Fiction Friday- Kiss The Kitties Episode II, William The Orange

Welcome back to Fiction Friday. Each Friday I’ll be releasing another short episode introducing each of the characters. Once you’ve met each cast member, the story will unfold…

If you want to catch up, here’s the first episode: Kiss The Kitties Episode I

cat-1184781_1280Tough, orange, and angry William roamed the Los Angeles city streets and ate out of dumpsters. He had his pick of the best. The dumpster behind In n’ Out burger on 3rd offered a five star feast. Humans swarmed In N’ Out, but its dumpster sat behind a tall, heavy, brown fence with spikes, so William was free to roam among the steaming meat patties piled high without the interference of human eyes. The Southern California sun kept the meat hot and fragrant throughout the night as he gorged himself by the glow of the red and yellow neon sign. Roaches didn’t bother him, but other tomcats did. When they came sniffing, he’d scratch their damn eyes out. Those fights were bloody. He lost his own eye in one, but you shoulda the other guy. Anyway, it was worth it. Every night he brought a new date and it was cool if she had some friends. He partied hard and slept all day. He ruled.

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But that all changed a few nights ago when a big white windowless van rolled up and stopped right in front of the dumpster.  Humans jumped out and caught the girls. William escaped, but only narrowly. Since then white vans patrolled the neighborhoods and dumpsters were traps. Whoever was in charge of this operation was more focused and better adept at catching cats than any human he’d ever seen. William wondered if maybe they were cats, bigger, faster, human cats. A whole battalion of them.  He’d heard of that, but everyone thought it was just legend.

He partied hard and slept all day. He ruled.

A week passed. William was starving. He hadn’t eaten much beyond what bugs he caught. One of the girls he used to hang with once told him there were some humans who fed the wanderers and freedom fighters (that’s what they called themselves on account of being free) in an apartment building nearby. He hated humans, hated their food, hated their big hands and their teeth. They looked like aliens with their round eyes and furless arms. What was that about? But his stomach groaned and his ribs jutted out like razors from his flanks. He’d just slink over to that there apartment complex and see what was up. Maybe, if there was some food around, he could grab some when no one was looking. Get in, get out. That was always his motto. He was the king of slink, which is why he hadn’t been caught, or poisoned. Oh yeah, that’s right. His hunger clouded his reason. Humans poisoned cats. He’d seen that horror more than once. He didn’t care for most cats, but it’s terrifying to come across corpses scattered within a 20 foot radius of human dwellings.

He’d have to hunt, a disgusting last resort. Rats carried diseases and tasted like butt. Nevertheless, as I said, he was starving. A horde of rats lived below the city and carried out their complex business pursuits in the subways. There were the Orange, Yellow, Red, and Blue lines that criss crossed the city, not with any kind of efficiency, mind you, but that was a human problem. The Orange line was a good place to start. As night fell, William descended the stained and dusty pavement steps that led down into the raging tunnels. The rush of the trains terrified him. His nerves were on edge. He trembled. But hunger drove him forward. Remember, king of slink. He told himself. You’re invisible.  But to who and to what exactly William did not know, and that was the problem. These walls had eyes. And fangs.

Rats carried diseases and tasted like butt.

A homeless human groaned out his sorrows. He hit is paws on a big black box with white teeth. It made such an awful howl he didn’t see the massive black Rottweiler sitting next to the man. The dog jumped up and barked wildly at William, his fangs dripped with starvation’s saliva. William leapt in the opposite direction without looking and flew down a tunnel. It brought him directly on top of a rat’s nest. Pandamonium. Screaming. Rat apocalypse. William scrambled to catch and grab. Rats ran and screeched. The babies. Go for the babies. They’re clean fresh and easy to carry.  He snatched up several at lightning speed, some died, some didn’t and as he turned to carry the bloody squirming mess out of the subway, he realized to his horror, he had no idea where to go. Fluorescent lights flickered overhead, but no whiff of fresh air, no scent from the outside came to greet his nostrils. The place smelled of rat feces and human filth.

tunnel-22198_1280And now he could hear the swarm. Legions upon legions of rats formed a wall behind him. Idiot. Amateur. His dumpster diving made him soft. He’d forgotten how to hunt. You don’t attack a rat on his territory. You hunt, identify your prey, stalk it and when it’s away from the group, you spring. He was surrounded. The rats hissed. They planned to tear him to shreds. He dropped his booty of dead and near dead babies and looked up, the only way out. Rats cannot jump. They could climb. Could he make it in time?  How high was that man hole grate? The rats advanced. He heard a drum beat in the distance, smelled wrath on their hot breath. He took what few feet he had left and sprang into he air just as the rats closed in. He strained toward the grate with every last molecule of his little being. There! Success, but barely. His claws saved him. Razor sharp and long he clung just by their strength. William hoisted his whole body up, but he couldn’t fit through the spaces in the grate. Despite how thin he was, it wasn’t enough. The rats streamed up the sides of the wall.

