Lullaby for a Monster (Ragdolls and Cigarettes)

He inhaled then looked to the half-smoked cigarette between his fingers, wishing from some frivolous chasm of his brain that it would never finish. The more sane part of his brain, though, knew this wasn’t feasible, and also that he didn’t really like cigarettes all that much.

He just couldn’t arrest himself from smoking them. Psychologically, he’d managed to convince himself that they calmed him down. But really, the best they did for him was veer his focus from whatever was gnawing at his conscience as he stared idly at the smoke pilgriming to the direction of the wind.

He stood alone outside the doorstep and smoked in silence. From his peripherals, he suddenly saw something creeping from the darkness. Something small and subtle.

A cat.

Casually, it strolled towards him without a sound, and stood beside him with the kind of indifference that could fool an on-looker into thinking he and the cat knew each other very well, and that he’d been waiting for it as he smoked.

He crouched down to the hefty grey and white ragdoll and greeted it with a ruffling of the fur. Only then did it well up from his memory that his sister, Dee, had mentioned there being a stray cat about who regularly stops by.

We let him in sometimes and give him a bite to eat, Dee had said to him. He’s really friendly. But of course, we don’t let him stay too long. If he does have an owner around here, the owner might not be too pleased about his cat being in our home for so long so frequently. Plus, we think it has flees. 

The cat followed an imaginary semi-circle around him amiably.
“Hey there, fella.” he said to the cat. “And what’s your name? I’m Troy. You probably haven’t seen me around here before. I’m visiting my sister for the week.”

Troy couldn’t imagine this being the stray cat his sister had told him about. He’s much too fat to be stray. 

The cat rubbed its ear gently across Troy’s knee whilst strutting around him. Troy, stroking the ragdoll, exhaled some cigarette smoke into the dark sky and said,
“Say, you haven’t happened to see a stray cat around here, have you? I don’t have a description for you unfortunately, but its name’s… Uhhhh… What was it again?”

Troy wondered for a moment. The cat stationed itself beside him as it if were really listening and contemplating having seen a stray cat about.

“Pukka,” he said with sudden remembrance. “Pukka was his name. You can’t be Pukka, you look healthy. (He tossed the end of the cigarette to the side). Healthy and certainly well fed.”

Troy arose from his crouched position and blankly peered into the distance for a moment. He then reached into his trouser pockets for another cigarette, the cat monitoring his movements keenly the whole while.

“I’m sorry. I can’t imagine you like the smell of cigarettes. Humans aren’t particularly fond of it either. But you know. We smoke.”

Troy placed the cigarette between his lips, paused with a distracted look on his face, then took the cigarette back out of his mouth.
“We smoke… Why we do it? I couldn’t tell you… Different reasons, I imagine,” he said, looking down to the cat.

“For me, it’s to get my mind temporarily off what’s going on. To slow things down. See, when I go for a smoke, I pause, remain still. I take my time when lighting up. And smoke slowly and quietly.

“It kind of… halts you for a moment. It distracts you, and your thoughts want to follow the blue-grey smoke which wafts away into the distance. Undisturbed and free.”

Exactly the way we want to be. Unrestricted. Undisturbed. And free.

Troy lights the cigarette and says to the cat, “Cigarettes are really bad for humans, but you know… I don’t imagine your kind has to go through things like stress and anxiety and boredom and such, so it might be difficult to understand.”

Then he thought to himself, actually, cats are probably the most bored of all creatures.