Volumes within a Book within a Book

I am interested in Cat the romantic and the refugee, and I think I have hit on a motherlode in another small journal, sewn into the center of “Tails” by a bookbinder of some skill. On top of that, it’s a folded quarto of the old style, and may even be typeset on a Gutenberg, moveable type machine. It’s a further curiosity, to be sure, though there is not much which surprises me any longer in this melange. At the very least we might label this set of chapters the furthest progression of Cat the thinker, as he would have had to put no small amount of consideration into a document which was to be typeset and properly assembled according to a very old art. It is divided into three sections, as it would appear, and, as with much of these troves of oddities, may admit of its own organizational logic, though I still have very little of my own to add.

The first part is entitled “Glossolalia”

The science of secrets: These bits of knowledge need not always be true. They concern actions or ideas which are deemed worthy of keeping from one specific party, one or multiple groups, or the world at large. In more extreme cases, they can be kept from oneself in acts of self-denial or abnegation, or willful ignorance. If there is a capacity for how many can be kept, it is commensurate only with the capacity of the human memory. This brings up an important question: do secrets maintain if forgotten? The answer is that they become apocrypha until recalled, drifting eventually into the realm of hearsay and easy deniability. They can cause harm and joy in equally likely measure. Living two separate existences would constitute the need for a balanced and varied pool of secrets.

The friend—enemy continuum: It wraps in on itself. The intimacy required of the truest friend is equal in intensity if not identical to that of the truest enemy. The most harm can be inflicted upon those best loved, and the greatest healing applied to those most detested. What makes an enemy detestable is the absence of or affront to what makes a friend beloved. The difficulty comes in whom is to be forgiven. The arguments to forgive the friend are easy: maintenance of a valuable relationship, making oneself feel they are exhibiting positive human behavior, granting license to the recipient of forgiveness to begin forgetting. The arguments to forgive the enemy are fairly easy as well: closure of an open wound to reopen distance, making oneself feel they are exhibiting behavior which renders their moral position higher than the other, writing off a harm as insignificant enough to be forgivable. But there is a great giving of ground in both instances. The unforgiven harm festers into a grudge, and might eventually scar over as a scabrous edge to a personality. It may also foster a kind of compassion in future, analogous situations, which may be desirable.

The triangle of ghosts: There is a third category of entity in every meaningful relationship. The ghosts of the two commingled pasts are of unlimited potentiality. They can flit about and move in and through the smallest fissures. A single word or smell can conjure one of them, and it may require whole sentences or paragraphs to dispel them anew. The ghosts are by definition neither malevolent nor benevolent. Any value judgment placed on their presence or absence is ultimately up to the haunted.

Consequences: Best to maintain a high level of detachment. Truly only possible with the resources necessary to mitigate potential damage. The less one is impacted by material things and lasting relationships, the easier this is to accomplish with consistency.

Scale of insults and benedictions: Independent of duration or intensity of memory. As with anything one person can say, write about, or enact upon another, timing is often the critical factor. Lives change course according to minuscule events when properly directed and at the precise moments of greatest impact.

Speed and motility: The brevity and consistent range of human life is sufficient to mandate restive concern with motion, sometimes confusing it with progress. All movement is not forward. Most movement is in fact sideways, and at least half of it is in some way backwards. Straight ahead at top speed is a rare condition to satisfy.

The metric of being all right: Generally in opposition of the length of the time it is considered. The bad things creep around the fringes, mostly at bay, until thought of for any extended period of contemplation. If the reverse is true, humanity should be questioned. At least until things change significantly.

Game as metaphor: For love, hackneyed. For life, reductive, though most metaphors are. For crime, most accurate. Rules are clear, if sometimes shifting. Winning and losing is much clearer than in the first two cases. So long as there is no requirement for having fun, this metaphor operates. The game worth playing is not the one we win automatically. It is further not the one in which we most vanquish our opponent, or has the most lasting victory. It must be one where those who have the most difficult time playing it can be assisted the most. At that point, balance and fairness must be discarded. Equity is not an idea most games can comprehend in their mechanic.

Changing the world: Meaningless as a large scale project if the smaller scale is overlooked. One of few goals which requires faith in the tiny summing to the great. Most religions began with this as modus operandi. The problem is that they tended to go from the great to the small. Inductive. We will work from the small to the great. If they want to participate, so much the better. The foundational tenet on which we will agree is that it must change. In most ways.