Just then, a voice. “Ah ha!” A white, hairless human arm yanked up the grate and pulled William by the scruff of the neck. “Got you! I’ve been looking for you for weeks, you little dumpster scum. Yeah, you. You used to eat from the In N’ Out over there on 3rd street. You didn’t think I’d forget you, did I?” The arm belonged to a massive human male with bulging eyes and bald head. His breath smelled like rancid fish (incidentally William hated fish.) “You’ve gotten skinny. Thought you mighta died out here.” He spit a gray splat of mucous on the ground. “Sure glad ya didn’t. I got plans for you, tough guy.” Then he laughed a wicked, joyless laugh and threw William into a cage in the back of his white van and slammed the door.

 

 

 

 

For cosmetics workers, of one retailer, there will be no Merry in Christmas this year

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Hundreds of cosmetics employees, of one high-end retailer, arrived at work today and discovered they couldn’t afford Christmas for their families this year. Their hours had been cut by 25 percent. They were not given a reason.

According to one source, management reported that all cosmetic retailers nationwide were slashing hours. Maybe.  But maybe this retailer wants to ensure employees don’t jump ship to a competitor during the busyiest time of year.

Exactly. So why cut hours? Doesn’t it make more sense to have all hands on deck? Why reduce at a time when it inevitably means customers will receive poor service?

But those aren’t the questions corporations ask.  There’s no room for human beings here. Not customers. Not employees. Instead, it’s about corporate greed. Or as this corporation might like to think of it, cutting overhead.  Employees are your highest overhead. Cut your overhead, increase your assets. It’s as old as slavery and as new as overseas outsourcing.

If single mothers, of this retailer, planned to buy those light up kicks Tommy wants or the Hatchimals Egg Jenny desires, they’re now worrying how to keep the heat on for Christmas.

There are very few benefits to working in retail, particularly in retail cosmetics. The customers are demanding, entitled, impatient and even  abusive. Fellow co-workers are petty, back-biting, bitter and mean. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s brings some reprieve. While customers can be more difficult this time of year, longer hours means larger sales, leading to beefy commission checks. Instead, this year, employees of this luxe retailer must piece together their paid time off just to keep their health insurance.

While customers binge on bespoke lipstick collections encased in leather, employees scrape out the balances on their credit cards to pay rent. “How do people survive working here?” One asked. “My credit card has a bigger balance than my bank account and I don’t buy anything.” She’s still relatively new to retail. As one who has worked for major retailers on and off for thirteen years now, I’ve never known anything else. “People don’t survive,” I said. “They get other jobs.”

Corporations make money when employees make less. Because this retailer can’t move its stores to Mexico, they do the next best thing. Cut hours. Each year they’ve been cutting more. Employees hired at full time now work part-time when they don’t make their goals for the week. “When you make your goals, you’ll get your hours back.” Management says. Employees were notified, in a recent email, that health benefits are earned not given.

So when you go to get your makeup at a department store, have a little patience. Imagine how the girls behind the counter feel. A little empathy will go a long way this Christmas. Oh, and if they do your makeup for your holiday parties, tip them. Even if they say no. Tip them. Shove it under the mirror next to your seat. Stuff it in their hands when no one’s looking. They’re not supposed to accept it, but my guess is, they will now. It may mean they can pay for lunch that day.

God Put Trump In And Obama Out

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Like many, this election divided my home. Now I work to untangle love from Trump’s ascendence. 

I’ve been silenced by the results of this election, paralyzed, unable to find words, shocked that my mother voted for Trump. “God has put Trump in and Obama is out!” She said to my younger brother. Even if voting for him meant voting against the health of her eldest who survives  on disability checks and voting against her daughter’s safety, to say the least of it. Never mind all the rest of his atrocities. I’m keeping this close to home.

I feel his election heavy on my body, on my skin. His body is an affront to the office he holds. His skin is a revulsion. The words that come from his foul mouth poison everything, including my relationship with my mother.  I’ll never forgive her for being taken in by the greatest con man of the century.

As I write this I know she could read it. I try not to write about my family. I did that once. Words. Once you put them out there, you can no longer control them, or what you mean to say. Family can’t hear your truth, particularly because it isn’t their’s. And I respect that. Yet, here I go. I will write a thing I shouldn’t. And for that, I’m sorry. But I’m in pain. I can’t write another word, until I write these.

Once my mother’s love flowed like a river. Now I feel her strain to give it. I rejected faith. She took that personally. Not long ago she told me God comes before her children. “I know,” I said, but didn’t tell her I’ve always known. It’s one of the reasons I rejected faith. A God who asks a mother to put him before her children is a petty god.

