Bleak/Apparition by Broken Montague

BLEAK

It is bleak, and the sky above is dim.

Rain smoothly drops, I remember him.

He grasps gently in my heart’s chamber,

Can’t resist, I called his 11-digit number.

 

Then, I knew he is already happy.

With a girl he really loves, she’s pretty.

I called my best friends and got tipsy;

Weeping ‘coz I can’t move on, sadly.

 

I can’t quite conceal how heavy this feeling is.

Seeing her blushing and laughing when he teases.

The 3-month rule that he should have at least considered.

He recklessly wrecked my heart and murdered.

 

Our happy days and months were gone so fast,

Like the unconditional love we found, and trust.

They said I should’ve now forgotten about him,

Since it was already years and a half ago.

 

He left an indelible mark that changed my whole world,

By the most unlikely and unforgettable spoken words.

We will somehow meet someday in any interwoven road,

But soon I’ll find love again that I’ll forever hold.

 

Apparition

 

I dreamt of you last night,

You hugged me so tight.

An apparition of what should we be.

Mostly called it as a fantasy.

 

We laughed at certain things.

In my dream, so much joy you bring.

We kissed ourselves to bed,

But in reality, you’re unobtainable to heed.

 

I woke up from that sweetest nightmare,

I remember how my heart felt broken.

‘Coz you never ever seem to care

On I love you’s, to you,  I have spoken.

 

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Broken Montague is a complete novice in the field of poetry. He is an educator from the Philippines who dreamt to inspire so many people through his own words. His experiences in life and in love made him write his own masterpieces. He is deeply in the verge of happiness as these masterpieces come into reality.

 

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Zero Plus One by Sebnem Sanders

Zero Plus One

Zero leaned against the wall, taking comfort from its resistance. He sipped his drink, as he watched a group of guests saunter by.

People laughed and joked. Some men eyed the females like prey, others, as though admiring cars in a motor show. They continued to meander across the hall, viewing their options among the women, some standing or comfortably settled on the chairs and settees scattered around the room. Concentrating on potential males, they ran their tongues along their lips, lowered their décolletés and hiked up their skirts as much as their sitting positions and postures allowed. Their eyes and gestures communicated in carnal language while they exchanged casual words in the spoken tongue.

The thrill of their own past escapades still vivid in their memories, married couples split up. Eager to share the excitement of mating overtures between the free males and females, they joined small groups.  

Zero eyed them with disdain. They were like animals in the jungle, searching for suitable sex partners. I see them, they don’t see me. Not knowing why he had agreed to attend another one of Sarah’s crazy parties, he wished he were one of those aliens who could melt into the wall and vanish. As he put down his glass and decided to leave, a tall slim girl with short hair approached him.

“You look bored, ” she said, “fancy going out for a smoke?”

“I don’t smoke.”

“Does passive smoking bother you?”

“I quite enjoy it, actually.”

“In that case, let’s get some refills and escape.”

She took his hand and led him to the bar. After a top-up of malt for him and champagne for her, they strolled through the French doors onto the veranda and down the steps into the vast grounds of the house.

She settled on a white, wrought-iron chair and put her glass on the table. He sat facing her as she fumbled in her bag and took out a pack and a lighter.

 

She lit the cigarette, took a deep drag and exhaled, turning her head aside. Picking up her glass, she said, “Cheers, I’m One.”

 

“I’m Zero,” he said shyly. “Zero plus One is One. You have confirmed my sentiments. I am invisible.”

 

“Who says so? Zero plus One is Zero plus One. You’re not invisible. I could see you from the other end of the lounge.”

 

“Really? That’s surprising. I thought I didn’t exist.”

“You do.” She held his hand. “You’re real, flesh and bone.”

He placed his other hand on top hers and squeezed it gently. “Thanks, my otherwise ethereal particles must have materialized in your presence.”

 

“Very much so. Why Zero?”

“It’s just a nickname from university years. I guess it’s because I’m not as flamboyant as the rest. The sort of guy who melts into the background.”

 

“I was always The One, then I became One.”

 

“A strong presence?”

 

“Not so. Just helping, sharing, tying up the ends.”

 

“Reliable?”

 

“Perhaps.”

 

“What a pair we’d make. Absent and present.” He chuckled and gazed into her eyes. Behind the clouds of smoke, shafts of moonlight danced across her face, making her mysterious and unearthly. A destination he wanted to explore.

 

“I’d like to read your story.”

“You already are. One plus Zero.”

 

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Sebnem E. Sanders is a native of Istanbul, Turkey. Currently she lives on the Eastern shores of the Southern Aegean Sea where she dreams and writes Flash Fiction and Flash Poesy, as well as longer works of fiction. Her flash stories have been published on the Authonomy Blog,  The Drabble, and  SickLit Magazine. More information on her work can be found at her website: https://sebnemsanders.wordpress.com/ where she publishes some of her work.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sebnemsanders

 

I Thought Death had Better Manners by Pleasant Street

A shadow fell across me

and the shelves of canned tomatoes

before me at the local market

someone breathing-heavy enough

close enough to feel it upon my neck.

I moved an obligatory two steps

toward the green beans

but the shadow moved with me

like the mouth-breathers from

middle school.

I made a quick move to leave the aisle

when a black-robed figure

skirted around me, knocking off

half a dozen cans

with a garden tool.

Finally in line, with my 2 cans

of pizza sauce and a rotisserie chicken

I saw the black robe putting groceries

on the conveyor, and when he turned

his head I saw it was the grim reaper.

I said, “Hey man- how come

you have 32 items in the express lane?”

Everything stopped. The store

was shrouded in silence. The cashier

looked at me in horror.

Death’s hand stopped in mid-air

holding a box of Corn Pops.

“You know,” I said

“That stuff’ll kill you.”