Telling stories: The only way to organize the world. Meaning making. Finding meaning where it apparently is not. Who tells and who hears are the questions according to which we live. Every life is a bundle of stories. It makes us sad when a story is forgotten, it a petit mort of a different kind. Every grand act or useful idea is a story. They defy death. The ghosts love them. Our enemies and friends bend the details to their will. They slip through our fingers one moment and imprison us the next.

Encoding love: The more difficult the code, the longer the love might last. Anyone who declaims the simplicity of love is likely to be a liar, they should be interrogated at length or ignored. Codes allow information to travel great distances essentially undetected and should not be underestimated. If they can be crafted double blind, so much the better. This allows each party to interpret and seek meaning as they see fit. If the code is perfect, they realize there is no base meaning. It is a well of signs and signifiers which tunnels without end.

This is the gloss—This is enough—This is one life

Jack’s Testimony, As Far As We Can Tell

Typed on either the same dirty typewriter as above, or at least one possessing the same distinctive affliction regarding filled vowels. Pages were almost certainly missing, based on the holes from removed staples in the top left corners:

-I knew him all right. We had been pen pals for years, we would send each other newspaper clippings concerning dead opera singers and the like. It was all in good fun. When he finally came for a visit, I almost couldn’t believe it was him. I didn’t particularly care for him at that point.

-And why not?

-He wasn’t very personable, he didn’t seem grateful, I guess you would say. But I realized that I wouldn’t be very grateful either. This world has done him wrong.

-Are you referring to Mr. In The Hat’s status as an illegal alien?

-Excuse me, madam. I didn’t think this was to be a political debate. This Cat escaped a regime for which our government has had very little regard to this point. The man nearly died multiple times getting here! Isn’t this country built on strong principles, of theft, prevarication, and permanent vagrancy? Are we not all squatters? To quote Mr. Ott, who was probably quoting someone else: “who owns the land?”
-I think you’re straying from the question, Mr.—

-I’m not your mister anything. I know the question. You want to know about the night when Mr. Smart, another refugee seeking asylum in this grand parade of squatters, disappeared.-Allegedly murdered, Mr.—

-Don’t you mister me. Is this the first murder trial in American legal history in the absence of a body? Are we here because someone made a mess in the house? I’ve been accused of worse, by better.

-Excuse me!

-Right, right. I’ll tell you what you want to know. One of the things I learned early on about Mr. In The Hat was his deep sentimentality. He was quiet because he was learning how to be sentimental in another tongue. Does that make sense to the court? Another language of sentiment. A cat language! All right all right all right all right. We had thrown Cat a surprise party for the anniversary of his arrival in our great land of robbers and robbed. Dancing, drinks, the usual. He showed us some of the customs of his home, told us stories about the people he had left behind, it was lovely. But we got word that Pogee had gotten into one of his scrapes, and that’s why he wasn’t in attendance—

-Pogee? Scrapes?

-Young Mr. Jung, of course. Always up to something questionable. But that’s why we keep him around. He might have been stuck in a bathtub full of coagulating gelatin, or locked into his performance cage against while rehearsing. It’s hard to say. All we know is that when he pushes the button on that bracelet, something is seriously amiss.

-Are you claiming that you and Mr. In The Hat were attending to Mr. Jung’s “scrape” at the time of the incident?

-I would never claim such a thing. I want no part of that, it would be a full-time job. Let the record reflect: my own life is a full-time job. I do not share the same sort of…magnanimity as Mr. In The Hat. But I did put him in a cab to get there, for which I have produced the receipt, and multiple others including Pogee, who was unconscious at the time, can confirm. Anyway, I saw the whole thing, Smart was never even injured. He just doesn’t appreciate sentiment, he walked away after the game was over!

