Near 500 words: TW and the Doorbell

TW (aka The Writer) shook himself awake. The clock above the TV read 7 a.m. The doorbell rang a second time. More insistent than the first time.

“Alright, alright,” he called out and pulled himself out of his comfy chair. Who could be ringing my doorbell this early in the morning?

A dog barked. It sounded like the bark came from down the street.

He opened the front door. There was no one there. That’s strange.

His eyes searched the street and the neighbors’ yards. There wasn’t a motion anywhere. Except for a neighbor walking his cocker spaniel.

A silver Lexus pulled up into his driveway and stopped. The door opened and Helen stood up. As he watched her walk toward him, he realized how attractive she was. Not stunning but attractive. She’d put on a few extra pounds the way some women do after they’ve had children, but not that many.

Her hair had turned gray from the dark brown when they had first dated. But it was the smile she always wore that had made him want to date her. She wore that smile, and she was asking him to breakfast.

“I’d like that. Give me a few minutes.”

She followed him into the house.

On the way to the neighborhood diner, they discussed the weather and how the vet hospital was doing.

As she parked her car, she asked, “How’s your writing going?”

He stepped out of the car and said, “I’m still searching for a subject.”

They ordered their eggs and coffee, then Helen asked, “How are you doing?” Her green eyes were warm and concerned.

“I buried Cat last night, then I fell asleep in a chair. I can’t get over it. She’s gone, and life has to go on.”

“I was worried about you after you left. Some people take the loss of a pet hard. But I haven’t seen any take the death as hard as you have.”

“I’ll be okay.”

The waitress brought their food.

After she was gone, TW asked, “Did you see anyone leaving my house? When you drove up the street?”

“Can’t say that I did.” Helen took a bite of her egg.

“That’s weird.” TW sipped his coffee.

She finished chewing. “Weird?”

“Just before you drove up, someone rang my doorbell. When I answered the door, they were gone.”

“Are you sure you weren’t imagining things?” She dipped a slice of her toast into her coffee. “Or dreaming it?”

“That was what I thought at first. But no. When the bell rang again, I was wide awake. Darnedest thing.”

As the waitress refilled his coffee, TW could feel that he was getting nervous. But then he decided to go ahead with what was on his mind. “So you and Frank are getting a divorce.”

“Got a divorce. It’s over between us. Sonny’s death was just the last straw. He’d been having an affair. I knew it but I kept hoping. When Sonny died, Frank went crazy. So much so that I couldn’t deal with it. I have the girls to take of care. I don’t need another child.”

TW reached over and put his hand over hers. “I’m sorry.”

“Thanks. I haven’t gotten over Sonny’s death. That’s going to take a long long time. If ever. Me and the girls are starting to pick up the pieces and move on.”

She turned her palm upward, and he squeezed her hand.

TW’s words finally came out. “Would you like to go out sometime?”

She took back her hand and asked, “Have you let Sylvia go?”

Advertisements

Near 500 words: TW and the Existential Threat

TW (aka The Writer) wasn’t sure why he had said, “Soon.” The word just tossed itself out of his mouth as TW stood beside Cat’s graveside. As he carried his shovel, his lantern and his Bible back to the house, he wondered about what Cat would think of the word. Surely she would have something to say about it. She always had something to say. And it would have been brief. Though the words came out in meows, TW always had the drift of her comments. It was almost as if they could read each other’s mind.

He sat the shovel and the lantern inside the shed and headed inside the house. The clock on the stove said one a.m. Sitting the Bible on the kitchen table, he grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator. His eyes hit upon Cat’s food and water bowls. He should have placed them beside her in the grave.

Then he dropped into a chair in the living room, facing the TV. He let the TV be and closed his eyes to listen to the quiet and clear his head from the discombobulation of the day’s events.

