Tag: Cat

Nonfiction — “Chee Chuk”

Few people know that I grew up in Indonesia. As a writing exercise, I decided to reflect on some of my experiences in the jungles of Sumatra, specifically on my first encounter with a local lizard species.

Chevron put an oil camp in the center of a village previously unspoiled by Western advances except for Disney Princess shirts and dirty motorcycles. There they placed us, protected from friendly brown-skinned neighbors by fences and barbed wire and border guards armed with clubs and slingshots until the Bali Bombing when they upgraded to rifles.

It was always raining except the days they burned trash. Then the misted air filled with the green acids of plastic. Sometimes when it rained I would let out the cats. There was a gray sidewalk that wound around the house, kept dry by an extension of the roof and gutter. The cats, mewing softly, would scour the perimeter for shelter-seeking beetles. We didn’t have to watch them; the rain made an excellent cage.

At night, the windows went chak chak chak. Mom thought the villagers were tapping sticks against the glass.

My room takes some explaining. Our house was a one-story American imitation, but it had a porch that made an L across two sides, and this porch was enclosed, sealed by walls and long windows with metal bars that made a lattice instead of stripes. My room was created by partitioning some of the porch.

There were three doors in this room—one to the porch, one into the house, and the last led to the cement path and green furry grass. I had a strip of glass that peered outside and a strip of glass that looked into the living room. At night, I could look through the window at my parents watching television, like a forgotten child peering into a house, seeing how happy everyone is without them.

I made the discovery in the middle of the night. Lying in bed, two cats forming a ying-yang on the covers, woken by the purple-white call of lightning, I heard beyond the tah tah tah of rain the relentless sound of chak chak chak.

You have a reckless spirit when you are young with a theory and animal companions (even if they are selfish little cats). I crept to the window and peered into the wine-dark. Finding no one, I unlocked the door to the outer elements and pushed until the wood-rust cracked and the door swung open.

My impressions of this moment include the: wetslick air, the cascading wall of water, the creep of feet and paws, meows emitted by cats (meong meong in Bahasa), no one in sight but me, and still the sound of sticks.

I paused, the cats padding softly around me, and looked to the window. There, a thin, brown lizard emitted the sound: chak chak chak.

The lizard noticed us and leaped away, was caught by the cats, squirmed out its tail to distract them, and, dignity lost, escaped into the grass. Relieved, I closed the door, and as I fell into slumber, I return from the backwaters of memory to my home in Texas – a place far-flung from the fantasy of the jungle, but no stranger to mystery and the hug of humidity.

The Novel I wrote when I was Ten — “The Cathedral of Cats”

This is Part III of the book I wrote in middle school. If you want to start from the beginning, go here.

In 1999, when I was ten, I wrote a book. It was called The Hero on Foot: The War of the Bowl and it was the worst thing ever written. Some twenty years later and I’ve recovered that particular manuscript from my parent’s attic—and out of my immense generosity, I’ve decided to review, summarize, and post excerpts for your general amusement.

The book was a poor imitation of Lord of the Rings with the One Ring to Rule Them All replaced by kitchenware. Tolkien’s decision to use a ring makes sense. A ring is ceremonial, has intrinsic value, can represent the union of souls, has a sense of permanence and significance. Today, we wear rings to show our devoted love, or alma mater, or sport’s team, or membership in a secret society. A bowl? I guess you use it to eat cereal.

There’s a delight in watching bad movies. I hope y’all will equally enjoy bad literature.


Chapter Four

If you’ve missed the story so far, all you need to know is that our hero is badly injured and lost in the woods. That’s really all you need to know. Seriously.

Javis Kyle is discovered by an ogre named Lars. Apparently my ogres are smart, compassionate creatures.

And this is what ten-year-old-me thinks smart people sound like:

By the way, Lars is dressed like a gentleman scholar. I hired an artist to recreate this.

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Fiction — “Sam Spayed, Private Eye”

It was the kind of day that made you want to lie around and wait for a belly rub. A breeze was slinking about the neighborhood, and the welcoming scent of McAlister’s Pet Friendly Kitty Chow was wafting through the window. But I had to be on my paws. Trouble could come scratching my door at any minute.

So I sat at my desk, playing with the blinds, waiting for my nine lives to run out. On my desk were a few toy mice and a ball of yarn I’d bought at a flea market to relieve stress. Whatever effect the yarn was supposed to have was being negated by the fleas. I used to have a pot of catnip, too, but I gave that stuff up.

That’s when she sauntered in. A domestic long-hair, although tame is the last word I’d use. She was a tall bowl of milk, white and fluffy with cream on her shoulders like she was wearing a second fur coat. Soft blue eyes. The type of dame you wish hadn’t been declawed.

“You stalking anybody?” she asked.

“No,” I purred. “You got something for me, or are you just looking for the litter box?”

“I might have something,” she said, cool as a calico. “See, there’s this fancy cat I’ve been nuzzling. And he’s gone missing.”

“You check the pound? Maybe he rubbed someone the wrong way?”

“Mittens always keeps his address on his collar. See, he’s forgetful sometimes. I’m afraid something’s happened to him, Sam.” Her whiskers twitched pathetically and I was string in her paws. She went on to describe her plaything. A Himalayan long-hair, blue-gray, googly eyes. Not the sharpest claw on the paw. More like the type who’d run out of an open door and drown in the pool.

“You armed?” she asked. “This might get fuzzy.”

I opened a drawer and pulled out my Ktaxon 5mm laser pointer.

“So you’ll do it?” she said luxuriously. “I should warn you, I can only pay in Purina.”

“Salmon?” I said. “Or Chicken and Liver?”

She looked sheepish: “Chicken Gravy.”

“Hmm.” I thought about it. To be honest, I would have hissed my mother out a window for a spoonful of Meow Mix. “All right, I’ll be your puss-in-boots.”

She rubbed against me in appreciation. “Thank you, Sam,” she said. “Now, please, find my Mittens.”

Nonfiction — “Snakes and Spiders”

When I wake, the cats are at the door—they want to slip into bed and lie in my warm vacancy. One is black with a teacup on her chest, the other gray as elephant’s breath with muted stripes. In the darkness, I fumble against their fur, locating rump, scruff, finally head, and I pet what I can find until they roll over and expose their tummies—a trap.

Under the bluing shade of early morning they are furry dead spiders.

Cats aren’t the only parasite squirming in the bedwaters. My wife, snorting like the Union Pacific, snakes her cold fingers and toes toward me, seeking flickers of heat like sausages over a campfire.

Shower. Toothpaste. Size 40 pants instead of last year’s 38. An XLT button-down that’s starting to hug. The cats follow me to the living room as I pick up a satchel and keys. Jenny lets me pet her back. She has a funny habit of bursting forward when my hand reaches her tail, to circle around for another run.

Remy sits on the couch, feet tucked under his chest like a chicken in a coop. I think of saying goodbye to the snoring pile of hair in the other room, but my wife doesn’t work until 9.

Still, what if I never see her again?

I open the door and step into a world devoid of Julie and Jenny and Remy and the little routines of morning before the light.

Zombie Fiction — “Living Things Pet Shop”

Copper is the most antsy, selfish, stupid dog. She yips when you’re not paying attention, she flops on the floor and pushes your feet, belly jittering like jello, eyes pleading. Or she sneaks by your toes to beg, and if you pet her she pees.

If I put my hands on her head and push down to her rump, she pumps out a puddle.

Copper sleeps in the back office with the door locked and a gun on the desk. Where I sleep. I don’t trust the other dogs. They’re dreamers. But Copper sleeps lightly, and has a good ear, and will nose me awake when they are nearby.

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