-Mr. (redacted), I’ve heard enough of this. You have been leading us in circles for nearly two hours with your family history and an incredibly exhaustive list of all the people you have known in New York for the last decade, as well as your least favorite bars and former paramours. As a witness you are manifestly unreliable, and you seem to recall and forget things at a nearly equal rate. You have been no friend of the court’s in the past, and it would frankly shock me if you are not in this facility at some near date for some other decades-past charges. Between your friend Mr. Sparkles and your various other cohorts, you and yours have kept a legion of petty court officials employed. Your interest in the matter at hand is at best tendentious, and the more testimony you offer, the more it appears that it is you who has both initiated and potentially terminated the entire proceedings. Was it not you who called the police? Was it not you who suggested Smart, or whatever this man’s preferred moniker is, was murdered? Were you not the one who suggested that each of the witnesses offer their statements in song? And now you give us reason to believe that Mr. In The Hat was not present during the alleged violence, and neither was Mr. Smart? Counselors, there appears to be neither victim nor perpetrator in this whole business, and the only man in the courtroom who bears any culpability is the witness currently on the stand. Unless there is a strong and immediate objection, I’m going to declare a mistrial and attempt to justify why I should not hold this man in contempt of court.

To summarize what I understand of these scattered, entirely likely falsified “court” documents: Jack, possibly in cahoots with Cat In The Hat and Smart, orchestrated a massive disappearing act, or at the very least obstructed justice for a duration sufficient to throw the authorities off the trail of something or other. It appears he made himself the star witness, chief alibi, and, in the end, criminal perpetrator of a heist of time and resources the likes of which I am not aware. The thing of it is: the more I consider about this case, the clearer it is how little it has to do with Cat and his affairs in this country. I have every reason to believe the money obtained in the robberies was put to some use in conjunction with Smart’s absconding, but I find myself caring less and less. I come at this point full circle: it’s Cat’s own words either written or recorded by him, or directly recalled through his intimates, which move me most. I now take a breath before one last push to discover the heart of this feline man.

Even More “Tails,” To Break Up Any Potential Monotony

On a cardboard bar coaster cut in the shape of the United States, in red ballpoint pen:

If someone travels three hours to hear one song and hears only that song, it is either a triumph or a tragedy. It is not longer a concert.

Journal entry:
Today it was Caprese who had to go. These specialists we bring in really live up to the title. They are special. Just watching her limber up for the task is a spectacle, rolling around on a spiked ball that looks like the end of a mace. Either her balance must be incredible or she must be made of armor for it not to pierce her skin. Having another life is dangerous in this business, Jack told me about it once, I recorded it in the audio record. Caprese will return home and wait for Precarious to see this thing through to the end. I do not think she wants to go, but she has been at this long enough to understand when enough is enough. Like many things in life, you get more and more proficient at it, and when you are just about to reach a peak, you stop. If you have any sense. Because the decline is far worse. It grows colder and we have to leave her at a dungeon for debrief. Sex clubs in this country are not identical, but they do mostly have a safehouse component to them. This one is called Hellfire, and I do not think they get many fighters seeking asylum any more. I decided it was best to walk her in, and I was correct in this decision. The one who met us wore platform shoes which rendered them taller than me, which means twice as tall as Caprese. They asked if Caprese liked to play. She gamely answered that it depended on the day. When the worker stroked her hair and told Caprese it was Tuesday, she replied that she still was not sure, that she would have to think about it. This was the right answer. When they went into the depths, I felt certain she was in good hands and would be home soon. This is only right.

This means we need a replacement and we got him: Diesel Jesus is now among us. He comes with the attitude of a craftsman and leaves none of himself behind when he goes into a job. I imagine he spends his time at home thinking of only the next opportunity to do exactly what we do to assemble these resources. But that may only be what he wants me to think.

Tape recording, which sounds like Professor, describing an encounter, perhaps to Cat as the low rumbles of understanding throughout resemble those on other recordings:

He said to me, “What are you doing there, writing a novel?” I didn’t particularly feel like having a conversation so I said, “Something like that.” He went on: “I’m an avid reader myself.” So I asked him what he liked, just out of curiosity at this point. He had certainly been drinking heavily and glancing over at me most of the night. So he says: “Fiction. Non-fiction. Documentorials. And you know what I like best?” He winked at me a little, voice as hard as nails and as unforgiving as falling flat on your face on pavement. “History.” He nodded, as if I knew. I didn’t, and for no real reason I simply said: “Me too.” I wonder if I winked back, I’m not even certain.

