A Cat Named Jesus Christ
A Cat Named Jesus Christ
Weston’s eyes shot open when the loud beeping of his alarm clock yanked him out of his slumber. He was just between two beautiful nude women, neither of which resembled his ex, who he adamantly described as frumpy and bitter. He hit the snooze button and looked at the ceiling, taking in last night, waking up and what was to come. The taste of last night’s cheap, no-name Scotch resonated as a sour reminder that he needs to lay off the alcohol during the week. It was a little too quiet and he was hypnotized by his subtle headache, which was in sync with his heart. His own drum beats lulled him back to sleep. His breathing deepened and he started snoring, only to be woken up by the alarm clock, which screamed for Weston to wake up. Again, snooze. This time though, he realized he had hit snooze about five times and was running the risk of being late for his first day as a substitute teacher. Weston literally rolled himself out of bed and on to his feet. His bladder decided to remind him how full it was by giving Weston a sharp pain in his pelvis, so he hobbled to the bathroom to relieve himself.
Often times, Weston slept in the nude and last night was no different. As he urinated, he looked at himself in the mirror. He pretended to admire himself, but he couldn’t fool his reflection. With the intentions of sighing at his image, he inhaled deep, breathing in the pungent, stale vapors of last night’s vices. He coughed. He was ashamed at what he saw: Lumps of fat, patches of mussed hair and no muscle definition. A shower and a shave proved to be a quick fix; but, after a stoic stare into the mirror, his now clean body still seemed filthy inside. Weston winced at the thought and cleared his throat. All he could feel was mucous. Clearing his throat turned into coughing, and coughing finally turned into gagging. He coughed up some mucous and spit it in the sink. After taking a deep breath, he walked out of the bathroom to get dressed.
As Weston locked his front door, he looked up and noticed that the giant metal “8” that signified his apartment number was lopsided. He shrugged. Weston’s car started but needed several minutes to warm up and defrost. He sat in silence and considered the job he took on a moment’s notice. This was his first paid teaching job and the thought of doing something else gradually seemed more appealing. He imagined all the other things he could be doing with his time, but as his windows started to clear, he decided he didn’t have anywhere to go, friends to hangout with, or money to spend if he somehow could find something more interesting. It was also at this time that Weston noticed Millard. Millard lived around the apartment building that Weston rented from, but he didn’t exactly live in a unit. He was more like the neighborhood homeless man. It’s not like this was a high income area, so people pretty much expected to see vagrants and didn’t really mind them as long as they kept to themselves. Millard was friendly and never asked for a handout.
In the past on several occasions, Weston had brief, but topical and meaningless conversations with Millard. Strangely, he desired to know more about his life and how he became homeless. Despite that, Weston felt people might assume things about him if he was caught associating with Millard. This morning, Weston prevented himself from making eye contact with Millard and drove away before either could.
Millard did indeed see Weston. He half-waved, but quickly realized Weston wasn’t looking and his hand lost enthusiasm and went back to his side. Millard then approached and peered into the big dumpster behind the apartments. It was only an hour or so after dawn and he quietly looked for cans, bottles or food that someone might have thrown out the night before. His pudgy belly rolled out from under his shirt and jacket as he reached deeper into the dumpster. His pasty stomach conformed to the frigid, rusted angles of the outside of the dumpster, but Millard was more interested in what could go in his belly than what touched the outside. A smile revealed a gum filled mouth with just enough teeth to get by.
“What luck!” Millard enthusiastically grunted with an exhale through his teeth. Half of a roast beef sandwich and it was still near the top of the heap. Well, it did have a bite taken out of it, but a professional diver like Millard clearly didn’t give a shit. It couldn’t have been more than six or eight hours old. His sausage fingers pushed a pile of paper towels soaked with some mystery liquid aside and he yanked out his breakfast. He backed away from the dumpster and contemplated checking out the one across the alley, but decided he scored well enough for today. Millard figured someone else might need the contents of the other dumpster and to take it from them would be wrong. He opened the sandwich to inspect what else might be in it. He tossed aside a few scrawny pieces of wilted lettuce and a tomato that was mostly rind. Millard then dug into his pocket and pulled out a tiny squeeze packet of mayonnaise. He emptied as much of the white goop on the sandwich as he could, put it back together. Then, right there in the middle of the parking lot, at around eight in the morning with the sun showing off it’s brightness amongst the frozen air, Millard ate his breakfast.