He had gone to work early, then seen the director. The director had given him a year’s sabbatical beginning that afternoon. He went over to H.R., filled out the paperwork, then came home. The door was unlocked. He heard a meowing at the door. It was Cat. She was bleeding. He rushed her to the veterinarian hospital. Helen had been the vet on duty. She had gently let him know that Cat was…dead.

It was ten p.m.when he made it home. He buried Cat. And now here he sat in the living room in the dark.

The curtains to the front window were parted. As if in a dream, he saw Cat lying on the back of the couch, looking out at the half lit street. Her tail was moving like a windshield wiper. Her focus was amazing. She’d lay there for two, three hours at a time, looking. He’d lay his head next to her, trying to see what she was staring at.

His eyes moved around the thinly lit room. Everything reminded him of Cat. Her toys. The scratch board. The wadded up paper he threw at her and she kicked back at him, like the two playing soccer.

Then the loneliness hit him. His only friends, other than Cat, were his colleagues at work and a few of the faculty. And he wouldn’t have them now that he was on a sabbatical. He had never been someone who needed or wanted a lot of friends. He’d fallen in love with the idea of the writer as a solitary creature.

An idea came to him. He would write Cat’s biography. He had dozens of pictures. He was good enough of a writer to make it a book people would want to read. People would discover the person he’d spent his last eight years with.

The next thing he knew the doorbell was ringing.

Near 500 words: TW and the Egyptian Cats

It isn’t enough to say that TW (aka The Writer) was crying as he headed his car home. In the passenger seat was Cat, lying in a box. He was weeping.

Overcome by grief, he pulled his car over to the side of the road and cut off the engine. Sitting there, looking down into the darkness at the box, he could still feel Cat’s presence. “What am I going to do?” he asked the dead cat.

He heard Cat whisper back, “It’s okay. You’ll do fine. I may be gone but I will still be with your.”

A flashlight shone into his face. “Sir?”

TW looked up at the police officer.

“Are you okay?

TW shook his head. “Yes, I’m okay.”

“Are you sure?” The policeman’s voice was soft with caring.

TW managed to hold back his crying but his voice broke. “I just lost my cat.”

“I see.” Then the flashlight went off, and the cop was gone.

TW started the engine and pulled out onto the road. He drove slowly to make sure he didn’t have an accident.

When he pulled up into his driveway, it seemed like days since he had gotten into his car to take Cat to the vet. He eased himself out of the car. He went to the shed beside the house and took out a shovel.Then he went inside for a flashlight.

Standing on the back porch, he studied the yard and found the perfect place. One of Cat’s favorite spots in the yard. It was beside the azalea bush.

In the dark, he began digging. He pushed the shovel into the ground. The dirt gave way easily. Then again he did the same motion until he had a hole several feet deep. The sweat poured down his face.

He returned to the car and gently lifted Cat out. The weight was lighter than he remembered. He took the box into the living room. He sat Cat onto his coffee table.

For the next half hour, he showered, then put on a suit and tie. He couldn’t imagine giving Cat a sendoff without being properly dressed. It was only right. Cat deserved the respect. Then it came to him that this was why the Egyptians took so much care burying their cats. They weren’t just pets. They were friends, companions, soul mates.

Yes, Cat must have been his soul mate. That’s how close they were.

He finished the knot in his tie, buttoned his suit jacket, and checked his shoes to see if they were properly shined.

In the living room, he looked down on Cat. She looked peaceful on her tummy, her head resting on her paws. He took a Bible off his bookshelf and he opened it up to the Twenty-third Psalm and he read it to Cat. It was more for him than Cat, and it helped.

He laid the Bible down on the coffee table and picked Cat’s box up.

Standing beside the grave, he lowered the box into the ground. Under a full moon, he had one final look at his companion and heard himself say, “Soon.”

We Are the People

Recently I saw John Mellencamp in concert. Man, that was two and a half hours of great music and fun. It reminded me what great songs he’s made and continues to make. So many of his songs remind me of what’s best in America. Others call attention to the challenges we have as Americans.

