Preface

As a child growing up on a farm in Western Oklahoma, I found myself set apart from my peers in two ways. First, from my earliest memory, I spent every idle hour performing tasks that required no thought in a world of infinite possibilities. Therefore, daydreaming became a passion for me. Slipping into that fantastic world was as natural as breathing and far more inviting. My second passion became reading. This started at an early age and moved readily from children’s stories into fiction of all kinds, historical novels, and biographies of famous people.

Both of these propensities, which many grow out of, have continued with me into my sunset years. I have read, by my estimate, over 10,000 books in my life. Also, I have reread hundreds and keep a small library for my wife and myself with our favorites. I still drift into that world of fantasy routinely. I currently write a weekly column for a local newspaper. It is not unusual for me to wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for the column. I am compelled to rise and put it in writing. I am unable to go back to bed and sleep until the last word is down.

My fiction writing in the world of imagination tends to develop without guidance, the narrative flowing as if I were reading a story or book. I rarely have a clue as to what happens next until the very end.

This brings me to the tale which follows. It is my first fiction short story, written in 2003; at least, I think it is fiction.

SUNSET JOURNEY

Mouse Has a Problem

Mouse screamed and jumped quickly away from the elder who had bitten him on the leg. He ran to his safe spot, an old wooden cabinet high up on the basement wall, and nursed his wound. Miserable and depressed, he sighed and lay down, closing his eyes, hoping to sleep. Maybe, just maybe, tomorrow he would wake to a better day.

He began his life underneath an old frame house. His five brothers and sisters were just common brown house mice. Mouse was coal black and somewhat bigger than his siblings.

As you will soon see, Mouse was quite different in other ways from ordinary mice. He was curious and desired to know about things that all other mice considered completely unimportant. What was across that grass lawn he could see from under the porch? He wondered why water was wet, the sky blue, and above all – why there were fleas to torment mice so? He asked many questions of the other mice, and they always scolded or bit him for wasting time that they thought could be better spent on more important pursuits, such as finding food, sleeping, or raising a family. Often asking himself why he was so different. Mouse kept to himself after many failures to get answers to his numerous questions. He realized that asking a wall would be just as fruitful and much less painful than asking the other mice! He decided to bide his time, and maybe someday, the answers would come. As time went by, he became more sad and lonely than ever before.

Cat Feels Abandoned

Cat slumped down to the very bottom of his cage. He was alone, frightened, and bewildered. At six weeks old, he had been taken from his quiet, comfortable home, where he lived with his mother and littermates, and put in a cage in a horrible place. It had numerous squeaking and barking creatures, with many strong and disagreeable smells. Cat only hoped that this would all go away soon and that he would be home.

He was born to a litter of pedigreed kittens that were turned over for sale to a pet store chain as soon as they were weaned. Buyers were already waiting on a list for that particular breed of cat. But when the manager carefully examined the new kittens, he discovered to his dismay, that one of the males had a damaged ear and crooked tail. The ear looked bent and limp, apparently a birth defect. The manager called the breeder, who readily agreed to a refund, but he asked the manager if he would please see if he could find a good home for the kitten anyway. The manager had a soft place in his heart for all animals and did not want to see the kitten destroyed. He agreed that he would see to it that this kitten was somehow placed in a good home.

Cat was placed alone in a cage on display and given food and water. He missed his litter-mates terribly. He cried softly until he was exhausted and then slept off and on for some time. By the following day, Cat was so hoarse that all he could do was softly mew and fall into a depressed and fitful sleep. For many days, the manager and employees of the store offered the free kitten to anyone looking for an ordinary house cat. He was healthy, but no one seemed to want a kitten that wasn’t perfect.

As time progressed, Cat became somewhat accustomed to the noise and smell of the store, but he always got a lump in his throat when he thought of his mother and his litter-mates. He didn’t understand why he was not with them at home, where he belonged.

The Jacksons Have A Mouse Problem

One day, a young man and his wife came into the pet store. The manager greeted them and asked how he could be of assistance. Mr. and Mrs. Jackson said they lived in an old frame house and were a bit embarrassed to say that they had a mouse problem. They were looking for a cat, hoping to handle the situation in that manner. The manager said, “I have exactly what you are looking for! I have a kitten that comes from a line of cats that are natural mousers. He’s not the best-looking cat in the world with a crooked ear and tail, an accident of birth, you understand, but it does not affect his health or his ability to keep mice under control. I’ll give him to you at no charge if you promise to give him a good home.”