 

 

Pleasant Street is a mother, baker, and poet. She has been writing poetry since fourth grade. Now she is writing a series of neo-noir thrillers and a collection of short stories. She thinks too hard and feels too deeply, and appears to be stuck in 1948. She is still dreaming up a way to use baked goods as legal tender.
Pleasant lives on a tree-lined street where nothing seems to happen on the outside, but she is certain many thrillers are contained behind closed doors. She is often carried away by flights of fancy, but that suits her very well.

Selfish bastard by PJ Stephenson

Selfish bastard

                                                                           

“What if I’d found the body?

“I’m so glad I didn’t; I’m not sure how I’d have coped.

“Instead of me, it was Dougie – poor old sod. He had a client who wanted an early viewing so he went into the office around seven. What a gruesome surprise awaited him.

“Hanging is a selfish way to kill yourself. It’s very unfair on the person who finds you. Dougie’s hardly slept since. He’s in total shock: cold sweats, flashbacks, nightmares, the whole works.

“I suppose it could have been worse. I mean, if you blow your brains out or slit your wrists, the blood and gore must make it even harder for the person who finds you to forget what they saw. But even if you self-inflict a less gruesome end to your life – pills and booze, jumping off a bridge – some poor soul has to find you. It’s not fair to expect a professional rescue worker to pull your body out of the water or untie the noose; and it’s a truly ghastly experience to inflict on a colleague who ate lunch with you the day before.

“But, no, Danny, you had to hang yourself didn’t you. What an egotistical bastard.

“I was second on the scene.

“It was a close call – I’m usually first in the office. Dougie had taken down your body to see if he could resuscitate you. Then he’d panicked: what if the police were upset that he’d disturbed the crime scene? I told him not to worry, it was a reasonable reaction. And, in any case, it wasn’t a crime scene; it was a suicide scene.

“I was lucky I didn’t have to see your ugly, contorted face and bulging eyes; that’s not the last image anyone wants of their brother. Dougie had covered you with a towel from the WC. He is always so considerate.

“I did get to read your suicide note, though. While we waited for the emergency services to arrive, Dougie brewed tea – hot, sweet, builders’ tea, of course – and I read the deceased’s last words.

“Obviously no-one is in a good frame of mind when they’re about to kill themselves, but you could have made more effort to ensure your final message to the world was memorable. It wasn’t. It was a long, incoherent rant, full of poor grammar (Dad and me never spent any quality time together), split infinitives (I wanted to really throttle my brother) and typos (my bosses monumental lack of respect). You typed it so why didn’t you use a spell checker?

“You told your life story, and what an event-filled saga it was. I can’t believe one man could have so many problems. And were any of these problems your own fault? Of course not. You spent pages explaining why your misfortunes were down to other people: your mother (for dying too soon), your father (for abandoning you when he found a new woman), your friend Nigel (for moving to Bangkok), your boss (who never let you have all the overtime you needed to pay off your debts or enough leave to ease your stress) and finally – of course – your brother (who never listened or helped you out). It was not at all rational or logical.

“And it was certainly not accurate. For a start, I did listen (endlessly!), and I did help you out – I got you a job in the estate agent after all. And how did you repay me – by hanging yourself where you knew I’d be the one most likely to find you.

“You spiteful bastard.

“What else can I say to you? Danny, you had a head start in life – you were older, got better grades at school and went to a better university than me. Although you never married, you had a reasonable career. If only you hadn’t started drinking…

“I was the one who needed sympathy. You didn’t look out for me when Mum left. And what help did you give me through my two failed marriages, my daughter’s mental health problems and my short, stress-filled battle with testicular cancer? No help whatsoever.

“What have I got to look forward to? A life with two sponging ex-wives, a kid with special needs and a single bollock is not what most men aspire to. I get depressed too, thinking of what might have been – of course I do – but I don’t top myself like a coward.

“You gave me no chance to reply. Your suicide note said it all and that was the definitive word on the subject of Danny and his life and who ruined it. When it was read out at the inquest everyone stared at me, glaring daggers at the brother who never listened and never helped. If I’d done more, you’d still be alive – that was the implication. I blushed and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. I’ve never been so humiliated.

“Ever since that day, I’ve been thinking about how I can reply to you, how I can get you back for all you’ve done to me. And I guess this is it.

“I can see by the faces of some of you in the front pew that this wasn’t the sort of eulogy you were expecting from the deceased’s brother. Well, I’m sorry; I’m just telling it like it is.”

Should I say it like that?

I like the rest of the speech but should I mention the people at the front of the church? Maybe it would be more powerful if I didn’t acknowledge their discomfort and let their anguished expressions and sideways glances go unnoticed.

I can’t decide.

I need to make up my mind; the funeral service starts in ten minutes. Finishing my speech is a stress – one last thing you’ve tormented me with.

I should explain to everyone how you’ve made my life even more of a misery than it was. It’s me they need to feel sorry for.

Yes, I’ll tell them everything, as it’s written here. I’ll let them know the truth about what you were really like – you selfish bastard.

                                                                                              

 

PJ is a British writer and environmentalist living in Switzerland. He sees the Alps every day but misses the Cairngorms. He indulges his passion for creative writing whenever he can, breaking free from the constraints at work to let his mind and prose wander unhindered wherever they want to go. He has had several short stories published, more recent works appearing in Writers’ Forum Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Henshaw Press, Short-Story.me and the summer 2015 magazine anthology Murder in the Sun (Select).  Follow him @Tweeting_Writer.

                                                                                           

 

Choose the Lie/Exploited Love/Release Me/Darkness/The Right Side of the Bed by Steve Evans

~ CHOOSE THE LIE ~

If it would soothe the ache from my heart dying

If it would wipe the tears from my eyes crying

       Then, I would not ask why

If it could heal the wounds of my trust betrayed

If it could renew the loss of my faith misplaced

       Then, I would not ask why

If you could have controlled the hunger between your thighs

If you could have saved your lust from other guys

       Then, I would choose the lie

If you could have only wanted me as much

If you would have only believed I was enough

       Then, I would choose the lie

          I would not ask why

          I would choose the lie

 

           ~ EXPLOITED LOVE ~

Why do we hurt each other?

