The Porcelain Cat

It was recess. I was standing under the sycamore tree, feeling woozy. I’d spent too long hanging upside down on the monkey bars. I was just about sure I wasn’t going to ralph when she walked by.

New kid, I didn’t know her name. Parents just moved here from out-of-state. Seemed a friendly, girl. Today she was all sniffles and tears. I hated seeing a girl cry, it took the fun out of recess

“What’s wrong, kid?”

“I lost my cat.”

“It ran away?”

“No,” she sobbed, “not a real cat. A statue, made of porcelain. All white with a little pink bow, playing with a ball of yarn. It was my grandma’s. My parents told me I couldn’t bring it to school but I did anyway ‘cause I wanted to show someone. Only now it’s gone.”

That’s when the water works really got going. I didn’t know what to do, so I tried to sound helpful. “Hold on now… what’s your name anyway?”

“Matilda.”

“Alright Matilda, I know my way around the schoolyard. Where’d you see it last?”

“Miss Marshall’s class, she made me put it in my cubby. I was gonna get it out to bring it to recess to show it to Jenny. I told her about how cute it was and she begged me to bring it in so she could see it.” She wiped her nose with a sleeve and snorted hard trying to get a hold of herself.

“Which Jenny are you talking about?” There were three Jenny’s in our grade but I was pretty sure I knew which one she was going to say.

***

Jenny Billings. Everyone in our grade called her Miss Kitty, and she didn’t mind it either. Everything she owned had cats on it. From her Hello Kitty back pack to the homework folder printed with glossy pictures of kittens all over it. Kids said she even brought her own bandaids from home. So she didn’t have to wear the plain ones the nurse handed out when she scraped a knee. We never really got to be friends, mostly because I liked dogs.

I found her by the slide. She got all snooty when I asked he about the cat.

“Matilda told me about her kitty statue. It sounded so cute. I asked her to bring it in for me to see. She never showed it to me though. She said she couldn’t find it, that it got lost or something. I couldn’t tell she was too busy crying. I don’t even think she really brought it in. Maybe she just made it up so I’d be friends with her,. New kids are always telling lies so people will like them, but I don’t make friends with just anyone you know. They have to love kitties as much as I do.”

“C’mon Jenny, you sure you ain’t seen it. I bet you’d do anything to get your hands on a thing like that. Matilda says you begged her to bring it in.”

“I never begged.” she put her fists on her hips and huffed. “She said she’d show it to me and that’s all. Besides, I haven’t been anywhere near Miss Marshall’s class today.”

***

I could tell I wasn’t getting anywhere with Miss Kitty, so I headed off back to the shade tree where Matilda was waiting. She looked so hopeful when she saw me coming. That look went away when I told her that Jenny was a dead end. I even check with my friend Jimmy, the hall monitor. He hadn’t seen Jenny on that side of the school all morning.

“So it’s gone, forever?” The tears welled up again and she started to wail.

I never could stand to watch another kid go all rubbery. So, I made faces at her till she couldn’t help but laugh, and she slugged me in the arm to get me to stop.

“Look, Matty, it that bad yet. Think, when did you check on it last?”

“Just before reading.”

“Do you stay in Miss Marshall’s for that?”

“No, I have reading in Mrs. Dillard’s room.”

“And, that’s right before lunch right? So now all we got to do is think of someone who stays in Miss Marshall’s for reading. They might have seen if someone took it.”

“You really think someone stole my porcelain cat?”

“I doubt it walked away. Now who do you think might have seen something?”

“Jeremy,” she said excitedly, “and his desk is towards the back. You can see the cubbies from there.”

***

Jeremy Reynolds, was the type of kid that would eat just about anything if you promised him whatever you had lying around in your pocket. Especially if it meant grossing out a few of the other kids. He always drew a crowd. I waited for him to stop chewing before I walked up.

“You’ve got reading with Miss Marshall. You see anyone messing around over by the cubbies today?”

“Why should I tell you?” A smile crept across his face “I mean, what’s it worth?”

I didn’t like some schoolyard sideshow trying to get smart, so I got mean with him.