The couple thought that was great! Both had soft hearts for the less fortunate. They were professional people and had many charities they sponsored. Since they had always heard that charity begins at home, this seemed a perfect opportunity to solve their mouse problem and provide a loving home for this less fortunate kitten.

They told the manager they would accept his offer and asked if books were available on the care and feeding of cats. They purchased books, special kitten food, bowls, toys, an elaborate three-story scratching post, and a down-filled bed. The couple left the store well-pleased with themselves and their good fortune. Not only had they found a cat, but they were also convinced it was the right cat.

However, Cat was not at all pleased. Though he enjoyed the initial attention lavished on him by the couple while in the store, they soon put him in a box and took him to what he would learn was his new home. Though the people drove quite carefully, the ride in the car with all the bouncing around was just plain scary! The next two weeks, his life was a whirlwind of new experiences. Some were comforting, but most were unsettling and frightening. It was unknown to him that the couple was using their vacation to do fix-up work on their house and, in fact, that they had a number of their relatives helping. Well, from a cat’s view of things, this just wasn’t fun – NOT fun at all! The only good part was that he did get a lot of petting after the work was finished each day. Plus, his people saw to it that he always had food, water, and a clean potty pan. Cat did begin to get used to the seemingly random activity by the end of the second week and thought that maybe the worst was over. Then another big change occurred in Cat’s life. This one was for the better, as Cat would soon find out.

Watching & Wondering

Mouse noticed the unusual activity in the house above him. There was banging on the walls, strange smells, and the all-day traffic of many feet tromping back and forth on the floors above. Mouse, the curious creature he was, went to his hole under the kitchen sink to peek out and see what it was all about.

He didn’t notice Cat right away but observed many more people than he had ever seen at one time. Then, one day, he did see Cat. “Ouch!” He bumped his head hard on a board as he jumped back. Mouse ran back to his safe spot and considered this change of situation. Here was a cat in his house, HIS house! And everyone knows that cats, of course, were always to be avoided since they were sneaky and liked to eat mice! “All cats? Always?” Mouse thought. “Is this always true?” he asked himself. Now you have to understand that no other mouse that ever lived would have had thoughts like this. Never! Mice don’t question what is; it just is!

From that time on, Mouse began to secretly watch off and on from his hole between dusk and dawn. He soon discovered that the cat was able to roam the entire house at will and was able to detect the tiniest sounds. Whenever Mouse tried to dine quietly on some of the cat’s delicious food, the cat would quickly trot in to see what was happening. By the time Cat arrived, Mouse would have darted into his hole and was peering out from under the cabinets. Mouse noticed that the cat only seemed curious, not upset that Mouse had eaten his food, and did not seem dangerous. In fact, Mouse sensed that the cat overall seemed to be bored or maybe a bit lonesome. He thought to himself, “What’s up with this cat? I want to know!”

The Cautious Meeting

Late one night, Mouse waited until the cat was in the middle of the kitchen and spoke. “Psst, Cat,” Mouse squeaked, “Over here.”

Cat, a bit surprised, paused and cocked his good ear. Did he really hear a little voice call from that hole under the cabinet? He peered and sniffed at the hole from a distance. He saw nothing but darkness and smelled only the usual scents.

Mouse tried again a little more loudly. “Hello! —I’m in here.”

Cat replied in a small voice, “I can’t see you, who are you, and uhh . . . what do you want?” Cat was a little concerned because who knew what could be in that hole?

“Oh good, you can understand me! I am a mouse, and I’m speaking to you, Cat. I’ve never heard of a mouse talking to a cat, and I wasn’t sure that they could even be understood.”

“Okay, ‘ a mouse’, why did you call me “Cat,” and why shouldn’t we be able to talk to each other?” Cat said, relaxing slightly but still very cautiously.