Words. Once you put them out there, you can no longer control them, or what you mean to say.

During a recent visit she said, “You never read the Bible, never studied it as I have. If you had, you’d still believe!”   I didn’t argue it. What was the point? There were so many factors, a myriad of reasons, losses, and gains that led me to this place, a space so far away from her.

I do not condemn faith. Instead, I have great respect for it, when it brings joy, instead of pain and boundless love instead of fear. In short, when it is consistent throughout one’s life.  My mother’s vote for Trump telegraphed, in an instant, the crisis between us. She either believes Trump is a Christian or doesn’t care to really know. How do you vote for a man whose life demonstrates complete disdain for your values, see his win as an appointment from God, but struggle to love your only daughter because she what, no longer calls herself a Christian?

I have great respect for faith, when it brings joy, instead of pain and love, instead of fear.

After our argument, I didn’t sleep all night. Our fight raged in my head. As dawn broke I decided in order to save our relationship, I’d have to swallow my pride and say what needed saying. I descended the stairs from my room and entered her bright yellow kitchen. It sparkled with newness. I found it ironic and depressing. Nevertheless, it was idyllic. My mother’s home is the All American Dream replete with the American flag waving out front. It creeps me out a little.

As my mother prepared breakfast, I put my hand on her shoulder and told her I loved her. No matter our disagreements, I’d never look down on her or her beliefs. She turned, her face contorted in pain as she tried to smile. She’s a terrible liar. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I think she thought I was lying. Was I? No. There’s a half truth there, but here’s the whole of it, my achilles heel has always been that there’s never been another god but she. I’d say anything to bridge the gap between us.

But could I mean it?

I value knowledge above most things. Yet, she raised me to believe that when Eve ate from the tree of knowledge she seduced Adam to eat of it. Then God cast them both out of the garden. Knowledge is associated with the dark arts, alchemy, and witchcraft. While I’m no witch by any means, my education inspired me to pull on the threads of faith and it unraveled. I live outside the garden and strain to see her beyond the vines where she prays she’ll see me bow to God in her lifetime. I long to feel close to her again, like when she held me and played with my hair in childhood, like when we shopped in thrift stores in high school, like when we talked almost everyday in college. I feel the space between us when we talk. Wide gaps stretch out in our sentences punctuated by broken stories as we pick our way through minefields. Tell this story, but not that. Share this anecdote, be careful to leave out that detail.

My achilles heel has always been that there’s never been another god but she.

So  yes, I’m angry that she voted for Trump from her white-picket fence home safe in the suburbs where she’ll never have to feel the effects of his lies.  That said, I get that her  vote is not some grand symbol of her failure to love me. But it is an expression of her lack of interest in facts. It is this that creates a divide between us that can’t be bridged. Yet, what of it? Does that mean love is not possible? What if it’s not she who struggles to love me? What if it’s that she struggles to express it? Now that we no longer know one another, who can blame her?

I tire of these questions. They circle round and round and I can’t find the end of them. I need to leave this post alone and get on with the rest of my writing. So, I’ll leave you with Desiree’s Baby.

Desiree’s Baby is a  Southern Gothic tale written by Kate Chopin. In it Desiree pens a desperate letter to her mother because her husband no longer loves her. Her mother responds, My own Desiree: Come back to Valmonde; back to your mother who loves you. Come with your child. Instead, Desiree kills herself and her baby. I wonder if daughters don’t always value their mother’s love? Or simply don’t see it as enough?

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My mother is from Georgia. There, mothers love their children with a fierceness I’ve not seen up North. When I read that line, in Desiree’s Baby, I recognized a truth within it. I experienced it when I went to college. My mother grabbed hold of me and cried my name. My father had to pull her away. Other people just went to college, I felt rent from my mother’s bosom.  This last time I saw her, on a trip to Portland the week of the election, she grabbed hold of me on the last day and said, “Come home whenever you want. Come home and stay as long as you need.”

 

More Poems From “The Place Where You Started”

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Hannah Consenz stars as Meredith in the Portland State University production of The Place Where You Started.

Director Kristine McIntyre asked me to write some poetry, for the opera The Place Where You Started, in Meredith’s voice. Kristine then displayed the poetry in a projection on the back wall of the stage for Meredith’s final aria. In the aria (think monologue in a play) Meredith discovers her passion for writing again.  In this poem Meredith addresses her frustration with screenwriting, a career she chose for all the wrong reasons. She describes it as a barren house.

1
Words reflect the place
where you live
screenwriting
for example
very little in this house
chair
computer
mouse
I once thought it elegant
an interconnected series of
entertaining scenes
held together by three *brads
and an agent
dizzying
spell-binding
but the dazzling wheel cracked
caked with dirt of a million dead dreams
the rain never comes here to renew
broken yearnings stretch back 100 years
deep into the orange grove
soil
now paved with cement and sorrow
Los Angeles

*Brads are the brass prongs that hold screenplays together.

