Sunday, May 30, 2010

Paying Cat Anthology For You To Check Out

Dark Wine and Stars

from a future contributor.

Cougar by Stan Long

by Stan Long

Sleekly muscled
the gray cat
shows her claws
half volleys
to the line and caught
flat footed
toy sweats it
love set match
she snarls
her satisfaction
leaps the net
teeth bared
smiling claims
her trophy

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cataplexy by Zin Kenter

by Zin Kenter

'With my cross-bow
I shot the Albatross.'

- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Simple as this: My wife was sick. The cat started hanging around. She wasn't sick any more.

Doc couldn't explain why she went from death's door to rosy bloom in a matter of days. I told him about the cat. Nonsense, he said.

But even though it saved my beautiful Diana, I hated that damn cat. It lurked in the dark, sending evil cat-vibes through the air – don't laugh, I could feel them! The hair would stand up on the back of my neck, and I'd see sallow green eyes peering from the grass.

Diana, healthy again, bought kibble and tuna and milk on the back porch. I hid them after she went upstairs. I didn't want that cat anywhere near me. I hoped it would go away.

All night, I heard eerie sounds. Mewling. Screeching. A sound there is no name for. Diana slept peacefully. I wondered why it wasn't keeping her awake, so I shook her to make sure she wasn't unconscious. She stirred and smiled: Yes, dear? And I asked her if the noise was bothering her. What noise, she asked, and she pulled the covers back up to her chin and rolled over and drifted off again.. By morning I was exhausted, but as soon as the alarm went off at seven and Diana arose, the caterwauling stopped.

That night, after Diana put down food and milk, I waited on the porch, barbell in hand. Ten kilos. When the little critter arrived, I threw the weight, and it crashed on its neck and crushed it flat to the floorboards, splat. I never saw anything fall that fast. I waited for it to get up and squirm free, but it didn't move. One, three, five minutes.

The weight must've hit at just the right angle to break its neck. All that remained was to bury it, right under the boxwood hedge. I wouldn't tell Diana. She'd assume it went back wherever it came from.

That night, the caterwauling began same as before. And again, I waited until dawn for relief.

And the next night, the same.

And the next. Diana said, "You're looking peaked." I felt peaked. Whatever the hell peaked meant. I figured it wasn't good.

I asked our nextdoor neighbor if he'd noticed any noise at night, and he looked puzzled and said nope, not at all. I called the police on the fifth night and told them someone was torturing a cat, and they came, and couldn't hear anything, and asked if I took medication, so I told them thank you, it had stopped, but all the while the screeching was standing my hairs on end again.

Seven nights without sleep. The bags under my eyes sagged to my chin.

On night eight, Diana told me I'd better go see Doc, and I broke down. "With my barbell, I killed the goddamn cat!" She looked horrified and slept in the den.

Next day, after another sleepless night, I dug up the damn thing. It didn't smell eight days dead. I held it in my arms and told it I was sorry. I carried it into the kitchen and told it I'd give it food every day if it would just stop. It didn't answer. I brought it into the living room where I sat with it on my lap and petted it.

And that's when Diana came down with her suitcase in hand and told me she was going to her mother's and she would be filing for divorce. "The cat saved my life, and you killed it." If she noticed the still, silent furry thing on my lap, she didn't say.

As she slammed the front door, the cat sprang away from me and ran out the back door, with only a second's hesitation to give me an eerie look from those sallow green eyes.

Friday, May 28, 2010

In the Bast Nebula by Deborah Walker

In the Bast Nebula

By Deborah Walker

Space cats,
mewling at the air shaft,
scratching at the metal-glass windows
with their asteroid pocked claws,
insisting on coming inside.

I am the only pilchard in this tin
So lonely, so alone.
Flying though the Bast nebula
which hangs like a golden eye in the face
of these endless badlands.

The sleeting radiation washes over me
like crazy rain.
Galactic kitties don’t like getting wet.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Purrsonal Story Nurse Tink by Sharman Horwood

Nurse Tink
by Sharman Horwood

Never underestimate the persistence of an ordinary cat when it wants to make you feel better. For the nineteen years of her life, Tinkerbell believed I needed to be looked after. When migraines clamped down, for instance, the pain driving me to a dark room for the day, Tink came too. She’d curl up next to me, staying until the pain left, often leaving just as it subsided.

One day I wrenched the muscles in my back. The pain was unbelievable. I don’t know how I did it, whether lifting heavy boxes or just twisting the wrong way. But I was in agony. I took pain killers, muscle relaxants, and laid down on the couch, waiting for the pain to go.
Tink didn’t have her own cat door, but she did know about an unlatched basement window which served the same purpose. Shortly after I laid down, I heard it go thunk. Tink pattered quickly up the stairs, jumping up on my chest. This was odd. She was on me, not curling up at my side.

I pushed her off. But there was something else that didn’t go with her. And it moved! I flicked on the light. Blinking up at me, its nose near my chin, was a mouse. Alive.

I shrieked. I’m not afraid of mice but I’d never had one quite this close before. I grabbed it, jumped up, and tossed it outside. Tink followed, a little unwillingly. I shut the door, lowered myself cautiously back down to the couch, the pulled muscles all the while screaming with pain.

Fifteen minutes later the basement window thumped again. Tink trotted up the stairs, and jumped up—again, dropping the stunned mouse on my chest.

I caught it by the tail and hurled it out the door, Tink following at my firm request. I laid back down, pain receding. I sighed gratefully. The painkillers were finally kicking in.

Two minutes later, the window thudded again. Tink barely landed, mouse in mouth, before I lept to my feet. The mouse flew out the door, followed by one very persistent cat muttering a few things about humans not recognizing a good thing when they had it. Or that’s what I imagined she was saying. She was never one to mince words.