“No, not ‘a mouse’, I am just “Mouse”! I called you Cat because you are a cat, of course! What else would I call you? Besides, I have never tried to talk to a cat before. I would like to come closer so I won’t have to shout. But I want to know if you are going to try to hurt me if I do?” Mouse said. “I’ve heard that cats like to catch mice, kill them, and eat them. I would much prefer that not happen to me if you know what I mean.” A little shiver ran up his spine at the very thought!

“Why would I want to do a thing like that?” Cat exclaimed, a little alarmed by the notion.

Mouse decided to come forward a few inches onto the floor but maintained his distance so he could escape if the cat decided to pounce.

Cat felt relieved that the mouse was so small. He stared at him for a moment before stating, “I would not have ever guessed that you were food. You don’t look like any food I have ever been given. You don’t even look good enough to eat with all that hair all over you.

Are you sure that I am a cat? – all my people have called me is “pretty kitty” or “kitty-kitty?” No one has ever called me ‘Cat.’”

“You are definitely a cat!” Mouse insisted. “I have seen a few cats come up to the grates under the house and try to get in. You are most definitely a cat!”

Okay, Mouse, you really sound like you know what you are talking about. If other cats like to hurt and eat mice, that is maybe their way, but I know that I would never hurt or eat anyone. I just know it!” Cat said with conviction, “And if I am a cat, I guess it would be proper to call me ‘Cat.’” He became more confident and relaxed as he spoke with the mouse.

Mouse said, “I believe you. I’ve finally gotten an answer to at least one of my many questions. Thanks! I have many more questions, and I wonder if you would mind if I asked you a few? You may know the answers.”

The Beginning of Friendship

Mouse, I would be pleased to talk with you and try to answer any questions you may have. I’ve been very lonely since I was taken from my family and haven’t had anyone to talk to at all since then. I’ve tried talking to my people, but they just don’t seem to understand. Even with my litter-mates and mother, we didn’t talk like you and I are talking. I always knew I was different from them in some way. I really don’t know very much though,” Cat said sadly.

“Oh, Cat! This is wonderful!” Mouse exclaimed.

“I mean, well uh,” Mouse stammered, “I don’t mean it is wonderful that you were lonely. What I mean that it is great for me to have someone to talk to and share information with. I, too, have been lonely,” said Mouse with hope rising within him and edging a little closer to Cat. “Perhaps we could meet each night after the people go to their room?”

“Yes, that would be a great time to meet, and I do so much look forward to meeting you each night,” Cat said hopefully.

“Then it is settled!” Mouse said with finality, “I will see you tomorrow night.”

Thus started the unusual friendship between Mouse and Cat. For the next several seasons, they talked on many subjects and pondered many questions concerning their environment and life. As time went on, they learned very few answers to questions they considered the most important but were satisfied to sit in quiet contemplation in each other’s company. The subject of loneliness never arose between them again.

Mrs. Jackson’s Surprise

During the night, Kathy Jackson woke up hungry and couldn’t get back to sleep. She had been very busy and had eaten very little the evening before. As she walked quietly into the kitchen, she noticed her cuddly kitty-kitty curled up asleep in his bed. The light from a full moon was shining down on him. It was such a lovely sight that she stood there and quietly watched him, enjoying the serenity and beauty of the moment. After a short time, she noticed a dark form in the fur of the cat’s curled-up body. Peering more intently, she realized it was what appeared to be a mouse. “It just couldn’t be!” she thought, not believing her eyes. Very quietly, she moved closer. With the moon shining brightly on the scene, she could now see clearly that it was a mouse sleeping within the fur of the curled-up cat! Both were breathing slowly and easily in a sound, deep sleep. She was stunned and bewildered by what she saw. The peacefulness of the sight caused her to pause. She did not react with the response she would normally have at the sight of a mouse in her kitchen.

As she stood rooted to that spot, her training as a professional analyst took over, and she realized that she was witnessing something extraordinary, something she would have to give some thought to. It could be no accident that this mouse was sleeping with her cat.

As lightly as cats slept, he had to have deliberately allowed this mouse to sleep with him. Further, this meant that the mouse and cat had become friends long before this moment. Mrs. Jackson’s training gave her the ability to look at this scene and come to logical conclusions. The correct conclusion in this case!