* * *
Weston sat at the teacher’s desk, anxiously awaiting the students’ arrival. The vice principal already prepared him as much as she could for the third grade class. This was his first time teaching by himself. Weston already thumbed through the lesson plan three times. He stared at the fifteen empty desks and tapped his foot. He debated whether or not he had enough time to run to the restroom. Before he could decide, the bell finally rang and the students made their way to their seats with little hesitation. Three seats remained empty.
“Good morning,” Weston said, and then paused, giving the students a few seconds to quiet down. He glanced around the room as all eyes went on him. He continued, “I’m not sure if you’re all aware or not, but your teacher, Ms. Janoski is out sick for the rest of the week. I’m your substitute teacher. My name is Weston Karbashewsky, but you guys can call me Mr. Weston or Mr. W.”
The entire class responded in an almost perfect unison, “Hello Mr. Karbashewsky.”
“Alright, well, let’s check attendance.” Weston carefully studied the roll sheet.
“Judah?” A young boy, naturally stocky and older looking boy with red cheeks raises his hand. Weston gave him a slight smile as he checked his name off the list, but Judah refused to smile back.
“Michelle?” A hand went up.
“Bailey?” Another hand went up.
“Brian?” A short, chubby boy raised his hand.
“Andrea?” A little girl raised her hand. Weston noticed that under her desk was a fat, orange cat in a small box.
“Is that a cat?” Weston asked her, fishing for more than a yes or no answer.
“Yeah,” Andrea confidently responded.
“Why uh, why did you bring her?”
In Andrea’s most authoritative voice, she said “It’s a boy.”
“Okay, sorry, why did you bring him?” Weston asked.
“For show and tell.”
“Oh, right. Of course.” The cat meowed and a few students giggled.
“Peter?” Peter’s hand went up. Peter had dark brown hair, combed over like a small pompadour, and wore a button shirt and slacks. Beyond that, he was a fairly average looking third grader, and, while Weston was intrigued, he continued.
“Melody?” Quiet. “Jacqueline?” Nothing. “Bethany?” Still nothing. Weston scratched his head. “I notice all three of those girls have the same last name and their all absent. Is that a coincidence, or…” Suddenly, Andrea’s hand shot up. “Yes, Andrea?”
“They’re triplets… and home with the flu.”
“Thank you,” Weston said with sincerity. The cat meowed again. Weston looked back at the roll sheet and continued, “Juliana?” She immediately raised her hand.
“Shane?” A boy raised his hand. Weston looked up and noticed only one boy left. He looked at him and said, “And you must be Devon?” Devon nodded.
Weston clutched the lesson plan for a moment as all eyes remained on him. He stood up, walked to the blackboard and was about to write his name, but he realized they already knew his name. He cleared his throat and sat back down. He looked around the room and noticed the cat again.
“Show and tell is still a thing? You guys do this regularly?”
Peter, the one dressed noticeably different than the other students, piped up. “We have show and tell the first Wednesday of every month. Ms. Janoski wants us to share more about ourselves so we can learn how we are the same or unique from each other.”
Weston took a moment to realize he had been spending too much time with his friends. He reassessed the way he wanted to speak with the children.
“Alright class… uh, why don’t we start with show and tell?” Most of the children seemed to smile. As Weston continued, he recalled from his assistant teaching internship nearly a year ago that as a teacher, he needs to continue talking and lead the class, or he will lose control. “Andrea, right? With the cat?” She nodded. “Why don’t you go first?” She carefully took her cat out of the carrier. Her hands had disappeared in his fluffy, orange fur and chubby frame as she made her way to the front of the classroom.
“Meow,” the cat cried as it looked around the room, as if taking in the situation of twelve strangers staring at him, naked. Andrea kept her grip on him, not allowing him to get too nervous. He found solace in some kind of bird activity outside of the window, daydreaming of chasing them later, should he find the energy amidst his lethargic lifestyle.
It wasn’t until she started to speak without hesitation that Weston realized Andrea had a slight twang in her voice. “This is my cat. My mom says he’s just a tabby. We found him in the alley behind our house when he was a kitten. He had a brother that looked just like him, but he was dead when we found him. My mom says he was a miracle to be alive, so I named him Jesus Christ.”
Peter’s mouth opened as his eyes widened and his hand shot up. Andrea looked to Weston. Weston told her, “You have the floor, Andrea, you answer their questions.”
“Peter?” Andrea said with anticipation.
Peter threw his attention to Weston. “She can’t name her cat that. It’s disrespectful.”