On small sheets from a quarter-sized, lined notebook. Labeled in all capital letters:

FIELD NOTES on the SUPPORT (1 of 2)

If we need to access something more difficult, these will be the two to assist. They come heavily equipped, with very few fears, and seem to know when it is important to care and when it is important not to. When it means more not care. When it is more caring to put care aside, if even only briefly.

She is a scout, gathering the lay of the land from high above outside or the back of the room inside. She knows always what is at her back. She rouses the rabble or subtly creates rabble when there is none. It is a good practice for starting a riot to be subtle about it. It is one skill to belt into the megaphone, but it is another to tickle the tiger and rouse it to action as if it had thought of it of its own accord. She will make you think you have met her before when you have not.

Among the fears, in order of severity, which ought to be avoided or at least mitigated for maximum effectiveness:

Water at close proximity. But not at a great distance. If the water is far enough away that she judges she would die upon impact, everything is fine.

Spiders, or anything that could be understood as a spider, at any distance. See also: leaves underwater, seed pods from ground plants, unanticipated feathers, et cetera. She spent a month hiding out in a corn field, during which time every manner was attempted to draw her out. I do not know how often lethal force had to be used, but when they turned the bright lights on her at night, the presence of country spiders was enough to give her up. Escape ability made extended captivity all but impossible, however.

Non-grieving people. Dead people are easiest to deal with, grieving people also easier.

Living people. She works with the dead, but she refuses to raise them. I was asked by Jack, rhetorically, I assume, how many necromancers was enough to know. I know the answer and the language to answer better now than I did then: one is enough if it is the right one. I think he would have liked that answer. She had a panic attack and ran into the crematorium on one occasion. She carries with her thousands of pasts in the particles of ash in the folds of her uniform. I do not think she believes this makes her eternal, but it might.

These are the most important items for now. Notes necessarily incomplete.

A (Brief) Manifesto Concerning Citizenship

Scripted on fancy hotel letterhead, redacted other than an address at Very Tip of Brooklyn, Essentially Queens. Written carefully in sweeping calligraphy:

World citizen, not I. The world is not a specific place, it is only as large or as small as one can conceive. My own citizenship is even more abstract than that, and belongs to no place on any map. Any I have had in the past, I renounce; any to which I am entitled in the future, I waive. Citizenship is what gives the government provenance over who you are and where you can go. It is a weapon which ought to be forgone and forgotten. It is colonization and nationalistic pride. It is tied to imaginary borders and born of division.

Corruption is the highest virtue for a municipality, because it proves that the human beating heart has overcome the strangulating sclerosis of the state. If done properly, it renders police ineffectual, impotent soldiers in a long lost, nonviolent war. It sends bureaucrats on endless, circular recovery missions into their own laws. It purifies the killer drugs, makes accessible the useful drugs, clears the vice laws, empties the prisons, tears down the harmful institutions and seeds the earth for communities to grow up in their stead.

It is not currently that time. This world, the one that wealthy people pretend to be citizens of, will end, either in fire or flood. There will trouble, more trouble, and there will be a call, and that call will be answered, and there will be a fight. There is already a fight. In the meantime, we will work to discover the means of our souls, how much beauty they will contain and how much they can produce, and we will live beyond them. We will excavate reservoirs of beauty inside ourselves which outstrip any we have seen outside. We will invent new ways to be beautiful.

This manifesto is not addressed to an anonymous mass. It is addressed to a specific person, one who requires the second-person pronoun “you.” Every aspect of yourself that has felt homogenous because you were told your various citizenships required it is dissolved. If this time feels tenuous, it is because it is. If you feel fragile within this time, it is because you are, or at least this you is. Where “you” becomes “us” is the point at which we fight together. All past lives led inexorably to this one, the one in which we shake off the shackles of state and power over.

One day you might leave this non-citizenship, and you will be missed, but you will not be disbarred. A partnership which requires not passports nor visas, which spring from kinships perhaps forged in but not necessary entailed by blood, this is a community. I have spirits to describe to you, whispers of pasts which know no state and recognize no civic affiliation, and the more you fear them now, the more you will love them later.

No country, no purpose beyond people.