“Listen doofus, I ain’t got all recess. If you know something helpful, there’s a couple of Garbage Pail Kid cards in it. But, if you keep messin’ around the next thing this playground is gonna watch you eat is a knuckle sandwich.”

Jeremy swallowed hard. “Mickey, Mickey Donnelly. I don’t know about cubbies but, he kept getting up to sharpen his pencil, three or four times. Teacher fussed at him.”

“That’s it? That’s all you saw?” I turned to walk away, “Thanks for nothing.”

“What about those cards.”

“I said two cards if you could help, and you can’t. You’re lucky I don’t give you a wedgie for wasting my time. Tell you what here’s one for your trouble, now scram.”

***

I found Matilda over by the merry-go-round. Poor thing, she thought that if she got dizzy enough her problems would just fly away. I couldn’t blame her. We’ve all taken a few extra spins when the chips were down. I sat on the edge of it with her as it spun to a stop, and told her that Jeremy didn’t know anything.

“Maybe he took it?”

“Nah, he might be a greedy, bug-eating creep but, he’s too much of a fraidy cat to steal something.”

“So, there’s nothing else we can do?”

“We can not use the same pencils as Mickey Donnelly.”

“What?”

“Jeremy said he kept getting up to sharpen his.” That’s when it hit me. The thing that didn’t add up. “Wait a minute who needs to sharpen a pencil three times when you’re just reading?”

“My cubby is right under the pencil sharpener” Her eyes widened with hope.

“Come on Matty, Recess is almost over.”

***

We bolted across the playground. Mickey was the tallest kid in our grade, it wasn’t had to spot him at the sandpit, hanging out with his knuckle head friends. They liked to act like they owned that place. Jenny Billings was there too. The sandbox seemed a rough place for little Miss Kitty .

“Fancy seeing you here Jenny”

Jenny stuck her nose in the air and looked away. “Mickey and I are old friends.”

“Friends? Sure, you both like cats. Maybe porcelain ones?”

“Go away before I pound you runt” Mickey slammed his fist into his own open hand.

“You’re not pounding anyone. Give me the cat. We can all walk away. No one gets in trouble. You don’t want to get into trouble do you Mickey?”

Mickey lunged forward swinging. I was used to dealing with angry oafs from being punched on by older brothers. I stepped aside and stuck my foot out. Mickey tripped and fell over catching a mouthful of sand.

Something white tumbled out of his pocket, the soft ground breaking its fall.

Jenny grabbed it and started to back away..

“Give it here Jenny, we can all just go back to class.”

“No,” She screamed. “The kitty is mine now.”

I started to move towards her but Mickey had got back to his feet. He grabbed me, throwing me to the ground. I tried to roll away but he landed his knee on top of me. This is where I get clobbered, I thought, shutting my eyes.

There was a shrill sound and everything stopped. Hall monitor Jimmy came running up with Coach Davis waddling behind him tweeting on his whistle. Mickey got off me and just sat in the sand. He knew the drill. Jenny didn’t, she turned and ran.

Straight into Miss Marshall.

First they tried to blame me. When they couldn’t keep the story straight they blamed each other. It didn’t matter.

Jimmy already told the teachers what was going on, like I asked him.

When the day was over, Matty got her porcelain cat, and the two of them got a trip to the principal’s office.

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there

Lost Letter

 

bottle

“Dammit!” he hissed, hopping on one foot, looking for what he banged his toe on.

An old bottle lay there. Inside was a scrap of paper.

He thought back to summer of his fifth grade year. Pirates were his fascination then. He’d read about marooned sailors sending messages off in bottles in hopes of rescue.

All summer he’d write notes, stuff them in empty soda bottles, screw the caps tight, and set them adrift. Not out of need for rescue. Just in hopes they might reach some distant shore. That someone might send back a reply in some exotic bottle from parts unknown. He would chase every bit of detritus that glinted as it bobbed in the surf just in case.

It never was.

Later he grew up and learned about ocean currents, weather patterns and how unlikely that his messages ended up further than a few miles down the shoreline. He also learned about global marketing. That anyone in parts unknown probably had the same boring coke bottles that he did.