This time I quickly hobbled downstairs to lock the basement window.

As I laid back down on the couch, though, I noticed the agony in my back had faded. I tentatively twisted my shoulder. Definitely much less. I could move it easily; the pain was a weak memory. All my leaping about had worked where medication hadn’t.

Apparently, Tink was right. A live mouse is the best medicine for what ails you.


Sharman Horwood is a science fiction/fantasy writer who teaches ESL in Seoul, South Korea. Her first published short story is in CATFANTASTIC IV, and she has written a textbook published in Korea for ESL, titled NORTH AMERICAN DISCUSSIONS OF TODAY. In between writing two novels, one of which is a sequel to an Andre Norton novel, she has also collaborated on an alternate history novel, QUEEN OF IRON YEARS, with New Zealand writer, Lyn McConchie.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Lost Souls of Cats by Emily Veinglory

The Lost Souls of Cats
by Emily Veinglory

The first soul asks, “You’re the cat angel?”

Sign on the door aside, the fur and whiskers usually give me away.

“I died yesterday,” she continues, “and I was gaga most of the last year. My son promised he would look after her, but....”

“But you think...?”

“He put her put to sleep, my Snowball.”

I open the book; it falls to the right page.

“We have thousands of ‘Snowballs’ here,” I say. “There’s only one way to proceed.”

I lead her to the purgatory of cats. It looks like an enormous hall, walls extending into depthless gloom. The cat souls aren’t cold, hungry, or even scared… but they still suffer. Spread to every horizon there is nothing but glowing, waiting eyes. A thousand golden eyes blink and waver, and one glad meow rings out. Snowball leaps from the masses and into her owner’s arms, and simultaneously one of many Snowballs vanishes from the book.

“That nasty boy,” she says. “I knew it.”

Not your fault, Snowball replies. I would rather be with you.

They leave together and thousands of cat souls look away, disappointed again.

God’s concession to the cats is that although they cannot go to heaven of wild cats, they can go to human heaven so long as their owner claims them—no place for strays in paradise.

The second in line insists, “Cinder must be here!”

But none come forth.

“I see the problem,” I say. “Cinders has already gone, with a Mrs. Smyth.”

“That old bat,” he explodes, “always feeding my cat, sucking up to her while I was at work. I paid the vet bills, worried when she stays out all night….”

“You could share her?”

“Are you serious?”

I gave him a look that reminds a soul they are addressing a genuine Angel.

“I didn’t even like Cinders much,” he grumbles. “She wouldn’t sit on my knee, never purred—but wouldn’t let me have another cat. I tried once with a kitten. Cinders beat the tar out of it, stitches and everything, so I gave it away. And here I am for eternity without a cat."

“Sorry, Mr. Pederson,” I reply. “Invite me by some time for a saucer of milk.”

He looks worried.

“Joke,” I say.

Not everyone feels comfortable around a cat angel, or maybe he’s just not a cat person really, but I could see how it was the blood pressure that got him.

The third guy causes lots of interest.



“Spotty, Phantom, Tabby?”




“I love cats,” he explains. “Any kind of cat, since I was a kid. Now let me see; other Blacky, other other Blacky, little Blacky, Fatso, Spike, Tabby, other Tabby, Whiskers….”

The cats mill gleefully.

“Whiskers, how long has it been, twenty years?”

Too long.

“Whiskers meet Phantom.”


“There was another. I was about seven… small and black. The name escapes me; it was seventy years ago.”

“Another Blacky?”

“No….but something like…”

“Sooty, Shadow, Jet?”

“No, wait. That stuff, you know, they used it on stoves.”


“That’s it, Zebo!”


“That’s all,” he says, “until Blacky number four pops off, but he might decide to stay with Judy.”

Thirteen leave, but fifty more new cat souls arrive. Another lady edges in.

“I’m looking for Nibbles… Nibbles?”

No answer.

“Are you sure Nibbles has passed on?”

She bursts into tears. “I’m sure. I was only ten and didn’t know. Dad said we had to move for his job. I assumed Nibbles would be coming. On the day we got into the car I was saying ‘Where is Nibbles?’ and Dad said he’d run away.…”

I had a bad feeling about where this story was going.

“It wasn’t until I was over forty Mum told me Dad had SHOT HIM. He had taken Nibbles out back and SHOT HIM BECAUSE HE COULDN’T BE BOTHERED BRINGING HIM ALONG. Mummy said she’d thought we could just get another cat, but I didn’t want another cat. I never did have another cat.”

I sense tremulous interest out in the dark.

“Try again,” I said.

“Nibbles!” she called. “I would have stopped him… I would have tried to stop him.”


“I swear. I’ll make it up to you!”

Slowly at first, but quicker and quicker and finally in great leaps and bounds, Nibbles went to her.

Daddy didn’t come, Mummy didn’t come, little Georgie didn’t come, he didn’t even remember me!

“I came. As soon as I could.”

You came.

They left together, not looking back. They never look back at those left behind.

Next came a man enquiring for: “Plucky?”

No answer.

“Always wanted a cat,” he said wistfully. “Mum couldn’t abide them. I got married and Mabel was allergic, so that was that. When she passed on there was this scraggly feral thing. I spent months feeding him and luring him in, almost had him too. Then I found him on the road, stone dead, buried him under the roses. Went into hospital myself not long after, and never came out. Then I heard about this place. I wouldn’t
like to think he was in here…Plucky?”

I took out the other book.

“Sorry, sir. It seems Plucky went straight through to wild cat heaven.”

