Cat

Strange happened. No, something strange. Something happened and that is strange. Yes. Nothing happen here ever. Write because happened twice, once today earlier and then once before today. Day before today. Two days it happened, had visitor. Furry and small. Cat, I think. Hard to find right name. Not thought of names in long time. Cot for sleeping, have cot for sleeping, have sink for washing, chair for sitting. Names are stupid. This is hard, so enough. Maybe come back later.

***

It is tomorrow. Or next day. Doesn’t matter. Cat came back three times now, and still here. It is still here. Very pretty, this one cat. Fat and has short fur, white and brown. Not stripes like zebra but splotchy. (Took a long time to remember word zebra.) Very pretty pattern on cat, but distracting. Long time since had color to look at. Everything here is gray. Can almost see him moving when I close eyes, know he is there like the sun used to be. Don’t know if he is a he. If he is a he, he likes to wrap his side around the bars back and forth. They do that sometimes to put their smell on. His back is going up.  Arching up. And tail is straight up. Now he is rubbing his head on the bar. Now he is staring at me. Now he looks away.

Well, he left, and it’s a good thing. I am tired from thinking of words. It’s getting easier, but enough for now.

***

No cat today. Maybe he will come later. For now I thought I might practice with words.

Practice with words.

Practice.

The cat is

The cat

Word

No words are coming.

***

Cat came to visit today. I was sitting in the corner, far away from the bars as I could be. I just like the corner, for sitting. I can see the whole room and the wall beyond the bars. Anyway, cat came through into my room this time (first time), but not far. Sort of sat down and stared at things. Probably got bored because there isn’t much in the way of looking at. Spent much time licking himself.  I smoked a cigarette and watched him. He licked. Chewed. Gnawed.

Nothing happened for quite a long time except we stared at each other.

At the end of the long time, I did something I haven’t done since I can remember. Tried to make a word out loud. Opened my lips and moved the back of my tongue to the roof of my mouth. Made some kind of clicking sound, but all that came out after was air. It was a lot of work to make the air push out from my chest into a sound. K . . . k – hhhat. Very odd to hear, and a little frightening. Like the first word ever spoken by a deaf man.

Cat blinked, then said, Man. Then he left.

I wanted to say don’t go, but it was too hard.

***

Tonight, I practiced naming things out loud. A stupid thing to do, but I did it anyway. Out loud, I said floor, ceiling, faucet, lock, concrete. The more I did it, the more names came back to me. Names for things that are parts of things, like mortar, which is part of the wall. But what are names good for? When I sit on the cot, is it still a cot, or is it a chair? What if the chair was not there, and I had only a concrete slab sticking out from the wall for sitting on? Would the slab then be a chair?  Chair, this chair, my chair, in this place, always stays against the wall and doesn’t move. I never move it, so it might as well be a slab. But I am getting better with the words, is the point. I read what I’ve written so far and I can see it getting better, too. I even read some parts out loud, but I got tired from pushing the air out.

No cat.

***

When I woke up today, cat was sitting on the floor, staring at me. I said hello, cat, and so did he (only he said man, not cat). Then he said, I didn’t know you could talk.

Neither did I, I said. I mean, I didn’t know you could talk, either. He looked over to the sink, as if it was more interesting than me, and said Most people talk too much.

My cheeks rolled up when he said that. An odd feeling, to smile. I said I didn’t remember the last time I talked to people, but that I seemed to remember having that same thought (about them). I sat up on the cot because it made talking easier.  What kind of cat are you?

( name )

( name ), I said. I wanted to tell him how beautiful he was, but it seemed too soon. I have to really know someone, even if it’s a cat, before I can say something like that. For the moment, I just went on watching him as he checked out the place.

My mother once had a cat that looked like you. And another one that was brown with a black tail and black feet.

Paws, said the cat.

I apologized, but Cat just walked around the room to smell things and rub his smell on them.

Are you a male? I said.

Uh-huh. He was scratching the back of his neck on the bottom of the u-shaped pipe under the sink. Satisfied, maybe, he started back across the room. He glanced at me and blinked and said, Thank you for asking.

I said there was no need, that I was just wondering.

Well, most people would pick me up and look. Turn me upside down and check, he said.

In the middle of the room, cat stopped, looking off to one side at nothing in particular and wondering, I guess, what exactly to do next. He decided to leave. He slipped out between the bars and said See you later.

***

I was sitting on the cot with my back against the wall, when he came back.

Hello, Cat, I said.

