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A Cat Story, Part 1

For Audrey

A Cat Story, Part 1

You would not believe what happened to me. I can’t even believe it, except that I know it did.

It started on a Tuesday when I got home from school. As usual I had to do chores and homework and I never even got a chance to play any video games. When I ask my mom she says, “Maybe tomorrow,” but it never happens.

I was staring at my math problems when Peaches jumped up onto the chair next to me.

“Meow,” Peaches likes to say.

So I scratched his little head and meowed right back at him.

“Finish your homework!” my mother snapped, and that’s when I made an important decision.

When dinner was done and I cleaned my face— because I always seem to have to clean my face— I went to find Peaches.

He was sleeping on my bed, which happens to be one of his most favorite spots to sleep. It’s one of my most favorite spots, too.

That’s when I snuggled him into my arms and he purred and purred, and I asked him, very seriously, “Will you turn me into a cat? Please, Peaches, please?”

All he answered with was, “Meow,” and more purrs, so I figured that was that.

The next morning, though, I woke up to the sound of my sister opening drawers trying to find something to wear. She saw me looking at her and smiled, reached out her hand and scratched my head.

“Stop it!” I yelled, and that’s when I realized.

It wasn’t a yell at all, it was a MEOW!

I looked at my hands and they weren’t hands at all. They were paws! Real paws covered in orange fur!

“What is going on!” I screamed, but it came out as a HOWL.

I jumped out of bed and landed with a THUMP on the floor. It wasn’t that far down the night before!

“Silly Peaches, what are you doing?” my sister said, and so I did the only thing I could think of doing. I ran right under the bed.

My sister left our room and I was not prepared for what came next. Out of my bed sat up ME!

I hid under the bed and watched myself stretch. I watched confusion come over my face. I watched as the human me screamed and fell out of bed onto the floor.

I was looking at myself. Or myself was looking at me. I don’t know! But there I was under the bed and she stared at me, eyes big and wide.

“Caaaaaiiiiitlyn,” my mom called. I knew I should listen but what could I tell her in my crazy cat voice? We just laid there staring at each other while my mom called and called.

“Get ready for school, Caitlyn! What are you doing on the floor?” She stood in the doorway but the Caitlyn that wasn’t Caitlyn just looked up at her.

“Mrrrreeeooooo,” the Not Caitlyn said.

“No time for sillies. Get dressed!” and she stormed out of the room.

Oh no, I thought to myself. What am I going to do now? Here I am, in Peaches cat body, and Peaches is in ME! He didn’t even seem able to stand up right. He kept scratching and mrowing and falling to the floor.

I did the best I could with my paws and mouth. I pulled a dress off a hanger and brought it to Peaches to wear. I think I only got a few scratches in it, but that was okay. He tried to put the dress on but I don’t think he was used to hands. My mom came back and put the dress over his head, helped him with his shoes and the three of them left for school.

That was when I got a little bit scared. I had never been home alone before and the house felt big.

What do cats do all day, anyway?


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Chocolate Lips

His tongue moved over his lips and I wondered if he could taste it– the sweetness.

As if his words were fading in and out, the world moved in jagged slow motions, as I stared at his lips– full and beautiful and chocolate stained.

“Here’s a napkin,” I told him abruptly.

He smiled, held it in his hand and continued speaking. Innocent, boyish.

“There’s chocolate on your mouth,” I finally said.

Startled, he wiped his mouth with the napkin. Even still, on the edge of his bottom lip, a small smudge remained.

“Is it gone?” he asks me.

“Yes. It’s gone.”


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Red Sand, Postcard View

She stepped out of the dry brush into the open and stared, taking in the view. It reminded her of the old faded postcards her father kept, covered with some sort of plasticly film– laminated, she remembered. He kept books filled with them, piles in drawers, some tacked on the walls– an ancient way of sending messages to people, apparently. A piece of thick paper with a picture of a landscape, some other landmark or tourist attraction. A way of saying to the receiver, “Wish you were here!”

People never really did that anymore. Or at least, not before. But this view… this was right out of one of those postcards. A seemingly untouched landscape of reds and oranges. Free and untouched by the past or even the present. She was sure no place like this even existed, and yet here it was, as if stepping right through that piece of paper.