“With the lions and all? Well it doesn’t surprise me, he was a wild’un. Still, I always did want a cat. Don’t suppose I could take one of these?”

We were fixed with the intense gaze of the almost uncountable eyes of the cat souls.

I have waited many thousand years. No one will come for me.

There is dignity in the request, but desperation also.

I am Bilqis. Take me?

They look to me.

“How could I refuse,” I say.

They leave together. The eyes of the remaining cats fix on me. New hope wells up in those abandoned beyond all hope of remembrance.

“Excuse me,” I say to those waiting. “I must have a quick word with God.”

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

These Cats Have Me Whipped by Mike Meraz

These Cats Have Me Whipped
by Mike Meraz

these cats have me whipped,
they sit and pur around my neck,
my ankles.
they follow me at dawn
and arrive spry and lovely
at dinner time.
they have me by the neck.
"food" they say
in their cat-like way.
I am broke and homeless.
the bills haven't been paid.
I give them my last dollar
dressed in a can of sardines.
"eat eat, chomp chomp,
you are better to me than any woman."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Too Late in the Day to Be a Cat? by Janet Garber


By Janet Garber

Belly-to-belly, Minnie-chat and I,
Contemplate the day ahead.
Not eager to begin, so,
Entranced, I soak in the heat of Her Furryness.
I rub her jowls between two fingers.
I caress her head with an open palm.

She looks at me: Don’t ever stop!
Don’t go out that door again
With your keys and your bag,
Leaving me to the window, the birds.
The maddening flit-flying birds.
I’ll make a fool of myself
As I always do.
Lunging at the window glass, meowing,
Growling deep and dark
Back in my throat
So lonely for you, my mistress, my mother.

How can I make promises, Fur-Face?
I’m unemployed!
So busy, being unemployed.
More ads, calls, visits, networking,
More fears penny-pinching my future.
I wanted to live life wide,
Free and careless like you.
Sleeping when I want, chasing my tail,
Jumping at invisible entities.
All the day belonging to me.
But I'm a captive like you
To necessity and breeding.
BRRRG…you fly out of my lap.
Nature calls. I answer.
The day comes to get me.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Please Love Me! by Doris M. Kneppel

Please Love Me!
by Doris M. Kneppel

I hate it when those dogs bark.
I wish I were back in that park.
I'm cold and afraid.
Please come to my aid.
This cage is so cold and so dark.

Was I bad that they put me in jail?
I'm a sweet kit so where did I fail?
Won't someone love me?
I'll love back, you'll see.
I'll be quiet and I'll never wail.

Oh look! That lady seems kind!
Please, Lady, I'm right here to find.
Ah, she says that I'm sweet.
Oh, joy, what a treat!
I hope that she's made up her mind.

I now have a home and a friend.
Lady pets me and loves me no end!
I sleep and I play.
I never will stray.
My lady is a blessing God-sent.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rama by James Hartley


by James Hartley

I walked into the base doctor's office with the unconscious
Siamese cat cradled in my arms, and gently placed it on the desk
in front of the doctor. "I ran over it with my sno-kart, Doc. It
popped up right in front of me, and you know the sno-karts don't
have much in the way of brakes."

"What do you expect me to do? I'm not a veterinarian."

"Yeah, I know," I said. "But I figured you could check for
broken bones, obvious injuries, whatever. Better than nothing."

The doctor pulled the cat closer and began to examine it. After
a while he said, "No breaks, nothing I can see. Since he's
unconscious, probably a mild concussion. Given a little care,
he'll probably recover. Take him home, feed him, keep him warm."

"Him? OK, he's a male. But keep him warm?" I asked. "An animal
that lives in the snow?"

"Yes, he must use energy to keep warm out there. If you keep him
warm, that energy can go toward healing whatever injuries he
has." He reached behind him and pulled out a disposable blanket,
wrapped the cat in it, and handed him to me.

I took the cat to my apartment and put him in a comfortable
chair, still wrapped up. Then I went over to the base commissary
to get some stuff I knew I'd need. I picked up some packets of
meat ration, and a large plastic pan to use for a litter box. I
figured I'd have to use torn paper, but when I got to the
counter I asked the clerk, "Got any kitty litter?"

To my surprise, he said, "Yep, sure do." He pulled out a large
bag marked 'Granules, non-skid, absorbent.' "On the rare warm
day, the snow on the walks melts a little, then freezes into
ice. We sprinkle this stuff on it. But it's kitty litter, we had
cats when I was a kid back on Earth, and I recognize it."

I took the supplies back to my apartment and set up the litter
box. Eventually the cat woke up and I fed him and gave him a
dish of water. He seemed to adapt to life in my apartment
without any trouble. I named him Rama after the legendary King
of Siam. Pretty soon, every time I sat down to read, he would
jump in my lap, curl up, and purr.


It's amazing about the cats. On every planet we've found where a
man can live without a spacesuit or massive life support, there
are cats. Mostly Siamese cats, but some tabbies and mixed breeds
on a few planets. Cats genetically indistinguishable from
Earth's felis domesticus. Once in a while there are evolutionary
offshoots like Earth's big cats, lions and tigers, but mostly
just, well, cats!

Oh, there are little differences, the cats here on snow-bound
Hoth--the planet was named after some twentieth century
cartoon--have heavier fur. And they have developed a strange
mode of transportation we call "snow-diving." You'll be looking
at a blank field of snow, and suddenly a cat will pop up and
look around. Like Rama popped up in front of my sno-kart. Then
the cat will take a big leap across the snow, maybe five or six
feet, and dive in and disappear when it lands. Sometimes a whole
bunch will be going along together, that's fun to watch.

