Goodbye, Mr Whiskers

Goodbye, Mr Whiskers

Gregory googled, what to get your wife for your 17th anniversary, in hopes that someone-somehow-somewhere must have been in the same predicament he found himself in and done the lord’s work of putting together a field guide of inspiration toward something dashing and inventive and romantic and something he hadn’t already thought of for previous Anniversaries and Valentine’s Days and Birthdays and Christmases and Easters, which was a holiday Gregory hadn’t even thought necessitated presents, but Marianne had somehow finagled that tradition as another day of thoughtful gift exchange early into their marriage.

Gregory scrolled and the best he came across was a personalized white coffee mug he could order from Etsy with the phrase Holy Shit 17 Years and we’re still married, the sentence punctuated by a black heart.

When he gave it to Marianne, she took the coffee mug, gave it a good look, reading its message slowly, turned it around, flipped it upside down and looked inside the mug thinking there possibly could be more to the present than this.

“Oh,” she said.“ You got me a coffee mug.”

“Well, I know how much you love coffee,” he said. “I thought this could be, you know, one of your favorite new go-to-mugs.”

Gregory opened the present she gave him, which was a brochure of a place called Maha Rose Crystals and Healing Spa. Marianne cooed when he opened it, grabbing the brochure back excitedly from his hands. “Maha Rose Crystals and Healing Spa is this wonderful new place Eleanor told me about.”

Gregory moaned internally at the mention of Eleanor, one of the kookier friends she had made from her yoga community. Marianne had been raised by hippie parents in some obscure commune in New Mexico, which unbeknownst to her sounded mostly like a cult, and between all the yoga communities and healing communities and art communities and co-ops and book clubs and wine clubs she cycled through, he carried the suspicion she was always on the lookout for some new cult to join.

“Next week they’re performing a special couples-themed sound bath,” she said. “I got us two spots for it.”

Gregory read out loud from the brochure. “Join us for our Couple’s Rekindling Sound Bath.” He gave a disturbed look. “What is it you think we need to rekindle?”

“Oh nevermind what the title is, that’s just marketing. You’re going to love the sound bath. Eleanor told me she had an out-of-body experience.”

Gregory grumbled. “What exactly is a sound bath?”

“It’s meditative. You bathe in waves of sounds.”

“I don’t have to take my clothes off, do I?”

“Not unless you want to.

He glared at her.

“Oh come on,” she said, “it’ll be an experience.”


Throughout the week Gregory made a conscious effort to see if and when Marianne would make use of her newly gifted coffee mug, even going so far as putting it directly in front of their coffee maker as encouragement, but as weeks went on and the mug went unused, Gregory pictured it eventually going the way of the unworn sweaters and unsprayed perfumes and unused lingerie he had purchased for her throughout the years.

He decided he would be a good sport about the sound bath. Such a good sport it would shame her for her indifference toward the mug.

When they arrived they were greeted by a young lady who referred to herself as their Sound Shaman and immediately ran them over with a cloud of smoke from a large stick of sage.

“Please, enter, find a comfortable place to sit together, close enough to sense each other’s presence, but with enough distance for each of your own auras to expand into the ether.”

Gregory observed the shaman’s assortment of singing bowls of various sizes, tuning forks, chimes, gongs, and crystals arranged together like a symphony. He nodded toward the three other couples in the room, although none of them made any sort of acknowledgment in return.

“Are you ready for this,” Marianne asked.

“You think I can ask her to play Free Bird?”

The Sound Shaman came in and lowered the lights and gave brief instructions. “With your eyes open, or your eyes closed, take a moment to connect with where you are. I want you to picture in your mind’s eye a fire in a fireplace slowly kindling. Slowly getting bigger. Becoming fuller in your imagination. When the time is right, the vision of your true love will arrive. Let the sounds, and let the vision, overcome you.”

Gregory did everything he could to stifle any laughter. He took a peak over at Marianne who was somewhere far into a trance. But when he closed his eyes all he could see was the coffee mug sitting in the far back of the one cabinet they never used where they kept the garbanzo beans, and grains, and smattering of their worst plastic cups and tupperware. The junk cabinet.

Eventually, he settled and found a comfortable seating posture. The sounds were indeed pleasant. From time to time the shaman would ding the side of a bowl and vibrations washed over him as he continued looking behind his closed eyes at his blank slate. As the waves pushed out all the thoughts from his mind, an image like a dark and starry night started to take hold for him. Deep inside his concentration, he was able to pick up on distinct sounds the shaman was playing, could sense her moving between her arrangement of bowls, going round and round lightly over them, putting his mind completely at peace.

An image came to him. One he hadn’t expected.

“Mr. Whiskers?”

They had said goodbye to Mr. Whiskers after he had spent fourteen dutiful years of service being the best pet they could have hoped to have. It was just a few weeks prior since they had put him to sleep and both he and Marianne were still pretty beat up about it.

Marianne had overheard him and it jostled her out of meditation. “Did you say Mr. Whiskers,” she asked.

He was unable to answer. There was the image of Mr. Whiskers right before him. He saw him as a kitten, when they had picked him from the litter, as he climbed over his brothers and sisters putting himself front and center. And he saw him running across the various carpets throughout their lives chasing lasers. He saw him rolling across his cat nip toys, flopping back and forth deliriously, and he saw him trotting towards them anytime they came home, and he saw him climbing over his shoulders, attempting to lick his hair, attempting to groom him, as some innate cat sign of gratitude or love or kinship, and he saw him in Marianne’s arms, the day they decided his poor frail body had nothing more to give, as Marianne whispered peacefully to him, as the specialist gave him his injection to put him to sleep, as Marianne held him one last time like one would hold a baby in her arms, he saw a glowing heavenly essence around her.

God. Marianne. Her strength. Her grace. Everything he loved about her, there in that moment, all in one, as she said to Mr. Whiskers in her arms I love you, don’t be scared, everything is alright, we will always love you forever.


About the Author

Frank Jackson received his MFA in Fiction from the Writer's Foundry at St. Joseph's University. His work has appeared recently in journals such as X-R-A-Y, Okay Donkey, Metratron, Sledgehammer Lit, The Bookends Review, and Shabby Doll House. Find him watching X burn @frankerson