It wasn’t a year that shone a light on its better qualities, not a year that felt abundant with betters; but by the end of it, despite it all, things were in fact better.
It all began at the logistics meeting.
‘Let’s spitball,’ they said, ‘no bad ideas in a thought shower,’ they said, ‘we want to hear from everyone.’
‘I was thinking,’ is all I managed to get out before Roger steamrolled over me. It’s the same every time, he never lets me get a word in. ‘If I could just add,’ but I couldn’t. Nevertheless, I wasn’t backing down, I had a good idea. I was coming at the problem laterally, you see; group dynamics, even when problematic, set my synapses sparking.
By thinking about it analogically, as if we were designing a farmyard, we could resolve our logistics issue. I was trying to explain this idea, but Roger kept talking.
I elevated my voice incrementally until I finally broke through with an admittedly somewhat shrill ‘FARMYARD!’ Everyone stopped and looked at me. A touch flustered, I said, ‘well, I just think everyone’s ideas should be heard.’ Roger walked to a flip chart, picked up a fat blue marker, and in all caps wrote ‘FARMYARD’. When he punctuated it with a bullet point, everyone laughed. And that was the end of it, no one asked to hear my idea.
I ended up scrolling and scrolling through the profile of a girl I went to school with: a couple of years’ worth of daily yoga photos, at dawn, on hillsides, in bedrooms with light flooding through white linen curtains, sprinkled with unwrapping videos of yoga adjacent products, mats and leggings, incense and candles, cleanses for skin and cleanses you drink. And always in the company of a docile, wise-looking Irish wolfhound.
She had thousands of followers. Her most recent post was a three second gif of her neck and collarbone — she looked unnatural, her skin glowing in smooth gradations. She looked more like food than a person. She was wearing a jade pendant which she held forward with skeletal, yet soft fingers topped with taupe nails. The pendant was in the shape of a sort of cat-like head. The post was captioned ‘#shamanicjadehealingocelot’.
I was feeling whimsical — ‘lovely’, I commented. I coasted through the rest of the day, secretly assigning all my tasks to tomorrow, as I drifted through celebrity gossip, social media, and some tentative explorations of alternative career opportunities.
That evening after dinner, curled up in my dressing gown by the fire with a glass of wine, I opened my phone to find a message. ‘Hey! Thanks so much for your comment! The jade ocelot really works! You should try it!’ Writing it here now, that looks like quite a lot of exclamation marks, but when I read it in the context of yoga-influencer social media, it seemed refreshingly sober and judicious in its deployment of the exclamatory.
‘Hey, great to hear from you,’ I wrote, trying to let my words create a sunny tone without resorting to excessive punctuation, ‘how long has it been?’ I waited a few minutes, pressing refresh every so often.
‘Too long!!!’ I was surprised by this sudden shift in orthographic style, but she subsequently became more business-like. The long and the short of it was, I’d just gotten myself a free shaman-approved jade healing ocelot pendant. It was just what I needed, and just on time, a little unexpected something, to lift me from my work gloom.
Before the week was up the package arrived: ten jade healing ocelot pendants, and I had two whole months to pay back the cost of nine of them, leaving me with a free shaman-grade charm, and all it cost me was reaching out to an old acquaintance.
I put the pendant on as soon as I had it open and noticed the difference pretty much immediately. The first thing to do, so I learnt, was to post a ‘selfie’ of me wearing the pendant, and then see who responds — see who’s interested in learning more about the healing power of jade ocelots.
Not quite as simple a task as it sounds: no one gave so much as a thumbs up, and the only comment was from Avril, the widow next door who I help with the bins. She wrote: ‘This makes you look younger. Bin day’ followed by a bin emoji (this was my first time seeing such a thing). That evening, Avril’s bins had never felt so light. I lugged them to the curb in record time, called in to Avril, and sold my first pendant. Well, to myself really; Avril’s birthday was coming up, and the widow’s pension only goes so far, so it was my gift to her. She certainly could do with some healing, but at her age, there’s only so much you can expect from a jade ocelot.
I fell asleep that night with the pendant still on and had the strangest dream. It’s a bit of a muddle in my head, but Roger was in it, and he was an ocelot, and I was frightened, until I realised that I was an ocelot too, and then I think Roger wasn’t an ocelot anymore, or he wasn’t there anymore, and I was an ocelot bounding through the plains on my own. I woke up feeling dynamite.
I’d never been one to labour under misapprehension and had long been very much aware that I was not someone that you would ever say had quite mastered the art of social media. That was a given. But it was only once I found myself trying to share the rejuvenating qualities of jade ocelot pendants with eight lucky people that I realised the exact nature of my problem. The keyword is ‘network’ — the idea is that we’re all nodes connected like a big net. My problem was that I was a terminal node: connections flowed into me, but nothing came back out, so to speak. But that was no reason to give up, I had other networks. Work, for example.