The Unavoidable Continuation of Notes Surrounding The Trial

Submitted with no further comment, typed on an analogue typewriter with a dirty ribbon which filled in the “a” and “e” letters throughout, yellow paper:

Trial notes, day 2, Cat’s interview:

-Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, attorneys, magistrate, tribunal, hooded council, paparazzi, executioner, advocates, friends of the court, and so forth, I’d like to offer a few comments before we go any further. This is a deeply phony world we live in, with little to offer the vast majority of people in it, beyond what they can make for themselves and their immediates. I come from a place where even that is difficult, where the government and half the people try to suppress and silence the other half. It is enough to make a person hard, cold, unfeeling, uncaring. For the majority of my life, I had only a vague sense of another world, and even then it was so distant and impossible that it was not worth even my dreams to consider it.

Many of you have attended a circus before? I have an idea of what it is, from a picture book I received as a child, written in a language I did not yet understand. There are giant, striped tents, with stands built for people to sit close next to each other and eat salty or sweet foods. These stands are built for maximum visibility, to see both high and low. The performers up high risk their lives from falling, the performers below risk them from trained animals overcoming their training and casting aside the tiny whip or baton which is meant to command them. The performers are very talented, of course, and serious injuries seem to be rare, at least in picture books. There are exotic beasts from Africa, exotic performers from Europe, immigrant labor or descendants of former slaves to build the entire enterprise, and, more importantly, to tear it down. That is the most unique element of the circus: it must move. It must be moveable. Does this make it fake? I don’t know. I leave that to you to decide.

I came to this circus of a country to avoid dangers which were very real, and because I thought I could not tame them any longer. I lived without a net, and I was sick of performing, either above or below. But I am here because in this courtroom because I did not want to run any longer. My crime is being an illegal person, a net-less performer who had too many close calls. So I ran to a land where the circuses are spectacular, where at least my performances would be appreciated for one night at a time, before moving on to the next. I could tame your lions or swing from your trapeze, and there would always be a place for me. But I see now how they are built, these tents and stands and cage, on the backs of the poor, and they do not appear so spectacular any more. I understand the language in the picture book now. I think it translates to: “Beware the circus, little boy, because it will kill you one way or the other.”

-Sir, you were asked for your name. Are you prepared to answer that question?

-Well, naturally: I’m Cat In The Hat.

-Mr. In The Hat, which would you say is greater: the number of things about which you care or those about which you do not?

-Oh, the latter, without question. But if it is a matter of degree, my answer might change.

-Would you then care to comment on degree?

-I would not.

-Mr. In The Hat, what are “tingly teeth”?

-I think that is a fairly self-explanatory concept, which is my favorite type to explain: they are teeth that tingle.

-Like a chill in one’s spine in winter?

-That sounds about right.

-Based on your preceding, totally unsolicited monologue, I am tempted to ask: why circuses?

-I thought you might. To cause complete and unceasing pain to my enemies. To bury them under a dance floor upon which I will waltz with my friends in our finest rags. You can catch me for a drink afterwards.

-Champagne?

-Why not.

-And growing old?

-Disgracefully, of course. One should look in the mirror and be thoroughly dispirited as their younger self within is forced to contend with the realities of the older self without.

-Wonderful. You know my last question already, but shall I ask it, just for formalities sake?

-You do what you have to, as always.

-Blood or wine, Mr. In The Cat?

-I have spent what feels like a lifetime explaining, and this seems like a natural point to cease that practice. Jack is about to take the stand, surely that will prove more interesting than this twaddle.

Another Box of Questions and Answers

I keep flipping through the pages of “Tails,” which are at times entertaining and light, at others weighty and a bit frightening, as with some of the previous entries. There are even a few pages which have been liberally painted over with some sort of dry ink, through which their initial contents cannot be discerned. I cannot shake the feeling this Cat guy is hiding from me in these pages, particularly in the longer entries, which require some perseverance to get through, so dense is his syntax at times. There is very little repetition, which is at once refreshing and at the same time a bit off-putting. It is not a rhythm which lends itself to light reading. When I finally hunted down Jack again, he passed off a box of miniature cassette tapes. He said they were answering machine recordings which would “answer all your questions,” even as we both knew there was no way that could be true. It also did not turn out to be true that these were strictly answering machine tapes; at least a couple were comprised of voice recordings made quite deliberately in what I imagine to be the punk house where Cat first showed up. It was a revelation to hear his voice: sonorous but with a distinct gruffness underlying it. He spoke like he wrote, which sometimes made me wonder if he was reading. I somewhat doubt it, but there’s no way to be absolutely certain without asking others who were in the room.

