For part 1 of the Practical Guide.
"Never drink a wine older than the 1800s, particularly if the wine level is at mid-shoulder. Chances are you will leave with a lot less money in your pocket." Lesson # 53 from The Practical Guide to Nine Lives, by Cato
"Ah here it is, the Lafite 1787." The accent was German. I was grabbed by the neck and hoisted underneath an armpit. My sediment stirred. My anticipation rose. Was I going to be drunk?
The German carried me through the light and dark of the cavern and up stone stairs through a wooden door into a great hall. I was set on a huge wooden table where a group of people broke into "oohs" and "ahhhs" as I was contemplated.
I was special. I was rare. The anticipation of drinking me made the air ripe with bliss. I could see it in every face who gazed at me. Every taste bud in the room stood at attention.
"Let's open it!" The voice blasted against my glass sides and made them quiver. I was settled in a ceramic bowl and the wax covering my cork was slowly peeled away. There was popping in my chest and them my cork fell inwards.
"Oops!" Again the voice jarred me and I felt a piece of glass fall away from its spot on my side and my liquid innards began to seep into the bowl.
The man who had opened me, stuck his nose over the brown liquid that spilled from my side.
"Ah," he said with rapture, "excellent. It is still very much alive."
He quickly upended the rest of me in a decanter. He poured me into six glasses. I was in the hands of six individuals who stuck their noses next to my liquid self and inhaled.
The room was quiet for a while.
"Extraordinaire!" Said a man in a tan suit with carnation tuck into the buttonhole. The hairs of his nose tickled me. I giggled.
"It looks like a 1900," said another fellow reverently.
Then I saw him. Dressed in a bespoke suit with blue pinstripes. His whiskers twitched. He inhale and his limp blue eyes closed slightly. When they opened again, they remained half-closed as if he was in deep meditation.
"The most extraordinary thing about this wine," he said to the room, "is its weight and intensity. It smells of dirt, dead birds and cedar." He smacked his lips.
The other connoisseurs gagged.
"But you know," he continued, "this is not the taste of a 1787 vintage. It's intensity speaks of something new, as new as an April Fool. My guess is it is an April 1, 2003. It has great potential to soften into a truly great wine reminiscent of the 1954 vintage."
"You're right, it is remarkably light and modern, but I disagree on the age. I am sure it is a 1787," the Frenchman said dipping his nose hairs once again into my liquid. I sneezed.
The Great Cat looked deeply into my liquid form and whispered: "Smells like blood on the garage floor. Smells like hair caught in barbed wire and lightly crunched lizard tails. Smells like you could use a little help, Cato." Then he drank the last of me down.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of The Great Cat and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life." Lesson # 1787 from The Practical Guide to Nine Lives, by Cato
When I woke, The Great Cat was holding me weeping. He was shoving food in his mouth with the same intensity as his sorrow. As he chewed, he clutched me to his breast and wailed out his sorrow, spewing bread, spaghetti and tomato sauce across the table.
He sang (oh yes, he sang):
Cato, Cato, when will those clouds all disappear?
Cato, Cato, where will it lead us from here?
With no loving in our souls and no money in our coats
You can't say we're satisfied
But Cato, Cato, you can't say we never tried
Cato, you're beautiful, but ain't it time we said good-bye?
Cato, I still love you, remember all those nights we cried?
All the dreams we held so close seemed to all go up in smoke
Let me whisper in your ear:
Cato, Cato, where will it lead us from here? (Sung to Angie, by The Rolling Stones)
He was about to pick up a microphone and stand up and belt out the most heartfelt tune of his career, but I knew if he did, he would be embarrassed in the morning.I cleared my throat.
"Oh, there you are," he shifted his weight slightly forcing me to sit up in his lap.
"A bit over the top, don't you think?" I asked him, trying to feel whether I was still bleeding.
"But you're my boy, and I can cry if I wanta cry," he said with a smile.
"Have you recovered? I asked.
He shook his head yes and said: "But you haven't, look here," he showed me his paws. They were wet and pink-tinged with my blood.
Something struck me funny about this and I laughed. The laugh shuddered into a cough and my guts hurt.
"Your nine lives are almost gone," he said. "I could give you more, but you need to learn what it means to have life after life after lifetime. The responsibilities that you hold because you have nine lives, your obligations......to the rest of the felidae....." he paused. "Death is playing a game with you. It is a long game, but in the end the outcome is certain. This is your only chance to overcome pain and suffering...." He trailed off again.
I could see that he was going to go off on one of his philosophical ramblings and I just knew I would yawn at an inappropriate moment. Something stirred in me. I put my nose in the air and pricked my ears.
I smelled a rat. A real rat.......and I was hungry........