The ground was hard and dusty, bright red hued orange dirt broken up by sandstone rock formations jutting up from the ground. As if some stone giant living within the earth were angry one day, jutting his broom upwards in anger at the noise of those above, forcing the rock to push upwards out of the ground.

Off in the distance she could see a massive wall of the stuff, seemingly blocking her way in all directions.

Clear skies and a too hot sun. Out west, they said. What could be out here but the opportunity to die of dehydration or sun stroke?

She sighed heavily and pulled the handkerchief from her back pocket to wipe the sweat from her forehead. A simple gesture, but one that deliberately gave her a moment to think. To take stock in a calm manner. To figure out what the hell she was going to do next.

She didn’t have enough water to go but a day longer, and the food had all but run out except a can of white beans. The terrain was harsh and the likelihood of coming upon a place with resources didn’t look too good. But to go back now?

As she knelt in the dusty sand, hand to her forehead, she heard a whistle to the northeast. An honest to God whistle, from the throat of a human being, clear and loud. Instinctually she dived back into the brush, breath held, and inched herself into position on her stomach, her elbows digging into the solid ground to peer out into the openness.

Nothing. The sweat dripped from her forehead down her cheeks, into her eyes and mouth, but she dared not make a sound as she intently watched and listened.

SONY DSC

The moon stood nearly full in the black sky, small and distant, casting little light on the world below it. Their soft breathing and the crackling of the fire were joined  now and again with a rustling that sounded all too close from the dry shrubs and bushes around them, surely a small rodent or lizard.

“Where are you headed?” she asked, in an attempt to break the tension.

He sat only a few feet from her, his face lit by the flames of the fire, hard features and a glare in his eyes. Since she’d found him– or he, found her– he’d said little. He seemed a quiet man with something unspoken beneath the surfaces of his dark skin. Maybe anger, or maybe a touch of sadness. She couldn’t tell.

“Not much of anywhere,” he responded, “been heading that way”– indicating northwest with his head– “for a time. Not much water around these parts.”

“I noticed,” she said, her throat suddenly parch. “They say in the west, though–”.

“I know what they say,” he interrupted.

Her body tensed at the finality of his tone, and she decided not to push it. She instead stared into the fire, considering the situation at hand. Sometimes it seemed almost unreal that here she was, wandering a world once overflowing with people, alone. That days, weeks, and months could be spent without seeing another soul, whereas her whole life prior had been spent wishing for some semblance of quiet in the constant noise and chaos of her world.

This was it, she supposed. This was the life she had yearned for and wanted, but it wasn’t as she’d dreamed it. It wasn’t just that it was difficult, or that it was dirty, or that there were some days she wasn’t sure she’d live at all to see the next. But instead it was lonely, and while a quiet and nomadic life had at once seemed desirable it’d lost its charm. She wanted home and family and people and she didn’t know where that was anymore.

The movement of his hands caught her attention, breaking her out of her thoughts. He’d gently pulled up the cuff of his pants to reveal the sheath of a knife and obscured it in the palm of his hand. Her eyes darted to his face, and he was staring at her, eyes hard and cold.

Her heart leaped in her chest. She looked into those eyes for a frozen moment, working through the odds of her reaching her knife first, whether the position she was in would allow enough defense, or whether she should run. Just as she made her decision and threw her body to the left, diving hard into the ground with a roll to snatch her pack where her knife was, he moved with a speed that surprised her and was on his feet.

He dug his boots into the ground and catapulted himself in a leap– not towards her at all, but towards where she was sitting just breaths before, and she heard an animal-like shout as his knife found it’s home. In confused panic she stood, her knife free and in hand, staring at him with his knife plunged deep into the stomach of another man who was bent over, almost hugging him. He made a quick movement, turning the blade and then promptly pushing the other’s body away from him to the ground.

She stood still in her stance, knife still in hand, her breaths coming quickly. He lost no time– he went to his pack and pulled out a piece of cloth, wiped the blade of his knife off and sheathed it. He began moving about to gather his things, all the while not looking towards her. She began moving again as he was stamping the fire out, throwing the sandy dirt joined with bits of rock onto it, packing up her own things.

“I’m sorry, I–”

“We need to go now.”


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The Rain

I’ve got to get out of these clothes– fast. The rain is finally falling down in drops large enough to wet the pavement whole. A rare thing here in Southern California, it’s soaking the plants outside in the yard enough to drip their excess moisture into the dry soil below. Gleaming the usually too bright stone with a damp gray. Casting an unusual shadow on the world that is so often– far too often– drenched in too bright sun.