We know our weaknesses, so,

We exploit them.

Only to hear the pain in our voice.

I strike, you strike – one leads to the next.

Words escape, a tear falls, a heart breaks.

Can this be love?

Is this love’s reality

Or the truth between our hearts?

 

         ~ RELEASE ME ~

You saw a fool within my Eyes,

Lies spoken, a kiss their Masquerade.

Betrayed a heart so True,

Still, I Fell!

Hell Released.

Please!

Please,

Release Me!

Free my Heart,

Depart from your Disguise.

Wise in your full Trickery,

See now, how my heart Bleeds!

Please, please, release your hold on me!

 

         ~ THE DARKNESS ~

Of the Darkness he was not born

But his essence, the Darkness did form

In the Shadows he felt at home

Akin to the loneliness of being alone

Enchanted by the allure of fading light

For its appeal had become painfully trite

Obliged by the Darkness, faithful his soul

Assimilated into the Darkness, baptized by Shadows

For its false witness shown too bright

Nurtured by the solace in the Darkness

He saviors the warmth of being heartless

Of the Darkness he was not born

But his essence, the Darkness did form

 

~ THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BED ~

There’s a perfect indentation on the pillow where you use to lay your head.

But, the memories have all started fading as you’re no longer on the right side of the bed.

There’s an outline imprinted on the sheets where your body laid since we wed.

But, our love has grown cold and lonely and you’re no longer on the right side of the bed.

There’s no future and there’s no happily ever after. Our vows forgotten as your goodbye was said.

Now, the memories have all been deleted as you’re no longer on the right side of the bed.

There’s no ring on our fingers, though the stains remain. Our promise of forever, a marriage broken and dead.

Now, a new love exists to hold my hand and take your place on the right side of the bed.

 

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42yrs old
Lives in Welch, Oklahoma but will always be a Kentucky boy.
Has three sons all grown.
Two poetry books to his credit: SAVOR THE DARKNESS and REFLECTIONS OF LIFE AND LOVE
Current projects: a horror story called WEEPING WILLOW Daddy’s Angel, at his publishers now and he’s writing the second installment of the series WEEPING WILLOW The Mark

Incubus by Kyle Lawhorn

Incubus

I slam the front door shut behind me as I trudge into a caliginous living room. Home at last. Well, not exactly home, for the temporary soul of an apartment will never match the enduring soul of a house, but close enough for this twenty-year-old. There is an awful crick in my neck, so I roll my head and adjust my rather cumbersome purse to a more comfortable position on my shoulder. I reach up to the ponytail on the back of my head, take the hairband holding it up off, and let my raggedy brunette hair fall down. It reeks of cooking oil and pickles, as it does every night after work.

I share this apartment with my longtime friend, Gabrielle, in order to make the rent affordable for the both of us. We each pay two hundred for this two bed, two bath place with a fully furnished kitchen connected to a rather spacious living room, in which I am currently standing. Having lived here for hardly a month, the only furniture adorning this room is a threadbare, brown couch. We have great plans for the future of our transitory home, but as of right now we are struggling to keep food in the fridge and a Wi-Fi connection.

“Gabrielle!” I say in a loud, exacerbated tone. “I’m back from work.” I drag my feet across the ill-lit space, making my way toward the hallway that leads to our bedrooms. As the warm, inviting atmosphere of the apartment engulfs me, my eyes begin to drift shut against my will and this stupid purse slips halfway down my shoulder. A taunting image of my bed hovers in my mind’s eye, and I want nothing more than to collapse onto that oversized cushion and enter the vast expanse of unconsciousness known as sleep.

“I know, Lilly. I am pretty sure the entire floor heard you come in,” Gabrielle calls from her room, her soft voice made raspy by exhaustion. She was scheduled to get off about an hour ago and had likely just fallen asleep when I woke her back up by slamming the door. Roommate of the century, right?

“I’m sorry, Gabrielle,” I mumble as I open the door to my room. I do not think I can muster another word, because the greedy grip of exhaustion has now taken possession my voice as well as my body. I close the door behind me, with a little less force this time, and I flip the light on with my other hand, dispelling the darkness from the room. The first thing my eyes gravitate toward is the laptop sitting on my desk in the far corner of the room. I have an important English paper due in two days, and I know I should probably work on it, being as I am only halfway done. The next thing that catches my eye makes any idea of writing vanish from my mind. My digital alarm clock, which is situated on the edge of the same desk, reads one-forty-five, and I have a seven o’clock literature class. I just love all the joys of being an English major. I do not know what I would do without it; probably just enjoy life.

With a lazy shrug of the shoulders, my purse collapses to the wooden floor, making a dull thud. I look down dejectedly at my feet and realize that if I try to bend over in order to untie my shoes, I will just end up falling down and sleeping on the floor still in my work clothes. So, I pry them off along with their respective sock one at a time with the other foot, which is not good for the shoes but I really do not care. I reach into the shallow confines of my left pant pocket, pull my phone out, check it disinterestedly to make sure no one has messaged me, and toss it down onto my unkempt bed. Picking my wrinkled sleeping shirt, which is almost long enough to be a dress, up off of the cluttered floor, I take my work shirt and bra off in one fluid motion. I learned the trick of slipping my bra off without unlatching it in high school; laziness often breeds intuition, especially in me. I toss them into the pile of dirty clothes in the corner of the room, and slip the shirt on to keep the sharp chill that is in my room off of my body. I wiggle out of my black jeans as I make my way over to the dresser against the far wall, which also serves as a stand for my radio. I turn the radio on as I kick my pants over to the previously stated pile, and the pleasant, nasal voice of John Lennon comes through the speakers, “Lying there and staring at the ceiling.”