There's no proven explanation for the presence of cats
everywhere. The story that most people accept is that there was
some ancient space-traveling race, now extinct, that took cats
with them wherever they went. A variant of that is that we are
the descendants of that race, that a ship crashed on Earth and
they lost their civilization and reverted to savagery, but I
don't believe that one. If that had happened on Earth, it would
have happened elsewhere, and we have found no traces of that
ancient race ... except the cats.


Rama stayed with me for almost a month. He was very friendly,
loved to be petted. But eventually he began to show signs of
wanting to go back out in the snow. I would find him perched on
the windowsill, looking out, watching the other cats
snow-diving. And he made several attempts to get out the door.

Finally I gave in and took him outside. He gave me one last leg
rub, then went snow-diving off.

But apparently he didn't go too far. If I go outside with a dish
of meat ration, and call, "Rama," and then wait a bit, he'll pop
up in front of me. He'll eat the food, then purr and give me a
leg rub before he leaves, but he never stays very long.

I miss him.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Max by George Anderson

by George Anderson

‘Cats do not show the same plasticity of form as the dog’
The New World Encyclopaedia

White sagging scrotum
noxious litter box
stretchy blue choke line
his digital photo on the fridge
framed by captioned magnets:

In the deep grass-
he leaps free of his harness.
Alert, he crouches by the barn door
reliving once again how he savaged that mouse
seven years ago
before it skittled under the barn.
Burying his eyes into that spot
he waits
for another
poised to pounce
the carnivorous flick of images:
snarl snarl

(play play)
squeak squeak

His shoulders slumping
as her voice booms out:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Man Who Didn't Like Cats by Frank Roger

The Man Who Didn't Like Cats

by Frank Roger


As Herbert came home from work and slammed the door shut behind him, he saw from the corner of his eye how a familiar black shape leapt out of the window, and thus out of his range of vision.

Damned creature, he thought, anger welling up inside him. He put down his briefcase and hurried to the window the black shape had escaped through. So old Mrs. Clarence's cat had gained entry to his apartment once again. Dammit, he thought, what has the creature been up to this time? He quickly completed a tour of inspection of his apartment. Yes, indeed, as he could have guessed the wretched animal hadn't spent its time idly here, hadn't limited itself to casual sightseeing. Not that he expected anything but trouble from the black monster.

He cursed when he noted a curtain had been torn, a wire connecting his stereo rig had been bitten through and a cushion on his couch was spreading the distinct odour of cat's urine. He hated the damned cat - and judging from its activities in his apartment during his absence, the feelings were very much mutual.

He considered his options.

One : go and talk about the problem with Mrs. Clarence.

Two : go and talk about the problem with the landlord.

Three : to hell with the old bitch one floor down and the not-so-old-but-equally-hopeless man two floors down and take drastic measures himself.

The first option had little going for it, he realised. Mrs. Clarence kept repeating that cats were extremely careful and clean and easily house-trained animals, and that her cat in particular would never do the horrible things Herbert accused it of. Knocking down glasses and vases and messing up his rooms? Urinating on the couch? Ripping curtains and blankets and clothes to shreds? Out of the question! The poor animal never even left her own apartment, so where did he get the idea it was responsible for all that went wrong over at his place? No doubt he was just looking for a scapegoat to blame everything on : his ramshackle equipment that kept breaking down, his worn-out clothes and stuff, the leaks in the ceiling and his own spilled drinks forming puddles everywhere. He ought to get his act together, and stop drinking and imagining things, instead of blaming a poor woman's innocent cat, her only companion and solace in the loneliness of old age. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

Discussions with the landlord, who lived down on the first floor, tended to lead to absolutely nothing as well. Yes, the man invariably replied, nodding in agreement, there was no need to remind him of the fact that the tenants were not allowed to keep pets, he knew very well it was explicitly stated in the contract, and yes, he would definitely talk about it with Mrs. Clarence, and settle the matter once and for all. No pets were allowed and there was no reason whatsoever to make an exception for the old woman's cat. But of course the man never broached the subject with the woman on the second floor, or if he did his efforts remained without effect. Probably the man was one of those goddamned cat lovers himself and didn't really mind Mrs. Clarence keeping a pet, even if it was against the rules, and presumably he didn't want to admit to Herbert that he was giving the old woman some leeway in this respect, considering the fact she had lost her husband a long time ago and didn't he understand she needed the company and comfort only the heart-warming presence of a cat could provide? Anyway, cats were harmless creatures, so why would they take away what was essential for Mrs. Clarence's happiness and well-being, and so forth and so on.

That left him with option number three. He would start work on a strategy soon. It wouldn't be easy, he would have to be extremely careful, and a wide variety of elements had to be taken into account, but it should be possible to work out a plan with a reasonable chance of success.


One night's sleep would be well worth the sacrifice, provided his second stratagem proved more successful than his first attempt at cat hunting. The dish of poisoned cat food he had left on the floor, close to the window left invitingly ajar, hadn't been touched - although there were traces of a nightly cat's visit. It was as if the damn creature had wanted to make it clear to him that his attempt at poisoning it were totally ridiculous and absolutely futile. It had knocked down a few baubles on his bookcase, slid a magazine from his coffee-table onto the floor, and left a latticework of scratches on his fake mahogany desk, like signatures in a visitors' book, proving at once it had put in an appearance and found, examined and rejected the poisoned food. Herbert knew cats were choosy and had a highly developed olfactory sense, so he had opted for a colourless, odourless and tasteless poison. It hadn't fooled the cat, however.