“Jack has described to me the Ex-Girlfriends Club and it sounded like something I needed to see. We walked all the way to the end of the street where our friends do not usually go. You have to walk through a small apartment, which is actually an art gallery, but it is very unusual art. All of the works were either carved directly into the walls or nailed to the ceiling, hanging down over us. There were three rooms of this, then around a corner, then two more, smaller rooms where they were projecting some kind of experimental film. Then one more corner and down some stairs to a basement. This was the Ex-Girlfriends Club, it had a sign to let us know where we were. Jack introduced me to the Queen, and said they had a thing. There were not that many people for nighttime in the neighborhood, but I believe this was because it was very exclusive. The bar was small and too low for stools. Jack flipped a switch and we could see the bar was made of light boxes with all kinds of items under the glass. One box was all champagne wrappers, another one was scraps of men’s suit materials. Jack said that these were pelts, I do not know exactly what he meant by this.

“Jack told me it was always midnight down here until you left, and then it was always daylight until you came back. He has a very unique sense of time. He tried to tell me about the witches, but I had to tell him that we take those creatures quite seriously where I come from. He snapped at me and said he takes them very seriously too, but I do not know if I believed him. I think he believed himself, however. I think Aunt Sandy probably believed him also, as she had just walked up to us. When he started telling me about moving forward always, she walked back away. She said she had heard that story before, but that he should definitely tell me. He does not believe in regret, which was surprising to me. I told him it was a fundamental human right and he said I was vain. I told him there was a saying in his language about pots and kettles, but he did not want to hear about it. He told me to just enjoy myself, which was easy, because I was enjoying myself. I still do not really understand the name of the club, but it is usually a good thing when likeminded people congregate. On the way out I told him that the Future Ex-Girlfriends Club was probably even smaller. He smiled and told me that was true.”

There were other recordings from the Cat, but I thought a few of the answering machine recordings would be useful to transcribe alongside this one. It turned out many of them were probably Jack or, even more likely, residents of the house, calling to remind themselves of things or leaving coded messages for one another to hear later. I don’t think any of them belonged to Cat himself.

“I’m in LA, it’s warm but not as warm as I wanted it to be. I’m going to sleep in the garage, alone, after this call. If anyone is there, it would be nice if they would pick up. Otherwise I am going to take up some of this tape talking about things no one cares about…fine. There are two women who are furious with me. Another one who doesn’t seem to care at all. Another one who is interested in nothing but sex. Another one who I think has given up altogether. And then there’s you, who is listening to this message, and probably knows who the majority of them are. Any ideas” (long pause) “That’s fine too. Goodnight.”

“I dreamed about us all again last night. I thought that was worth mentioning. It was just a dream about dreaming, I don’t remember anything except that we were all there together. That has to be worth something, right? Maybe a country song. Maybe.”

“Uh, hi. I think I left my earrings there two nights ago. I know there are a lot of people around, but these would be big pink hoops. Pretty hard to mistake. I need to get those back. Please call me? You know what, I’m coming by. I’ll just come by and get them, it’s fine.”

“…I’m the trickster…I play tricks, you know? I think I tricked you, now I’m inside. But my heart is pure, the tricks are tricks of love…have faith!”

“I swear to god. Does anyone even live here? I’m calling to ask that someone get some decent wine in this place before I get back. We’re all gonna die, there’s nothing wrong with that, just for the love of whatever holy things you can think of, get some decent wine back in this house. And keep it there. Keep decent wine there. I’m coming home.”

“This is your standard issue aging punk rocker calling. I know the message says never to leave names, but you can probably figure out who I am anyway. Damn it, that was too clever. I don’t remember why I called, but I’ll bet it was important! You’ll regret making me be clever, you miss important messages!”

A possible follow up to the previous Cat recording:

“I told Sparkles about the Ex-Girlfriends Club. I don’t think he was impressed. He suggested starting a different club for Jack to be president. He called it the “Talking to Inanimate Objects Club.” He could tell I was skeptical, but he explained that there was a great deal of comfort in talking to things that could not respond. Or talking to things that felt no obligation to respond. He found it liberating and thought it would be perfect for Jack, who truly appreciates companionship. I asked him where meetings would be held, and he said they could be just about anywhere. When that man smiles, I think you would join any club he formed.”