A robust yawn pulls a copious amount of air into my tired body as I turn on the rotating fan, which stands next to my bed, to its lowest setting, sending a soft hum throughout the room. I turn out the light and let myself fall onto the inviting bed, my phone digging into my spine as I do so. I bend my arm at an awkward angle to pull it out from under me instead of just moving my body. As I squirm around in order to get into a better laying position, I check the phone with a little less apathy this time. Still no new notifications, so, with more effort than it should have taken, I roll over to the edge of the bed, plug the phone up to its charger, lay it on the little nightstand I have next to my bed, roll back into a comfortable laying position, and pull the covers over my body.

My eyes shut on their own volition, and, almost instantly, a wave of unconsciousness washes over my mind and time seems to slow down, the abysmal silence of sleep drowning out the soft melodies of The Beatles streaming through the speakers of my radio. I have been awaiting this moment ever since I got out of bed a little after five this morning, and I feel a slight smile come over my lips as the darkness behind my eye lids deepens. Right as my conscious mind is about to give way to my unconscious one, the world outside of the dark veil lights up for a split second, then returns to its normal darkness. This change in lighting cause consciousness to rush back to my mind. I open my eyes and look over at my phone, which I know is the only thing in here that would cause such an illumination. A blue light at the top of the device is blinking, signaling that I have a new text. I reach over as far as possible can without having to movie my body and I am able to take hold of the phone with the tips of my fingers. I bring it over to my face, knowing that the long cord I have on my charger allows it such mobility, and press the power button to bring up the screen. The new message is from a number I do not have saved in my contacts. With the swiftness and expertise of having done it a million times before, I type my password in and pull up the messages.

Could you throw me a blanket down here; it is pretty cold under your bed.

   My entire body tenses when I read this. I look it over four more time in order to make sure that I did not misread the text.  Everything in the room is silent and I strain my ears against that horrid muteness, trying to hear something. The feeling of total darkness and absolute stillness surrounds me, encroaching into my very soul, then I hear it. A faint, yet distinct breath from somewhere in the impenetrable darkness. A breath that is out of sync with my own breathing. With a speed I did not even know I am capable of, I send Gabrielle a text telling her to call for help and come into my room with her mace right now. Then I press my phone to my chest, squeeze my eyes shut, and lay absolutely still on my bed. I do not think I would have been able to move even if I wanted to. Prayers learned in Sunday school begin to run through my head. I can feel something moving in my room, a single movement that seems to be happening all around my bed, originating from under this accursed place of sleep. The movement envelopes me and the breathing, which is now right above me, intensifies, becoming louder and faster. Against every ounce of will and logic that is inside of my being, my eyes shoot open and are greeted by an inky blackness deeper than what exists behind my eyelids. A face materializes from the obscurity that surrounds me. At first all I can see is its sinister grin, revealing perfect, white teeth that seem to radiate their own light. A pair of rosy lips are spread thinly around the teeth, but they still hold a plumpness that has an overwhelming attractiveness to them. Its eyes become visible and they look straight through mine and peer into my inner being. The color of the eyes is impossible to pin down, for at one moment they seem to be a dark blue, then a second later they look as if they are a deep hazel, and at other times I can swear they are jet black. At all times, though, the eyes have a purple tinge to them and a joyful sparkle that is supplied seemingly by their own source of light. We stay in this position, suspended in silence, nothing changing but the color of his horrid eyes. I feel the nefarious power behind those eyes reach into me, tearing my soul and willpower to shreds.

I sit straight up in my bed with a thin film of sweat covering my body, and see that normal darkness has returned. “Waiting for a sleepy feeling,” John Lennon’s droning voice says from my stereo. I am out of breath, but I feel as if an unspeakable weight has been lifted off of me. The room around me is still covered in darkness. I can see to the foot of my bed, but beyond that is a sea of black. The faint blue light that my radio screen emits usually casts a tiny bit of illumination in the room, but such is not the case. Goosebumps cover my body as I stare into the lightless world that surrounds my place of slumber, but the soft cords and lyrical words, “Please, don’t spoil my day, I’m miles away” let me know that I am still in my room. My exhaustion is just making everything dark.

As I lay back down, I glance at my phone and see the blue light blinking. Not caring to check it, I close my eyes, and unconsciousness instantly floods back over me. Right as I am on the verge of sleep, something presses down on both of my shoulders and a light breath that reeks of thistle and iris brushes my face. This time, I refuse to let my eyes open. I feel hair brush across my cheeks and the smell of poppies comes along with it. Everything is silent around me; I cannot even hear him breath. Time seems to slow down and speed up at the same time, leaving me adrift in a plane of oblivion where nothing truly exists but he and I. Out of the silence, from another plane of existence, comes a brash voice that I find very appealing, “I’m only sleeping.” A deep but soft chuckle comes from right outside of the protection of my eyelids. I know I cannot fight this time, for I am already his.

 

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Kyle Lawhorn is an under-grad student attending Lynchburg College, studying French and Theatre. He Lives in the small town of Rustburg, Virginia, where he spends too much time watching ‘Supernatural’ and not enough time writing. He passes his free time working on too many novels for his own good, acting in locally Shakespeare productions, and reading high fantasy novels. Patrick Rothfuss, George RR Martin, and J RR Tolkien are a few of his patron saints. 90% of the time he will be caught listening to either Jason Marz or the Beatles He would like to thank his 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Harvey, for telling him that he needed to keep writing stories, and his 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Carpenter, for believing in his writing when no one else did.

I have just a normal profile on Facebook at Kyle Lawhorn, and I have a twitter account at KyleLawhorn6.