He grabbed the bottle by the neck, and hurled it back into the Atlantic, once again off to parts unknown.

He hoped the weather was nice there.

 

This story was written in response to a photo prompt at Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner

Too White Shoes

 

There’s this one thing
I can’t seem to do,
That’s stop looking down at
Those too white shoes.

They didn’t quite fit
On some other guy’s feet,
And were given to me
‘Cause they’re something I need.

They’re a real brand name
And look strange I suppose,
When worn with my thrift shop
And bargain store clothes.

They’re not really me
And it looks and it feels,
Like someone else’s feet
Have been attached to my heels.

Out of place they may be
But they’ll just have to do,
And I’ll make my way out
In those too white shoes.

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Not Tonight, Honey

I should be cold, he thought lying there on the pavement as the rain fell lightly around him. Instead he felt a warmth creeping along his back as blood oozed from where the bullet had gone through him. He felt that he should be scared, he was. The terror of the moment had stricken him so completely it overwhelmed him, leaving an odd stat that seemed to be a horrifying mockery of calm and clarity. He couldn’t see, not with that security guard shining his damned flashlight in his eyes. He opened his mouth to shout at him it to get it out of his face, but he couldn’t catch his breath. So instead he just laid there listening to sound of his friends footsteps running away on the wet pavement and the sirens in the distance.

He started thinking about her.

He had only met her a couple of weeks ago. They had only gone out a few times, she was always busy. He thought she had promise, though. She was smart and funny, he didn’t know if he’d call he gorgeous though. He remembered the first time he got her to smile, it was a great smile, but he couldn’t help notice her teeth were just a little bit crooked. Her nose was slightly misshapen too. She had told him once, maybe cause he was staring, that she had broken it a bunch of times dancing at shows back in her punk rock days. That she’d always wind up, later on in the night, drunk in the bathroom of some bar looking in the mirror trying to set it back into place.

He liked that image of her though. Some tough girl in a mosh pit. How it didn’t quite match up with the woman he knew. The one that had to stop and make baby talk at every dog they passed by. They always fell for it too. He had seen her walk right up to some mean ass dogs that roamed around the neighborhood and, after a minute or two they’d be on their backs getting belly rubs. Then she would say some nonsense about how they had always been a good dog, they just needed someone to come along and remind them. He wondered if she felt the same way about him.

So yeah, maybe not gorgeous but she was definitely beautiful which was a lot better.

He had known some gorgeous women in his life and somehow, after a while, the polish would wear off and there would always be this filthy, petty, mean spirited person underneath it all. Not her though, she shined all the way down to the bone. Yeah, he’d take beautiful over gorgeous any day.

He was sorry when he had to disappoint her. They were supposed to have dinner to night. She had made reservations. Someplace nice, she’d gotten that promotion she’d been chasing, and wanted to celebrate. He had just gotten off the phone with her when Nicky had shown up at the shop and told him about the job.

He didn’t want to do it. He was trying to be done with all of that stupid bullshit. He owed Nicky though, owed him big. More importantly, as Nicky was kind enough to point out, he owed someone else. The kind of person you didn’t just say no to.

So he had sat there at his workbench for a bit. Trying to figure a way around it. Until he finally called her back to cancel.

“Not tonight, honey,” he told her. “Something important came up.”

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there

Love on the Avenue

It’s the middle of February, as I make my way home through the choking haze of garbage smoke from half a dozen backyard fires. The weather is warm for this time of year but, everyone on on the block is having a party, so they all had to find some crap to burn. I’m pretty sure that’s  a utility pole old Sweet T. has cut up and stuffed in his barrel. The creosote fumes rise up, adding to the aroma of the neighborhood, as it gets consumed by bright green flames from the bottom of the rusted steel drum.

Then she comes running out of the house. A half-drunk woman in her early twenties. Chasing after her two-timing want-to-be hood, of a boyfriend. I guess she looked at his text messages, again. She’s cursing his name while declaring how much she loves him, pleading for him to come back and throwing her shoes at him when he doesn’t. He’ll be back later tonight when no one else wants him. She’s the one with the job, and the car’s in her name. Still hasn’t figured out to just dump the bum and give the rest of the world a little extra piece and quiet on the weekends.

