Black Petals Issue #93 Autumn, 2020

Don't Teach Cats Latin
BP Artists and Illustrators
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Justin Alcala: A Horse for Us All-Fiction
Matthew Penwell: Bless Be Him-Fiction
Shiloh Simmons: Coffin Birth-Fiction
John Cox: Don't Teach Cats Latin-Fiction
Ken Hueler: I, Said the Fish-Fiction
R. A. Busby: Not the Man I Married-Fiction
Jude Clee: Notes from a Bathroom Stall-Fiction
M. W. Moriearty: Scarecrows-Fiction
Robert Masterson: Sharper Than She Ever Imagined-Fiction
Michael Steven: The Mirror-Fiction
Kevin Hawthorne: The Song-Fiction
Marlin Bressi: The Man on the Box-Fiction
Terry Riccardi: Winter Hunt-Fiction
Stephen J. Tillman: Angry Tammy-Flash Fiction
Andreas Hort: Pay the Price!-Flash Fiction
Sam Clover: Piety and Parm-Flash Fiction
Deisy Toussaint: Parasite in the Shadows-Flash Fiction
Outnumbered-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Mickey Sloan: Basement Beldam-Poetry
Daniel G. Snethen: Grandmother Screamed-Poetry
Daniel G. Snethen: Pumpkin Tanka-Poetry
Daniel G. Snethen: Yellow Death-Haiku
Theresa C. Gaynord: The JuJu Man-Poetry
Theresa C. Gaynord: The Widow Paris-Poetry
Theresa C. Gaynord: Funeral at the Louisiana Bayou-Poetry
Theresa C. Gaynord: The Old Hag-Poetry
Loris John Fazio: Halloween Prayer-Poetry
Marilyn Lou Berry: My Darling, My Sustenance-Poetry
Chris Collins: Nature-Poetry

Art by Cynthia Fawcett 2020

Don’t Teach Cats Latin

By John Cox


Day 46 (In quarantine)

The cats are not picking up the Latin as quickly as I had hoped.

Their Spanish is coming along. Although, they seem to be stuck on the word, “comer.” It doesn’t help that their Southern American accent makes it sound like they are saying “come here!”” Come here, feed me,” it’s what I hear all day. I am uncertain of the outcome if someday I fail to meet this demand.


Day 47

The dog seems unnerved by the feline use of language.

They call his name from dark places about the apartment at night and then remain silent leaving one to wonder if they really said anything at all.

My dog has had lessons too, of course, but seems preoccupied with the attention I am giving and never really commits himself to the task.


Day 103

It seems I underestimated the canine’s comprehension.

When the time came that I had no more food to give the cats they called, “Comer, Comer” continually for three days and then went quiet.

Other cats, I did not know, started showing up and positioned themselves in high places throughout the apartment. They were ragged. Many had small injuries and were covered in some dark sticky substance.

Did they get into some strawberry jam? I didn’t have any but maybe they were my neighbor’s cats where some strawberry jam looking substance was a regular snack.

Then I realized what was so disquieting about their appearance.

Grimalkin do not remain dirty. They also do not stare unwavering at you for extended periods of time. And for that matter strange felines are not accepted by the resident cats.

Why did not my cats protest their appearance?

As I said earlier, I think I underestimated my dogs understanding. He had taken to hiding under the couch and twitching his tail nervously.

I knew I had sold him short when he blurted out “Run!” while making for the front door.

He must have trusted me to do so because he could not open the door when he got there. I did not disappoint him. I was right on his tail so to speak.

The visitors up high held their place but some of the others, my cats, approached us as we got to the door.

“Quo Vadis,” my tabby Coolio spoke in smooth almost perfect Latin.

The meaning of which is roughly, “Where are you going?”

Despite the possibly more disturbing action the cats were taking this one really creeped me out. It makes me wonder, how smart are they really?

I find myself stammering, “uh, you know, out.”

Coolio, just stares at me but the others move around to get between us and the door. My dog whimpers but holds his tongue, metaphorically that is, on account that it would be quite some feat to do physically.

They are just cats, I almost say aloud, but stop myself to hide what little I can from the felines before me, and behind me for that matter.

