I have two German Shepherd dogs, Paddy and Smoochie. They live here in our household with a Jack Russell Terrier named Kipling and one worthless, cross-bred something-or-other bitch dog we call Krinkle. Also a couple of old tomcats named Black Bart and Sweet Basil, and two new additions that I found on a road, little yellow tom-kittens, mother’s milk still fresh in their whiskers, too young to ween, but now a full seven months old with extra-large gonads that need to soon come off, Russell and Rockie. Together we are quite the family. They keep the house looking like, well… Crap.
We also have a graveyard full of dead pets, all loved deeply too. That’s for another time.
I have long been a fan of Charles Bukowski, the trash-mouthed poet and author. Gutters suited him well, and he had an honest heart. He cashed in his chips in 1994, but in his poems and stories he still lives today, his soiled and beautiful honesty, full of smoke and booze, all intact. Very much alive. Bukowski was the real-life Hank Moody.
Hank and Charlie, Dylan Thomas and Jack Kerouac all share common ground with me. We writers have our demons. Curses from self-made Hell. We’re tormented, prone to lapses in dark depression, and cling to life by what we write. Buk embraced his demons and danced a jig amidst his ruins.
This morning seemed more Bukowski than Kerouac, so I did some snooping for an inspiring verse to read from the dirty old man’s library, and found this one: The History of One Tough Motherfucker. Just the brutal bluntness of that title gets me going. I had read this one before Bukowski died, but not since, and took it out again. It’s a true tale of Bukowski and his cat. But says much more, if you listen. I relate.
All of my dogs and cats are foundlings. Thrown-away pets, dumped on my lap in one form or other, and I’ve never had the heart to say no. Not to what God made so well, and only want our love. So my household is filled with foundlings. Except for Kipling, and I bought him for $500 dollars.
Charlie Bukowski had a similar kindness of soul. He cared deeply about life’s plight, and stayed pissed off about all the thrown away souls he encountered. He reached out, saved those he could, and took in the stray cat.
I relate to his History of One Tough Motherfucker every time I take Smoochie for his “walk.” If you can call it a “walk.” Smoochie, you see, loved to chase my horses, and sometimes he got too close. Got his front teeth kicked out by a horse one day. Then another day Smoochie got trampled. Bad.
I saw Smoochie come dragging himself to the house from the pasture, pulling with his front paws. My heart broke. I rushed him to the vet, and nursed him back to life. My own brand of physical therapy, using horse tack for leg straps to help Smoochie learn to walk again. That was six years ago. To this day, he can hardly keep the back legs going. When he walks on his own, it’s like a drunk. He drags his butt in the house instead of walking. Slick floors, he can’t get up. Even outside Smoochie cannot easily stand up on his own. So I have to lift him to his feet, and then hold-on by his tail as he wobbles and walks, so he can do his business and get exercise. But he does it, and he loves living life, even with a couple of bad wheels.
The neighbor’s dogs tore off the top half of Smoochie’s left ear last year. Now he looks like a real horse fighter. One tough motherfucker, I would say.
Now, if that’s not enough, that worthless hose-bag Krinkle is an even tougher motherfucker. If you can call a bitch a motherfucker. But she is. Krinkle defines the word, “Bitch.” But I love her. And I have taken her through a lost count of tragic events that should have killed her multiple times over.
She was mauled and left for dead by a bobcat, as a puppy. Run over too, and covered with ticks. That’s when I found her. I heard a whimper by the gate post as I was about to ride a horse out to gather cattle. Kept hearing a weak puppy’s yelp. I couldn’t ride off, so I searched and finally found her in the weeds. Her right hip was demolished and swollen big as she was with infection. Her hide was torn where the bobcat tried to kill her. Ticks covered her whole body. And she looked at me for help. Stubbornly alive. One Tough Motherfucker.
I put up the horse, and took Krinkle to town. My vet friend, Larry Chambers of Lawton, Oklahoma, made me a deal. He donated the labor if I paid for the parts. Larry loves lost souls too. He’s a Bukowski kind of vet. Larry took blood from his Labrador Retriever and transfused it into Krinkle, cleaned off the ticks, shot her full of drugs and saved the mutt’s life.
She grew up and took over Dog World, at least on our little spread. Never minding. Never coming when you call her. A total bitch. And she got run over twice again too, by the same neighbor. Survived both of those kill shots. Then by the barn one day, I ran over her a third time. Did not see her lying on a bed of old manure. The manure probably saved her life.
Lately, Krinkle, now 16-years old, has gone deaf, lost her bowel control (or her desire to control it) and suffers chronic urinary infections. I give her horse pills, and she pulls past the stop signs again and again. And as if to show the world her defiant middle finger, Krinkle drops her shit where she decides to drop it. No squat or sniff. Just raises her tail and lets it fall. I think she saw the horses doing it that way and liked it.
But back to Charlie Bukowski and his fine poem, The History of One Tough Motherfucker. As I said, I relate.
I love Bukowski for his heart. Not so much his words, where he never capitalizes or conforms to any form, but Charlie Bukowski’s heart. Its expression and its life. A wonderful heart that cares deeply. I know that God had to have taken Bukowski to Heaven when he died, despite his filthy lifestyle. I know God would never toss out such a thunderous soul so filled with Love.
So, here for your pleasure is that tale that Charlie Bukowski tells so well:
The History Of One Tough Motherfucker
by Charles Bukowski
he came to the door one night wet thin beaten and
a white cross-eyed tailless cat
I took him in and fed him and he stayed
grew to trust me until a friend drove up the driveway
and ran him over
I took what was left to a vet who said, “not much
chance…give him these pills…his backbone
is crushed, but it was crushed before and somehow
mended, if he lives he’ll never walk, look at
these x-rays, he’s been shot, look here, the pellets
are still there…also, he once had a tail, somebody
cut it off…”
I took the cat back, it was a hot summer, one of the
hottest in decades, I put him on the bathroom
floor, gave him water and pills, he wouldn’t eat, he
wouldn’t touch the water, I dipped my finger into it
and wet his mouth and I talked to him, I didn’t go any-
where, I put in a lot of bathroom time and talked to
him and gently touched him and he looked back at
me with those pale blue crossed eyes and as the days went
by he made his first move
dragging himself forward by his front legs
(the rear ones wouldn’t work)
he made it to the litter box
crawled over and in,
it was like the trumpet of possible victory
blowing in that bathroom and into the city, I
related to that cat-I’d had it bad, not that
bad but bad enough
one morning he got up, stood up, fell back down and
just looked at me.
“you can make it,” I said to him.
he kept trying, getting up falling down, finally
he walked a few steps, he was like a drunk, the
rear legs just didn’t want to do it and he fell again, rested,
then got up.
you know the rest: now he’s better than ever, cross-eyed
almost toothless, but the grace is back, and that look in
his eyes never left…
and now sometimes I’m interviewed, they want to hear about
life and literature and I get drunk and hold up my cross-eyed,
shot, runover de-tailed cat and I say, “look, look
but they don’t understand, they say something like, “you
say you’ve been influenced by Celine?”
“no,” I hold the cat up, “by what happens, by
things like this, by this, by this!”
I shake the cat, hold him up in
the smoky and drunken light, he’s relaxed he knows…
it’s then that the interviews end
although I am proud sometimes when I see the pictures
later and there I am and there is the cat and we are photo-
he too knows it’s bullshit but that somehow it all helps.