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The Manic Nine Lives of Mr. Jives

An epic-length storypoem about a bored housecat

By Jason HauserPublished 2 years ago Updated about a year ago 15 min read
3
Color artwork by Olivia Junghans

“Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland,

Beasts of every land and clime,

Hearken well and spread my tidings

Of the golden future time.”

― George Orwell, Animal Farm

***

Mr. Jives was a cat who liked to lounge on a bed,

licking his paws and rubbing his head.

*

He spent most of his days sleeping and snoozing

—sometimes stretching,

infrequently fetching—

usually curled in a place of his own choosing.

By Kate Stone Matheson on Unsplash

He had a grand life, no doubt about that,

and his owners fancied him a fantastic fat cat.

*

“Such a pretty, pretty boy,” they'd proclaim.

“Pretty,” thought Jives, “is my middle name!”

*

But despite all the praise and pampering, love and attention,

Mr. Jives had a secret, unsafe ambition

and that was to explore the world outside

where the wildest things liked to reside

in a limitless land of endless delights,

savory scents and spectacular sights,

such as the trees that he knew others could climb,

but not him, no; he was strictly an indoor feline.

*

But that never stopped him from propping by a pane

to watch the seasons of sunshine and rain.

*

Blustery winter brought snow and ice;

springtime summoned blossoms and life.

*

Summer rolled in like a scorching fire,

followed by his favorite, autumn’s attire,

that of brilliant red and gold leaves,

twitching and drifting in a calm, crisp breeze.

By Nadja Zehe on Unsplash

But he felt an urge to zip out that door

and gloriously surge outside and explore,

to leave behind his food bowl and throne,

saying, “Goodbye, masters, I’ve enjoyed your home,

but it’s time for THIS cat to turn a new stone!”

*

But they never left the door ajar

so Mr. Jives only stared at it from afar.

*

On occasion when he tried to slink past their guard

they would block his escape with a foot rather hard,

saying, “Oh no, it’s too dangerous out there Mr. Jives!

Don’t you know that cats only have nine lives?”

*

“Nine lives, what?” he’d scoff. “Oh don’t be silly!

Are you serious about that! What? REALLY?

*

I just want to see the wonders beyond.

The trees. The grass. That yummy fish pond!”

*

But his owners stubbornly refused an excursion,

so Mr. Jives began to plot a diversion

to allow him the freedom he so feverishly craved

in a world outside impressively paved

with a million things he wanted to experience,

all waiting patiently for his frisky interference.

*

His opportunity finally came one dawn

when the sleepy mailman arrived with a yawn.

By Joel Moysuh on Unsplash

Mr. Jives enacted his plan snippety-snap

and raced to the foyer, zippety-zap.

*

He immediately pretended to not care about mail,

but inside was thinking, “MY PLAN MUST NOT FAIL!”

*

The mailman departed and he heard the Woman say,

“Honey, the mail is here, can you check it today?"

*

Mr. Jives tensed his claws and licked his lips.

The Man carried coffee, taking small sips.

*

All he needed was a brief distraction,

but wasn’t sure of his Master’s reaction.

*

The door opened a sliver, barely enough,

and Jives knocked over a plant as a bluff

and it crashed to the floor, an awful sound,

and the Man, surprised, twirled around.

*

In the confusion Jives flew to the crack,

past the man’s feet and behind his back,

scrambling madly into unknown terrain,

hopped a fence, vaulted a drain,

darted past a bush of thorny roses,

leapt over coiled water hoses

and then he was FREE, out and alone

and he stopped to gasp and look back home.

The Man didn’t notice and took the mail from the slot,

and Jives watched the door close and clickety – clack – LOCK.

*

That was it! Done! His dream fully realized!

A chance to indulge in a world finally resized.

But just where to start? How to begin?

Like a buffet of choices bin after bin,

from scouting the coy pond and the fish in repose

to sniffing sweet flowers the hues of rainbows,

or he could scratch his claws on that mossy stump

or scoot across pinecones for that itch on his rump.

By frank green on Unsplash

Trees rose around him in a cathedral of green;

birds twittered and tweeted and flitted between

the branches of high, heavenly places.

He could barely conceive of such lush, lofty spaces.

*

Sights and smells overwhelmed his senses,

the never-before-seen stuff beyond the fences,

a mix of bird droppings and cracked squirrel nuts;

mossy tree bark and squat mushrooms like huts.

By Florian van Duyn on Unsplash

The entire world out here was alive and reeling

and Mr. Jives cherished that special feeling.

*

But he hardly had time to enjoy this new world

for through the bushes something whirled,

a big dopey dog with mangy hair,

a dour demeanor and sullen stare.