This Fourth of July, think about what we have in common. No matter how far we’ve got to go to forming that more perfect union, we’ve come a long way. And this particular song reminds me that we are in it together. None of us get off scot free. If we don’t pull together, we’ll be broken. It’s like Ben Franklin said, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

Lately we’ve been hanging separately. And that’s a darn shame. Because We Are The People. And if things are falling apart, it’s our fault.

To celebrate that hanging together thing on this two-hundred-and forty-third Fourth of July Independence Day, here”s John Mellencamp’s “We Are The People”:

Let’s look around us and be thankful for our neighbors. The more different they are from us the better. After all, America has a big heart. Despite what others think of her.

Don’t believe it. Just tell those guys that hit Normandy Beach on June 6, 1944. Don’t believe it. Just tell those folks who Americans fed with the Marshall Plan after World War II. Don’t believe it. Just tell it to all those folks who have benefitted from Peace Corps volunteers, digging wells, teaching children. Don’t believe it. Just ask those Berliners who were cut off from the world in 1948 and 1949.

Look around you and see the beauty of this country and say thank you for all we have as Americans. And remember We Are The People. We’ve got better days ahead of us if we hang together. Otherwise….

 

Near 500 words: TW and the three phases of his life

TW (aka The Writer) divided his life into three phases: Before Cat, With Cat, After Cat. After Cat began when the vet, Dr. Helen Hatch, sat down beside him in the waiting room of the vet hospital.

Helen reached over and took TW’s hand, then she softly said, “I’m sorry.”

A pain shot through his body. He knew her next words. “Cat is dead.”

TW couldn’t breath. He passed out.

He woke up to see Helen kneeling over him, smelling salts in her hand. Her eyes had concern in them.

“Lorenzo, he’s awake. Help me get him off the floor.”

A tall Hispanic man reached down and lifted TW up and into a chair.

“Are you okay?” Helen asked.

TW nodded his head.

Helen nodded to Lorenzo that she’d take care of things. Lorenzo went back to the receptionist’s desk.

Helen knelt before TW. “I know how much you loved Cat, and how much Cat loved you. I am so sorry.”

Then she took her seat beside him. She rubbed his arm with her hand, trying her best to comfort him. “When you brought her in, I thought we might be able to do something. She’d already lost way too much blood.”

TW nodded his head, letting her know he understood.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know. I got home. The door was unlocked. Cat had left the house. She wouldn’t do that. Even if the door was wide open, she’d have stayed inside.”

Helen let go of his arm and leaned back in her chair.

“I don’t know,” he said, “what would have made her leave the house.”

“Has anything happened recently to make Cat think the house was unsafe?”

“No. I don’t think so.”

“Was she in any kind of danger that you know of?”

“No. Not that I know of.”

The hospital was quiet, except for two dogs barking in the background. TW and the vet sat side by side, looking at the back space of a wall across from them.

After five minutes or so, Helen broke the silence. “I’m sorry I misled you. I thought you understood we were just friends.”

“It was me, not you. I fooled myself.”

“How have you been?”

“The usual. The library keeps me busy. And Cat, of course.”

Then it hit him again. There was no more Cat. He swallowed hard.

“Do you need some water?”

“Yes, please.”

Helen stood up and went over to the water cooler and filled a paper cup with water. She handed the cup to TW, then sat back down beside him. The water went down cold and cleared his throat.

Recovered, he remembered what he had heard about Helen. “I heard you lost your baby?”

“About a year ago.”

“Are you okay?”

“Frank didn’t take it well. It was a boy. We have two girls, and he was so hoping. He fell apart. Now we’re getting a divorce.”

TW saw the tears running down her cheeks. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to her.

The room was quiet again.

Helen wiped the tears from her face, then passed the handkerchief back to him. Her face went back to vet’s face.

“There’s more to Cat’s death. Where Cat was bleeding, there was a small wound. Cat was sliced by a razor blade.”