So this time he had prepared a dish of pure catfood, not tampered with in any way, totally harmless. He had even added a few extra ingredients he knew cats were very fond of. This gourmet cat meal should be absolutely irresistible to any normal cat. Only this time he would be waiting for the uninvited (but not unexpected) guest - armed with a spraycan that should blind the creature and turn it into a helpless prey. He would be out of sight, yet close enough for the fatal blow. He had rehearsed the ambush and his subsequent attack a few times in his mind, had tried to foresee what could possibly go wrong and how to remedy those shortcomings in his strategy. He was convinced he hadn't overlooked the slightest detail and success could not elude him anymore.

So he waited, darkness completely enveloping him, with only the sounds of the night coming through the open window rupturing the peace and tranquillity. Time went by. The cat didn't show its face. Herbert forced himself to stay awake, and remain motionless and silent in his hiding place. Every now and then he took a sip from his bottle. More time went by. The night seemed endless, a period of absolute emptiness stretching into infinity. He didn't care how long he would have to wait. All that mattered now was the realisation of his objective : getting his hands on the cat and finishing it. Yet more time went by, teasingly slow.

Dammit, he thought, suddenly alarmed. He must have dozed off for a while there, because now he could see the first signs of approaching dawn in the night sky, and the last moment he remembered it had still been completely dark. He shook his head, casting off the sleep threatening to jeopardise his mission. He took another sip from his bottle, noticed it was half empty. Was the drink perhaps responsible for his dozing off? Impossible. He had been known to drink more of the stuff without growing sleepy. He was quite used to a little liquor; maybe he simply hadn't slept enough the past few days. As the night slowly turned into morning and the darkness dissipated, he noticed the cat food had been eaten. The dish was empty, had even been licked clean. A wave of despair washed over him. Had it been pure bad luck that the cat had entered his apartment when he had dozed off for a few minutes? Or, he hated the very idea, had the cat been patiently waiting outside for exactly that to happen, then rushed inside at the proper moment, gobbled up the delicious meal he had prepared, and left without a trace?

Well, not quite without a trace, he remarked as he noted the little puddle of what could only be cat's piss... right in front of him, within reaching distance. Frustratingly close to his hands. He threw the spraycan aside, rose to his feet, tried to loosen up his cramped muscles. He looked at his watch : still an hour and a half before he had to go to work. He would try to get some sleep before he left. And try to come up with a better method to get rid of his mortal enemy. Something told him that wouldn't be so easy. He had underestimated his enemy once, but that wouldn't happen twice.

He would make sure the third blow would be the fatal one.


Herbert yawned. Catching up on sleep might be a good idea for tonight. He had prepared a quick dinner, downed a few drinks (well, more than just a few, to be honest), watched TV for about fifteen minutes, and decided to call it a day. All his plans would have to wait - and that included the Great Plan To Solve The Cat Problem Once And For All.

So he retired to bed early, determined to let nothing get in the way of a good night's sleep.

Only he hadn't counted on one contender in the great man versus feline sweepstakes, he realised as he heard the meowing in his living room. At first he decided to ignore the damn cat. He needed his sleep, and anyway he hadn't worked out his tactics for his final and decisive onslaught yet. He would let the cat get away with one more nightly rampage, if grudgingly.

But the meowing grew increasingly persistent, and when he heard the sound of a vase that was knocked down to the ground and ended up shattered into a million fragments, he knew he was being called to battle. Sleep seemed to recede into the distance; it would have to wait until this matter had been settled. There was no way he could afford not to rise to this challenge. More disturbing sounds, coming from his living room, reached his ears. He worked himself into an upright position, sighed deeply, and cast off the last vestiges of sleep. He just had to pick up the gauntlet. Sleep would be his reward, when he returned victorious from the battlefield. A good night's sleep, and waking up in the knowledge that no unwelcome visitors would ever invade his privacy and do unnameable things during his absence again. He gathered his strength and jumped out of his bed, ready for action. He would show no mercy.

His living room was shrouded in semi-darkness, transformed into an eerily shimmering chiaroscuro each time the clouds obscuring the moon parted and allowed the moonlight to blend with the pale shine of the street lights spilling into the room through the windows. For a moment Herbert considered switching on the light, but decided against it. A well-lit room might make it easy for him to follow the cat's movements, but it would be a distinct disadvantage in that the cat would also clearly see him. It would have no trouble parrying his (sadly unprepared) attacks.

He waited for his eyes to adjust to the murk, then stepped forward, casting glances in all directions, concentrating on any sound that might help him in determining the cat's whereabouts. Silence was complete. Had he dreamed the cat was roaming around here? That would seem hardly likely. He bumped into his coffee-table, and an empty glass clattered to the ground. There was no reaction. The cat should have been at least as startled as he and should have yelped at the crash so unexpectedly rupturing the silence. Still, there had been nothing. Clearly, the cat must have left. Or had never been in here to start with. He was about to return to his bedroom when he heard the meowing in his kitchen.

He quickly strode into the kitchen, fury welling up inside him. In here it was completely dark; no light spilled this far inside his apartment. There! Cat's eyes. Cats did have red eyes, didn't they? Or... was it merely some reddish glow or reflection, a fluorescence on a display panel on some of his electronic kitchen equipment? There was no way to tell, of course. But the cat just had to be here. He'd heard the damn creature. But right now he neither heard nor saw a thing. No doubt it was hiding someplace, closely watching him, preparing its next move.

He cursed as he heard a shriek and a series of dull thuds coming from his living room. The damn cat was driving him crazy. Was it doing this on purpose, in an effort to send him into a raging fury and render his attack less effective? He would have to control his emotions, keep himself in check, and stay level-headed, or he wouldn't stand a chance against this agile and quick-witted opponent.