Scooting out of jeans and pulling shirt over head, I fidget my way out of a bra too tight and strip off socks, hopping from one foot to the other, and run into the downpour.

I expect nature, soft and glistening, kissing against my pale pieces offset by sun burnt skin. I imagine the rain would envelope me into its loving grasp, lifting me up into a world you cannot know without experiencing the full embrace of nature.

Instead I’m met with the chill of the drops, wet and cold. Pounding heavily onto my held high forehead, running colder and colder as it travels down my goose bumped body. The wind blows a chill against the lingering drops of cloud water. The mud spreads between my toes.

I stand shivering, arms held out wide in purposeful defiance, willing the storm to take me as her own.


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33 Years of Slow Learning

I’m 33 years old.

This happens to be my favorite number, which I curiously did not make the connection that this equaled my age until only a few moments ago. Here I am, the age of my favorite number– that must mean something, right?

A slow learner. That’s what I’ve often described myself as, especially when it comes to life. Somehow I’ve escaped my childhood, teens, and 20s for the most part unscathed; but man, I sure could tell some stories. My journey to being an adult, a mother, and a useful part of society has taken more time and effort than most people I know of, but I’ve somehow made it here, mostly intact.

Here I sit in a house that only feels too big when it comes to cleaning it, with 2.5 kids that are all but well behaved, cats that keep me company as I work from home most days, and a awkwardly long dog that is somehow always happy to see me. We have well paying jobs and a savings account (er, well… the plan for one), we count calories and actually cook home cooked meals. Planned in two weeks is a vacation off work for the first time in my life and I found myself talking about a 2 year financial plan just the other day.

Oh yeah. I’ve got it all. I’m such an adult now.

There are moments it strikes me without warning and I pause, take a quick look around and am quite certain somebody is going to run towards me pointing, “Imposter! Fraud!” because surely I’m in the wrong place. This life can’t be mine. I’ve stolen it and it’s certainly only a matter of time before somebody finds out.

This wasn’t the life I was meant to live at all. I knew that if I didn’t somehow die at the age of 24 that it meant I was living my dreams. Traveling, writing, and being incredibly interesting. It meant I’d know how to dress stylishly and do my hair, that people would flock around me just to hear the grand stories I could tell. I most definitely wouldn’t work a 9 to 5 and I’d live smack dab in the middle of a big city, like a cultured person ought to.

But no.

Instead I work a 9 to 5… or sometimes, a 9 to 9. Most days I don’t even get out of my pajamas or step out of my house that sits comfortably in what can only be described as suburbia hell. My days are spent writing code, fixing bugs, troubleshooting server issues and attempting to avoid office politics. My evenings are filled with rushing kids to dance class or taking bike rides all the while my eldest daughter complainining as if I were torturing her. I can’t go where I want or when I want because this requires planning, organization, and good timing.

I haven’t written more than a few thousand words in months.

I’m happy, though, where I am. I’m not saying that isn’t so. It’s not the life that was meant to be mine but it’s the life I have, and I’ve never been more content. I generally enjoy my job and I generally enjoy my kids — especially when they are sleeping. In my good sized house I can drink all the lattes I want, I can throw the clothes on the floor, and I can put up rules that the other inhabitants are meant to abide by whether they do or not. And yet, here and there, I notice something is amiss.

It’s that slow learner thing. I know that since I was 13 putting my pen to paper has been the single most thing that kept me vaguely sane. That I lived and breathed words, taken and created and mushed up into pretty little sentences. It’s almost cliche, but without the words sometimes I wouldn’t know whether I existed at all. And yet, for almost a decade now, the words have been neglected. In spurts every 7 months or so only to be pushed aside again for something else. Something more urgent.

It’s not until recently that I realized, after saying it for most of my 33 years of life, that I need to write. Let’s say it again, yes? I need to write. That, my dear readers, is what I’ve learned after 33 years on this earth. That the life we imagine rarely comes to be. That the life we are in can be all we really need. And that, low and behold, we must do the things that we yearn for. Whatever it may be. We must do it, we must try. We were given the ability to feel this sort of need– I don’t care how. What else can we do but answer it?