Everyone in the neighborhood I lived in knew who Ugly was. Ugly was the resident tomcat. Ugly loved three things in this world: fighting, eating garbage, and shall we say, love.

The combination of these things combined with a life spent outside had their effect on Ugly. To start with, he had only one eye, and where the other should have been was a gaping hole. He was also missing his ear on the same side, his left foot has appeared to have been badly broken at one time, and had healed at an unnatural angle, making him look like he was always turning the corner.

Stray cat on the road
His tail has long age been lost, leaving only the smallest stub, which he would constantly jerk and twitch. Ugly would have been a dark gray tabby striped-type, except for the sores covering his head, neck, and even his shoulders with thick, yellowing scabs. Every time someone saw Ugly there was the same reaction. “That’s one UGLY cat!!”

All the children were warned not to touch him, the adults threw rocks at him, hosed him down, squirted him when he tried to come in their homes, or shut his paws in the door when he would not leave. Ugly always had the same reaction. If you turned the hose on him, he would stand there, getting soaked until you gave up and quit. If you threw things at him, he would curl his lanky body around feet in forgiveness.

Whenever he spied children, he would come running meowing frantically and bump his head against their hands, begging for their love. If ever someone picked him up he would immediately begin suckling on your shirt, earrings, whatever he could find.

One day Ugly shared his love with the neighbor’s huskies. They did not respond kindly, and Ugly was badly mauled. From my apartment I could hear his screams, and I tried to rush to his aid. By the time I got to where he was laying, it was apparent Ugly’s sad life was almost at an end.

Ugly lay in a wet circle, his back legs and lower back twisted grossly out of shape, a gaping tear in the white strip of fur that ran down his front. As I picked him up and tried to carry him home I could hear him wheezing and gasping, and could feel him struggling. “I must be hurting him terribly,” I thought. Then I felt a familiar tugging, sucking sensation on my ear.

Ugly, in so much pain, suffering and obviously dying was trying to suckle my ear. I pulled him closer to me, and he bumped the palm of my hand with his head, then he turned his one golden eye towards me, and I could hear the distinct sound of purring. Even in the greatest pain, that ugly battled scarred cat was asking only for a little affection, perhaps some compassion.

Looking outward
At that moment I thought Ugly was the most beautiful, loving creature I had ever seen. Never once did he try to bite or scratch me, or even try to get away from me, or struggle in any way. Ugly just looked up at me completely trusting in me to relieve his pain.

Ugly died in my arms before I could get inside, but I sat and held him for a long time afterwards, thinking about how one scarred, deformed little stray could so alter my opinion about what it means to have true pureness of spirit, to love so totally and truly.

Ugly taught me more about giving and compassion than a thousand books, lectures, or talk show specials ever could, and for that I will always be thankful. He had been scarred on the outside, but I was scarred on the inside, and it was time for me to move on and learn to love truly and deeply.

It was time to give my all to those I cared for. Many people want to be richer, more successful, well liked, beautiful, but for me, I will always try to be like Ugly.

Inside Pandora's Box

Staring into the crowded mall, I thought of the never ending if only’s. If only I had studied. If only I had listened. If only I spent more time learning. Lots of "If only's" festered through my mind like flies to abandoned food.

Stop! Time for analysis. I studied for the Quiz Bowl of the 8th National Dental Month. But why did I not win? And here it comes again, ladies and gentlemen, the if only’.

A whole new world opened. A world of fantasy. A world where I can do anything.  It almost seems like a genie's lamp was rubbed.  Where if only’s became reality. Fairytales and unicorns raced through my mind with those annoying two words.

My mother always told me to ‘think outside the box’.  In my perception, outside the box of unbounded imagination. We can’t think everyday of what could have beens, but what we can actually do. Stop taking a trip down to memory lane and forget your regrets. We have to move on.

What can I do? I thought as I finally become aware of my surroundings.  Well, I could start studying.  I could realize my mistakes.  I could probably tell my mom.  I, I, I don’t know. Arggghh!  I can’t think of anything . Beaten by my own anguish, I decided to take a peek inside the box.

Success! Yes! People are congratulating me. They are surrounding me. My mom's so proud of me. My teachers surround me with the widest smiles. Fellow students peer at me with secret envy.  I was so joyful.  I look down and see milk spilt across the clean tiled floor. Crowds screaming. Wait! Milk? This is so not part of my fantasy.  I blinked the mist away.

The real world crashed into me again, this time reaching inside the box of my imagination.  And milk! Was that irony from the saying "Don't cry over spilt milk"?   Was that even supposed to be funny? My mind barred me from probably the best moment of my life for such a corny joke! How could ....  Wait!  I need to move on. The world has to keep on spinning. Dreams have to keep on coming. Thoughts have to be analyzed.  People need to keep living and …. My mother is impatient to go home and she needs me. Now.

Oh well, maybe I can battle with my mind next time I raced to the car parked outside. With a huge sigh, I sat down.  Okay, here's more time to think.  But there are just so much more to do. So many reports to make. So tiring. So frustrating. I have to work fast.  If only I had a little more time ….. . Damn! For all that the if only’s are back again.