He rushed back into the living room, thought he saw a black shape move towards his bookcase, and darted in that direction. Before he could get there, he tripped over the empty glass lying on the floor, smacked his knee painfully into the coffee-table and went down, thrashing wildly about. He tried to hold on to what appeared to be a line of books, which came crashing down onto him. He lay there for a while, sprawling, gasping for breath, recovering from the shower of books and baubles that had hit him. The throbbing pain in his knee made him crawl into an upright position and take stock of his admittedly rather deplorable situation. He tried to ignore the pain and rose to his feet, his face a contorted mask of fury and frustration. There was no way he would let the cat get away with this. He would not allow it to get the upper hand. Or paw.

He leaned rather heavily against the bookcase, and more books came tumbling down. He steadied himself, knocked a few more baubles down and froze when he heard the cat meowing, clearly now, unmistakably, mockingly. The creature was enjoying its successes. He would make sure its joy would be short-lived.

A dimly visible black shape darted between his wobbly legs, and, completely taken by surprise, he lashed out at it, lost his balance and struck the only bookcase still standing. Another paperback cascade was the result. Furious now, he cursed and slammed his hand against the wall. The cat was teasing him, playing with him as if he were a mouse, wearing him out as a matador would a bull. A long drawn-out meowing filled the room... or was that the sound of squealing tires on the street outside? One moment he was confused. The two sounds were so damn similar. He would have to listen very carefully. If he mistook sounds coming from outside for the cat's noise, it might foul up his plan of action.

There! The black shape had passed before the window, and it had definitely possessed the forms of a cat. It had only been a glimpse, of course, but he was pretty sure he'd seen a cat outlined against the backdrop of the night sky, faintly illuminated by the street lights. He blinked a few times, tried to see more clearly. His vision got rather blurry at times, and his legs grew more wobbly with each passing moment. Of course, he badly needed sleep. And maybe he shouldn't have drunk that much. But how was he to know this night would be the Night of the Battle? Anyhow, it was now too late to change any of that. He had a job to finish here. Better get it over with fast, so he could get back to bed.

He kicked a pile of paperbacks aside, and nearly fell down as he saw the black shape darting past once again. This time he reacted promptly. He hacked and slashed, but only hit thin air. The sound of objects tumbling down to the floor reached his ears... or were those sounds coming from outside again? Never mind all that now. He had to concentrate and ignore any distractions that might interfere with the job at hand.

When he noticed two reddishly glowing eyes in front of him (or were they rather greenish? hard to tell, the colour shimmered, seemed to change hue constantly), mocking him, teasing him, defying him, he lunged forward and started kicking and tearing and hitting everything that came within range. If you're not a sharpshooter, you might as well produce a shower of lead shot you couldn't miss your target with. He cut his hand on something, and pain flashed through his arm and went straight up to his brain. It infuriated him, drove him into a frenzy that made him forget the pain and allowed him to intensify his mad thrashing and milling.

At that point everything became a blur, a whirlpool of sensations perceived too vaguely to fully register, a wildly spinning vortex of shrill sounds, amorphous shapes dimly visible through the murky twilight, acrid smells and sudden jolts of pain. His apartment seemed to flicker in and out of existence, as he caromed from wall to wall, splintering furniture he found on his path, ripping like a tornado through his books and CDs, a puppet whose strings were pulled by a puppetmaster torn apart by spasms, a wrecking ball swung by a seizure-stricken demolisher. I'm dreaming all this, he thought in a far corner of his mind where a fragment of cold reason still lingered. This is a terrible nightmare. I must be delirious. This can't be real.

It was a relief to feel the cool night air, the sense of total freedom as he felt himself floating, freed of everything that bound him, detached from the real world that had seemed so suffocating just there. Floating. Or was it falling?


Clipping from the Westport Gazette, April 14th, 2010:

"Yesterday morning Mr. Herbert Carruthers was found dead on the sidewalk in front of 47 Coverdale Street, where he lived in his apartment on the second floor. The man apparently fell off his balcony at night, although there are indications he may have been pushed. The autopsy will doubtlessly shed some light on the actual cause of death. It has been confirmed by a reliable source that Mr. Carruther's apartment was trashed, although it is as yet unclear whether burglars were involved or if the victim inflicted the damage himself prior to his fatal fall. His downstairs neighbour, Mrs. R.C., told us confidentially that Mr. Carruthers had a drinking problem which "may well have been responsible for whatever happened on that fateful night." She added, "He was a strange man. Always complaining, always blaming others for his own blundering. He really shouldn't have drunk so much." Despite this rather harsh criticism, Mrs. R.C. appeared quite smitten with grief at the death of her upstairs neighbour, her voice on the verge of breakdown, tears welling up in her eyes, her cat clutched against her bosom. The sight of the cat, gently purring, with a defiant and even triumphant look in its eyes, clashed rather vehemently with the overall atmosphere of mourning."

Monday, May 17, 2010

As I Have Comforted Myself by Marilyn Basel

As I Have Comforted Myself
by Marilyn Basel

my tiny kitten
I still see you, looking back
how many times gently warned
not to bat the bees
at the screen, your
animal scream when
stung on the pads
and because I had said NO
at the same time you felt pain
you ran from me, your comfort
and protector, you ran and hid
under the sofa, to nurse your pain
in your own way and though
it hurt me that you thought
I had stung you
I let you feel safe there awhile
kept the monster human away
how you saw me then
though I had done you no harm
I comforted you from afar

as I have often comforted myself
pulled back from monstrous human
this and that
from under some soft roof
of dread

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Purrsonal Story "The Bravest Cat in the World" by Suzan L. Wiener

The Bravest Cat In The World

By Suzan L. Wiener

My husband Howard, often talked about getting a cat, but my allergies precluded our owning a pet. I liked animals, but if I came within inches of a cat, I had sneezing fits that lasted up to l0 minutes.