*

Now, Mr. Jives knew all about dogs for he’d actually seen many,

such as the neighbor’s boorish babe, a prissy poodle named Penny.

*

But this was not a poodle and not a pug,

no flat-faced thing with a mopey mug.

*

“Now who is this?” growled the dog, its voice rather rough,

and Jives could tell from its tone that this fellow was tough.

*

“Uh…just a kitty cat, sir, Mr. Jives is my name,”

and he puffed out his chest hoping to look less tame.

*

“Ooh, I love cats,” said the dog, “the indoor kind.

They're so plump…so soft….so fun to find.

*

Slow as well, quite easy to catch,

not accustomed to sprinting a stretch!”

*

Well, Mr. Jives didn’t like the direction this was taking.

In fact, it was unpleasant and actually making

his little heart THUMP THUMP in his chest

as the dog crept closer, a canine pest

gearing up for the impending pursuit

after a kitty escaped on a very rare route.

*

“Now, now wait a minute, dog, shouldn't we talk this over?”

but the dog didn't want further discourse or disclosure

and it leapt at Jives with a harsh snarl and “WOOF !”

and Jives shot skyward as if hitting the roof.

Slobbery jaws clamped shut right beneath his tail

and Jives hit the ground running, tearing up the trail,

thinking, “What did they say about me having nine lives?”

while staring at a mouth full of teeth like knives.

*

But it was gone. Kaput. His first life wiped off the slate.

Regarding future lives, Mr. Jives now only had eight.

*

And then the chase was afoot, or rather a – pawed,

and for the sake of Jives' lives, he was pretty appalled!

*

“Seriously, this is happening? Not some awful dream?”

But he didn’t dare halt and let their talk reconvene.

*

He blundered down a bank, through a tangle of trees,

the dog thrashing behind him, its bark a bad breeze.

*

“Run all you want you purrrrrrrty kitty!

When I catch up, you won’t be so pretty!”

They surged into a wide open field,

but the dog did not slow down or yield,

and instead it drew closer, jaws yapping and snapping,

but then Jives heard a new sound – that of wings flapping!

*

Needle sharp pain suddenly pinched at his neck

and then up he flew, the dog shrinking to a speck.

*

Twisting and turning to gape and gawk,

he saw himself in the grip of a hawk.

*

“Oh boy, you’re a heavy one,” the big bird muttered.

“With your bones in my nest it'll surely get cluttered!”

*

“What a horrible day!” cried the cat,

trying not to think about death and all that.

*

The field dropped away and the dog grew smaller,

but a forest loomed ahead ever lusher and taller.

*

“Ya know,” said the hawk, continuing the conversation,

“long since we had cat – caused quite the sensation.

*

Oh, my babies will love you, so I better bustle.

That's what they need, plenty o' fat and muscle!”

Mr. Jives thrashed, bucked, the hawk lost its grip,

and unavoidable now, he started to slip.

*

“There’s no way you're taking me to kitty cat heaven!”

but while dropping away his lives sank swiftly to seven.

He was in free-fall over a rising forest,

his odds to recover rather the poorest,

but then he hit the upper leaves and lashed out his claws,

bouncing and bumping like a machine of pinballs.

*

The hawk overhead screeched in frustration.

The dog in the distance barked with stupid elation.

*

Jives snagged a claw on the last dangling limb,

glancing down at the water beneath him,

a ribbon of river snaking below,

but then the branch where he clung with one tippy-toe

began to bend and quiver,

quake, shake and shiver.

*

“Awww,” groaned Jives, “is this some joke?”

And then with a crunch it abruptly broke.

*

Jives shrieked and took that plunge,

bobbing up like a sodden sponge,

and managed to grab a floating log

that he miserably shared with a curious frog

as the river carried him deeper and deeper into the wood

and further away from his only known neighborhood.

The log finally bumped into a muddy brown bank

in a new place very silent, dismal, and dank.

*

His original nine lives were whittled down to six,

and as far as he knew he was still stuck in the sticks

with little hope of getting home in one piece

and escaping this nightmare that just wouldn’t cease.

*

“Oh, goodness, my fur is so very tangled.

I'm covered in mud. My image is mangled!”

*

He grumpily set off, not knowing where he was going,

but soon heard a sound quickly growing

louder and louder by the second.

“That must be a road," he reckoned.

By Ruben Mishchuk on Unsplash

Oh, praise be to the Queen Mother of Mice!

Something happened that’s rather nice!”

*

He hoped to find his people before the night,

but rushed out before looking left or right

and an automobile zipped right past his nose

and he spun about dazed in dizzying throes.

*

He tried crossing again, this game of roulette,

another car whipping by as fast as a jet.

*

He dodged a third vehicle right at the curve,

but the cat in the road made the car swerve

right into the woods with a horrendous SMAAAAASH!!