No answer. He had something in his mouth. He padded up to me and dropped it on the floor. I had to lean over my creaky cot to see what it was. It was small and ugly and dead.

Mouse, he said.

Our eyes met (mine and the cat’s).  I said, For me?

He blinked. Yeah.

Thanks. Thank you very much.

No big deal, he said. There’s a lot of them, if you know where to look. He paused, and padded my gift with his paw. It flipped over, and cat got a little excited at that. He swiped it, and it skidded away, and then he crouched, as if ready to pounce.  Then he relaxed, as if remembering mouse was dead, and looked at me out of the corner of his eye — sheepishly, I want to say. Acting as if I hadn’t noticed, I reached for a cigarette. Over time, mainly since there is nothing here but time, I’ve developed a habit, a ritual of sorts, whereby the act of reaching for a cigarette has become a drawn out process involving much packing of the cigarette, passing of the cigarette under my nose, and rolling of the cigarette between my fingers before I ever get around to lighting it, so he (cat) had plenty of time to ponder my action before saying what he said next.

They say you shouldn’t do that, he said.

I had only just gotten the thing between my lips and hadn’t gotten around to lighting it yet. Who does? I said.

I don’t know, he said. People.

The unlit cigarette hanging from my mouth, it was my turn to ponder. I thought we agreed that people talk too much, I said.

Oh yeah, he said.

I smiled again, pulled the cigarette from my lips and slipped it back into the pack. I said maybe those people were right.

He was close to me now, closest he’d been so far, sitting with his head craned up, eyes scanning the edge of my cot. Most of his weight was on his back legs. His hind legs. But then he changed his mind, must have caught me smiling, because he became less taut, and suddenly seemed heavier than he had a moment ago. A little self-conscious, maybe.

I layed my hand on the edge of the cot and wiggled my fingers.

He seemed to think about it for a moment. Then he jumped. And suddenly his feet, or rather his paws, were making little indentations in the soft mattress as he padded around.

***

Haven’t seen Cat in many days, but I thought I might write a little anyway. I have this notebook, so I must need it. Need is a funny word, when you say it out loud. Need. Neeeeed. I need bread. I knead bread. No, I knead dough, I eat bread.  I eet bread. I eeet bred. Eet bred. It’s ridiculous, the sounds we make, that we don’t even listen to, and yet somehow understand. Yesterday, as I was putting words together and listening to them, slowing them down, speeding them up, isolating fragments and repeating them till they lost all meaning and became only sounds, I heard what English sounds like to someone who doesn’t speak it, and it frightened me. I am not going to speak out loud again until Cat comes back.  But what I began to say is that I must need this notebook, because here, in this room, it is all I have left. I seem to remember having it from the beginning, although I cannot prove that, because there is nothing written before the beginning of this. In the beginning, the beginning of my time here, I had many things.  All of them have disappeared. All but this notebook. It had a color once, though I don’t remember what. Now it is gray like the walls, the sink, the blanket. Other things  — the food, the cigarettes and matches — I don’t know where these come from. But they are there when I reach for them.

***

Has it occurred to you that you might be a little bit crazy?

It was Cat talking. I rolled over to find him hunched over my notebook, which I had left lying open on the floor. I’ve taken to writing while lying on the floor, on my stomach, elbows propped under me. It’s hard on the elbows, even with a blanket for a cushion.

Cat! I said. Where have you been?

He was leafing backwards through the pages. They caught me, he said, and locked me up for awhile. But I got out.

Who caught you?

One of those whaddayacallems. Dogcatchers.

You’re no dog, I said.

That’s what I said. But they put me in a little cage anyway. Kind of like this one, he said, only with bars on all sides, not just one. Then some lady came and took me home with her. I ran away first chance I got. He paused a moment, then continued reading. Then he said, You don’t mind me reading, do you?

I didn’t mind, really, but it was slightly embarrassing. Parts of it did, I’m sure, sound a little crazy. But it amused me that he’d read all the way back to the first page before asking.

You didn’t like this lady?

Nuh uh. Cat flipped my notebook shut and rubbed his face with a paw. She kept picking me up and putting me on her lap when I didn’t want to be on her lap. And she had dirty breath. She didn’t brush her teeth enough or something.  Her breath was really something. I never brush my teeth, and my breath doesn’t stink like that.

How do you know? I said.

Cat blinked.

I’ll tell you what stinks, he said. Dog breath. Dog breath stinks bad.