On Monday, I took lunch in the canteen to sit with the group instead of at my desk.
‘How are you?’
‘How’s it going?’
These are the sorts of questions that have always stumped me. I know neither the story nor what is up. I tried, for a period, answering ‘how are you?’ honestly and exhaustively, but it never went down well. All this weighed heavily on me as I approached the table, but I was worrying about nothing: I took my seat unquizzed.
No one even seemed to notice me joining. They were all enthralled by Roger expounding on his alcohol-heavy and erotically adventurous weekend. I’d worn a v-neck to showcase the pendant, and sat dusting my shoulders, a-hem-ing and pushing my collar forward to no avail. After a boisterous a-hem, Roger interrupted himself to ask, ‘do you need some water there or something?’ This got a big laugh, but I have no idea why, because I did, as it happened, have a rather dry throat just then, in fact, so I graciously accepted. It was very refreshing, really hit the spot.
You know, the more time I spend kicking about on this planet we call ‘Earth’, the more truth I find in a desktop image of a sunset overlaid with text reading, ‘opportunity comes to those ready for it.’ It so happened that my teenage niece was to spend that weekend with me while her parents were away. That girl lived on her phone, I’d never seen her left hand without it, and she had thousands of followers — I followed her myself, but I ended up muting her posts (some of her outfits made me feel uncomfortable).
So, get a jade pendant on her, I imagine you’re thinking, and then the rest will fly. Well, yes, that might have worked, and perhaps it was something to do with the replenishing effect the jade pendant was having on me, but I was feeling daring. If I could get all eight of those pendants on her and her friends in one swoop imagine how it could take off — I’d be the svengali of a teen healing pendant sensation, easing the troubles of the younger generation and making money as I did it. So, I decided to play the cool grown up. ‘Invite your friends over,’ I said, ‘you’re practically an adult now, your parents needn’t know, I’ll supply the wine.’
I didn’t shift any that night either, but you know, it was probably for the best. I needed all the healing I could get for myself, what with my niece ending up having her stomach pumped and my subsequent arrest. I started wearing several pendants at once when I needed a boost, and really, I’d never felt better.
A couple of nights later I travelled to the vortex for the first time. It’s the funniest thing, there were hundreds and hundreds of videos, personal testimonies, about the healing powers of jade ocelot pendants, but I couldn’t find a single person talking about the vortex.
The closest thing I could find was a video titled ‘WARNING, EXTREMELY POWERFUL JADE OCELOT.’ The video was shot by a young man with a poor grasp of lighting for broadcast, given that he had a tungsten desk lamp pointing at the back of his hooded head. He claimed to have not one, but both certificates offered by the Hibiscus Moon Academy.
He warned that people with advanced psychic sensitivities might find ocelot energy overwhelming at first but reassured that they could easily handle it by alternating pendant wearing and sans pendant days. Good to know, but as far as I knew, I did not have, or did not believe I had at that point anyway, advanced psychic sensitivities.
I committed to a state of permanent festoonery in my nonet of feline talismans, and I quit driving to work. All that sitting and waiting in traffic was a waste of time. I took to running the twenty miles each way. It was quicker, and I arrived in zestier spirits than if I’d been sluggishly sitting in a car for an hour. And if ever there was a week that called for zestiness, this was it. I was up against Roger.
Only one of our proposals was going to be pitched to the client, and I was feeling confident. He was feigning nonchalance, as if he was completely oblivious to the ocelot-enhanced competition he was up against. By Wednesday, I was so confident that I’d cracked it that I did something mischievous. I ordered flowers to be delivered to Roger at 12.45 on Thursday, fifteen minutes after the meeting on the proposals, with a card reading, ‘better luck next time.’ I didn’t sleep a wink that night as I lay on my bed feeling ocelot energy coursing through my veins. The next day, I arrived at the boardroom at 11.30 to find everyone in rapturous applause. It turned out the meeting had been rescheduled an hour earlier, and I’d not been notified.
‘Done it again Rodge,’ everyone looked very impressed as they streamed out of the room.
‘Excuse me!’ I tried, to no avail.
‘Back of the net.’
‘Can I have everyone’s attention, please?’
I had to strike fast. I loaded my PowerPoint and with the most forceful ocelot roar I could muster announced, ‘thank you for coming to my presentation,’ but I couldn’t be heard over the slapping of backs and the swinging of doors. I’m not one who just gives up, so I delivered my presentation in full, despite it all, to the handful of lingerers floating around the sandwich tray and coffee urn; and I like to believe their agreeable mumbles were not exclusively expressions of their positive disposition towards the roast pepper and goats cheese on sourdough.
I left the boardroom to find the office filled with what felt like a very recent silence. I looked at the dozen orange and blue bird-of-paradise flowers looming over Roger’s desk and heard the farting noise of suppressed laughter from some place or places that I couldn’t identify. Oh well, I’d been up against the best, no sense in being a sore loser. I walked to my desk; but I continued on, out the door, running twenty miles home, then up to my bedroom where I drew the curtains and, wearing only my nine pendants and blackout eye mask, took a well-earned nap.