 

Whiskers Sam by Victoria Whittaker

Whiskers Sam

PART TWO
~Break On Through~

 

It’s impossible for me to wake up early in the morning without the assistance of Jim Morrison. Instead, I was awoken by the smooth serenade of German engineering, long after the break of dawn. My whiskers flicked as my eyes opened and I saw the tail end of the white Volkswagen Eos convertible glide away, the top down, Jacob’s brown hair glinting with reflected sunlight. Once again I’d missed him. Honestly, I was too wiped out from the previous day to even think about the state of my hair, or my fur, or my whiskers or anything else for that matter. I’d been through quite a lot in my first day as a feline and facing facts required effort. Still trying to get my bearings and understand my status in this new posture was going to take more than a day. A life of leisure, you assume? Well so far, it hadn’t been all kibble and bits and I’d yet to see a lick of cream. Oh, how I longed for a cappuccino and a cinnamon pastry. Here I was, in my bed of cedar mulch and dew rimmed pansies and Lee at the JavaBeans Coffeeshop was far away. With no place to go––this, my destination––and nothing else to do––but wait for Jacob to come home––my options were thus: hunker down in the garden, forage for sustenance, and hope that dinner would be served indoors this evening. Meanwhile I took a reconnaissance tour of my local surroundings. The church yard, serene and grassy seemed a tranquil place. I mean, if you’re not safe in a churchyard, where are you safe? The rectory building reared up in stony silence along the property and garden of my dwelling. Slinking around the back of the porch I found––Hallelujah!––a pair of feeding bowls for four-legged creatures. One offered fresh water, with only a tiny bug marring its surface. I psapped gratefully, shrugging the bug aside with indifference. The other bowl had some dubious looking kibble in it, too big for my jaw and I sniffed at it with prejudice. I continued across the lawn, unwilted, unprocessed; wide and pristine. In the balmy sunshine I felt compelled to revel in the patch of greenery and have a rollicking roll in its soft furrows. I could see how hospitable and genial the grounds had been maintained. Where the lawn ended, a sidewalk bordered the street and I tentatively eased closer. My nostrils picked up––yes––no doubt about it: garlic, basil, and tomato sauce. A pizzeria wafted within sniffing distance. I wondered what would happen if I just strolled in, hopped up on the counter and ordered a plain slice with garlic? Mmmm….Lip-smacking delicious. How did I do it, you ask? Well, I sort of just scarpered off with someone else’s leftovers. This is my life as a stray cat. Satisfied, I definitely could feel my cedar mulch napping spot calling to me, but somehow I had to make certain that I wouldn’t oversleep this time. I had to be ready to appear frisky and lure my way into Jacob’s heart. As I sauntered into his garden, I immediately sensed a foreign presence. My short tail unfurled, bristling with electricity. Whiskers arrayed, I soon picked up the intruder’s location. Shoulders tensed, ready to pounce, my new instincts directed every muscle to perform with sinuous speed. When the the cloud of cedar mulch settled, I had clutched in my maw one mousey brown rodent; its legs wriggling in a defiant death rattle. A warm ripple of blood trickled onto my tongue satisfying my carnivorous cravings. However, I’d already had my fill of tomato sauce and didn’t need dessert. Wouldn’t it prove my worthiness if I showed Jacob how I could manage rodent control in the garden? Then he’d be certain to want to keep me around. I trundled up the three wooden steps and gently arranged my offering on the doormat, ever so proud of my prowess. Then I took a well deserved nap in the sunshine.

 

This time I heard the soft reverberation of the German motor upon arrival, now that I had it ingrained in my auditory library. Fur raised and puffy, ears perked up, eyes bright, my moment loomed with anticipation. He’s getting out of the car— He’s strolling down the slate path— Should I pounce? Should I casually slink alongside? Or leap onto the steps and strike my best pose, tall with spine rippling gracefully? No time to deliberate so I dashed over to the raised azalea planter, emitting an inquiring meow. He stopped short and gave me a long look. “Well, what do we have here? A visitor?” Visitor? Hey buddy, I’m your new housemate! Let’s make dinner! I’m hungry. “Nice afternoon for spending in the garden, isn’t little one?” Hey, I may be little, but I’ve got a lot of spunk. Let’s spin some records!

 

But he just kept on walking towards the door. Approaching the steps his motion paused as he inspected my gift. “Umm, a snack you’re saving for later?” He went to the other door, the one that lead into what appeared to be a garden shed, grabbed a trowel, and proceeded to remove, what I now understand he took to be an offending object. Here I’d thought I was doing something to encourage his enthusiasm and perhaps result in a shared meal. “Let’s just move your midnight snack over here under the juniper bush, ok Tiger?” I’d hoped for more welcoming and less rejection. Apparently I’d made a major faux paw. Looks like dinner was going to be Chinese again… Another sunny morning, the dew sparkled with freshness, invigorating the blooms in the garden. Another day of hours to kill before trying again to engage my way indoors. I took another walk around the neighborhood. Now that I had a source for water and pizza, all my basic requirements were fulfilled. I was feeling a little more comfortable in my fur coat especially when the day began to take a brisk turn and the clouds moved in. When Jacob arrived home I shivered with equal parts delight and chill. A rough night warned from the shadows if I didn’t find a way to coerce my way into–– Here he comes.