Kathy Jackson Makes a Wise Decision

Kathy continued to silently observe the remarkable scene before her and finally decided to leave the room as quietly as possible. She would get some nuts from the dish in the den to satisfy her hunger and leave the cat and mouse in peace. This was just too much of a magical moment to disturb! By the time she got to the bedroom, she was so excited by her discovery she reached to wake her husband. Stopping her hand before it touched him, she felt as if something was holding her back. Pulling back and turning over, she considered what she was going to do. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that telling anyone would be the wrong thing to do. Call it instinct, woman’s intuition, or whatever you will. There was no logical answer as to how a mouse and a cat could become familiar enough to sleep together since it was well-known that they were natural enemies. The more she thought about telling anyone, the stronger the feeling became that to do anything that would disturb the magic that had brought a mouse and cat to this friendship would be wrong.

Wrong? They had taken in this cat to get rid of the mouse problem, so how could it be wrong? Nevertheless, she couldn’t dispel the idea that it would be just that. “Maybe I am just tired, and my imagination is being overactive,” Kathy thought. “I’ll have to think about all this tomorrow.” Finally, she went to sleep.

The next morning she woke late and hurried to get to work. She remembered what had occurred the night before but didn’t have time to give it much more than a passing thought. Later, as the day wore on, she dismissed the idea of telling anyone about the incident. She realized she probably wouldn’t be believed anyway. One thing she did know – she would never look at her cat the same again!

Cat Goes to The Vet

Over time, Cat reached his full growth and became quite large and strong. The turmoil of changes in Cat’s life that had caused him so much distress early in his life was long forgotten. Mouse, on the other hand, was then well past his prime and had become old and gray. He had aches and pains in his joints and tired easily. He had to nap a lot more these days.

However, as you know, life is always about change, if nothing else. Both friends were unprepared for the next change that was almost upon them.

Yeoooow!” Cat screamed as the veterinarian prodded a particularly tender place on his body. He was very upset with this whole business of veterinary examination. Because he was already feeling very poorly as of late, he didn’t want further aggravation of any kind. He listened to what was said as best he could between painful interruptions. The vet and his people talked as if he wasn’t there, but that was normal. People of all sorts always spoke as if he couldn’t understand; indeed, he had learned it was almost impossible to get any of them to understand what he had to say.

Bad News Turns Worse

He heard the vet talking about something called Feline Infectious Peritonitis, or FIP, whatever that was. The vet spoke at great length. He said it was a serious matter and was sorry to have to give the people such bad news. Cat was feeling very sick and only half listened until he heard the vet say something about “he wouldn’t feel a thing, he would just go to sleep and never wake up.”

It was the “never wake up” part that caught his full attention. As Cat was now listening intently, he heard the vet solemnly say that the virus was in the advanced stages and he had, at the most, a week or two to live. Fortunately, Cat’s people said ‘no’ to having him put to sleep and said they wanted to let nature take its course. Cat fell silent and pondered this new information. He didn’t understand what FIP was, except that the vet had explained to his people that it was some kind of virus. He said that when cats get it, there isn’t any cure or treatment.

“Only a week or two?” “No cure?” “Have to discuss this with Mouse!” “Only a short time to figure this all out,” were the thoughts going through Cat’s mind on his way home. As it soaked in, Cat was really stunned by what he had learned. He was completely unprepared. He and Mouse had never considered the question of death as something real and close.

For much of the day, he considered what he had heard and finally realized that this really was going to happen. Nothing could be done to prevent it. Finally, accepting the fact of his death and its inevitability made him feel a little better. “No use worrying about something you can’t do anything about,” Cat thought sadly.

Cat Shares His Bad News

“Mouse, I am so glad to see you tonight, my friend,” Cat said solemnly, “I have unsettling news and questions to consider.”

“Start with the bad news Cat,” Mouse said, with a little anxiety in his voice, “I haven’t heard you sound this way in a long time.” He could sense something was very wrong. He and his friend had known each other for a long time and had become close enough to have an uncanny sense of each other’s moods and feelings.

“As you know, I haven’t been feeling very well lately, and this morning I was feeling unusually bad. My people noticed this and took me to be seen by a cat doctor. I won’t go into the details of all the uncomfortable things he did while I was there, but the doctor said I would only live another week or two more! It seems I have a nasty virus, a deadly one that cats can get and has no cure.”