Andrea frowned at Peter. “I can name him what I want, it’s a free country!”
Other students started taking sides and chiming in.
“No one’s allowed to be named after God!”
“It’s just a cat, who cares?”
“You’re all so stupid!”
“Our gardener is named Jesus and he’s allowed to have his name!”
“You’re an idiot!”
Weston could no longer decipher who was saying what and decided it had escalated too far. He wasn’t even ten minutes into his first day on the job and he was letting a riot incite. The only thing he noticed before taking action was Judah, staring at him the entire time. Weston shook that thought and focused on the ensuing chaos. “Enough! Enough!” Weston yelled! The students quickly ended their bickering. He tried to think of a blanketed statement that would quell everyone’s worries over the issue. “Look, it’s just a name, and names are sounds and they only carry the meaning that you want it to have.” He looked around the room. “Do you all understand?” No one said anything, but a few students nodded their heads.
Brian, the chubby child, ever so elegantly raised his hand. Weston saw him and looked over to him, “Uhm, Brian was it?”
“Yes Mr. Karbashewsky…” Brian said as his arm started to flow back down to his desk.
Weston interrupted before Brian could continue, “Please, Weston.”
“No, my name is Brian.”
“I know. You can call me Weston. You don’t need to call me Mr. Karbashewsky. No one calls me that. Alright?”
“Yes, Mr. Weston.” Brian said with a hint of shame.
“What was your question, Brian?”
“Are we going to get in trouble for arguing?”
A bunch of students tried to shush Brian, as if bringing that to his attention was so taboo.
“That’s a good question. Let me ask you guys this first, if Ms. Janoski was here, would she punish you?”
“We might get extra homework or a blue slip,” Peter piped up.
“Okay…” Weston said, waiting for everyone to give him their attention. “No one is going to get in trouble. This started over a valid question and everyone got to speak their mind. Speaking your mind is something that you’re allowed to do. It’s important for us to take that initiative and not let other people walk all over us, but we don’t want to let it get out of hand and resort to name calling. Right?”
“Yes Mr. Weston.” Most of the students said in half-assed unison.
Weston grabbed the lesson plan and thumbed to the first page. “Let’s take a look at your homework, shall we? It looks like you were studying greater than, less than and equal to,” Weston held up a paper and continued, “Do you guys have this work sheet?”
The students all pulled their homework out. Weston stood at the blackboard and answered questions and explained the math concepts to his class.
* * *
It was now late morning and Millard was back near Weston’s apartment. He was across the street, sitting on the sidewalk, out of sight from the rest of the busy city. He had dirty pad of paper and a pen that was slowly running out of ink. He looked around him, and then glanced at the apartment. The apartment, the street, the sidewalk, the trees; it all made him think of Weston. He actually felt grateful and wrote a poem expressing that.
I may be a man, but I’m an ant
In a machine so big, it’s collapsing
For, I am a man of little want
And I see the structure relapsing.
Millard re-read it several times and decided he didn’t care for it. He stopped and scribbled it out. He turned the paper over and wrote something else instead. The overwhelming sounds of life – birds, an occasional car, people chatting in the distance, the wind dragging some leaves – were very pleasing to Millard. He wrote all the thoughts that he could assemble to express a sense of balance that he appreciated and wanted to share it with someone. He stood up, left his basket behind and started to walk across the street with the intention of delivering his chicken scratch it to mailbox number eight. He even wrote a giant number eight on the one clean spot, so that Weston would know it was intended for him.
Millard, an aged man in his early sixties, wasn’t as spry as he used to be. His walk was more like a wobble, especially when he didn’t use his cart to hold on to. He was so focused on delivering his message that he didn’t notice a car with disruptive colors down the street run the stop sign and zip through the neighborhood. At the time, no one was sure why the young man poorly driving his vehicle didn’t see Millard, but he didn’t. Millard flew about fourteen feet and the driver of course left before anyone could call the police and accurately describe the car. Millard knew he probably wasn’t going to walk again. Breathing became harder and harder. All Millard could really think is that he was tired. In his mind, he closed his eyes and that was it.
* * *
Bang! The sound of what could arguably be gunfire woke Weston up with a jolt. Instinctively, he wiped his mouth – no drool. He looked around, and he realized he was still at school. He was still waking up and was not aware of all the sensory around him quite yet. The class was empty. He looked outside and saw children and teachers running and screaming.
Bang! Another gunshot. This time it was unmistakable. He stood up in a panic and tried to consider what he should do. Bang! One of the windows shattered. The door flung open and Peter, chubby Brian, Andrea and her fat cat flew through the door. Weston looked at them.
