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“One-Ear The Cat” by Matthew Berg

In October of 2022, we released our second Open Call: How might we view healing in mental health through art, letters, stories and poetry following the pandemic? The following is a story submission we received from this open call.

“Kindness changes everything. When a trauma occurs, acts of kindness can change the tragedy to triumph in ANY life. This is the anthem of this story, one where the broken get it, and give it: kindness that offers hope and healing.”

Matthew Berg

One-Ear The Cat

“What could be told(and what should be told), about such a rough-looking creature?”, that is the question, arising from such a tale, from such a life lived, of one-ear the cat.

Abandoned. Left to fend for himself, he learned early on how to fight, how to win. Sure it cost him his ear(or at least part of it), but he got to keep his life; a life that was guarded fiercely. You couldn’t take him down, for he was far too clever to be defeated. Still, there was more to this cat than most knew; just listen and you’ll see as I share this story of a fighter who wouldn’t quit, a cat refusing to stop, no matter what it cost.

They left suddenly, his “people”(owners to us humans). The house was left abandoned one day as he woke up(he was a sound sleeper). He slept in his favorite spot: near an old metal heater by the wall. He knew how to sleep by it without getting burned or over-heated(though he learned this through painful trial and error).

He woke that day to emptiness, nothing was left him as he wandered the house, not even love. “How could they forget me? Why did they forget me? Did I mean nothing to them?”, he asked himself in his thoughts, exploring further to see if they’d be there. They were gone though. Their love gone also. He continued to search for them, refusing(at first) to believe the worst had happened. It was, however, true, and he now needed to push past his broken heart and survive. The question though, was how. He was still trapped inside the house with no food or water.

He could’ve panicked, if not for his broken heart and growing thirst that distracted him. In his searching he found a dripping faucet left on in the owners’ haste to leave, and there his thirst was satisfied(though it took a while to do so). Hunger then came to his attention soon after and he had to address the matter somehow, a “how” that would be much more difficult for him unfortunately.

He had to find his way out of the house, or starve to death. Once more he looked around, searching for a possible exit. A small hole was then seen in the wall where the dryer tube exited outside the house, big enough for a dryer tube, and perhaps a desperate cat. Hungry, he let that drive him to get out, and at once forced himself through the hole fiercely. He wiggled, he

pushed, sucking in his body and using his legs to fit through. After an hour of this he made his way through, getting scratches from the circular walls of the hole and now bleeding slightly because of it.

He went to a nearby creek at the back of the house and walked into it. Low enough, it allowed for him to “wash” his wounds and climb out again to further aid in healing by licking them.

After such great struggle, he laid down to rest and regain his strength. Survival exhausts even such small lives of cats, and this survival took everything out of him, causing him to sleep the remainder of the day. Night only was left to him when food became necessary, danger it seemed being the moment provision would come.

Sounds were heard; sounds of his feet along the leafy ground, sounds of other animals, sounds of other people. All this was new to him, unknown, and scary. Hunger, however, is a powerful motivator and it was this very real need that drove him to face his fears, and face them he did.

Walking along, he did so cautiously, observing all around him. A smell came to him, a putrid smell, then a more pleasant one. He looked up and noticed the outside garbage can by him(one he’d seen before while looking out the window as his owners put garbage out). In his fatigue he was still able to make it to the area where it was, not realizing he had been there before. He always vowed to himself that he would never eat out of the garbage as he had looked at the can from inside the house; things were different this time though, and he was hungry. Jumping up on the full garbage can he began to dig. Through the disgusting he found food. He pushed past the smell of the other items and began to eat. Fortunately for him the food he ate hadn’t been in there long and was still able to be consumed safely.

The provisions in the garbage can wouldn’t last long, however, as One-ear ate. In fact, they didn’t last more than a day, a day he had to fight for as other stray animals came to take what he needed. One raccoon in particular was most fierce, biting a portion of one of his ears off, nearly taking it all in the attempt. One-ear(as he became known to other animals around him)

cried out in pain, then in rage as he bit and clawed the raccoon in an unstoppable frenzy! After nearly biting off the invader’s tail, the raccoon got the message to leave and did so, tending to his wounds the best he could. It was hard fought battles such as these that earned One-ear his

reputation of being feared. For desperation can have terrible effects on those who embrace it fully.

He “graduated” eventually to stealing the food of other animals, moving up through the school of hard knocks and becoming tough as nails. Fear(of him) was his ally in each attempt. Abandonment was his catalyst, turning his heart cold. Love taken left only room for rage and bitterness; then one day it all changed in an unexpected act of kindness. Food left. Water too as each time the giver waited to show needed love and healing to poor One-ear. She changed it all, little by little, day after day, winning this poor cat’s trust. Affection was shown, care was given, and his broken heart was healed a little at a time.

Each day he arrived, looking for her, until one day he stayed. It was then that Cara cleaned him up and took him in. They became friends and cared a great deal for each other. Love had changed One-ear, true love, the kind that loves even the most broken and vile; for Cara knew what it was like to be at a disadvantage, to be broken and unloved, shown in her permanent leg brace from a crippling disease. This only made her love better though, a “better” well-received by One-ear, one that made him whole, that made her whole. The broken get it, truly get it: love heals even the deepest wounds, even those with one ear.

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