Minutes later, on the same tape:

“Claiborne has a club also, which he tried to describe to me a bit. He calls it the Awful People’s Club. I have had about enough of these strange clubs, they do not seem to be particularly active, and they accomplish very little. When he began to describe some elaborate set of criteria for admission, I stopped him and told him it sounded pretty straightforward to me. He told me: not only am I the president, I am also the member.”

I reach the conclusion of another session of sifting, and continue to wonder at it all, but I think we are past the point of being hung up on continuity. Lives aren’t continuous and smooth anyway, don’t let any hack biography give any impressions to the contrary. There should be irruptions and eruptions, fissures and valleys, analepses and projections, cycles and severances, pick-ups and grace notes, and so forth.

A Note on the Transcript, “Tails” Continued

I just can’t see a world in which the preceding isn’t complete fabrication. It reads something like how someone who has never been in a courtroom might imagine the proceedings therein. The fact that it is printed on what appears to be some kind of official letterhead is even odder, but the contents themselves are so far-fetched as to make researching said events a waste of effort. The disappearance of Cat during this whole ordeal is a crucial detail, one which his entire legal situation hinged upon and which will absolutely bear further comment down the road. The second piece which requires subsequent elucidation is the blood/wine/mysterious DNA-bearing substance found pooled on the floor. The third is the utter disappearance of Smart. And let’s not consider too deeply—the court certainly didn’t—the metaphysical transmogrification of glass wine bottles.

The thing of it is: I almost don’t care. I find Cat’s cloak-and-dagger absconding from his homeland far more interesting, and this box speaks much more to his personality than to a murder mystery. He may be a killer, that really isn’t for me to say, at least not at this point in the investigation. What remains is a mass of papers and the bulk of “Tails,” another strange piece or two of which is worth reproducing here.

Journal entry:

“We passed the three crosses, I recognized them from before. The center one is larger, but they are all imposing. That religion really requires imposition. I am glad no one here seeks to impose it upon me. We had to drop of Claiborne last night, there was no other option. He had a difficult day. He got spooked during the job and slunk away, it took all of our emotional resources to bring him back around. Such a complicated combination of people are bound up inside him. The darkness is deep, and the lightness is surface. He finished strong, as always, but this will be the end for now. We brought him first to the Snoratorium, one of the few facilities of its kind. I don’t see him as similar to the other convalescents, but that is probably what everyone says when dropping off their associates. He had to check himself in, and I could see they would test him as soon as he walked through the door. Sandleman kept an eye on him, but ultimately he was in better hands. This business will crack anyone a bit. He had begun to split personalities, and I could see he was fighting to keep them in check. I have seen this sort of thing before. One minute he would be cracking wise with Jack and the next he would be weeping in Aunt Sandy’s lap. He will be happy, we will pick him up tomorrow, and then put him on a plane home.

I just thought of the bridges on the way back back. They were beautiful in the daylight as well, more frightening, but equally beautiful. The water was more still at midday, and the sky was slate grey in the winters, which was mirrored in the water. Grey above and grey below, with those same submerged trees and the souls within reaching up to escape. Or to wave. It always reminded me of snow, that is why it was frightening, because it looked like you walk on it. I wanted to climb those trees and speak to them, but they would have no use for me at all. They would have to listen, though.”

On the back of a lengthy hardware store receipt, only the name and address of which can be read through the reverse side:

“Jack went to court, he was fantastic. He knows his way around there, he is much more comfortable than I would have thought. Son of a jurist or something like that. The magistrate said he was in contempt, which I thought was a pretty obvious statement. He said Jack had been in contempt for 27 years. Jack said it had been at least that long, took out some of the money we have made, and asked what three decades would cost just so he could be in contempt for a few more years later, just in case. I love him. We’ll skip into the river together when this is all over.”

Is it starting to make sense yet? Form some kind of a pattern? Still time to decide…

Trial, Or An Imagining Thereof

Prosecution: Please state your name for the record.

Witness 1: I’d really rather not.

Defense: Objection. Your honor, this witness is on the stand under great duress. We request they are able to use the pseudonym under which they are most commonly identified, and which they have had pending for a legal change for the better part of a year.