 

You’re here again? What’s up dude?” Hey! I’m not a dude! Take a look under my tail! “No place to call home? Or you just like my garden?” Home? This is my home! C’mon, let me in! But he retreated through the door and left me in abject sorrow, low and wet. Yes wet. At first the sprinkles just sprinkled. Damp and uncomfortable but not enough to chase me from the soft smell of my cedar bedding. I tried to hide under an azalea to shield myself from the wet pellets. I prepared for what would undoubtably be a depressing night. The warm lights lit up the house above, giving a vague sense of reassurance––at least someone was reposing in contentment. When the Brazilian tunes filtered down through the open balcony doors it soothed my otherwise disheartened condition. Dusk still lingered when Jacob appeared at the rail of the balcony. He gazed over the garden, peering into my huddled resting place, with a puzzled look on his face. He turned to go inside, stopped, and stared out once again towards my position, his bewilderment sustained. When the rain began to pour steadily, I transferred my bed to the protection under the balcony, where I settled into a corner next to the steps, forced to sleep on a bed of stones. Rain had drenched the garden heavily when I awoke next morning to find Jacob standing over me, looking down from the steps. “So, I see you hunkered down for the night. You really don’t have anyplace to stay do you buddy?” No…Let me in and we can come to some kind of arrangement. What do ya say?

 

Well, he didn’t say anything. He went back in, but did not invite me to join him. Minutes passed and I sat aiming an inquiring countenance at the door, which remained firmly shut. Then I heard the thump, thump of shoes treading steps. When the door opened a platter filled with dishes of delectable leftovers greeted me. A bowl of water, a saucer of milk, some warmed chicken korma, steaming with spicy scents and basmati rice, shaded with saffron and laced with cumin. “I hope that suits you as breakfast. That’s all I’ve got ready-made.” Wow, this is delicious! I slinked around his ankles with thankful mewls. It rained all day. I made the cuisine last, nibbling at the mounds of food until I had them whittled down to nothing but a few grains of rice. I did make use of the rain, as the day warmed up a bit and I dashed out to take a shower so that I’d be extra clean when Jacob came back; just in case he felt guilty enough to let me inside. When the white VW came rolling into its parking space, lights hollowing out the slip for a landing, I was left out in the cold, even as my fur curled into puffs of fuzzy kitten-y cotton softness. Bust I wasn’t left hungry… “Thought maybe you’d like some fish, eh, buddy?” What’s all this ‘buddy’ business? Have you still not ascertained my sex? What kind of fish exactly? Mmmm…that smells good…. “So I thought whitefish would be good for you; some tilapia, a bit of halibut, and some cod in the seafood chowder. You don’t want any french fries, do you?” Potatoes are harmful to my waistline. “Ok, that’s your portion. Now I’m going to go eat my half. You’ll be all right?” I’d be better if you’d let me join you at the big people’s table.

 

But hey, how could I complain? This guy brought me superb upmarket food. I could really get used to this kind of treatment. I slept so well. I don’t remember what music issued from above when I dozed off, full of creamy chowder. I couldn’t begin to finish all the fish he’d left on my plate and awoke during the night––to use the facilities under the magnolia tree––shattered to see that my plate had been removed and the fish with it. In the morning Jacob appeared with a fresh, steaming plate of fish. My hero! He cared enough not to leave my food sit out over night and get all cold and mucky. “I figured you’d still be here. I don’t suppose you’re going to want to leave now that I’ve fed you so well, eh? Still, you must have plans…” Oh yes…I have plans! The rain subsided and the damp earth absorbed slowly. Late in the afternoon the sun shone with as much vigor as it could muster from within the overcast backdrop. When the clouds finally conceded defeat, the day took a turn towards radiance, with warm smells emanating from the earth, the air, the flowers. I was sprawled on the slate pathway, working on my tan, when Jacob arrived home early. Soon I knew why. The pitter patter of quick moving feet could be heard from the front path, which led from the main street to the garden. I spied a pair of sleek pink sneakers which matched the pink backpacked and pony-tailed girl who now stopped dead in her tracks to inspect me. She cautiously crept towards the door and opened it slowly. She ducked her head inside and called up the stairs. “Uncle Jake! Come look! Out here in the garden!” I got up from my lounging position and sat tall and slender, licking my fur smooth and sleek; just for affect, as I’d already bathed. “Hey Violet, I see you’ve met my friend, Sam.” Sam? How did he know my name?? “Uncle Jake, is this your cat? For real?” Yes! For real. “Well, he seems to have decided to stop here in the garden for a while.” “How long?” “I don’t know, Violet. Maybe he’s lost. He’s so small, so I started feeding him.” Please stop referring to me as him! “Can we bring him inside, Uncle Jake?” Yes, can we? “I’m not sure that’d be a good idea. He probably has fleas.” Whaaaaat? I do not have fleas! That was just an itch that needed scratching. “Well, let’s take him to get a flea shot.” Shot? Oh no, we don’t need to do that! “Let’s not be too hasty to go to the vet. He might be someone else’s kitty.” Yeah, let’s not be too hasty…but wait! I’m your kitty.

 

“But Uncle Jake, we can take him to the clinic at the pets-mart. You can take care of fleas, vaccinations, everything! And we can get food, and a litter box and a special bed for him. It would be so cool for you to have a cat. Then you wouldn’t be so alone all the time. And I could see him when I visit you. I could help to clean his box too. Oh please Uncle Jake?” Yeah…please Uncle Jake? Violet knelt down and made whispery sounds. Maybe she wanted to share a secret. I padded over to her, full of trust. Her disposition––sweet and amiable––not the sullen and ambivalent attitude of a melancholy tween. She stroked the top of my head with her tiny, delicate fingers and frisked my ears which twitched with a tickle. As she massaged my back in long caresses I began to feel a rasping in my throat. Oh, no! Not another fur ball. I’d had one earlier as a result of fierce grooming and let me tell you, that’s one experience I hesitate to repeat. The inflection in my throat didn’t seem to have any physical object attached to it. It started as a gurgle and regulated into a thrumming motor sound; sort of like the Volkswagen–– Oh! Purring! This is what purring feels like. OMG! My whiskers danced in ecstasy. It’s the epitome of bliss! “Listen, Uncle Jake, he’s purring! He likes it here.” “Ok, we’ll see. Let’s go inside and make dinner and we can talk it.”

