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The Blah-Blah-Blah of Old Flat Head: Part Six

This is it, the finale, the big dramatic moment.  It’s time for our hero to face Darth Vader, blow up the Death Star and return home triumphant, but changed.  But hey, this is a story about a cat so cut me some slack.  I was also in a rush to finish it because National Novel Writing Month is approaching.  This means that you may have some questions.  Like who is this veterinarian, where did he get Polly’s mystical metal plate, and is it really a good idea to experiment on the family pet?  Tough.  This isn’t the vet’s story.


To make her kittens strong, Polly started wolfing down her food. It wasn’t enough. To supplement, she ate anything that landed on the floor, gobbling down Cheetos or stray grapes with equal abandon. She put on weight. She no longer dashed for the door; she waddled. The family took her back to the vet. “She’s acting pregnant, but she’s spayed. Is she okay?”

The vet weighed her, listened to her heart and checked her eyes and teeth. Polly purred through the exam.   He patted her head, noted the warm spot, and checked her temperature. Polly stopped purring and gave him an indignant look. “Something going on in that little head?” he asked the cat. Polly acknowledged the question with a single slow blink. The vet nodded, and scribbled ‘unusual reaction to emotio-psychic graft’ in her chart. To the family he said “This cat is fat and happy, but you may want to try a lower calorie kibble.”

Neither the new kibble nor the fact that she was spayed slowed Polly down. She knew that her kittens were coming and that they would be perfect —huge, ferocious and able to run in a straight line. To give them purpose, she vigilantly stared out the window and growled when she saw the neighbor boys. To give them a home, she built a nest in the laundry basket.

By January, the kittens or rather, a kitten finally appeared in the basket. It was just a small, blind thing that barely looked like a cat at all. Polly couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. She’d poured her mind (not to mention all that food) into building a pride of lions, three at least, one for each boy. Why hadn’t they materialized, full grown and ready to go?   She was about to walk away in disgust, but his mews drew her back. ‘He’s not what I imagined,’ she thought ‘but he is adorable. And maybe he’ll grow.’ She licked her baby clean, nursed him and fell asleep.

Despite her early disappointment, Polly quickly fell in love with her son. His fur was black and fuzzy like her’s. His eyes, when they opened, were gold like her’s. He was so enchanting that Polly nearly forgot why she’d made him. That was until it came time to groom his perfect little ears. Polly’s ears were cartilaginous nubs.   The memory made her head hot and whenever the plate burned, she’d hold her son down, lick his ears and whisper to him the story of the boy with the lawnmower.

Her kitten listened but so far refused to grow fangs. Instead, he just got fluffier and cuter. He was old enough to wobble about now and liked to follow Polly to the window. Oddly though, the family never saw him there. They did hear his tiny mews, but blamed the sounds on Polly. “You’re a weird, cat,” they’d say, “but at least you’ve stopped trying to get out and your weight’s back to normal.” Polly ignored them and went back to trying to teach her son to pounce.

He was exuberant, but easily distracted. If she told him to aim for center of mass, he’d just pounce on her tail. If she held it out of his way, he’d chase his own. He’d fallen off the window sill six times today, but was still bouncing. He was down on the floor again stalking her tail where it dangled off the sill. She gave it a lazy swish to encourage the kitten to try again. He pranced, wiggled and pounced but overshot. His tumbled across the sill, through the window and outside into the snow.

Polly wailed and pressed her head against the glass. It was solid, not a crack or a break in it. She pummeled it with her paws. Her baby was down there, but all she could see of him was a kitten-shaped hole in drift. She could also see the school bus pulling up at the curb and the kids coming out. Her heart nearly stopped. Her kitten was too little, only six weeks old. The cold or the boys would kill him, the falling snow cover him, and she’d never see him again.

The group of school kids dispersed leaving just the three neighbor boys standing there shoving each other as usual. Polly’s eyes grew big and black, she puffed up her tail and squalled. Then she wished she hadn’t. The boys were looking now and pointing. She’d gotten their attention just as her little kitten popped his head out of the drift. He was shaking snow out of his ears. He stood up, looked at the window and acknowledged Polly with a single slow blink. Then he turned and walked straight towards the boys.

“Didn’t I kill that cat?” the oldest boy asked.

“Doesn’t look dead to me,” the youngest one muttered. He’d seen Polly in the window before, even risked a wave or two, but the way she stared back made him uneasy. She was not as cute as he remembered.

“Did you dig her up, you little shit?”

“I did.” The young one straightened up trying to make himself look taller. “Not like you bothered checking.”

“It’s snowing like crazy out here. I’m going home.” The middle one edged away.

“Guess I need to show you that messing with black cats is serious bad luck.” The big one grinned, made a fist, but checked his swing. “Did you hear something?”

