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21st January
2012
posted by amber

Black Cat Bone

I had nothing but bad luck; bad luck was all I had.

Once I had a good life, but then the bad luck hit. It started with an accident at work, the vacuum punch took my hand off. A man can live without a hand, if he has to he can live without an arm, but the pain wouldn’t go away. Pain in a hand that wasn’t there. But I kept on working.

No doctor would treat my pain, other than the doctor on the street, you know who I mean. His medicine took my pain away, sure thing. But it took away my job, my wife and almost my life. I was living downtown, nearly spent, but an old woman there asked for my story and when she heard it, she said I had been cursed by someone jealous of the good life I once had.

She said I needed to get me a black cat bone.

New Orleans is the place for that kind of voodoo, so I hitched a ride and it was, Crescent City, here I am. And this is what I found – in the stores there, the price of a black cat bone was $59.99. Which naturally, I did not have.

To get by, I stole all kinds of stuff Рfood, liquor, a rain jacket someone left on their chair at Caf̩ du Monde when they went to the bathroom. But I knew it would be bad luck to steal that black cat bone.

So I decided to get my own. Plenty of cats in New Orleans. Plenty of cats who don’t make it across a street. Some of them are black. I stole a good sharp knife. But then I couldn’t do it. Every dead cat I found was already rank and I could not take the smell.

It would have to be fresh kill, so I started chasing cats. I think they understood what I was up to, so they avoided me. But there was a man down by Jackson Square with a box full of kittens. I cleaned myself up as best I could, wore the tourist’s jacket, and offered the man $4 for a black kitten.

He looked me up, he looked me down. “What you want this kitten for?” he demanded.

“I have rats and mice in my house,” I said.

“So why not get an older cat?” he asked. “These kittens won’t hunt.”

I had no answer for this, but suddenly I heard the voice of my wife, who had always wanted me to get us a kitten, but I never would. “My wife wants a kitten,” is all I said.

And so he sold me a black kitten and I carried it home. You’ve got to understand, home is a loose term. I was living then in the courtyard of an abandoned building, sneaking in through a wrought iron gate with a chain loose enough for the slim body I’d developed by not eating three square meals a day. There was a lounge chair in the courtyard for me to sleep on, and a piece of wood to make a shelter from sun or rain, a fountain for water. All the comforts.

I took my knife out of my pocket, and took that black kitten out from inside my shirt. She was sleeping and purring. I laid the knife against her leg. The leg seemed very thin. I felt her legs and found not one thick enough to provide the size of black cat bone I’d seen in the voodoo shops.

I’d have to wait until she grew bigger.

***
A year later, Noirette and I share a shotgun shack with Brenda, a woman who works at the cat shelter. You see, I had to get a job to afford food for Noirette. I started as a bus boy in a French Quarter restaurant, and soon became a waiter. I love my job, I love New Orleans, I love Brenda and I love Noirette.

Every single bone in that cat’s body has brought me luck.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

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