.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” he replied sort of deadpan.

“Well, not something I’m sure you run into everyday.”

“How do you know, we just met.”

I nodded and cocked my head to one side. I liked him instantly.

“Sorry. I shouldn’t assume,” I said.

“Besides, do I look that crazy?”

I didn’t know what to say to that. Niceties, I always thought were for people, not cats. Cats speak their mind.

“Seriously?” I replied.

“What does that mean?” he complained.

“Honestly, I picked you, you’re, well, sort of, you have to admit… you’re different.”

“Different?” he exclaimed, half mordantly. He raised both hands like a preacher and said aloud, “The talking cat says I’m different!”

“Sshh, hey,” I said urgently, “keep it down.”

“Relax, your secret is safe. I’m Sid, Sid Yiddish.”

“Yiddish. Like…?”

“I’m a Jew. You’re not one of those anti-Semite cats?”

I’m a cat. I’m not pro or anti-anything!”

“And you are?’

“I’m a cat!”

“No, what’s your name?” he frowned somewhere beneath that beard.

“Oh, gosh, I’m Oliver.”

He stood and slung the beat up and totally overstuffed backpack over one shoulder. “My bus is coming. I wish we had more time to talk.”

“Yeah, me too,” I said with a notable measure of disappointment.

“Where do you live,” asked Sid as the bus slowed to a stop. He set down the can of sardines beside me. “Maybe we could meet for a…for milk.”

“Um, uh, I’m just sort of a stray at the moment.”

The bus door opened with a hiss. The driver looked at Sid with some annoyance as he hesitated in the door.

“I’ll be here tomorrow, same time. Come earlier, we’ll chat.”

Sid climbed into the bus. The driver looked around trying to see who Sid was speaking with. Sid noted the man’s perplexed expression and motioned in my direction. “It’s okay, he’s my friend.”

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Are you $%#@ing kidding me? A new rant from the FILTHY PUNDIT(He ought to have his mouth washed out with soap) Politics, way over the %$#@ing top!……………….. Passion. Nothing filthy about passion. Well, sometimes, if you’re doing it just right, but I’m talking in a broader sense. We all feel sometimes as if we are just spinning our wheels, that our life isn’t going anywhere, we haven’t accomplished anything. That’s a lack of passion for something, and you ought to be searching for that one thing that sets you alight, that excites and inspires you; art, beer, sex, music writing, working out or a walk in the woods somewhere. Not money. Money is a tool, not a goal. It’s like being passionate about a wrench instead of what you can create with the wrench.Here is what I mean. Every morning, the cats line up next to the bed. If I am late 5 minutes getting up jinx, a big black cat invariably will jump up beside me, put his front paws on my stomach and push until I get up. The moment my feet hit the floor all three cats line up at the door. They’re after the fat rats on the wooded hillside beside the Metra tracks. Oliver killed two a few days ago, leaving their bodies in the alley one in front of each gate as a warning to the others. Funny, but we rarely see a single goddamned rat in the yard. They will never clear the hillside of rats, but everyday they line up at the door and bolt for the back of the yard, hunting rats as if for the first damn time. Everyday. Line up at the door. Hunt a rat. Never gets old. They don’t bring them home, it’s all about the passion. Then they come home feeling all proud and fulfilled. After that they take a nap, no doubt dreaming about their conquest. I say this because I recently had a health scare. According to the doctor I walked into the hospital with the highest blood pressure for someone still standing I’ve always understood how short life is, and that, as clichéd as it sounds, we get just this one opportunity to accomplish something that might resonate beyond cruelly short number of years allotted to us. So whatever you do today and with the rest of your life, be passionate. No, be fucking passionate! When it’s over, whether you lived to 114, get hit by a bus or get eaten by a lion that has just escaped from a California zoo (which makes for awesome conversation at your funeral! Did you hear what happened to Stan, eaten by a lion in San Diego!” and the rely comes, “A lion? In san Diego? Thanks fucking awesome!”) make it count. Leave a footprint behind, and start this instnt. Okay at lunch, What the hell else do you have to do?

