Sunday, January 10, 2016

The drifter, 
the cat,
and Santa Claus 

A drifter crackles through the brush
comes down from the railroad tracks 
and the wild swirling velvet blue midnight sky, down
through trees and lit yellow windows in the trees
to a red fireside, and one black cat, sitting alone
with a cup of - also black - coffee.

The drifter - seeing all these colors and
not even drunk yet, or for five years - 
has another vision: gleaming green glitters
like limes in outer space; the eyes of the cat!

"Coffee?" asks the cat, friendly, calm and
not necessarily in charge.

"Yes, I'd love a cup," says the drifter, near the fire now,
in a sort of crouch, waiting for the cat to invite him
to sit. The cat twitches her white whiskers, easy
to see across her lush black coat, and the drifter drifts
down onto the ground, stares into the fire, not sure
how to start the conversation.

"So," he says, "you're a talking cat? Like in the movies?"

"Yeah, I am. What do you want me to do? This is who
I am. Sorry, I'm being defensive. By the way, 
you seem worried about something."

"A little blue. Another Christmas over, a new year tonight,
in an hour … same thing over and over, what does it
all lead to?" asks the drifter.

"I know, I'm in my 7th life. It used to bother me, too. Then,
I got philosophic. Or is it philosophical?"

"Yeah, that sounds better. Philosophical."

"In my 5th life, I got philosophical. Before, I was worried
all the time about if there was a 10th life; what was there
after 9 lives, etc., etc. I started drinking."

The drifter's eyes get big in the firelight. "You too?"

"Yes. I got up to ten sometimes twelve bowls a day."

"Then you got philosophical."

"Yes. And moved out here. Beautiful here, isn't it?"

The drifter and the cat look up through the trees;
glowing silvery trunks around the fire, black branches
up high, clawing for the stars. They hear something.
Crackling, like the drifter, before; crunching footsteps
and then - wheels … squeaking.

The cat and the drifter look at each other with question
marks over their heads, which mingle in with campfire
smoke, then drift up, and away.

A bright red moves in the black branches and black night
getting closer; the drifter and the cat see it coming, but
as it's rolling side to side rather than advancing aggressively,
they aren't scared. But they keep their eyes on the red
moving in the trees, and as it comes near the fire
they see two gold circles, glass circles reflecting the flames,
and a white beard.

They see it's Santa Claus, and he's pulling a little red wagon
full of Two Buck Chuck.

Santa pulls the wagon of wine into the opening
and warms his hands by the fire.

"Hi Santa Claus," says the drifter.

"Oh, so you believe in Santa Claus?" asks Santa.

"I'm talking to a cat aren't I?" says the drifter. "No offense," 
he adds, making eye contact with the cat.

"None taken," says the cat.

"Just like in the movies, eh?" says Santa Claus. The cat rolls
her lime eyes like a couple of gin and tonics, which neither she
nor the drifter will drink this evening.

"That's what I said!" says the drifter.

"Coffee?" asks the cat, changing the subject. Santa Claus
squats down into a sort of lotus position, his big black boots
resting on either knee, and something rips in his red suit.

"No, thank you. I'm gonna get into some of the red wine.
Can I interest you two?" Santa reaches into the little red wagon
for a bottle, and pops a cork.

"No thanks, we both quit," says the drifter, the cat nods.

"Oh, I see," says Santa. "Were you addicted?"

"Does Santa have reindeer?" says the cat, with a
twitching in her whiskers. "Hey, since you're here
do you?"

"Yes, but not tonight. They're resting in the hay. So,
what are you two discussing?" The cat and and the drifter
look at each other, the cat answers.

"I suppose something like the meaning of life, Santa.
This drifter just joined me and said he's wondering
what New Year's Eve is supposed to mean; what
another year means except - just another year. That
kind of discussion."

"Yes, I understand," says Santa. "And I know what it is.
The meaning of life."

"Tell us, please," says the cat, her head on her paws.

"There's no meaning, so relax. Next time this comes up,
try to think of something funny, then - laugh."

Santa Claus is looking at the drifter when he says this, but
they each sense something in their peripheral night vision;
something green and sparkling - the cat's eyes. "You must 
have more to tell us, Santa!" she says. She sees he does.

"Yes, my cat, I do. Sleep deeply. Dream in color.
Eat well, eat richly, cheaply and maybe less animals.
I've been eating Japanese food for, I don't know,
about 100 years. Oh my, no - longer. Sushi was around eight
centuries before I started working, but I didn't catch on,
not right away. But eat deliciously, slowly. Then,
try to see things differently every day. Every hour even. 
Make some creative, benevolent trouble every chance you get, 
most of all
stop being so goddamn fucking unkind to yourself
and everyone else." 

Santa is done, takes a drink of Two Buck Chuck,
burps, and the cat and the drifter start laughing.

"I didn't know Santa Claus used those words," says the cat,

Red wine, red suit, red face; Santa Claus is laughing!

"Ho, ho, ho hell-yes I do, my new but permanent
friends! I mean it, and I'm trying to get your attention!"

"You did!" says the cat.

BANG, splash! The moon is out and full,
but someone's New Year's Eve fireworks
Van Gogh-sunflower the sky above the trees.

"So did that!" says the drifter.

"Let's bed down and talk more in the morning, ok?"
says Santa Claus. "Sweet dreams. And remember - color."

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