Magistrate: Their name is in the record, counselor. We can call them whatever they want to be called. Unless you think it bears directly on their testimony.

P: No. Please state how you’d like to be addressed for the record.

W1: (redacted)

P: Thank you. Please state your occupation.

W1: (redacted)

P: Thanks. Can you describe your relationship with the defendant for the court?

W1: (redacted)

P: Do you know the defendant’s name?

W1: Yes. He’s Cat in the Hat. I just call him Cat.

P: Can you tell the court where you were on October 30th of this year?

W1: I was at my house. Or where I usually stay?

P: Usually stay?

D: Objection. Your honor, the witness’s living situation has nothing to do with this case.

M: Counselor, do you mind skipping this detail?

P: Fine, fine. Can you please, in your own words, describe the events of that night which included the defendant, Mr. In The Hat?

W1: Who else’s words would I use?

P: Excuse me?

W1: To describe the events?

M: Miss (redacted), please just answer the question.

W1: In that case, it was wonderful.

P: Would you care to elaborate?

W1: We all had to be in green. That was very important, for some reason. I had to borrow a few choice pieces, but I think I pulled it off. It was a normal party, but we cleaned up that basement, I didn’t know the walls were red all along, there was so much soot and dirt staining them. We had a guy down there who would build bonfires for warmth and just open the back door to draw out the smoke. We’ve had every sort of artist down there too. But the walls were red, all along, and we painted the floor a nice dark black with white flecks all over. It looked like a modern painting or something. Cat had got all this wine, but he wouldn’t let us drink any of it. They were these funny small bottles with black and white labels, I can’t imagine where he found such things, but you can get anything here if you know where to look. He had all the bottles set up on the table, but we just went about having a party. This was more like a ball, really, because we danced so many waltzes, but Cat likes Boleros and Polonaises too. Twenty people in green dancing in threes, it really was a beautiful time. After a few hours of dancing and drinking everything but the wine, Cat pulled the tables out to the middle of the floor and put chairs at opposite ends. He told us to stand back and he lined up all the bottles in front of himself and Smart sat at the other end.

P: Smart?

W1: Yes. Mr. Smart, I guess?

P: The jury will note that Mr. Smart is the missing man, we have no record of a legal name, though we have provided a variety of pseudonyms which match the DNA found at the scene. Please go on.

W1: I don’t know anything about any DNA. I guess it was some kind of drinking game, although I couldn’t really tell what the object was. Cat would drink one of the little bottles and then say a couple of sentences in a language I had never heard before. Then he just smashed it.

P: Smashed what?

W1: The bottle. He would throw it against the back wall, real high and hard so that it shattered. I was worried someone would get hurt, but the bottles turned out not to be glass.

P: And how do you know that?

W1: Because they melted.

P: Right. The jury will note that no glass was found at the scene, nor was any residue of any kind.

W1: Well, we do clean up after ourselves!

P: Please let me ask the questions. So tell us what happened next?

W1: Well, the drinking went on for awhile. Cat would finish one, then roll one down to Smart, and he would drink one, and say something, and smash it over his own shoulder. Eventually, Cat led us all outside and told us to write down a fear on a little piece of paper. Then he put them all in a little metal pail and lit them on fire while we jumped over them. He said it was an old ritual to make them disappear.

P: Was Mr. Smart outside with you?

W1: I don’t remember. I don’t think so.

P: Please try.

W1: I don’t think so. I knew everyone there, these were my friends. He wasn’t there.

P: Fine, what happened next?

W1: Cat told us to drink the rest of the wine and that he had to give something to Jack at his place.

P: And where was Mr. Smart?

W1: I assumed he left. He was always coming and going.

P: And did you think anything about the blood on the floor of your home?

W1: I assumed it was wine.

P: You mean to tell me the pool of liquid you can clearly see in these crime scene photographs looks to you like wine?

W1: There was a lot of wine. How would you feel if someone you had come to love was in trouble? I don’t know anything about Smart, really, but I know a lot about Cat. He is no killer. He is no criminal. He left a bad place and came to us, and we tried to help him. Jack met him, and we helped him, and when he gets cleared for this, we’re going to dance again! All in threes! All in threes!

(End transcript)