One rainy afternoon, however, a pet found us. I heard an awful meowing at our door, and when I rushed to open it, there sat a forlorn cat. Though the cat's rain-drenched fur was mattered, I immediately noticed her beautiful gray, black and white coat.

Despite my apprehensions, I could not resist the poor animal. I invited her in and waited for the sneezing to commence. I gave her food and water and Fluffy decided to stay and curled up next to the fireplace.

Howard wanted to keep her, but I didn't want to live the rest of my life with sneezing spasms. My husband tried to assure me, "Don't worry," he said. "We'll put a notice in the paper. I'm sure someone will claim this gorgeous cat."

As the days passed, the new member of our family became more entwined in our lives. We bought her many toys, but she played only with the ball Howard had made for her from aluminum foil. She favored Howard and loved to sit by his feet or accompany him in the backyard while he puttered in his garden. (Maybe my constant sneezing drove Fluffy away).

Bright and early one Saturday morning, Howard went into the backyard to plant some tomatoes. Fluffy, as usual, followed closely behind. I was in the kitchen washing dishes when suddenly I heard a loud commotion.

I opened the back door just in time to see the next-door neighbor's Doberman Pinscher charging toward Howard. Before I could scream, Fluffy ran to protect him. Howard couldn't move too quickly because of his bad back. With her fur standing on end, Fluffy hissed and scratched until the dog whimpered home.

That night we treated Fluffy to plenty of petting and the most expensive gourmet cat food we could buy. Howard made a medal that read, "The Bravest Cat in the World" and placed it around her neck. I'm not sure Fluffy understood why she was receiving so much extra attention, but she seemed to enjoy every minute of it.

Fluffy was Howard's cat, but that day she became my cat, too, despite the allergy pills I now take regularly. We both love our cat dearly. Fluffy's only problem is deciding whom she loves best.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Cat Called Satan by Maureen Wilkinson

A Cat Called Satan

by Maureen Wilkinson

Satan was evil
and just like the weevil,
he burrowed right into my head.
He fought every moggy,
even a doggy,
he battled until it had fled.
His ears they were tatty,
his coat pretty ratty,
his breath, too foul to describe.
When he sat on my knee,
sometimes smelling of pee,
there was something I couldn’t decide,
What was I at, even liking this cat,
who was nasty and evil and bad?
Then one day I knew,
As I cleared up his spew,
I was all that the poor old cat had.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Purrsonal Story Hungry Harold by Guy Belleranti

Hungry Harold
by Guy Belleranti

I have only been owned by one cat in my life, but what a cat he is! Harold, you see, is a Siamese. Handsome as a prince, his beautiful eyes glow blue one moment and red the next --just like the lights of a police car. And his meow.... No doubt about it - that meow of his would put any siren to shame! Indeed, when I think of Harold I think up all sorts of possible titles for books. How about THE CAT OF THE BASKERVILLES? Or maybe THE CALL OF THE SIAMESE?

Harold's voice is never in finer form than at his mealtime. For when he isn't planted in somebody's lap, purring (he's a very loving cat, and is even friends with our collie), he's waiting.... Waiting for dinner.

Canned cat food is his favorite, but he won't turn the dry, bagged variety away. Indeed, Harold talks up a storm when he believes it's time to eat, his vocals doing Garfield and other famous felines proud. And if the vocals don't work.... Well, Harold has other, more nefarious, means. Just ask my sister. One week she played sitter to Harold while my wife and I went out of town. On the first night she was awakened by a strange scraping sound. When it kept repeating she decided to investigate. She crept out to the kitchen, flipped on the light and caught Harold hot-pawed -- opening the door to the cabinet holding his food.

Then there's the time my wife and I decided Harold needed a diet. Being a chronologically superior Siamese, Harold's activity level was beginning to slow, causing him to grow quite portly. Oh, he was carrying his paunch with pride, but we had fears that if he became much heavier we'd soon be carrying him. So we cut back a bit on his food. My wife even made the bold suggestion that perhaps he ought to take kitty aerobics, but Harold had no use for nonsense such as this. So a diet it was to be.

After a time Harold slimmed down, cutting something of a svelte figure again. However, one day we came home from the grocery store and rushed out again on another errand. Silly us, we also left his new bag of cat food on the kitchen floor. When we returned a couple hours later, an impressive scene awaited. The bag lay ripped open with surgeon-like precision. Sprawled beside it, his stomach bulging, Harold purred a blue streak. The expression on his face reflected the purest contentment I've ever witnessed, maybe even surpassing the grin of Alice in Wonderland's Cheshire Cat.

We haven't attempted a repeat weight reduction program for Harold since that day. Cats may have nine lives, but their agenda has only room for one diet. And if Harold's happy being portly, who are we to tell him differently.

Note to Contributors

Because I love all your work so much, I accept a lot of work, so there is quite a backlog. Your work will get posted, I promise, and you will be paid upon publication. Keep up the *p*awseome work!

See Submissions Guidelines for more details.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sitting the Dean's Cat by Larry Lefkowitz

Sitting the Dean’s Cat
by Larry Lefkowitz

When the dean asked me to be his catsitter while he attended a week-long international conference on ‘Nabokov’s Roots’ at the University of Moscow (Russia, not Idaho), to say I was less than eager to carry out this demonstration of confidence in me is an understatement, but I reluctantly agreed because my future promotion in the literature department depended on keeping the dean, who was head of the department, on my side. Not to the point of becoming his cat’s stroker, it is hard for a dog petter to become a cat stroker -- I would endeavor to please the dean while keeping the cat at arm’s length, so to speak.