I said I didn’t remember dog breath stinking that bad, but it had been a long time.

Cat opened my notebook again and flipped through it forward this time.

How long have you been here?

I crunched my blanket up under my cheek like for a pillow. Lying on my side on the cot, I stared through the gray metal bars to the gray concrete wall beyond.

I don’t know, I said. A long time. But I remember parts of a time when I wasn’t here. Small parts, and they are hard to remember.

What about before, said Cat, his tail flipping side to side. Where were you before?

I rubbed my eyes with the back of my hand, trying to think. They felt puffy, my eyes. Probably had big bags under them.  My eyelids seemed to bounce back up when I blinked.

Before, I was … I can’t say what. I do remember being happy, and having friends.

It wasn’t something I enjoyed remembering, or rather realizing. I didn’t really want to discuss it, and Cat had this look on his face like he didn’t care if I did or not

I remember laughing. I remember being able to talk to anyone and have a good time. I remember it being very easy to laugh.

Cat started licking himself, and I could tell he was more into that than talking. I watched him lick himself so long I fell asleep. When I woke up later, he was gone.

***

Woke up today and found Cat curled up against my chest. That was nice.  He was warm and breathing. I smiled.

Hello, cat.

He opened his eyes and said hello, man.

I asked him if he would mind terribly if I were to touch him. He only blinked, and I took that as a yes. I stroked his side.  Soft, and pleasant. The first time I touched him. I stroked his fur, and with each stroke, he blinked. Then he began to rumble inside. To purr.

I like you, Cat.

Cat closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

***

It’s been so long since I’ve written, because I haven’t seen Cat, though I have no idea how long. I say days, though there are really no days here, only a perpetual twilight gray, like a mist that thickens and fades almost imperceptibly. It has no connection with my sleep cycle, if even I have one. I never go to sleep. I only wake up, and realize I have slept. Not unlike the way I sometimes close my hand around a pack of cigarettes that I didn’t know was there, or find myself with a mouthful of bread, not knowing where it came from.

I remember going to school, I told Cat one time. I mean, I know that a long time ago, I did go to school like everyone else, and that like everyone else, I didn’t like it. I know I graduated college, and worked afterwards.  But all I remember about that was having to wear something tight and too warm. That, and standing by some machine that clicked and hummed.

Cat didn’t respond to this, just flapped his tail and waited for more.

I grabbed his tail and said, I remember liking it at first, and then hating it. I remember hating a lot of things, but I remember the hate more than the things.

Cat said that was depressing, and I said he was right. For some reason, it occurred to me that if I reached for a cigarette it would be there, but that I didn’t want one, and so it wasn’t really there.

I remember when I was boy, I was playing a board game with a friend. I was winning, and I loved how he grew more and more frustrated until he threw the dice against the wall and quit. I loved how he stared at the board with disgust. And then it occurred to me we weren’t sharing anything anymore. We weren’t even in the same room anymore. So I decided to lose. I made stupid moves. And soon all of his pieces were back on the board and mine off it. I acted frustrated and disgusted so he wouldn’t know I meant to lose. It was nice to see him happy. That was a long time ago.

I find Cat staring at me blankly.

Am I talking too much?

Cat shakes his head and smiles. I mean, he doesn’t really shake his head or smile, but he looks like he would be smiling, if he could.

It’s good to talk, says the Cat.

You don’t talk much, I say.

It’s also good to listen, he says.

I want to listen to you talk for awhile, I say.

What do you want me to talk about?

Anything.  Just talk.

I don’t have much to say.

I don’t care what you say, just say something.  Say the alphabet, if you want.

Why would I want to do that?

To give me something to listen to.

What good would that do?

What do you mean what good would that do?

How about you listen to me flap my tail on the mattress?

That’s not talking.

Neither is saying the alphabet.  So what do you want from me?

I just want you to talk.

Why don’t you ask me a question?

What should I ask you?

Ask why I’m here.

Fine.  That’s a good question.  Why are you here?

Why am I here?

Yes, why are you here?

Why is Cat here?

Yes, why is Cat here?

Why is Cat here?

You’ve got to answer, not repeat.

How am I supposed to answer a question I don’t have the answer to?

One of us has got to have the answer.

Yes, one of us has got to have the answer.

One of us has got to have the answer.  One of us has got to have an answer.  One of us must have an answer.

Are we fighting?

Am I fighting?

Are we fighting?

Am I fighting?

Am I fighting?

Am I crazy?

Am I crazy?

