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Terrence McCauley: A Lesson from Hopeless

imageMy first cat was named Hopeless. My father gave her that name because of the long, lamenting meow she had when we brought her home from the pet store. Even as a three month old kitten, she had a hell of a pair of lungs on her.

Hopeless was a small gray and white tigress who really didn’t like to do much. She didn’t play or run around or get into mischief like most cats do. She didn’t even like to eat a whole lot. She was a timid, nervous cat who preferred my mother’s company and could care less about my father or me.

When we brought her to the vet for her first check-up, they told us she probably wouldn’t live very long. She was small and lethargic and would be prone to sickness. My parents both smoked two packs of cigarettes a day and weren’t interested in quitting any time soon. That meant the cat would probably breathe in about four packs of cigarettes every day for the rest of her life. We’d be lucky if she lived a couple of years.

My parents and I decided to keep her anyway. A shelter probably would have put her to sleep immediately and we wanted to give her as good a quality of life as we could.

Hopeless stopped growing after a few months and remained a skinny cat for the rest of her life. Her paws were tiny, smaller than my thumb. My parents cut back on their smoking a little, but not much. Hopeless lasted the first year and another year and we began to think she might beat the odds.

After my parents died, my wife and I brought Hopeless into our home. She was still a nervous, distant cat, which ultimately caused her to have hyper-tension that caused her to go blind. But Hopeless didn’t give up and we didn’t give up on her. As the years went on, she started eating more than ever – two cans a day plus a bowl of dry food. She never gained an ounce. Her weight remained a steady five pounds.

Hopeless was still an old cat by the time I began concentrating on starting a writing career. She’d already defied the odds for so long, she served as something of an inspiration to me. If this little animal had the will to endure after losing her owner (my mom) and without being very strong or even being able to see, I should be able to find a way to overcome all of the many obstacles most writers face as they try to get their work published.

In 2012, I finally achieved my dream and my first novel – PROHIBITION – was published by Airship 27. Soon after, Hopeless went to sleep and dreamed for the last time. The cat the vet told us would only live a year or two was twenty-one years old when she died. And she was still only five pounds.

I can’t say Hopeless was my muse. She wasn’t even a very loving cat. But she was a gentle and elegant animal who taught me, in her own way, the most important lesson a writer can learn – the power of perseverance.