In this next one, Meredith writes to her boyfriend Steve who takes her for granted.  The screenplay she writes during the opera, a vampire romance, features Roland, a brooding teenage vampire. It makes sense then that she calls Steve, Roland. Both are emotionally stunted. This poem is somewhat of a “Dear John” letter to Steve and to screenwriting.

2
Goodbye
Roland
I cannot stay
a wind blows
my obsession
away
Goodbye and
Good luck
Sorry for the mess
The dirt
The dust
I could not clean up
after you
you’re stunted
eighteen
playing video games
sitting in the last chair
Vampires might live forever
But I do not

Here Meredith reflects on the unique beauty that exists in Southern California. Her relationship with her friend Macario, a genius in the garden, has connected her to the earth. The falling rain is, in a way, a symbol for Macario, but it’s also simply rain doing what rain is supposed to do.

3
The rain falls
It soaks the dust and stirs it to soil
At dusk the jasmine bloom
their night shade fragrance thick
over the garden
A brown house spider spins her web over our door
If I leave the light on
she will feast

Cat Forum Interview with Chloe and Charlie

Hello dear Readers, Chloe and Charlie had the honor of an interview with Snoops and Commando, two very witty cats from Michigan. Take a look to get to know them better. They’ll be featured in the continuing series, Kiss The Kitties. Also, read Snoops and Commandos’ blog. It’s edited by mice. Can you imagine?

Adventures in Cheeseland

Today we are here with Chloe and Charlie from Insights from the Edge  (We are not sure what it is the edge of; it must be a human thing.) It is written by their mom Amy. She does not write about cats, but it’s pretty interesting anyway. Apparently she writes for a living, so that’s probably why it’s pretty good. It would be better if she wrote about cats.

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Tell us a little bit about each of you.
Chloe: My lady told me other humans found me under a dumpster at three weeks old. I was the only girl. I had many brothers. One was blind. He was a good guy. The rest were annoying. I met my lady when I was eight weeks old. She ignored me, so I liked her. All the other humans who came were so annoying. They picked me up and tried to…

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Fiction Friday-Kiss The Kitties Resumes In a Week

IMG_0174I’ve started a story called Kiss The Kitties. Each entry will go up on Friday and will be about 1000 words. If readers tell me they want more, I will definitely comply. I just find that 1000 is about as much as anyone, including myself, has time to commit to at any given moment of the day.

These last two weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement and sadness. Last week our opera, The Place Where You Started, premiered in Portland on November 12th. The first night of dress rehearsal was November 8th. My husband and I barely stayed focused. We barely slept and by the next morning found the ground beneath us gone. It felt as if we floated into unchartered and terrifying territory holding on only to each other.

Protests vibrated in the streets and strained the already taught space between my family and I, half of whom voted for the other party.  I can only imagine what the election results will do to families across this nation as they gather for Thanksgiving. Maybe people should lay off the libations a bit. Spirits already run high. But then, how does one manage that kind of strain for an entire day sober?

Anyway, last week was intense. I’m sick now. I haven’t been able to get myself to the keyboard. Additionally, and sadly, I must drag myself to a day job that frustrates and drains me.

Next week, thankfully, I’ll resume my writing. Thanksgiving Day I’ll be at home, in Southern California, with my husband and my two glorious, magical, majestic cats. We will cook a turkey, the cats will allow us the scraps, and all will be well on that little day. Chloe will hold court on the state of the nation. Fortunately, William won’t be here to argue.

Kiss the Kitties will resume next week. I have lots in store for Chloe, Charlie, and William. You’ll also meet Helen the Siamese, Jack the Mancoon, and Akihla the Abyssinian. There are many adventures ahead. I hope you stay tuned. Thank you for indulging me this break.

A Cactus Named Tom

This is a poem I wrote for the opera, The Place Where You Started. It was projected onto the walls during Meredith’s aria. In it she sings of how she has found renewal in the garden, with her friend the gardener Macario, as her guide. This is a sample from her journal. cactus-1546068_1280
The cacti grow slow
Their voices nearly imperceptible
Take this little one
He’s very unassuming
Squat and covered in razor sharp spines
A perfect little dome, no bigger than a fist
Macario says he’ll grow
With care he’ll be as big as a bush
That’s cacti for you
They’re in no rush
They do not worry
They have their plan
Each day they do just enough
Like Tom here
He never tires
demands little
seeks only to live
When he’s happy a pink flower blooms on his head
A gift
Macario says he’s thanking us
Well thank you, Tom
The pleasure is all mine