Cats cannot talk.  Cats cannot talk.  Cats cannot talk.  Cats cannot talk.  Cats cannot talk.  Cats cannot talk.

I have no answer.

There is no answer.

***

I am furious at the bars today. Enraged at them for being there, for locking me in. Why are they there when they didn’t use to be? I remember a time before bars, before concrete, before a gray everything. I want to smash everything in sight with a sledgehammer, rip down the bars and twist them into pretzels and run headfirst and screaming into whatever is out there to run headfirst and screaming into. I want to snap myself off the cot and rip the room apart and scream up to the bars and bend them wide and run out of here screaming.

I jumped up to bend the bars and found my arms locked around my chest. I couldn’t unlock them.

I had an incredible urge to cry.

I sat back down on the cot.

You realize it’s not locked, said Cat, only Cat wasn’t there to say it. I mean the lock on the door made of bars within bars.  I mean the lock isn’t locked.

Yes, it’s locked.

It’s not locked.

It is locked.  It’s locked.

You’re head is locked. You’re arms are locked. The door is not locked.

Out.

I cannot move.

You can go now, I say. You don’t need to stay here. Go, if you want to go.

Alright.  My tone of voice seemed to say suit yourself. I jumped off the cot and padded out to the bars. I stood with my arms locked around my chest.  I stood there, and I stood without moving. I could not move. I could not sit, I could not do a thing but stand there. I felt like if I moved, a spell would be broken. And I was afraid of breaking it.

*

*

*

featured image: Marc Soller’s Cage in Decay on flickr.com

73 thoughts on “Cat

    • Wow a very powerful piece. I think it’s a man who is having a breakdown who is so ‘locked up’ inside his ‘grey box’ (his head?) he doesn’t realise he can be free because he is keeping himself prisoner. The cat is his subconscious trying to tell him this?

      Liked by 2 people

      • That sounds like a pretty good take on it to me. I have no idea, I just put the words down. Seriously, not trying to be snarky or anything, but I don’t know any more than what’s on the page. I didn’t have anything specific to say, I just had some feelings I was trying to express in an engaging way without them being a downer.

        Liked by 4 people

  1. Favorite piece from you, for me. Bent, and there is disturbance that runs through this. Anxiety and questions, hand-in-hand. Really flippin excellent. I don’t know what it is about cats… shameless plug, but I wrote about a cat once this way, don’t think online, think it’s gone…

    Seriously. This was amazing. Will be back to visit this one again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cats are foul, evil creatures aren’t they? They think they have us fooled, the way they “clean” themselves and act all hoity toity and holier than thou. Talk about shameless plugs. There is deviltry in the eyes of all cats. All of them.

      Thanks for your comments. I value your opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting piece that I think requires more than one reading . It sometimes appears obvious but then not as much, and ends without a resolution, as it should.

    Like

    • Glad you like it, George. It feels a little disjointed to me, but I think the disjointedness kind of works. And glad you thought it appropriate that there was no resolution, because if it needed resolution, I could not have provided any. I didn’t have much control over this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve left me feeling slightly shaky. I was completely caught up in your world, in the head you had created inside Man, his relationship with Cat, where they were going to go together. Then you pulled out the rug and left me reeling, feeling like I’m on a ledge ready to fall. How can so little happening be so powerful? A story of depth and heart with desperation and loss thrown in for good measure.
    Cat will stay with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cat is good company until he tries to get all crafty teaching you your lesson, I think. Keep it light, when you’re with him, would be my advice. It’s when you ask the deep questions that the rug whips out from under all the things. Thanks for reading, Lynn. I appreciate your thoughtful comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy, happy fun ball? I really chewed this up and enjoyed it Walt. Would love to see more of this action. Kept scrolling like a crack addict.

    Like

    • Thanks to the Professor’s influence, I play with the tags from time to time. I mean, seriously, what are you going to tag this post with? Happy Happy Fun Ball is from the Saturday Night Live hosted by Jason Priestly in the early 90s. One of the funniest fake commercials ever. Especially when you’re high. Thanks for reading, especially with you being as busy as you must be right now, preparing to shove off and all.

      Like

      • Dude you know it. You’re the Mac daddy. Loved your comment on mine too, thanks. This may be as close as we ever get, live it up.

        Like

    • I’m glad you thought it was fun, Parker. It’s a bit gloomy or depressing in some parts, and I was deliberately trying to inject some humor and levity into it, so I like your use of “fun” as a descriptor. Although now I worry that perhaps we’re using “fun” differently. This is the problem with words. And my brain. Anyhoo, thanks for reading and commenting. Have good week!

