Copyright © 2011 Postino
It’s true I’ve been off my medication for a few months. I just didn’t feel like myself when I was taking it. It makes my brain fuzzy, and I need to be sharp to keep up with Hester.
Hester is my cat. Or maybe it’s more proper that I’m her human. She's a black cat, inky black, with gold eyes. She talks, amazing as that sounds. She's the reason I put the poison in the Halloween candy. She told me to do it, because she told me what the neighbors were saying about me, and the way to get back at them was through their children. Their kids sometimes taunt me. When they see me they call me crazy.
Hester came to me one day a few months ago. I was sitting on the back porch thinking I should mow the lawn when Hester came stalking through the tall grass. I think she was after a mouse or a bird. She saw me and came to me when I called out “kitty.” She didn't have a collar, so I figured her to be a stray. She wasn’t shy and didn’t run from me. I thought she could be someone’s lost pet. I didn’t have any cat food in the house. We don't have a cat — or a dog or a canary, either, for that matter — but I found some baked chicken I was planning to put on a sandwich, and I shared it with her. She was very hungry. She left but came back the next day. I found some canned chicken in the pantry and gave her some, along with some half-and-half from the fridge.
This went on for a week or more. I didn’t tell my wife, Ellen, about the cat. She hates cats. But Ellen, she’s a good woman. She works hard you know. I haven’t worked in a couple of years. It’s the bad economy. We get by because Ellen works two jobs, so she isn't home except to sleep, and I’m home alone watching the television. Or at least I watched television until Hester told me the neighbors were using their satellite dishes to spy on me through the TV.
I mentioned Hester told me to put the poison in the candy. I see your looks of disbelief and the glances you’re giving each other. Cops. You think everyone is guilty. Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? What I'm telling you is the truth and I can prove it when Hester gets here. Anyway, I was calling her Kitty. “Here, Kitty, come get your chicken.” I'd keep up a stream of conversation telling her she was a good kitty, a pretty kitty.
Shortly after she first came to me she looked up from her chicken dinner and said, “Don't call me Kitty. My name is Hester.” I tell you, I about fell off my chair. And you have those looks again, but she said it to me, and she said it in a female voice. She told me why her name was Hester. She said, “It was my name when I was a woman. I died and since then I've been through many bodies, both animal and human. This is just my latest.” Flabbergasted. I was flabbergasted.
She told me her story: “Centuries ago in Salem I was a witch. They put me on trial, found me guilty of witchcraft, tied me to a stake and burned me. That wasn't enough. They hanged me, too. But I cheated them. Before I died I used a spell to send my soul out of my body. At that very moment a dog in a nearby barn was having puppies and my soul ended up in one of the pups. The stories I could tell about my many lives! I don't have a choice into what species I'm born. Like this cat. I would never choose to be a house cat, small and weak.”
What a coincidence! Just a few days before I'd been watching a show on the History Channel about witches in Massachusetts, and witches’ familiars are black cats.
Hester left and I had all night to think about what she had said. It made some kind of sense to me. I’m not a religious person but I’ve sometimes had the feeling I might have been someone else in a prior life. When I’m not on meds, that is. When I’m on meds I don't even feel I’m in this body.
Remember, my wife didn’t know about Hester. After Ellen ate the poisoned candy I told her, but I don’t think she was in any shape to understand. I told Ellen it wasn’t my fault, but Hester’s. I'm sorry Ellen is so sick, and in the hospital, but I didn’t intend that. After all, she's been my wife for over thirty years and what will I do if she dies?
Hester told me, “You should hear what your neighbors are saying about you.” She told me since she met me she had been going through the neighborhood, from house to house. People say all kinds of things in front of her. They don't think a cat can understand them. So Hester said she’d heard things they said, that I acted like a crazy person, yelling at their kids. They said I was lazy and off my rocker, letting my poor Ellen work night and day while I sat home on my ass. They could watch me in my house through my TV. That spooked me plenty. When they weren't watching me inside they were watching me when I’d go outside. My next door neighbor told someone she could see me from her kitchen window, in my yard talking to myself. Obviously I was talking to Hester, and why she couldn’t see the cat I don't know. Another neighbor said she’d seen me in the store and I was unshaven, had on an inside-out t-shirt and when she said hello I just brushed on by. She even said I smelled bad, like I wasn't taking care of my personal hygiene. That could be true. I don’t remember the last time I took a shower. I don’t remember seeing my neighbor in the store, but it’s always possible I was thinking about something else and just didn’t notice her. I think a lot of things, and sometimes they’re all jumbled in my brain. I don’t always notice people. She’s the one I think told you she saw me buying rat poison. She could have spread that malicious story amongst the neighbors. That could be why the neighborhood bitches gossip about me, saying they think I might be dangerous, or violent. What a laugh. Me, dangerous! Me, violent! I never hurt anyone. Never!
Hester told me the whole neighborhood was in on a plot to get rid of me.
Every day Hester would come by and report what they were saying. Knowing they had a conspiracy against me made me feel sick. Soon I only went out of the house if I had to, just to buy food. I closed all the blinds and kept the house dark. I didn't want anyone looking in my windows, but I couldn't see out, either. I depend on Hester to keep me informed. Hester was working some witch magic on me, telling me awful things the neighbors were saying. It made me angry, made me want revenge. But she was doing it for my own good, because she loves me. Hester is a very clever witch. She may feel that cats are “small and weak,” but she’s still got a witch’s power. Over a very short time she made herself the focus of my life. I believe she put a spell on me. I fell in love with that cat.
I’m sorry Ellen ate some of the candy and it made her deathly sick, but I’m not glad I won't be giving any poison candy out to the neighborhood kids. They’re all little monsters, and I hate them and their spying, plotting parents. I’d be happy if they were all dead. But because of Ellen you traced the poison back to me. My bad luck.
It’s just that I can’t go to jail right now. I know you cops have to do your jobs, but I have responsibilities. Ellen will need me to bring her home and take care of her when she’s released from the hospital. And Hester...Hester will still need to be fed. She may be a witch in a cat’s body, but that doesn't mean she doesn’t need to be fed, and have fresh water in her bowl. You understand that, don’t you? Some of you probably have animals of your own. So, no, I can’t go to jail, and you'll understand when Hester comes for her dinner and I have her talk to you. You just have to take these handcuffs off me and listen to reason.
You should arrest my neighbors. They’re the ones who should be in jail. When Hester gets here she can tell you I’m a good person, innocent of everything but being under her witch’s spell, and of loving her.