“Oh my,” he sighed. “Did I just cause that to crash?”

Regardless, he knew he was lucky to be alive,

but his tally of lives had dipped down to FIVE.

*

He crept to the wreck and saw wheels spinning.

The driver crawled out, definitely not grinning,

and when he heard Mr. Jives with his timid, “Meeoow?”

he yelled, “OH, you dumb cat! Get outta here now!”

*

Mr. Jives scampered to the other side of the street,

He had to find rest, some safe place to retreat,

at least for a while to take a short nap,

then continue on through this crazy trap.

*

He curled into a ball on a dry nest of nettles,

dreaming of their kitchen and hot cooking kettles

and how great it would be to snooze in that heat,

his fur finally dry from his tail to his feet.

*

He eventually got hot during all that dreaming

and woke with a jolt to discover the meaning.

*

Flames and smoke surrounded his nest;

he wasn’t about to get any more rest.

*

He wondered what happened, maybe a spark from that car,

maybe a match from a window that tumbled too far.

In serious trouble from the flames all around,

he gathered himself for a pounce and a bound

and flew over the crackling fire

that ruffled his fur like heat from a dryer.

As soot wafted from his coat and he stank even more

his reserve of kitty-cat lives dwindled duly to four.

In the distance he heard wailing ambulances

and thought that under these circumstances

he would never EVER make it back home

and be forever doomed to wander and roam.

*

Sunlight continued to slide through the canopy,

reminding him that nightfall would arrive uncannily

and he'd still be stuck in this foreign environment

where things were planning his early retirement.

*

Not too long afterward he heard churning gears,

picked up his pace and perked up his ears

for people usually manned such machines,

and he was going to reach them by any means!

*

He found himself at the base of an embankment

with large vehicles atop roped off for containment.

*

He started to climb up, hoping someone would have pity

and maybe approach him with a kindly, “Oh you poor kitty!”

*

But he'd only gotten halfway up the jumbled slope

when he saw the rear end of a big truck lope

over the lip of the hill he'd just been climbing,

and Mr. Jives paused, appalled by the timing

of the vehicle about to unleash its cargo

to bounce down the hill all in one go.

*

The truck tilted back and unloaded cut timber

and Jives proved he was still loose and limber,

exploding faster than a match to gasoline

he launched up as if from a trampoline,

jumping and dodging, ducking, squeezing,

he twisted between logs, winded, wheezing.

Dust blinded his eyes and grit filled the air,

but still he kept moving, he didn’t care,

or he’d just get smashed to messy kitty cat pulp

instead of drowned in a river or gobbled in a gulp.

*

He finally, miraculously, cleared the debris

and slumped exhausted against a dead tree

and considered this escape his most fortuitous,

but as for his nine lives, after all of that gratuitous

running and jumping and dodging and bending

he was pretty sure that TWO lives were now ending!

After a while he hobbled away

as sundown signaled the end of the day.

*

Shadows shifted closer with a long, slow stride

coiling in corners as vipers might hide,

settling in for a deep, dark, night,

with Jives frantically fussing about his plight.

*

He was also terribly hungry and his strength all done.

If something awful were to happen he was too weak to run.

*

So when the bushes rustled and something stepped forth from the thick,

Mr. Jives raised his paws in defeat and said, “Oh, please, just kill me quick.”

*

It was hard to see clearly in the deepening gloom,

then the critter stepped closer – a rascally raccoon.

But something wasn't right. The raccoon was muttering.

Its left eye twitched. Its right paw was puttering.

“Uh...are you sick?” asked Jives and took a step back.

The raccoon grunted and slid forth from the black.

*

“Define ‘sick’ m-m-m-my feline friend.

Is life sickest at the beginning...or right at the end?

Did you ever glimpse the madness of the moon?

Do you join her later.....or j-j-join her soon?

Oh, I know how it feels to be a little...Hoo! ...CRAZY.

When the brain don't work so well, your thoughts all HAZY.”

By Ganapathy Kumar on Unsplash

The raccoon inched closer and Jives shied away,

suspecting this guy didn't have all his marbles in play.

*

“Ah, well, that is interesting raccoon, I have to agree.

Thanks for those insights. You're far keener than me!

But I don’t really have time for philosophical debate.

See, I’ve had a bad day, and not feeling so great.

I think I might mosey along and look for my Masters.

Running around here, I’m inviting disasters."

*

The raccoon leaned closer, chattering sharp teeth,

and in its eyes Jives spotted the madness beneath.

“Ah... then run away if you can to infinity.

Escape--if you dare-- your final destiny.

For myself, for me....oh, it is far too late.

The end is nigh. It is coming! My fate!

Leave then, house cat, there is a place just yonder.