Walking on down near to the lime green house where Big Tattoo and his boys are dateless again on a Friday night. Can’t imagine why. What with there wife beater chic, and low-rent drug dealer mannerism. It wasn’t all that long ago when idle thuggery was a powerful aphrodisiac. I guess you got to change with the times. The only one I’ve ever seen with a woman won’t go near the place. Maybe the old lady that let them set up shop on her porch don’t allow female guests, not that aren’t relations anyway.

I see that the old grey house further on down, where the lawnmower guy used to live with his old lady and a one too many kids judging from the size of the place, is finally up for rent. The place has been empty since she suddenly put a steak knife through his stomach one night while he slept in his easy chair. I never heard much about them after that. Pretty sure they have separate residences now. Probably talking about getting back together again, you know, for the kids.

Still, I guess that counts as love around here, on the avenue.

Laundry Day

I am unashamedly terrible at laundry.

This centers on my inability to distinguish between clothing in categories less broad than mine or, not mine. My wardrobe has adapted over the years, in a near Darwenistic fashion to suit this situation and has become durable, pragmatic, and largely unimaginative. There are a few unavoidable variations in pigment and shade but, I find that comparisons such as the relative darkness or lightness of a particular piece of clothing are at best a matter of subjective opinion, and bordering on being obsessively pedantic at worst. I have also never, to my knowledge, owned any apparel that I would need to request a washing machine  be gentle or, heavens forbid delicate with it. I however have surprisingly few problems putting my clothes away, owing largely to me not really giving a shit where they end up.

This has all served quite well for the better part of my, let’s call it adult, life. In the last fifteen years or so it has become a small source of marital stress.By and large this friction usually results in me having a good portion of the morning to stare blankly at the walls and maybe talk to the pets.Today, however is not one of those days.

Today finds me  befuddled by questions. Such as, does anyone really care about the difference between color fast and permanent press settings? Why would anyone would ever want to operate a dryer on “low heat”? And, why doesn’t seem it count as a folding a t-shirt if, at the end of the activity, it is still a t-shirt and there is at least one crease in it.

I’ve ever really had the patience for philosophy on that level.

Happy Monday.

One-tenth of a Photograph

If a picture is worth a thousand words, is that a metered transaction?

In exchange for any old photo, should we expect, in return, the appropriate number of words?

Should we count every very and like?

Could I get two selfies and a haiku as change, for a landscape?

Does the value depreciate? If you hear, “Dogs playing poker,” do you have that image in mind? Is there need to detail the placement of the chips, the color of the table. Has familiarity reduced the painting’s value to three words?

Then this notion probably isn’t worth one-tenth of a photograph?

Jelly or Jam?

Hey Marty, Lemme ask you something.

Do you prefer jelly, or jam?

I’ve always been a jelly guy myself. Not that I’ve eaten all that many peanut butter sandwiches lately. It’s just what we always kept around the house when I was growing up, so why change. You know what I’m saying?

To be honest here, I never would have given the matter much thought.

Last week though, the wife goes shopping, and accidently buys jam instead.

I mean Jesus Marty, it’s an honest fucking mistake. They’re sitting right next to each other on the shelf there at the supermarket, you know. They’re both purple, what are you gonna do? You know she’s not feeling well. I think she’s coming down with that thing I had the other day. You know, accidents happen. The point is Marty, I don’t care. Jelly, jam, what the hell’s the difference, right? Me I’m I grown up, shit like that don’t bother me. Not a big deal, right?

Only we don’t find out she bought the wrong thing til a couple days later, see.

There she is, in the kitchen making lunch for the kid. She get’s the jar out of the fridge and sets it on the counter. My son sees the label and starts giving her the sideways stare. You know that look I’m talking about. The one they get right before they make a big deal out of fucking nothing. Yeah that look. Now, my wife she’s already had a rough god damned day what with getting everyone up for breakfast, and doing the laundry and such. Like I said she’s feeling under the weather. I see what’s going on and, I figure, I need to do something.