“Close it! Close the door!” Weston demanded. Peter closed the door. “Come here, and stay low to the ground.” Weston continued, still in a panic. The students crouched and walked to the front of the class near him.
“What the hell happened?” Weston asked them.
“He pulled out a gun and he started shooting!”
The classroom door flung open and Judah, the quiet boy, stood there, holding a rifle. He kept it pointed at Weston. Weston tried to get the kids to stand behind him, but he could not act fast enough. Brian fell down, face first and a gaping wound from the back of his head. Weston had no time to react before the next shot. Bang! Andrea was shot in the chest and fell backwards, dead. Jesus Christ, the cat started running around the class room, clearly scared of the pandemonium. Bang! Judah missed. Bang! Missed again. Weston pulled Peter behind his desk. He noticed that Peter’s leg was hit and he was losing blood fast. He used his belt to try and stop the bleeding from Peter’s leg. Jesus Christ ended up on top of the teacher’s desk. Bang! Various cat remnants flew over the desk and landed on the wall, on the floor and on top of Weston and Peter.
With unhinged courage and no real plan, Weston, now covered in cat guts and Peter’s blood, stood up. Judah aimed his gun at him. Click. Judah turned to run as Weston started charging him. It only took Judah a moment to get out of the classroom door and slam it shut. The slam from the door was louder than a gunshot. Weston opened his eyes to find himself back on the desk, head on his arm and drool spilling out of his mouth. He wiped his mouth and sat upright, looking at who really slammed the door. It was Andrea, holding Jesus Christ in one hand, a brown bag in the other. She approached Weston.
Weston yawned and rubbed his eyes. “Wait a minute. Is it still lunch hour?”
‘Yes,” she responded.
“And where’s Judah?”
“I don’t know, probably playing Harry Potter with Shane and some of the fourth graders.”
“Oh. Okay, sorry, what did you want to ask?”
“Can Jesus and I have lunch with you in here?”
“Sure,” Weston said.
“Were you sleeping?” She asked.
“Yeah, I had a long night last night.”
“My mom says you can get sick and die if you don’t get enough sleep.”
“Well, I don’t know if you can die from it, but yeah, I will get enough sleep the rest of the week. I promise.”
“Good, I don’t want you to die.”
Weston curiously looked at her for a moment before replying, “Thanks.”
Andrea carefully placed Jesus Christ back in his pet carrier and sat down at her desk. She took out her lunch and started to eat.
“Where’s your lunch, Mr. Weston?”
“I uh, I forgot. This is still new to me.”
“Do you want my sandwich? Its bologna, but I told my mom I want to be a veterinarian.”
Weston chuckled. He accepted the sandwich and the two of them ate and chatted until the bell rang.
* * *
It was around four-o-clock when Weston finally returned home. The coroner had just loaded the body in the car and there were still two police officers taking statements. Weston approached one of the officers and asked what happened. After being informed, Weston slowly walked to the mailbox to check his mail. The wind picked up and he felt something hit his shoe. It was the crumpled piece of paper that had “8” written on it. He picked up the decrepit document and opened it. He stood there for almost five minutes, reading it over several times.
Number Eight: Thank you for the friendship. You treated me like a person and I will never forget that. You’re a good person and you deserve good things in this life. –M.P.B.
Weston re-approached the officer.
“Sir, excuse me…” Weston said.
The officer turned around and looked him.
“Yes?” the officer asked.
“What was his name?”
“Millard. No last name that we could find yet.”
Weston walked upstairs to his apartment. He sat down and stared at his marijuana pipe and the near empty bottle of scotch that was left out from last night. He was silent and had no thought of taking a drink or lighting up his weed. His television stayed off, and he left his phone in his pocket. He didn’t even notice the muted sounds of the baby crying from the downstairs neighbors' apartment as he thought about Millard, and then later about Andrea and the connection he had with both. After what seemed like an hour, Weston felt a bit lighter inside; and, with the most genuine of muscle movements, he smiled.
Note from the author:
First draft of this short story I've been working on for a month. It's an amalgamation of inner thoughts and recent events in the world. Any and all criticism accepted - really. I don't care if you hated it, tell me why!
Also, as I said, this is a first draft, so there may be some grammatical and spelling errors in there.
Update 1/17/2013 - Fixed a noticeable grammatical error and altered the last paragraph significantly to suit the ending I had in my head better.
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