Mouse was stunned. This was much worse news than he had thought possible. He said nothing for a time. He just sat there looking at Cat, but not really seeing him, and thinking about the implications of what he had just heard. Mouse knew that he was getting old and had always been sure that Cat would have outlived him by many seasons. Cat was still very young and agile. Mouse was totally unprepared to outlive Cat and was feeling more and more heartsick the longer he thought about this news.

“Mouse,” Cat said quietly after a bit, “Are you okay?” Cat knew his friend well enough to know he was shocked and very disturbed by what had been said.

He then really did look at Cat and, in a trembling voice, said, “I really don’t know what to say. What you have told me has disturbed me greatly, and I just don’t know what to tell you, except that I am very, very sorry – Oh, Cat, I just . . .” Mouse’ voice cracked, and he lapsed into a troubled silence.

Cat Tries To Comfort Mouse

Mouse, please don’t worry. I didn’t want to upset you. I have thought about this all day, and I have made my peace with it. Please, say you will be okay.” Cat didn’t know what else to do and had never seen Mouse so upset and miserable.

“I think I will be alright,” Mouse said quietly, “I was surprised and upset by your news. So I think I will go rest for a while. I feel so… so tired.”

Mouse went to his safe spot. He laid down slowly and immediately fell into a deep sleep. Cat lay down on his own bed and thought long about Mouse. He had prepared himself for his inevitable fate but never considered that Mouse would take it so badly. Cat realized that he had only thought of himself in this matter. He had not considered how his death would affect someone else. He was determined then that he would help Mouse feel better somehow.

Several days passed, and the meetings between the friends were a little uncomfortable because they kept trying to console or make each other feel better. Finally, one day Mouse said to Cat, “This is ridiculous! Here we are in what could be the final days of your life, and we are making each other miserable! For all we know, I could die tomorrow myself. I have been feeling poorly lately, and I am very old for a mouse, in fact, ancient. Answer one question if you can!” Mouse said emphatically, straightening up and with that old gleam in his eyes.

Mouse Has A Plan

“What question is that?” Cat said, his curiosity peaked for the first time in weeks.

“Is there anything you have ever really wanted and haven’t gotten in the time we have known each other? Maybe a question you never asked, maybe something you wished now you had done but never got to do?”

The answer immediately came to Cat’s mind, but he hesitated.

Mouse saw this, came closer, gently put a paw on Cat’s shoulder, and looked him straight in the eye. “You know the answer, my friend. Give it up!” Mouse stated it with such strong determination that Cat instantly answered.

“I want to see the sun go down while sitting on the cliffs far behind the house. I have always wanted to do that. During the day, I often sat on the windowsill when the sun rose at the front of the house. Because of the trees and other buildings, the sun would always be high in the sky before it was fully visible. It was warm and pleasant, but not anything like I ever imagined a sunset would be like. In the evening, I looked out the rear window of the house, but the hills and cliffs blocked any view of the sky. I could see the last rays of the sun hit the flat rocks at the top of the cliff and wished I could be there to see the sunset from that spot. I have always felt that it would be something very special.”

Wow! That is really different,” Mouse said thoughtfully. “I have never heard you speak of anything like this in all the time I have known you.” Mouse began to think furiously. Cat’s answer had caught him off guard, but a plan was starting to form in his still-agile mind.

“Well, by the time I realized that I could get out of the house and go up there, I had become more cautious. I had seen dogs wandering about and other strange creatures. I just felt it was too dangerous.”

“Danger or not, you should go tomorrow at daybreak!” Mouse declared, “Do not delay even one day. Go and see it while you still can.”

Cat didn’t speak. As weak as he felt now, he really did not think he could make the journey. It seemed like a long way.

“How will I convince Mouse that I can’t do it?” he thought to himself.

What True Friends Do

Mouse could sense that Cat was unsure he could make the trip. He realized his friend would never go alone. Before Cat could protest, Mouse said emphatically, “And what’s more, I am going with you! As you have described it, I very much want to see the sunset from there for myself. We both shall leave first thing in the morning going through the secret passage under the house.”

