How did I get there on that fateful night?
A month before, I took the elevator to the top of Tokyo Tower and looked out toward Hawaii wondering what the winner of the fall presidential election would be thinking about in the coming months. I envied him the advantage of knowing what he would be doing for the next four years....I did not have this luxury. I had no idea what I would be doing.
I was in Japan hiding from my creditors.
Well that's not entirely true.
I had come to Japan to set up a psychiatric practice treating "Paris Syndrome,"a type of cultural shock that affects Japanese tourists visiting Paris when they discover that the city does not meet their expectations. I had begun to realize that my patients would be better served if I moved to Paris to begin treatment at the very beginning of their malaise.
I knew only too well about disillusionment --after all I had been a presidential candidate. Reality is sometimes hard to take after that. People look at you as a has-been. There is a debilitating withdrawal from rubber chicken dinners. The knowledge that you no longer have a driver --not even a car-- is painful.
While running from this painful reality, I discovered sushi, in particular ikura. It was my secret escape. I would eat those delicate, little pink pearls of fish roe...one after another, after another until I could not move. Illusions die hard, but one bite of ikura and the disillusioned can face reality with a smile.
One day I realized I was cured. I took six pounds of ikura, caught a taxi to Narita and headed to Charles De Gaulle.
That is how I found myself dressed in blond wig and flowered dress in Harry Winston jewelers robbing the proprietor, surrounded by nutters speaking the ugliest Serbian-accented French I have ever heard. The wig kept falling over my eyes. My paws were jammed cruelly into high-heeled shoes. I was holding a gun.
At that moment, I just knew I had found my niche. Armed robbery was so much more fun than running for president. It was exciting, exhilarating........ and very lucrative.
It was exactly what I needed to rouse me from my ennui. In the end, I walked away with a Louis Vuitton full of emeralds, rubies and chunky diamonds the size of tiny bird eggs valued at more than 80 million euros. But I'm getting ahead of the story......
During the campaign, my brother became the lap cat of Boban Stojkovic a former member of the Pink Panther gang. The Pink Panthers were a group of 200 men and women who originated in the Balkan states and who carried out high-profile theft worldwide. My brother would text me about their activities where ever they traveled -- Tokyo, Mayfair and Dubai. I felt like I knew them.
He'd text'd me about the Henry Winston heist, so when I arrived in Paris, I stepped off the plane and took a taxi and to the jewelry shop without thinking. Then I pulled my gun out of my bag and shouted "hands up!" Everyone turned around and looked. A shot rang out. It didn't hurt at first. I just stared down at my dress and watched the red blotch grow. The blood warmed my feet. I remember staggering backwards and thinking how warm I felt.....
Then anxiety gripped me.
I could see the headlines, "Former Presidential Candidate Nabbed in Jewel Heist!" I supposed that I could write a book about the caper while doing time in jail, but I didn't really want to take that much time out of my life. How much time did one get for armed robbery? My thoughts began to scatter and I tried to get up............
"When you have a chest wound it is imperative that you seek medical care."Lesson #41 from The Practical Guide by Cato.
I lost consciousness. When I woke, I was standing at a roulette table, martini glass in hand. I watched the wheel spin for several seconds. There was no one else at the table but the croupier. "No more bets," he called out. I realized he looked familiar. He was pure white, with pink ears and sky blue eyes. The air around him glowed with energy and he smelled of earth and roses.
Couldn't he see how fragile I was? I was bleeding.....couldn't he see the state I was in? I needed medical care. His blue eyes flashed and lit up with an internal fire that burnt everything away. If I had been worried or frightened of dying, it was all gone and done in that instant.
"Please, if you would, concentrate on the wheel," The Great cat said. I nodded and allowed my focus to soften.
"Yes, that's good," he said. "Now, place your bet.
I took a stack of chips and set them on the number 7.
"Yes, that's good," he said again. He spun the wheel and after the little ball bounced several times, the number 7 came up.
For several seconds I basked in that phenomena called winning. I felt better, stronger, almost healthy.
"Place your bets please," he said again.
I took a stack of chips and set them on the number 7.
Again the wheel spun and the ball stuck on the number 7.
The stack of chips was growing in front of me.
"Cato," he said. "As long you are with me, you will never lose."
"The Great Cat wants me to be rich," I thought to myself. He said the words like every televangelist I've ever heard -- smooth, silky and with just enough smiling encouragement that I would be turning all my earthly goods over to him....shortly. And yet, I felt good, better than good. I felt on the top of my game.
"The Practical Guide to Nine Lives is the highest authority in all matters pertaining to the physical life and death of cats. It is meant to be read at the birth of all kittens and whispered in the ears of all cats dead, dying or long passed. Felines regard the book as the history of their race. One hesitates to enter into discussion of accurately dating The Guide (sometimes called the Catitudes). The author, Cato, is reputed to have been alive during the time of the Battle of the Bulge, a time when every cat had plenty to eat and they fought the great war to maintain a healthy weight. Some European Catologists assign The Guide to the 12th Century B.C., others to earlier ages. Max Muller, for example, estimated the date to be about 1200 B.C., but Haug thought it closer to 2400. Neither believed, of course, in the divine origin of the book.The eminent Indian scholar, Sikkim Felitak, calculated from astronomical data contained in the Catitudes (and suggested in the mantras or meowas) that The Guide was brought together five thousand years before the Christian era. According to the orthodox tradition, the texts, even before their compilation, had been known to the catishis for unnumbered ages. In short, the dates of The Guide, its hymns and collections are far from clear......." From the Introduction to The Practical Guide by Cato.
"There once was a beggar," said The Great Cat, "a holy beggar that was devoted to meditation. His mind, having been purified by meditation, came to possess the ability to materialize his thoughts. One day, after nearly continuous meditation, and yet having his mind fully concentrated, he decided to be reborn as a cat. Instantly he became a cat. The holy beggar who was a cat entered into the dream life of a cat; killing tiny creatures and rubbing the leg of his owner until he lay down in a sunbeam and went to sleep....and dreamed he was the creator of the universe...."
As he spoke, I felt tired and looked down at front of my suit. I could see the blood spreading across the fabric. I could see beneath the roulette table a great pool of my own blood. I felt oddly divorced from the idea that I was bleeding, profusely. When I looked back at him in puzzlement, he smiled.
My mouth was parched and all I could think of was a drink. "Wine, " I whispered.
"A Bordeaux perhaps?" he said. "A 1787 bottle of Chateau Lafite?"
I nodded, feeling warm and cozy. I could almost see the bottle. I could feel it resting in my hands. I brought it to my cheek to feel how cool it might be. I could smell the mustiness.
"Cato?" His voice was sharp. "You will become what you now concentrate upon." He blew across the top of my head and I felt a stirring in my fur. I felt myself lift slightly out of my body. It hurt. I was frightened. Was I going to leave my body through the top of my head? And the, I found I was strangely confined and that my body was liquid and shaped by a glass bottle that contained it. I flowed and splashed. I lay on my side in a dusty cellar. It was so quiet for so long, I think I fell asleep.........and then my bottle tilted and I sloshed a bit.
"At the moment of death your mind, in fact your whole life will
be clear to you. Enjoy this as it is fleeting and you will face tests
yet undreamed of afterwords."Lesson #132, from The Practical Guide, by
To be continued.