The next sign is in Frisco itself where after a night of perfect sleep in an old skid row hotel room I go to see Monsanto at his City Lights bookstore and he’s smiling and glad to see me, says “We were coming out to see you next weekend you should have waited,” but there’s something else in his expression — When we’re alone he says “Your mother wrote and said your cat is dead. “
Ordinarily the death of a cat means little to most men, a lot to fewer men, but to me, and that cat, it was exactly and no lie and sincerely like the death of my little brother — I loved Tyke with all my heart, he was my baby who as a kitten just slept in the palm of my hand with his little head hanging down, or just purring, for hours, just as long as I held him that way, walking or sitting He was like a floppy fur wrap around my wrist, I just twist him around my wrist or drape him and he just purred and purred and even when he got big I still held him that way, I could even hold this big cat in both hands with my arms outstretched right over my head and he’d just purr, he had complete confidence in me — And when I’d left New York to come to my retreat in the woods I’d carefully kissed him and instructed him to wait for me, ‘Attends pour mue kitigingoo” — But my mother said in the letter he had died the NIGHT AFTER I LEFT! — But maybe you’ll understand me by seeing for yourself by reading the letter:
“Sunday 20 July 1960, Dear Son, I’m afraid you wont like my letter because I only have sad news for you right now. I really dont know how to tell you this but Brace up Honey. I’m going through hell myself. Little Tyke is gone. Saturday all day he was fine and see med to pick up strength, but late at night I was watching TV a late movie. Just about 1: 30 A. M. when he started belching and throwing up. I went to him and tried to fix him up but to no availe. He was shivering like he was cold so I rapped him up in a Blanket then he started to throw up all over me. And that was the last of him. Needless to say how I feel and what I went through. I stayed up till “day Break” and did all I could to revive him but it was useless. I realized at 4 A. M. he was gone so at six I wrapped him up good in a clean blanket — and at 7 A. M. went out to dig his grave. I never did anything in my whole life so heart breaking as to bury my beloved little Tyke who was as human as you and I. I buried him under the Honeysuckle vines, the corner, of the fence. I just cant sleep or eat. I keep looking and hoping to see him come through the cellar door calling Ma Wow. I’m just plain sick and the weirdest thing happened when I buried Tyke, all the black Birds I fed all Winter seemed to have known what was going on. Honest Son this is no lies. There was lots and lots of em flying over my head and chirping, and settling on the fence, for a whole hour after Tyke was laid to rest — that’s something I’ll never forget — I wish I had a camera at the time but God and Me knows it and saw it. Now Honey I know this is going to hurt you but I had to tell you somehow… I’m so sick not physically but heart sick… I just cant believe or realize that my Beautiful little Tyke is no more — and that I wont be seeing him come through his little “Shanty” or Walking through the green grass … PS. I’ve got to dismantle Tyke’s shanty, I just cant go out there and see it empty — as is. Well Honey, write soon again and be kind to yourself. Pray the real “God” — Your old Mom XXXXXX. “
So when Monsanto told me the news and I was sitting there smiling with happiness the way all people feel when they come out of a long solitude either in the woods or in a hospital bed, bang, my heart sank, it sank in fact with the same strange idiotic helplessness as when I took the unfortunate deep breath on the seashore — All the premonitions tying in together. Monsanto sees that I’m terribly sad, he sees my little smile (the smile that came over me in Monterey just so glad to be back in the world after the solitudes and I’d walked around the streets just bemusedly Mona Lisa’ing at the sight of everything) — He sees now how that smile has slowly melted away into a mawk of chagrin — Of course he cant know since I didn’t tell him and hardly wanta tell it now, that my relationship with my cat and the other previous cats has always been a little dotty: some kind of psychological identification of the cats with my dead brother Gerard who’d taught me to love cats when I was 3 and 4 and we used to lie on the floor on our bellies and watch them lap up milk — The death of “little brother” Tyke indeed — Monsanto seeing me so downcast says “Maybe you oughta go back to the cabin for a few more weeks — or are you just gonna get drunk again” — “I’m gonna get drunk yes”
Jack Kerouac, Big Sur.