The younger boy risked opening an eye.   “ What?”

“Kitten.” The big one pushed passed his brother. “There.” The boy waved at the snow covered sidewalk. Then he bent down and clicked his tongue “Here kitty, kitty”. The thing was so tiny, fluffy, and vulnerable that the boy just had to kick it. He could have sworn that his boot connected but all that went flying was a clump of snow.

The younger boy scanned the sidewalk. “Ummm. There’s nothing there.”

“It’s fast. That’s all. I missed.” Missing made him mad. He lunged for the kitten, missed again, and then again. The kitten led him in a chase around the yard, skittering lightly across the snow, while the boy sank.

The youngest boy watched his brother floundering in the drifts snatching at nothing. He heard a faint mewing, but it was drowned out by the sound of Polly screeching in the window. The cat had gone berserk. She was scrabbling at the glass, and there was a bright red light shining like a star on her forehead. As the boy watched, the light turned blue and he heard a scraping sound followed by a ‘thunk’.

“Bro?” the boy said. There was no stomping, swearing, or yowling any more. All he could hear was the hissing sound of the falling snow and then the warning beep of a plow. That scrape and the blue and red lights must have come from the truck, but what about the’ thunk’? “Bro?” he said a little louder, but the plow’s head lights were shining in his face now and all he could see was white.

“Kid! Yo Kid!” The voice behind the light was tinged with panic. “You gotta call 911. Your friend jumped in front of my truck.”

“Did you see a kitten?” He called back. “He was chasing a kitten.”

“Kitten? Who cares about a kitten? I just ran over a kid. I frickin ran over a kid. Get me a god- damn phone!”

The boy pulled off his gloves, fished his phone out of his pocket and held it out in a shaky hand.

“Dial, you idiot!”

The boy did. The police arrived and demanded answers. The ambulance arrived and the crew lifted his brother off the street. His mother arrived and started crying.   The boy told them they shouldn’t yell at the driver ‘cause his brother had just been chasing an invisible cat. They told him to shut up. He walked up to the window to find someone who might actually listen.

“Are you happy?” He asked Polly.

She didn’t look it. He eyes were black and the bare skin on her forehead looked puckered, almost burned. The boy tapped the glass. She didn’t move, didn’t even twitch a whisker. The next morning she was still there, sitting in the window staring blankly at the falling snow. Her family grabbed her and rushed her back to the vet for the third time in six months.

“Again?” The man said.

“She had some kind of seizure last night. The sirens and emergency lights must have set it off. She hasn’t moved since.”

The vet checked her over, gave her some fluids and bandaged the blisters on her head. In the chart, he jotted ‘complete emotio-psychic graft rejection.’   Polly mewed, a pitiful sound like a mama cat searching for a lost kitten. “Made it worse, did I?” The man sighed. “We’ll just turn it off then.”

Polly returned from the vet with a few more scars and a confused sense of triumph. She had avenged something, but didn’t recall what. She also missed someone, but couldn’t recall who. But with time and tuna, the memories started leaking back. She remembered a fuzzy little kitten growing into a fierce black cat. He had a beautiful long tail, perfect ears and golden yellow eyes. To make his mama proud, that cat conquered a great slavering beast, a Mastiff or a German Shepherd at least. Then he’d gone on to live his life. It was the way of cats but knowing he was out there helped Polly carry on. She ate, played, grew old, and died and her family missed her more than they expected for such a crazy, ugly, flat-headed little cat


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The Blah-Blah-Blah of Old Flat Head: Part Five

I’m proud of myself. I forced out five whole paragraphs with hardly any dialogue at all. I don’t know why but I tend to tell stories by having characters sit around and talk to each other. Granted, it’s a fine technique. It’s good for character development and it can fulfill the ‘show, don’t tell’ mantra dished out by most writing pundits. However, it’s glacially slow (kind of like my writing pace in general) and I’m tired of the constant babble. I could use more narration in my tool kit. Voila! Though frankly it feels weird and not as liberating as I hoped. I think that has something to do with having to switch between past perfect and simple past tenses.

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Back at home, Polly spent a lot of time hiding under the bed. She scratched her stitches so often that the family eventually had to flush her out and put a plastic cone on her neck. That helped. Her head healed, the stitches dissolved, and the cone vanished leaving Polly with a scarred, furless head and a tendency to walk in circles. “Neurologic defect”, the vet said, “probably caused by some swelling after the injury”.

