“The ‘Bad Old Man,’ bloody ear, nose raw from fighting…”

When asked, old waterman denied the
Cat was his, big stray orange tabby,
Known around fishing boat docks as
The “Bad Old Man,” bloody ear, nose
Raw from fighting, ranging here and
There, pre-dawn mornings, hanging
Out at local hotel for breakfast bacon,
Daunting green eyes, scaring out-of-
Town guests, their children, stared
Down by cat size of a beagle dog.

When old waterman walked to grocery
Store, he was oft followed by mewling
Big tabby. “He’s not my cat!” he would
Tell passersby. Everyone knew it was a
Lie, sun-faded hat, scruffy grey hair,
Seafaring weathered face, sneakers paint
Spattered. “Cat’s don’t belong to anyone,”
He replied, but everyone who saw them,
Knew those two belonged together,
Rain or shine.

Truth was, it took months for the old water-
Man to befriend his big tabby. He lurked
Around boathouses, piles of old trawl net,
Coils of cable, diesel engine blocks. This is
Where they both lived, cot in a boathouse,
Single light, rattling empties of 40 ounce
Beer, pee off dock at midnight. No one cared
Or dared look. One night, he whistled up
His tabby, promise of food, safe night’s sleep,
When dirty weather moved in.

“He lurked around boathouses, piles of old trawl net…”

As months passed, old man and his tabby
Just disappeared. One morning they were
Gone, man and cat. Rumor was they found
Work on a fishing boat, mouser to keep
Rats down, or able ship’s cat, companion
When trawl net’s dragging or when it’s
Rack time, cat’s possessive place upon the
Bunk. Truth is, no one really knew, gossip
At the diner, morning eggs, ring of coffee
Cups stirring, waterman and his cat.

As with most fiction, it’s based on fact. Yes, the cat
is real a
nd was befriended by an old fisherman. 

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