That’s when I step in all like. “Oh, boy jam!” I tell him how great it is that his mom bought it for me, and look it’s concord fucking grape, my favorite. Then I tell the kid that I’m gonna make myself a peanut butter and jam sandwich, and ask if he wants one. Well now I got him off guard, right? He ain’t to sure about the whole jam thing still but, I’m so freaking excited about it, he says he’ll try it.

I say, “Tell you what kiddo, I’ll make a sandwich and, we’ll split it.”

You know, the damned kid never finishes a whole sandwich anyway.

So, I make the sandwich, cut it in half, make sure to cut the crusts of his half. He don’t like the crusts see. If you ask me it’s the best part of the bread but, kids. What are you gonna do, right? Anyway I put each half on a plate, slide one across the counter to the kid. He’s still looking at me all weird, so I smile and take a big bite of my half.

I gotta tell you Marty, I’m a fucking jam guy now. I swear to God, it was amazing. It was a little bit sweeter, a little smoother, and it didn’t fall out the edges the way the jelly normally does. You know it just stuck to the bread better. You know, maybe it was just this particular brand but, I really liked it.

I don’t know where you stand on the whole jelly or jam issue but , you should think about it.

Anyway, let’s go get a baseball bat and see if this joker knows something or if he’s really as dumb as he saying.

Hey Marty, you like wood or aluminum bats?

Dwindling Pages

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been keeping a handwritten journal since about mid October. I have been dutifully entering my morning thoughts, story ideas, and poetry drafts into it every day since then. This is the first time in nearly twenty years that I’ve bothered keeping such a book and am faced with a relatively new dilemma. It is running out of pages.

I mean I have another one to go to, provided once again by my amazing friend Catastrophe Jones1, so that’s not the issue. My problem is, what to do with it once it is full?20170205_222309

Do I just spend my days collecting piles and boxes of spent journals? If I do that, how many years should I spend toting them around? We are talking about several thousand words per journal. Most of which didn’t bear pursuing in the first place. I wonder what the gross weight of my idle, and nonsensical thoughts would come to after a decade or so?

I could burn them ceremonially on my barbecue grill after a specified, or perhaps very unspecified amount of time, in order to signify some sort of emotional something or other like some angst ridden schoolboy2. That seems a bit esoteric for my tastes these days, mostly because I gave up being an angst ridden school boy years ago.

I suppose what I could do I take masking tape and label each detailing the dates they span. If I place the labels on the front cover I could set them up along the top of a dresser like one might do with Christmas cards. I could place them in neat little rows like little tombstones. A tiny cemetery where my unused thoughts can take their final rest.

I think all in all it might be important to keep my journals for reference. There might be the nugget if a story buried somewhere in there that, after some reflection and quite a bit of polish, could be brought up to nice finish. Besides,  there’s no telling if my dull and humdrum notes on the day may suddenly morph into a grim survival journal written by conscientious dissenter and serve as a warning for future generations.henry1

In other news I have found my Henry, who has now been repotted and moved from my  wife’s collections of plants out in the front of the house and taken his place as a desk plant. He seems very happy to be in his own pot soaking up the sun streaming through my bedroom window. I think he livens up the place quite nicely and gives the space a touch of class. Also, I realize that I continually use the pronoun “he” in reference to Henry. I suppose it could be short for Henrietta, which is some thing that we might all want to take into consideration.

Let me know what your thoughts on the matter are.

Happy Monday.


  1. Also my most ardent support of me keeping up this little nonsense of mine. 
  2. We’ve all been there 

The Damned Cat

How am I doing? I’ll tell you Marty, I’ve had a hell of a day already.

Pulled myself outta bed to take the kiddo to school. I’m trying to get him up but he’s being an absolute ball buster this morning. You know I’ve had this god awful cold all week, so my head is just freaking pounding. I’m trying to be in a good mood, I’m really trying here but, here’s all this whining and pouting about getting out of bed, and for once it’s not me. You know what I’m saying Marty?