Mouse was filled with enthusiasm. In fact, more energy and enthusiasm than Cat had seen in him for some time. Long ago, he had shown Cat a secret way to leave the house.

Cat realized that Mouse was going just to keep him company and that the journey would be quite difficult for a mouse of his age. But he also knew how stubborn his friend could be and that Mouse would go to the cliff on his own if Cat didn’t agree. Mouse had made up his mind, and that was that! He would at least have to start the journey with Mouse, and if, after all, it got too difficult, they could just turn back and go home.

“Okay, tomorrow morning, I guess,” Cat said reluctantly. “We had better get some sleep if we are going that far.”

If Cat, at this time, had any idea of the real length of the arduous journey and how stubborn his friend actually would be, he would have flatly refused to go regardless of Mouse’s protestations.

The Long Journey to The Cliffs

After the Jacksons left for work the following morning, Mouse led Cat through his secret passage to the outside. At first, the journey was comparatively easy going, through mown grass and over level ground, even though Mouse had a slight limp and Cat was feeling weak and nauseous from the start. They had been going uphill for the last hour and a half, and both were very tired.

“Let’s stop in the shade of that cedar tree,” Cat said wearily. “We need to cool off and rest awhile, don’t you think?” Cat figured after a little rest, he might talk Mouse into returning home, and he would go on alone.

Cat dozed off longer than he had intended, and it was well past noon when Mouse awakened him.

“Cat! Wake up! Time to get up the trail!” Mouse said with a whole lot more enthusiasm than he felt. He knew that Cat would try to make him turn back if he showed any weakness. That simply was not going to happen!

“Maybe you should just . . .” Cat started to say.

“Forget it! I am going with you, and that is that! Lead on, Cat, I’m right behind you.” Mouse pushed Cat to lead so that he wouldn’t see how bad Mouse’s limp had gotten. “I have to make it all the way,” Mouse thought grimly, “I cannot let my friend go on alone.”

They struggled for another hour that seemed an eternity to both. Exhausted and out of breath, Cat finally saw their goal across a small clearing.

“Look, there is the flat rock I could see from the window,” Cat said. “I can’t believe we finally made it. Let’s rest a moment before going this last little bit. It will be a while before the sun starts to go down.” Cat’s muscles were so tired that he was trembling as he lay down on the soft leaves beneath a nearby tree. Mouse sat down upright, fearing that if he lay down, he would no longer be able to get back up. Both were just about at the limit of their endurance.

After a few minutes, Mouse said, “Cat, come now, we only have a short distance more to go. If we stay here much longer, I’ll get so stiff that I will surely be unable to move.”

The Final Stretch to The Cliff

Cat very slowly and shakily got to his feet and started moving in the direction of the rock. He felt more ill than he had ever felt. Mouse stumbled along on three legs.

Mouse’s bad front leg had finally become so painful that he was unable to use it at all. He was barely able to keep up, even though Cat was moving ever so slowly himself. At last, they reached their goal! Cat lay down facing the direction the sun would set, and mouse lay down beside him. Each breathed slowly and deeply. They were so exhausted they couldn’t even raise their heads to look at the beautiful vista before them. Cat never felt closer to death than at that moment.

Beyond the outcropping of flat rock where they lay was the broad valley below. It was heavily wooded with trees that had turned red and golden from the first frost of fall. A clear stream flowed through the upper reaches of the valley into a natural lake off in the distance. Willow trees and cattails lined the bank of the lake. Deer were at the water’s edge drinking, being ever watchful. It was a peaceful scene as if from a storybook of old.

Cat’s Wish Comes True

The friends lay quietly on the rock with their eyes closed. The sun’s rays were very warm, and after a while, Mouse stirred and checked himself over. Though still in pain and feeling the exhaustion lingering throughout his body, he did feel somewhat refreshed and more alert after the short rest. Possibly knowing that the goal had been reached and that Cat would get his wish gave Mouse renewed strength.

Mouse shook his friend and called for him to wake. “Cat, please wake up! The sun is low in the sky. You don’t want to miss the sunset after coming all this way!” Cat opened one eye, then the other. Mouse nudged him gently and helped Cat get up. Cat looked out across the valley. “Oh my!” Cat exclaimed, suddenly feeling energy flowing through his body, “It is sooooo beautiful! Oh, Mouse, it is beyond anything I had imagined.” His thoughts of illness, death, and any other concern vanished in an instant. The magnificence of this view before him and the fulfillment of his lifelong wish filled him with a rush of joy far greater than any he had ever experienced.