Things started looking up for me once I started talking to the Ocelot God in the vortex. He spoke a lot of sense, set me right, I was really starting to see things clearly. It was time for me to work on me, that’s how the Ocelot God put it. So, I couldn’t have asked for a better time for my niece and her parents to estrange themselves, and for Avril to pop her well-worn clogs: I had no distractions, so no excuses.
When the opportunity came to focus on ocelots full time, I jumped at it. HR offered me voluntary redundancy, something about making Roger uncomfortable. It was cheaper than a court case, they said, but it was plenty to me, just the seed money I needed to get my own pendant operation really swinging.
My old school friend was so delighted with my order for five thousand shamanic jade healing ocelot pendants that she invited me to stay with her at her lakeview condo. Now wasn’t a good time, but we’d arrange something later.
There’s nothing like the sound of two hundred and fifty jade ocelot pendants pouring from a cardboard box on to a hardwood veneer floor, and to hear that sound twenty times consecutively is sheer heaven. I lay on that mountain of healing until it became dark and then light again. Ecstatic. My every corpuscle and synapse flooded with concentrated ocelot energy.
I had a visitation from the Ocelot God, right there above me, floating about the living room ceiling. He spoke an ancient ocelot language, and it had a really cool synthesizer effect on it that made his voice sound sort of like a choir of robot voices from a techno song. It was really very impressive. Anyway, despite the language barrier, I was able to get the gist of what the Ocelot God was at, through psychic means, and it was this: I was to become He. Who’d have thought it, me, an Ocelot God in training.
As spiritually uplifting as it can be, wearing a couple of hundred pendants, not just around the neck but as belts and wrapped around the limbs, does take a physical toll. And grinding polished jade into a fine grain is no mean feat either, let me tell you.
But once you’ve both figuratively and literally put your nose to the grindstone, you’ve got yourself a highly concentrated and adaptable cache of unadulterated ocelot power in powder form. There really is no end to its uses. I was rumbled trying to apply it to Roger’s doorknob to see if it would balance him spiritually and had to ocelot-tail it out of his garden pretty pronto, so the jury is still out on how it performs in particularly difficult cases. But it worked wonders for me.
Once I had the pendants powdered, I could mix it into my shampoo, bodywash and moisturiser, and literally be coated in healing ocelot power from head to toe. Sometimes, for a special treat, I even sprinkled some powder into my ocelot kittens’ kibble. Did I mention them? I’m raising real ocelots now. It’s very rewarding.
People started liking my videos, showing how I applied my homemade jade ocelot topicals and extolling their benefits. The cameos from the kittens didn’t hurt: if there’s one thing that unites humanity, it’s that we all love looking at ocelot kittens. Before I knew it, I was making a boutique line of jade ocelot cosmetics for an ailing cosmetics brand looking to connect with ‘influencer culture’.
‘Feel the power of the ocelot’ — that was our tagline. I can take no credit, the outgoing Ocelot God came up with it Himself. I requested it be printed in red with a stretched, warpy font, with visual echoes in pink, green and orange, to convey the weighty tone in which the Ocelot God uttered it. But the graphic designer talked me out of it, and it was probably for the best — this stuff was selling like hotcakes, its beige and white packaging flying out of wellness stores the world over.
Yes, in some ways, on paper, it was a bad year. I lost my job. Avril’s dead. My niece and her parents are dead (well, I don’t know that for a fact, but you know what I mean). Even Roger is dead (and I have been very clear that I know nothing about that). And I know now too, that my greatest mentor, my protector, companion, judge, and, yes, my God, is nearing the end of His time with us.
But if the Ocelot God has taught me anything, it is that, just as two jade ocelot pendants together create more than twice the power of a single jade ocelot pendant, so too it is with a life — or an energy, for what is life but energy? — that which has touched another can never truly die, for it lives on in the enhanced energy of all it has touched. And also, another big tick on the plus side is all the money — I’m making loads of it. But you know, no matter how much money I make (and it really is an awful lot, I’m not just saying that), it’s always just about enough to keep me in freshly ground jade and keep my ever-expanding family of ocelots fed and happy.
That’s my focus now, I’m not much involved in the day-to-day of the ocelot line. I’m too busy raising the kittens. I’ve a few dozen at the moment, but it’s always in flux, new ones coming in, and others growing up: when my ocelot kittens become ocelot adults, I set them free; free to roam among the lost souls on the suburban savannah of my neighbourhood, the shopping centre, the playground; so that they may perhaps touch these lost souls, take these souls in their jaws, protectively, and carry them home by their scruffs; home to me, their Ocelot God.
Robin Fuller lives in Dublin and is working on fiction. His writing has appeared in The Stinging Fly, The Journal and The Dublin Inquirer.