Anyway, I’m practically begging the kid to get dressed now. I’m hoping to god that I can get him out the door in time to just stick him on the bus, but the clock’s ticking. Instead he’s just pissing and moaning about how he can’t find his freaking monkey socks. I don’t even know what a fucking monkey sock is. So I’m helping him look for these god damned socks but everytime I bend over all the snot in my head goes sliding forward, I get all dizzy. It feels like I’m gonna go over like a stack of dimes. Anyway, we find the socks, he gets the left one on but as soon as I try handing him the right one the whole freaking thing falls apart, and he starts yelling at me and pushing me away. Finally, I get him to out of the bedroom by promising I’ll put his shoes on for him while he eats his damned oatmeal.

This whole time Marty, the whole time I’m being nice about it. I’m acting all smiles and god damned sunshine, I swear.

So, then we go to the kitchen, I set the kid up on a stool the wife puts the bowl of oatmeal on the counter. I ask my wife if she’s seen the cat.

Now that damned cat is the whole reason I even dragged my sick ass out of bed this early I’m getting the kid to school, so that my wife can take that murderous little turd to the veterinary clinic for it’s shots this morning.

Of course the answer is no, she aint seen the cat. Because, it’s a cat.

They’re completely unreliable. That’s why I’m a dog guy. You want reliability you, get a dog. I’ve always said that. You know I’ve always been a dog guy.

So, There I am, struggling to put canvas high tops on the dead weight that is my child. He’s not cooperating. He’s just complaining about how I’m doing it wrong between shoving spoonfuls of apples and brown sugar in his face. Meanwhile the wife’s outside calling for the freaking cat. I’m sucking snot back up into my nose, trying not to get any to the kids sneakers, ‘cause that’s gonna open up a whole new can of worms with him. I’m looking at the clock, just watching time melt away from me here, and I know, I just know there’s not a chance in hell of making it to that bus stop, not today.

So anyway Marty, you know the car’s not running right. That’s why I needed you to come pick me up this morning, right. By the way thank you. So, that means I got to get him to school on his bicycle.

I take out my phone to find out what the weather’s doing, ‘cause the radio ain’t being no help. They’re too busy yammering about what this dipshit we put in office is screwing up today. So, I look at my phone and it’s thirty-four degrees out. Now I’m like are you shitting me? Two degrees above freezing and I gotta get this kid on a bike? I tell the kid to get his helmet and, there’s suddenly all this shock and amazement. He starts whining all over again, about how it’s too cold and that he want’s to ride the bus. At this point I sort of lose it a little bit. I start telling him all of the problems I’ve had this morning. The wicked sinus headache, the blocked nasal passages, the constant whining from him. I tell him how, despite all of it, I’ve been very nice to everyone so far, and if he had just gotten up when I asked him the first time he could’ve rode the bus. So, if he didn’t mind, could he please just go get his god damned helmet so we can get on our way.

To be clear Marty, I never raised my voice. Not once you know, not really.

I go outside, I walk past my wife. She’s shaking a god damned bowl full of food for the cat all over the place, trying to get him to show up. I go back to the shed to get the bikes. Of course mines buried all the way in the back behind all the Christmas ornaments. I wrestle the damned thing out. The tires are fucking flat. I gotta pump them up. Which means I gotta dig around for the damned pump.

I do that. I bring the bikes back around to the front of the house. I go back inside.

There’s my wife, staring at me. Giving me that look. You know, that look. Apparently I upset our little angel.

I didn’t even yell at him Marty. I mean here I am. Sick as a dog, getting up early. Being nice to everyone, not complaining once. I’m being the loving husband, the dutiful father here. All so she can take this freaking cat to the vet. Now I’m all of a sudden the bad guy again.

She tells me don’t worry about it. She’ll take him to school. She can’t find the cat anyway, so she’ll just call and reschedule the appointment for later in the day. She’s not raising he voice, not making a fuss, but I know I’m gonna hear about it later, believe me.

They walk out the door.

I sit down on one of the kitchen stools.  Finally, I take a sip of my freaking coffee that I poured myself forty-five minutes ago. It’s ice fucking cold. I look down. There’s the cat. Crawling out if the fucking pet carrier. It’s been asleep in there this whole time.

Jesus, I tell you Marty, I hate that damned cat.

So anyway, let’s talk about how you want to do this bank heist.