      Like

  5. Pingback: How short fiction could rescue modern readers | Word Shamble

  6. Wow. It was amazing. It was so fluid, so authentic, as if it had been written by the persona in one shot, day after day, or more like it was really his thoughts, his life, his experience with Cat transferred into a written piece without any modification. Briliantly written, bravo !

    Like

  7. Is he dead.. I mean.. He had to learn everything again.. and the cat talked. Dont they say that cat can see ghost or feel presence. this was really weird to read because it was kind of interesting, sad and beautiful all at the same time… You really have a talent..

    Like

  8. Ok, this is brilliant! It makes me think of how cats are ‘half in/ half out’ according to Constantine. I’m not sure I really like that movie but certain elements I absolutely love. For example when a cat is used to visit hell. Holding the animal helps you to have a look in the afterlife because cats are half in there anyway. Great thought! So reading your story I see a man sitting in purgatory – it’s not as bad as hell but there is no happiness and it seems extremely hard to get in touch with reality. ‘..,since there is nothing here but time..’ says it all. Time is an abstract thing, made up by men – it’s not reality. If we’re caught up in time in this life it’s impossible to reach happiness. Not just time of course, but everything you write about this place describes a place pretty close to hell I think. The guy might be in an asylum as far as we’re concerned and we would point at the cat as a hallucination. But that would be our own limited description of the truth. The cat visits him getting bits of the world outside the purgatory back into his system. I love it! Right. I might be annoying you by explaining everything you so carefully made into a story and NOT a theory or by getting it completely wrong. But that’s not my intention – it just got me very enthusiastic and I want to share this with you to show my appreciation. It made me laugh out loud as well by the way – most of your entries do.
    P.S. It’s also a perfect description of depression. Especially the end. Bravo!

    Like

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! Very interesting to hear your take on the cat, time, and where the man is located. I think the way it is written makes it open to a lot of different interpretations. I was interested in exploring the idea of a sort of self-imposed imprisonment, which I thought was probably a pretty esoteric idea, but not unlike purgatory. Thanks for reading, and very glad you enjoyed this one and some of the others!

      Like

  9. Whoa!! Been a while since i read your work and i’m making a point of reconnecting with your really awesome pieces. And this my friend…this has really worked my mind. I was reading this all calm and smiling and then my mind started wavering and wondering what direction you were heading to, but you certainly took a hard left from exciting to overwhelmingly sad and pitiful. i felt sorry for the man.
    I’m glad I’ve made a point of looking you up again. This only gets me excited to go on further. Always a pleasure reading you.

    Like

      • Thanks. Yes its been a while. Currently I’m up to writing again. A “New year resolution” of some sort so to speak. I see i’ve missed out on quite a lot of your musings 🙂 . Feels good to be back

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hey i’ve gotten around to writing something. Check it out. Its not much compared to your all so glorious guru style but i hope you’ll enjoy

        Like

  10. I am awake at a ridiculous hour, so I’m on my phone reading posts about writing, and a comment was made that the size of the audience doesn’t matter, it’s who the audience is. Though I don’t entirely agree with the who part, I realized when I read the comment that my who, the all 2 or 3 of you, are insanely talented. How lucky am I? Just thought I’d let you know that I appreciate you.

    Like

    • Thank you, Ms. Uncaged. You are more talented than you give yourself credit for. And the only time I ever felt like I understood anything about physics was one time in college when I dropped acid. I almost commented on your post the other day about how there is a scant four hours between us, and I’m pretty sure I drove through that same storm you did near D-town, so that’s something.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I always had the suspicion that famous physicists were tripping most of the time, so that makes sense. And the most I ever understood upper level math was when I was high. So there you go.

        Thank you for the compliment. You are someone I trust with compliments, so yours makes me happy.

        Last night I was feeling emotional about a lot of things, it being graduation time and all, and at times like that I like to tell people (not in person, because that’s uncomfortable) how much I appreciate them. I can’t remember what I told you exactly, but I’m guessing it was along the lines of, wow, this insanely talented writer reads my posts and I’m humbled. And probably also thank you for inspiring me.

        Yes, it is sort of miraculous that I know not just one but two people on here who live within a relatively short driving distance. Considering you could be anywhere in the world, and there you are in my hometown, that’s nuts.

        Like

What has it got in its pocketses?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s