 

“I’ll show you on the computer all about the pets-mart clinic.” Can we hold off on the clinic part? “We’ll see if he’s still here in the morning. Now tell me about what you did in school today.” “Only if you promise to let me feed him some dinner.” Yeah….dinner sounds good! Dinner tasted scrumptious. I think having Violet around improved my situation––if anyone could convince Jacob of my worthiness. He clearly couldn’t refuse his niece. There’d be no backpedalling now. I curled up in the dry cedar, confident that my next bed would be under cover and inside. Dawn rose clouded and chilled. Breakfast couldn’t come soon enough. Thankfully Violet, anxious to participate in my menu, cracked eggs and was liberal with melty cheeses, using a blend of pecorino, monterey jack and gruyère that had me licking my whiskers with pleasure. She had thoughtfully added some capers for that little extra piquant flavor. Just as I was licking up the sauce, activity arrived in the parking lot. Voices shrilled into view, carrying something that looked like an accessory I had collecting dust in the hall closet. Just like Q’s carry basket…poor Q, I hoped he was getting fed; he’d been so spoiled, I couldn’t think of him roughing it the way I had those first days. Well, at least his bowl had been overflowing with kibble. My mind quickly forgot Q, as it could only hold a thought for a split second, before moving on to the next stimulating scent on the breeze. It made it easier to let go of the past and concentrate on this being-a-cat business. Violet took the cat carrier with glee and explained how she intended to convince Uncle Jake to adopt me. “Make sure the kitty relieves itself before you put it into the carrier; you don’t want any messes,” the parent warned before scampering back into the automobile. I couldn’t help but notice that she was wearing pale pink bedroom slippers and a pilling cardigan. Hmm…pink footwear seemed to run in the family. Attracted by the commotion, Uncle Jake chose to make an appearance. My tail quivered and I found myself batting my eyelashes hoping to display my most captivating features. I had to use every charm at my disposal in order to woo him over. “Look, Uncle Jake, kitty ate up all the breakfast I made. See how clean and fluffy his fur is? I really don’t think he has fleas, but now we have the carrier so we can take him with us to the pet-smart clinic like I showed you last night.” Yeah! And really, I don’t have fleas. I haven’t had an itch in hours. Violet was petting me again and I complied readily to show my good nature and bonhomie. How I wished Jacob would comply. “All right, let’s clean up the kitchen and then we’ll go out when the place opens.” “Yay! You hear that little kitty? We’re going shopping!” Every girl’s wish is to be taken shopping on a Saturday morning. Yay, indeed.

 

When they came to get me, I couldn’t hop into the carrier fast enough. In the backseat of the Eos, surrounded by a state-of-the-art sound system and buttery leather I had Violet sitting right beside me to comfort and steady my ride. Inside the clinic, my whiskers sparked with trepidation. The smells––antiseptic and offputting––made me ill at ease. The young fellow who came into the stark white room had dark wavy hair and schoolboy round spectacles. He began to examine me tenderly, but with nimble precision. “So, who do we have here? What’s this little marmalade’s name?” “We’re calling him Sam.” Violet affirmed. “You have a healthy young kitten here. So, Sam, do you intend to be a housecat or roam out of doors?” “A little of both, I expect,” Jake answered, “I don’t really know yet. You might call him more of an unexpected house guest. He just turned up in my garden earlier this week and hasn’t left. Do you think he belongs to somebody?” “Well, she’s definitely eating well and there’s no sign of parasites that you would expect to find in a stray.” “Uncle Jake! She’s a girl!” “I’ve been feeding him––I mean, her––since Wednesday.” Finally! He comprehends that I’m a female feline. “Well, that explains her current condition. What have you been feeding her?” “She had scrambled eggs with three cheeses for breakfast,” Violet boasted.

 

“Umm, yeah, well I’ve been giving her leftovers. Fish chowder, Chicken Korma, Miso soup…” he trailed off, awkwardly. “I see…” The Vet was ready to chide Jacob, but I had really enjoyed the cuisine. “Not really a pet owner, are you?” “It’s been a while.” “Well, no harm done; she seems to have stomached––what was it, Chicken Korma?–– with no complications. But what a growing kitten needs is less dairy and more meat proteins. They’ll advise you on food options in the store, but I would recommend something with pure chicken or turkey meat, which is higher in protein than beef. Stay away from the fish products and be careful to read the ingredients––what your kitten does not need are corn fillers which most kibble is comprised of because it cheaper.” “So my chicken Korma wasn’t such a bad move?” “Technically no, but…” “What about dry food vs wet?” “Ah…good question. Most people offer their pets both. It’s always best to feed your cats wet food; they need the extra hydration since they typically aren’t big water drinkers, like a dog, for instance.” I was finding this all very interesting until a sharp prick interrupted the conversation. “Yeep!”

 

“Hey, sorry, Sam. That hurt a little bit, didn’t it? It’s ok…all better now? Would you just look at those baby blues….aren’t you a bee-u-ti-ful kit-tie? Yes, you are.” Flattery will get me every time, but in future keep that needle away from me, Buster!” “Ok, that should do it. Here’s your tags and you can pay at the front desk.” “Yay! Now we can go shopping for fun stuff!” Yeah, let’s get to the fun stuff; anything to take my mind off my sore ass. “Let’s look at the toys!” “First thing kitty needs is a litter box and a bed, so she doesn’t scratch the leather furniture.” There was an entire aisle of kitty beds, kitty chairs, kitty sectionals and kitty condos. Violet immediately grabbed at something disturbingly pink. It was a plush velour cushioned bed in two shades of pink emblazoned with a Hello Kitty cartoon. No! No! I refuse to sleep on anything pink. Hello Kitty? I’m an interior designer for Christ’s sake! Thankfully Jacob veered across the aisle where a more neutral and natural composition of sherpa and fake fur appeared–– much more to my taste. “This goes with the furniture in the bedroom, Violet and see, it’s natural sherpa; much better for kitty than that polyester.”