Jinx and Oliver on a break

Jinx and Oliver on a break

CAM00236WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. He is currently working on a new book “Shoot Down: An unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com

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A Robin Died in my Hands Today

72 degrees! My god, after better than 6 months of awful winter weather I couldn’t have wished for a more perfect day. And I love this time of year, when it warms enough to be comfortable outside, enjoying a meal on the patio of our small courtyard without being swarmed by insects. I took full advantage to put in a couple of basil and Mint plants, sweep out the leaves an organize our modest little garden.

The cats were outside, lounging strategically around the courtyard. Jinx, our black shelter cat was on one of the patios across the yard. Smudge, our ASPCA rescue kitty, who just turned 14 was sprawled across a lawn chair half in and half out of the shade. Oliver, our Maine Coon, was at the end of the yard beneath the hedges. Among the shadows and against a short brick wall Oliver’s thick coat of deep umber and wood-brown made him virtually invisible.

A neighbor, Mitchell, came over for a chat about the radio station. Mitchell is a conservative and doesn’t agree with a damn thing I say, but we’ve always been good and considerate. At heart Mitchell is a decent guy, who’d grown up an orphan during the depression, haunting the same Wicker Park corner as the writer Nelson Algren. Suddenly we hear a screeching from the back of the yard. Both of us turn to find Oliver trotting across the yard in our direction with this old Robin in his mouth.

Now the back story on that Robin is key. For more than a year now that Robin has teased and taunted Oliver in the courtyard. He would stalk it, all the while the bird was well aware of what that cat was up to. Oliver would lunge and the bird would launch at the last moment, landing a few yards away each time, at least until Oliver gave up. Just last week the wife and I were sitting on the patio watching this little game. It was plainly evident what the bird was up to. From the patio I would cajole Oliver with “Dude, you will never catch that bird.”

Three years ago I was sitting at my computer when I heard an ungodly screeching, only to look up. Sure enough Oliver had this giant black bird that had been stalking and diving on Oliver. Her was just about Two years old at the time. Standing in the patio door, Oliver had the blackbird between the wing and its body. Despite the squealing and flailing of the bird Oliver looked at me with his big golden eyes that screamed with a mixture of pride and victory.

Oliver released the bird the instant I reached down and took hold of the creature. In those moments, I’ve found, the birds become strangely docile. Seeming none the worse for wear after a cursory check of the creature I held him out the door, where he sprang from my hand and fly away.

So I was hoping for much the same as Oliver came trotting up to us with his prize gift today.

“Good boy, Oliver,” said in a firm voice reaching down to take the Robin from him. I never admonish the cats for doing what cats instinctively do, but instead affirm what they did was good, though I am always saddened for the bird. This way they always bring their catch to me to be for release or disposal. If that sounds like a contradiction, it has succeeded in saving a fair number of birds, and preventing something dead “perfuming” the courtyard or being discovered someplace in the house. And so Oliver let go just a moment before I could get hold of the bird. With that it flew half way across the yard, coming to rest in the grass, where a darting Oliver quickly cut him off.

It’s never good that a bird in that circumstance can’t take to full flight, but I was heartened with it actually became aggressive, raising its wings and charging towards Oliver for a moment. I picked up the bird, just as Oliver was poised to pounce on it once more, and felt the trickle of warm red blood aver my fingers.

“Oh, no,” I sighed, gentling turning the Robin over in my hands and cradling it there. Oliver had opened up a deep gash in the belly that I knew was fatal. The bird was now looking at me as I held it gently. Kneeling I let Oliver come beside me. The bird’s breaths were painfully deep and hard now, that final moment of defiance in the face of eternity. Then, within 8 or 10 breaths the Robin closed its eyes slowly and went limp in my hands…

WC Turck is the author of 4 books, including the critically acclaimed Bosnian War Memoir “Everything for Love,” and Broken: One soldier’s unexpected journey home, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. Turck wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart: A Revolutionary Christmas Carol” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He can be heard weekdays from 9-11am, and 1-3pm on the Revolution and Beer show with partner and cohost BL Murray.

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