Perhaps from there you did unwisely wander.”

*

Mr. Jives' eyes widened, hardly believing the news.

A house lay through the bushes, and hopefully no ruse!

*

He nodded goodbye to the weirdo raccoon,

glad to get away from that batty buffoon

without a scratch, scrape, scrap or a scuffle,

no tumbling, tangling, a tug or a tussle.

*

Perhaps like it, Jives thought, he lived his last chance,

clinging to life only by the seat of his pants.

There were no more other lives to spare.

No more escapes, and no one to care.

*

But as luck would have it when he pressed through the trees

he was delighted by a sight that weakened his knees,

for it was his HOME just as he'd left it that dawn.

The same front door, same windows, same lawn.

*

And his owners were out there calling his name!

“Mr. Jives! Mr. Jives! This isn't some game!”

*

Before something else could do him harm

he raced forward quickly to their alarm,

and OH how they coddled him and praised his return,

but then scolded him for causing such awful concern!

*

They cleaned the mud from his coat and the dirt from his claws.

They combed out the briars and dry brushed his paws.

They cooked him dinner, fresh salmon steak,

and Jives devoured it all without taking a break.

*

After supper he curled on the living room rug,

feeling his droopy eyelids beginning to tug.

*

Purring and purring, he let his breath fall and rise

and he gratefully, safely, closed his slit eyes

and promised that he would never, never leave home again.

Outside life might be for others...but it just wasn't for HIM.

THE END

Glossary of Definitions

(for Littler People and Bigger People too)

Ambition: (n) personal drive to accomplish something

Appalled: (v) offended, disgusted

Attire: (n) fine or formal clothing

Bin: (n) container

Blanched: (v) grow pale from shock, fear

Blundered: (v) move or act clumsily

Boorish: (adj) rough and bad mannered

Buffoon: (n) a fool; an idiot

Bustle: (v) move in an energetic or noisy manner.

Canopy: (n) covering of trees and leaves in a forest

Cherished: (v) to hold something dear

Coddled: (v) to treat gently

Demeanor: (n) outward behavior or bearing.

Disclosure: (n) a fact, especially a secret, that is made known

Discourse: (n) spoken communication or debate

Disdain (n) unworthy of consideration or respect; contempt

Disembarked: (v) leave a ship or vehicle

Diversion: (n) to distract someone's attention

Dour: (adj) stern, or gloomy in manner or appearance

Duly: (adv) following proper procedure; as expected

Elation: (v) excitement

Embankment: (n) a mound of earth or stone

Excursion: (n) a short journey or trip

Fancied: (v) regarded

Fortuitous: (v) fortunate

Fret: (v) be constantly or visibly worried or anxious

Ghastly: (adj) frightful or macabre

Girth: (n) width, size

Gratuitous: (adj) uncalled for; excessive

Grimace: (n) an ugly, twisted expression on a person's face

Impending: (v) about to happen

Kaput: (adj) no longer working or effective

Indulge: (v) allow oneself to enjoy the pleasure of

Inhospitable: (adj) unsafe or not pleasant

Lest (conj): to avoid the risk of

Lusher: (adj) (of vegetation, plants, etc.) luxuriant; succulent; tender and juicy

Malice: (n) meanness

Manic: (adj) wild excitement and energy

Nigh: (adv) near in space, time, or relation

Pampering: (v) to gently take care of

Pane: (n) a single sheet of glass in a window or door

Parched: (v) to make extremely thirsty

Philosophical: (adj) related to investigation of truths, being, knowledge, or conduct

Plight: (n) bad situation

Prevail: (v) succeed, win

Proclaim: (v) announce

Reconvene: (n) continue

Reeling: (v) lurching, swaying

Relished: (v) enjoy greatly

Repose: (n) a state of rest, sleep, or tranquility

Reprieve : (n) relief

Reside: (v) live, dwell

Roulette: (n) a gambling game of chance

Ruse: (n) a trick; deception

Savory: (adj) smells or tastes yummy

Shied: (v) to start back or aside, as in fear

Solemnly: (adj) gravely or serious

Sullen: (adj) bad-tempered and sulky; gloomy

Uncannily: (adj) eerily

Thanks for reading!!! If you enjoyed, please heart and subscribe or even throw me a small tip :) Also, it is hard to see, but the clock in the splash image is set to 9, representing his full 9 lives, and the clock at the end is set to 1, his only life left. I paid an artist some years back for the pieces, and while good, much more art is needed, so I would ideally want to have the whole story reimagined.

surreal poetry
3

About the Creator

Jason Hauser

I am a writer, artist and poet from North Carolina. I recently self published a children's/YA book called Harold and the Dreadful Dreams. You can learn more about it at my blog https://jmhauser.com, as well as other projects.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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