We can take them I think, referring to the little wolf descendant and myself. Dogs can beat cats in a fight, right? That at least used to be true.

My mind is fuzzy and I am not sure I am thinking all that straight. How long has it been since I have eaten, days at very least, a couple of weeks? I don’t know.

The dog hasn’t eaten either but he does little to complain.

Anyway, I'm sure you realize we lived through this encounter by now as I would have had little time to write this while it was happening.

With more assurance than I felt I stood up straighter, put my hands on my hips and said in as stern a voice as I could muster given the circumstance, “Just what do you think you are doing?”

Coolio seemed to be leading this group so I was addressing myself to him.

He stared at me.

He looked so normal then one paw raised slightly as though I was holding one of his toys and he wanted to play.

I was wrong.

When his paw came back down the others pounced.

I had three cats immediately upon my back digging and biting as deep and fierce as they could. I was in shock for a few seconds so great was their furry.

I don’t think people ever feel the full wrath of a domestic mouser.

Playful bites and even angry bites do not do their full might any justice.

My poor dog Rufus was squealing in pain and terror running full speed into the wall, door and armchair that sticks out a little from the Livingroom. My focus was on him now. I had to save him, so I ignored the cats doing their best to rip me limb from limb and grabbed Rufus by the scruff of the neck.

This I did because it is the only way I knew to bring him to a complete stop in time to exit the apartment with me.

I opened the door and threw him into the hallway beyond.

Two gib still clung to him but once he was out of the house, he regained a bit of his wits and flung them off. They circled him slowly now waiting for an opening. I tried to get the cats on me off before exiting but they were dug in deep and not letting go.

I exited and slammed the door shut behind me. I felt that I should lock the door but the pain in my back was maddening.

I dropped backward on the concrete outside my apartment and began steamrolling back and forth in an effort to shake them.

The cats were being crushed as I rolled and soon let go.

Rufus looked at me; we were surrounded.

He might be able to outrun them, but I could not. I felt like he knew this, though I have no way to prove it. He stayed with me none-the-less.

I spoke to the cats promising them fish and chicken if they would just let us go.

Some silent order to stand down must have slipped my notice because they calmed down and began licking our blood off their fur. I could think it had to do with my promises but somehow, I knew that was not the case.

I felt a presence watching me and turned to look in the window. My Persian cat Lily sat frozen on the sill.

It was clear now she was in charge.

I spoke to her without looking at her keeping my eyes on the ones still surrounding me and Rufus. “I am going to leave now. I will be back with food, I promise.”

I had no way of knowing if I could acquire any food. The shops had all shut down two weeks ago and the delivery services were suspended until the ban on outside travel could be lifted.

I got no answer, but she jumped down from the sill and disappeared into the apartment.

All the cats around us departed at that exact moment.

All but Coolio who stared expectantly at me.

They had made their point. They would get food, or I would be their food. Coolio followed us everywhere we went.


Day 104

I broke into a small local grocery store and finally found some canned goods.

I am living back in my apartment and venture out now and again to bring back food and supplies.

I have 14 cats now and one dog.

More feline intruders arrive every day and I don’t know how much longer I can keep them fed.

Police are about with strict orders to return anyone they see back to their homes. The news says food and supplies are being distributed to all the homes in the area, but I have yet to see any.

I think many of my neighbors are dead. I think this because all the new animals that arrive at my apartment are always covered in what I now know is blood.

Rufus is getting weak.

It is difficult to feed him because the cats do not see him as essential and take any food, I try to give him. I try to explain that he is an essential worker for our cause. I explain that his nose helps me find food, but they do not care to listen.

The store I am robbing will soon be out of anything edible.


Day 146

I can find nothing else.

I have grown weak with hunger. Rufus has succumbed to his malnutrition and an infection that I didn’t know how to stop.

They ate him and I couldn’t stop them.

I am just laying here now.

These will likely be the last words that I write. I say to anyone reading this, cats ARE as smart as you think they are.

Do not be nave, and do NOT teach them Latin.



John Cox lives with his wife of 20 plus years, mother-in-law, two boys, two dogs, and one shy lizard. He homeschools his boys and writes when he can. He hopes to be an author when he grows up.

Art by Cynthia Fawcett 2020

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