Despite this limitation Polly started yowling at the door. She had a mission outside, but it was vague at the moment. A little butt wiggle and a few slashes would do for the lawnmower, but really it would be more satisfying to scratch one of the neighbor boys. She started staring at them through the window when they waited for the bus in the morning and when they walked home in the afternoon, she would run from window to window tracking their movements as they passed her house. Between those times, she’d sleep, dream about hunting and wake up with a tingling feeling in her head. That metal plate always got warm and itchy when she slept. She’d scratch it and go right back to the window.

The days got darker, the leaves fell off the trees, and Polly despaired of ever getting outside again. She’d dash for the door each time it was opened, but her legs didn’t work right. Her sprint would turn into a curve and she’d end up chasing her tail, growling in frustration. Then a family member would pat her bald head and say “You silly old flat head cat. Why do you want to go outside, anyway?” Polly would try to explain, but her meows only made them dump more food into her bowl. She’d eat, of course, and then go back to pressing her itchy head against the cold glass.

Today, the boys were throwing snow balls, the oldest one mixing rocks with his snow before packing it down. He was ugly, he was mean, he needed more than a scratch, but all Polly had were dreams. Today, the dreams came while she was still awake and staring out the window. The snow vanished and the boys’ hands and arms morphed into hooves and legs, their skin sprouted short black and white hair and their buzz cuts grew into stiff manes. The boy-zebras, snorted and stamped their feet. They were nervous, unable to see in the long grass that had suddenly sprouted up around them. Out of that grass, sprang three house cats the size of lions and with enormous scythe-like teeth. The zebras startled and ran. Polly chattered in the window the way she did when she was watching birds. ‘Go!’ she thought ‘Kill!’, but her concentration was broken and her sleek imaginary children vanished in the snow.

The youngest boy rolled on the ground, holding a bloody nose. He’d taken a face full of rocks. His brother kicked him. “Get up stupid. The bus is here.” and Polly watched her prey vanish into the safety of the yellow van. Her head was hot, the metal plate throbbing, but for the first time in months, Polly had hope. She might not be able to get outside to do her own hunting, but one day her children would. All Polly had to do was concentrate every ounce of her energy and imagination into growing those children.

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The Blah-Blah-Blah of Old Flat Head: Part Four

Most of the time, I enjoy my autonomic nervous system. It’s nice to have a regular heart beat and breathing is good. I even like the occasional sneeze. I mean, accelerating snot from 0-35 mph in 0.55 seconds? That’s better acceleration characteristics than a Porche 911!   But involuntary bodily functions are only the tip of the iceberg here. My subconscious brain sometimes coughs up some real gems — leaps of logic, free association, day dreams, and other things that make writing so much fun. Unfortunately, it also coughs up some things that cause my writing to crash. Take this story.  The subconscious is not squeamish. It thinks writing about scalping a cat is just peachy. There’s no use arguing, it won’t let go of the idea, so my output crashes. I haven’t posted in a while due to this ick-induced form of writer’s block. To get past it, I’ve forced out a few more paragraphs and my subconscious may have redeemed itself. I wanted space ships. Instead, Polly cat gets a metal plate in her head. That metal plate might eventually become very important….

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Thirty minutes later, the youngest boy was back out in the yard digging. He wasn’t entirely sure why. The cat didn’t look good. Her ears were mangled stumps and her head was missing a flap of skin, but there was some movement down by her nose — a bubble of blood that kept growing and shrinking. That must mean that she was breathing . The boy dug faster and pulled out the limp little cat. He could feel a thrum through the fur on her chest. Her heart was beating quickly. The boy wasn’t sure if that was normal for cats. He needed to do something. He could take her to his parents, but then he’d have to tell them what had happened. His brother wouldn’t let that pass. He could try hiding her in his room. She might recover if he put some band-aids on her, but that just made him shake his head. Wasn’t a band-aid big enough to cover all that.

“I can’t keep you,” he told the cat, “sorry.” He knew she was the neighbor’s cat anyway. He’d seen her sitting on their porch. He took her back to that porch and laid her down on the welcome mat. Then he stood there staring down at her for what felt like forever. She wasn’t blowing bubbles anymore. She might be dying or dead for real this time. The boy slowly reached up and pressed the doorbell. Then he ran like hell.

When the neighbors got done screaming they took Polly to the vet.  The vet grumbled about ‘idiots letting their cat out on Halloween’ but he promised to do his best. His best was expensive. The family balked and there was some discussion over whether it might be more humane to euthanize her. “By humane, do you mean affordable?” the vet finally snapped. “This little one wants to live.” The vet wasn’t sure how he knew that, maybe her eyelid had twitched, or she’d curled a paw. Whatever it was, the vet found himself saying, “I’ll do it for free. Just don’t let her out again.” Then, he used a metal plate to repair her fractured skull , stitched up the skin on her head, bandaged her ears, and handed her back to her family. “Remember. She’s an indoor cat now.”