Looking then at his friend, Cat choked with emotion and said, “Mouse, you are the best friend anyone could ever have. This is the best gift that I could have been given. If it had not been for you, I would not be here. Thank you, thank you so much!”

“You are quite welcome,” Mouse said simply. Then he nodded to the scene. Look, the sun is just above the horizon.” Unfortunately, Mouse could not really see the sight that Cat looked upon. His eyesight was so poor these days that it was all he could do to see vague images of the scene before him.

“So it is Mouse. Let’s look at this beautiful vista and watch together as the sun sets.” Cat had no way of knowing that Mouse was unable to enjoy the view and would only know the sun had set by the ever-increasing darkness. Mouse leaned against his friend, warm in the embrace of his fur, and experienced his own joy at having granted his friend’s last wish. It was more than worth all the pain and suffering. This was what true friendship was all about.

As the sun sank below the horizon, Cat lay back down, continuing to watch the ever-changing colors and shapes as the sun sank in the west. His surge of energy had left him, and he felt himself slipping toward death’s door. Forcing his head up, he turned and looked at Mouse and said quietly, “Mouse, my friend and gentle companion, I know that I am too weak to make it back home. I know it is my time to go. My only regret is that I had no time to do a kind deed for you, such as you have done for me. I want you to know that I value our friendship above life itself. Return now, and please have a safe journey home.” Cat then lay his head down next to his friend and sighed as life slipped from his body.

Mouse, realizing that his friend had died, fell upon Cat’s muzzle, hugging it and weeping loudly. So great was his grief over his friend’s death that it was some time before he was able to move. Finally, he curled up against Cat’s throat, wrapping himself in the long, soft fur at his neck. Completely exhausted by grief but still weeping softly, Mouse continued to grieve inconsolably as darkness arrived where they lay. Finally, Mouse fell into a deep sleep.

Sometime near the middle of the night, the few clouds that had been hanging in the sky parted, and a full moon rose. There was a slight chill in the dry air of the season. From the rock at the top of the cliff, anyone looking could have seen the valley below as clearly as on a cloudy day. A more tranquil and peaceful sight is seldom found. It was at that moment in time that life left Mouse as he joined Cat in that eternal life beyond death.

Afterword

While driving for a freight company from Austin, Texas, to Laredo, Texas, this story came to me and evolved over the 5 hours I drove. By the time I neared my destination, I had become so emotional that I had tears rolling down my face, to the point it was hard to see to drive. Unlike many of the other stories I had made up in my world of imagination before this, I felt the need to write this one down. Thus when I returned home, I got busy and typed it up in draft form. It has been through many revisions to correct grammar, word structure, and other wordcraft changes, but the story is unchanged from the first draft.

This is a story about the awakening consciousness of one mouse amid a materialistic tribal, conformist society who are intolerant of any who question the status quo. The abuse he suffers and the attendant loneliness from attempting to find understanding from his tribe lead to withdrawal and sadness.

In his first awakened state, the cat is confused, lonely, and frightened until circumstances bring him in contact with Mouse. Here, they establish, over time, trust, friendship, and an outlet for discussing the meanings of life. The rest of their journey through life is a tale of the rocky road of their lives and the compassion each felt for the other under the worst of circumstances.

This awakening consciousness is, in essence, my story. It came unbidden from the heart. It was a cry, at the time, for the loneliness, isolation, pain, and inability to share those intimate thoughts and questions about life with another. In the years since that story was written, I have found many spiritual friends who fully support my spiritual path and bless my life with their presence and support. I wish the same for you, seekers of truth, that your life is blessed with all you need. And so it is.

2 Replies

  1. Hello Jerry, it was so nice meeting you and I really enjoyed this story, Sunset Journey. It touched my heart and I can relate to not quite fitting in. And thank you so much for your support of my art. It means a lot to me. Wish I had know when I met you that you had such a deep spiritual side. I hope you had a good trip!
    💕 Jeanette

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