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The Cat and the Windows of Weird

By

Thomas S. Gunther


Published by Thomas S. Gunther at Smashwords

Copyright © 2019 Thomas S. Gunther

Cover image, design, and lettering by author


There was this cat, and he did cat stuff. You know, like lie around and lick his big walnuts. And he whined a lot. He was really old and annoying, yowling all the time like that. His name was Troll, because I had found him on a bridge, and someone said, “name him Troll,” you know, like that story about the three billy goats. You don’t know? Didn’t your parents ever read to you?

Anyhow, this ball of frightened orange fluff grew into his ruff and tumble name and eventually established himself as King of the Trailer Court, a proverbial bully among cats. I had never had him fixed, and the old bastard would take to disappearing for days on end, worrying my wife and me. Then he would show up like nothing happened. Or he would come home bedraggled and mortally wounded, seeking solace and Friskies. Then, if he escaped a trip to the vet, he would proceed to wallow on the furniture, looking like any teenager that had just gorged himself on nachos and a couple two-liters with that rub my belly so I don’t barf smirk on his face.

I became very curious about what sort of cat stuff this cat might be doing. He had certainly given my wife and me a few scares. We often envisioned the most horrible things befalling him: like, perhaps he had been mauled to death by rabid coyotes; mangled by a snowplow; he was stuck in the dog pound, alone and afraid; or even taken in by some sociopathic child that enjoyed torturing small animals. Being a writer, my natural curiosity was about to kill the cat--oh, loath thy imagination! I started wandering the Internet looking for answers to this troublesome cat’s behavior, subconsciously fueling even more torrid tales. When the computer proved useless, I went to the library, researching material for the stories forming in my head. I was torn between great concern for my familiar’s well-being and a morbid, insatiable appetite for writing a story--formulated out of worry--about him.

While I accepted the fact that my cat was quite fine, and that I, at least, was suffering from a never-ending fit of anxiety, his antics nonetheless continued, as did an in-extinguishable generation of fear and story ideas. You must remember that while it was Troll’s nature that worried me, I was also experiencing the weight of self-doubt and countless rejections. Ego-wise, I was at an all-time low, which was mirrored by my empty wallet. My wife, however, was very supportive. She wanted me to write the story we’d made up together about a cat that actually lived in two homes, drifting back and forth between each domicile, confounding each owner. But, no! I couldn’t be smart, and listen to my wife--I had to do things my way. I couldn’t be caught dead writing something so boring and literary. In spite of my wife’s protests, I scrapped the story, and foolishly pursued anything with a science-fiction slant. After all, I was the writer, not she. My first draft was about a scientist mounting a miniature camera to his cat’s head.

Herein the possibilities were limitless. As a writer, this gave me a plethora of storylines to work from, as the protagonist would have a constant, digital stream of kitty info, all first hand, or first paw if you prefer. But, what would he see? Maybe he would see Troll go meet some other cats, and maybe they would be fighting over some females, or something, all wigged out on catnip. Only, it would be a rare glimpse into the secret cat underground and take place at a cat club called, El Gato Blanco. The place would be seedy, and crawling with some bad cats: kitty bikers, kitty whores, kitty wiseguys who controlled the catnip ring... And Troll would be in love with an exotic dancer named Fluffy, who was hooked on catnip, but she belonged to a dealer named Skull, the meanest cat in town. And he and Troll got into a knife fight, and the kitty cops showed up, and then...

No. That didn’t happen.

I could have rolled with it but decided the storyline was not science-fiction-ny enough, so I tried to work more within the confines of that genre. I thought, maybe Troll came home one day with bizarre wounds the vet couldn’t explain, so as the Nobel Prize-winning camera/eye scientist guy I, the protagonist, surgically inserted a microscopic camera into my cat’s eye to track his whereabouts, and reveal what was going on. And I would discover that alien cats from another world had landed in my backyard and had taken Troll’s girlfriend hostage. But, he couldn’t save her, because the aliens employed evil robot cats with razor claws and laser eyes. So then I became an expert in metallurgy and articulated cat armor and equipped Troll with super-secret laser-resistant armor and laser guns I could remotely control from my laptop, and together, through some weird mind-meld, we would defeat the aliens and save Fluffy!

No. That didn’t happen, either.

I didn’t have a laptop. All I had was a crappy Windows XP desk model. Besides, my wife had cut me off from the Internet, as she felt my long hours of writing and constant perusals of FaceBook were grounds for marital mayhem. Undeterred, I spent even more time writing, ignoring both my wife and crumbling marriage, as I was devilishly devoted to writing the ultimate cat story. I had an itch, a scratchy fever for cats--I was a writer obsessed!