 

Next we hit the litter box aisle, where Jacob let Violet choose the most revolting polka dotted arch-roofed WC. It was white with black polka dots and said: Kitty A-Go-Go on one side. I’m quite certain that Jim Morrison would be rolling over in his well tended Parisian grave. At least it wasn’t pink or emblazoned with Hello Kitty. I suppose I could make do with it as long as it was kept out of sight. At least I’d have ample privacy when practicing my zen gardening techniques. “Good choice, Violet; we won’t have kitty litter all over the house with that ramp on the front. Let’s look at the feeding dishes.” Oh, please, no bowls with fish on them. Nothing pink! But thankfully Jacob chose my dishes and he thoughtfully selected a pair of stoneware bowls with black rims which sat in a raised wrought iron, arched holder. This kept the bowls elevated for easier eating and swallowing. He really understood the concepts of design and function. Soon the cart was loaded with the appropriate protein laden packaged foods and some kibble for back up. A large bag of environmentally approved litter was procured for those zen gardening efforts I practiced regularly. “I think we’ve got enough for one trip, don’t you, Violet?” “But Uncle Jake, we haven’t bought any toys for her!” “Well, let’s see what sort of things she likes to play with at home before we buy all sorts of junk that will end up lost under the sofa. But, look over here….” Jacob paused by a bamboo pedestal topped with a hollowed out sphere which had been dissected leaving a concave pod space, lined with a cushion for lounging. It was 2001: A Space Odyssey meets Dwell magazine. I loved it instantly. I had to have it. I crashed against the cage door of the carrier with mewls of delight! “I think she likes it, Uncle Jake.” “Yeah? Well, more importantly, I like it! That’ll look great on the balcony, eh?” “Awesome! You’re the best!” Yeah, you are the best. I can’t wait to nap in that! Let’s go try it out right now!

 

A couple hundred dollars later––I would have spent more on shoes––the shopping excursion and vet visit completed, we went home. Yes, Home. This time Jacob carried me. While Violet ran around arranging the litter box and serving bowls, Jacob had a little talk with me about his dwelling. He told me how much thought and care he’d put into its design and furnishing and he begged me to behave and not soil his carpets or climb the draperies. After the tutorial on proper conduct he opened the carrier door and let me out. First I just sat and stared in awe, not knowing where to go or how to behave. But then he picked me up and gave me a full tour of the place, telling me all kinds of wonderful details about the wood grain and the berber carpets, as well as the recessed lighting and then, finally, at last, we entered his bedroom… I’d not been privy to this quarter of the house. It was up a set of narrow stairs into a loft area overlooking the living area below. Open and airy, this aerie was a private space above and beyond my wildest dreams. In soothing shades of stone, bone and sand stylish textures rivaled, from softs to suedes, supple to springy, silken and sleek. The smoothness of the raw marble floor tiles was surpassed only by the thickness of the yak hide which lay in front of the bed. My sherpa bedding couldn’t begin to compete with this yak for warmth and plushness. Back downstairs, too steep for me just yet, so I had to be carried––what bliss to be manhandled by such strong and sensitive hands––I was fed lunch which I gobbled up gratefully, although I had enjoyed that Chicken Korma very much. I was introduced to the WC facilities, all ready for gardening. I dug around and etched out a suitable design to challenge that of the offending polka dots. Then we set up the pod lounge on the balcony which looked completely au fait amongst the bamboo and rattan outdoor furniture. Violet enticed me to play with some leather boot laces she’d found in the back of the closet and I lazily chased her bouncing, dancing laces by leaping in the air and doing a triple lutz twist with a ten point landing, before bouncing and prancing after her teasing yo-yo gestures. Jacob opened a bottle of white wine and casually threw the cork on the floor, persuading me to chase and bat at it like a soccer ball all around the patio. This amused them greatly and I was pleased to present them with flamboyant entertainment. I took a chance and leapt up onto Jacob’s lap and balancing ever so shakily on his knee I managed to get a sip of the wine from his glass. He reacted with shock, but I could tell by his grin that he was secretly pleased that I had such good taste. He allowed me a couple psapps before he said, “that’s enough for you…I don’t think the vet would approve.” After a few more leaps at the boot lace I found myself dizzy and exhausted. It was time I tested out my bamboo pod with a well-deserved nap.

 

When I awoke it had gone dusky. I could see the lights in the garden below as they shone through the glass partition of the balcony. It was an entirely different world up here. I stretched and tumbled down to the floor. Inside, warm smells emanated from the kitchen. My kibble bowl full; water too––no chicken Korma or white wine for my dinner. “Hey, Sleepy Sam, there you are,” his kind voice gentle as a dream, “Violet’s gone home, but she’ll be back next week. It’s just you and me now…” My whiskers frolicked, my ears cavorted and my heart skipped a beat…our first night alone; our first date. While we ate dinner we listened to Seu Jorge’s velvety voice and guitar strum plucky versions of Life On Mars and Lady Stardust. He let me sit in his lap while we watched the Champions League quarter-finals match. He let me taste some German lager calling me a lush, and I purred as he stroked my fur. We both appreciated the German keeper’s prowess and when I yawned he let me curl up beside him on the sofa. I couldn’t have asked for a more satisfying first date. I could see we were going to get along beautifully. I just had to figure out which was his sweater drawer. I fell asleep dreaming of cashmere, alpaca and merino woolens.

 

Tail’s End.

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Victoria-Elizabeth is a self-taught scribbler who was brought up along the central coast of California and the northern shores of Lake Michigan, but finds herself living, inexplicably, within the southern suburbs of New Jersey, where she translates French symbolist poetry and writes fanciful speculative fiction. She would like to dedicate this story to her marmalade tabby, Miso.