I was stuck, however. And I was hopelessly compelled to write a story involving the whole camera/eye thing, and the cat/human mind meld thing. I couldn’t let it go. I became deeply engrossed with the idea of quartz lenses, quartz crystal, mystical things, and an old dude named F. A. Mitchell-Hedges and his infamous crystal skull. But, for some reason, whether it was the dismal condition of my marriage, finances, ego, or my constant apprehension about the safety of my cat, I just couldn’t put it all together. I couldn’t quite find the cat’s meow, and paper, books, and magazines were beginning to pile in dangerous, teetering heaps upon my desk, the floor, the kitchen table, and even the bathroom counter. These mountains of madness only grew, as any time I ran out of material to comb through I would make another jaunt to the library, and return home with another three hundred pounds of books.

My visits to the library grew increasingly frequent, and frantic. Instead of just getting on one of the guest computers, relaxing, and doing my own research, I would always ask the librarian for help. A true bookworm, my obscure questions about obscure people, places, and things always quickened her interest, but as she was so old she would soon forget what she was looking for, getting mired in irrelevant subtext. This dilemma was further magnified when I asked for information regarding Maria Orsic, an Austrian born medium who vanished into legend in 1945. The old girl was overwhelmed with information about Orsic, telepathy, aliens, and the whole Vril/Nazi conspiracy. Outwardly I smiled and nodded, but inside I was a churning, boiling mass of anticipation wanting so badly to shove the dear woman out of her seat and assume command of the keyboard so I could get to the good stuff she kept skipping over!

I had this story rolling around in my brain, you see, and was anxious to start writing. They were like mythical heroes, these two enigmas of history, and I thought, why not? Why not put them together in some fantastic story about a crystal skull, and how maybe Mitchell-Hedges and Orsic were lovers, but he betrayed her and stole the skull after he helped her escape the Third Reich, and then made up the story about how his kid found it in some old ruins and, blah, blah, blah? As it was, I left the library empty-handed, though my genarian guide promised to keep looking, though she was clueless about just what it was she was looking for.

But, how would the cat fit into this story?

Again I was stuck, and after months of writing--or not writing--I was still nowhere except separated from my wife, and living with my mother. The wind had died, and my sails had fallen limp and listless. But, when I wasn’t pining over the travesties and utter satire of my marriage, I was still writing, working on other ideas spinning around in my head. And when I wasn’t writing new stories, I was submitting old ones. Yet, the cat story beckoned my soul, screaming at me like some alley cat in the heat of battle or love, whichever. I had some pictures of Maria Orsic I had downloaded. She was a beautiful young woman who had believed that her gloriously long hair served as antennae that attracted signals from the spirit world. I would stare at her image and contemplate my failing marriage, my wasted youth, girls I had let slip through my fingers; I would daydream of aliens, ghosts, Nazis, and other weird things, seeking windows of escape from this life. But mostly I just stared, probably producing drool. Loserdom was setting in, and when one of my stories--Mumbling Darkly--had been rejected for the umpteenth time, I was ready to call it quits, and go work at McDonald’s. I tried to play off the rejection as the fault of poor submission choices, and that the story just didn’t fit neatly into any genre slot. It was kinda weird, after all. Or, maybe I just sucked as a writer, and nobody liked my stories? Maybe being stuck was a sign, not of writer’s block, but that it was time to admit that I couldn’t write, and really did belong at the bottom of life’s pecking order.

What did they want, anyway? A story about a cat that lived with two different families? Some quaint tale the bourgeois might read in the New Yorker or Harpers? Would that be clever, witty, dull, ennuyeuse, or even literate enough for the blase snobs? The poetry club might rave about it, but I was damned if I was going to write it anytime soon. No! I was going to write a cat story, damn it. I was going to write the greatest cat story ever, once and for all--even greater than Puss N’ Boots. Look out, Christopher Walken! Look out Garfield, Bill, and Morris--’cause here comes Troll!

And it would be a true story, too. And I would relate why I’d never had my cat fixed--how as a boy I’d witnessed the great and mysterious exodus of cats from the trailer park, and how it was my secret plan to repopulate the neighborhood with cats using irresponsibility and one studly king cat! And it was working: there were cats everywhere! Big cats, little cats, skinny cats, fat cats, white cats, black cats, patchy cats, striped cats, and calicoes. There were orange cats with gray stripes, gray cats with orange stripes, cats that looked like raccoons, and raccoons that looked like cats crossed with possums. They were everywhere--yowling, mating, and fighting. And there were all these kittens, hundreds and thousands of them, mewling and puking everywhere. They got into everything: under trailers, under cars, on top of trailers, on top of little kids’ heads! They just kept multiplying, and soon all we could see were cats. One on top of the other, a great cat pyramid arose! They were piling up past the windows--we had to get around in boats, armed with guns and clubs. Soon cats were falling like rain from the trees, and the pile blocked out the sun, and we were running out of food for them, so they started eating each other, dogs, kids, and people, and…

No, that didn’t happen either. Anyway, there was this cat...

End


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