The dean had a nice pad: residence on the premises was required of the sitter so that the dean’s cat would have all the comforts of home which were hers by right. Putting her up in my place would be apparently too emotionally-wrenching for the creature. And maybe it would have been since I, like the good dean, was a bachelor (though not yet a ‘confirmed one’, a status the dean had achieved by dint of his many years as such) , and my pad reflected it. On the other hand, it might have nostalgically reminded the cat of the jungle from whence its kind once stemmed.

The dean checked out my pedigree, so to speak, before I could be given the responsibility for his "Molly" (the cat's name). It was a pre-condition that I meet his cat, to get her approval before getting the dean’s imprimatur. One look at the creature told me she had been spoiled rotten.

The dean loved cats. Ok, I loved a good cigar. Which object I had to give my word I would not smoke in the cat's presence. I once defended this practice to the dean by pointing out that Churchill smoked cigars. His dismissive reply: “Churchill wrote non-fiction.” Non-fiction constituted a sub-genre in his eyes.

I was up against a guy whose door-knocker took the form of a large bronze claw which he claimed was a replica of the claw of the Egyptian cat god Bast. If the dean’s cat was God, the dean was her high priest.

A dog would have been no problem. Dogs are loyal and affectionate, no matter what you do to them. Cats are independent and moody. A dog is unswervingly loyal because when dogs were wolves they had had a wolf leader and the domesticated dog, lacking such, adopted man as his leader. The cat had evolved with disdain for man.

My experience with cats was zilch. "Puss 'N Boots" was a story I disliked even as a child. My only close contact with cats was dissecting a dead cat in college anatomy class, its veins and arteries filled with blue and red latex. It goes without saying that I did not mention this "experience with cats" to the cat-loving dean.

My plan was to kick the cat out of the house the moment his master was on the plane. The cat could fend for itself, live off the land, hunt mice, go see a performance of ‘Cats’. Whatever. And then I would gather the cat and return her to the dean’s pad shortly before he returned. In the end, I rejected this plan for fear the condition of the cat's fur or some other negative aspect would surely give me away.

The dean had explained that sometimes the cat liked to sleep in his bed. I nodded, figuring that the first time she tried it I would give her the boot. Nor did I plan to give the cat a bath, knowing that cats clean themselves, and if not, the rain would.

The moment the dean “introduced” us, the cat and I took the measure of each other; from that first mutual glance each knew the turf of the other. She began by meowing at me long, showing me her milk white teeth, while she whipped her tail from side to side in annoyance; her dark eyes narrowed and her pupils seemed green stones. I stared into them with a Clyde Batey-like stare (he was the intrepid lion trainer of my admiring youth), keeping my back to the dean who was supervising our first meeting. The dean knew from nothing of the contest set to begin between us. I felt myself caught up in a cat-and-mouse game in which I was not the cat.

It was all part of the larger contest between me and the dean. I told myself that a guy who was an expert on Henry James – him -- stood no match with a guy – me – who was an expert on Saul Bellow. Imbued by hope and desperation since he had a paper he wanted to deliver at the conference on ‘Nabokovian Roots and the Russian Aristocracy’, aware that it wasn’t easy to find somebody willing to take on himself such a task, he was predisposed to find the best in me, notwithstanding that the cat had no illusions on this score. Incidentally, I wrote the lion’s share of the Nabokov paper at his ‘request’, which should have been sufficient quid pro quo for the dean to find another sitter for his cat. Maybe “your rival” (for promotion), as he referred to Strickland behind the latter’s back (I thought I once overheard the dean refer to me as “Bellow’s boy” at a faculty cocktail party -- attendance de regueur for my rank), but the dean considered Strickland “too taken with himself” to be entrusted with the soul of his “secret sharer,” read: his cat. He also hinted that I was “his man” for promotion; the fact that Strickland was a Henry James expert in his own right cannot be ruled out as constituting an eventual challenge to his perch and a bar to the former’s advancement. Bellow, “the Chicago Compere” constituted no challenge to the refined James. It could have been worse -- I might have been an expert on Philip Roth, “the scruffy urbanite.” There may be food for thought here for psycho-literaturologists since the dean hailed from Newark, as did Roth, though the former was given to claiming he was born in Boston. Canny me knew the truth, wormed out of him over white wine one evening; I wasn’t sure he remembered this divulgence, but if he did, my keeping silent might be another plus factor toward my promotion. Another might be the dean’s envy of Strickland’s having been born in London! Strickland’s “demerits” outweighed my being an advocate of the Leslie Fiedler approach to literary criticism to the detriment of the more august critics dear to the dean’s heart. All of this behind-the-scene intrigue worth chronicling by a modern Proust (which I do not consider myself, in any event not prior to receiving the coveted promotion).

I had received detailed, even loving, instructions on the cat's every need (these were many and diverse) which I had to "commit to writing" and whose food specifications alone put mine in the shade. Without thinking twice, I compromised on these: when I opened a can of tuna, we shared it. The cat seemed quite satisfied with this arrangement. I refrained from killing two birds with one stone by throwing her the goldfish, which I also had to feed. I supplemented this high protein diet with warm bubbly milk in a saucer which I placed on the floor. She lapped it up (literally and figuratively), her bristles twitching like small wires as she licked hesitantly at first, then, hitting her stride, lapping with gusto, less and less stopping to look at me lest I steal her milk for an eggnog. I had stocked in sufficient six packs of beer to see me throughout the ordeal. These I was careful to get rid of prior to the dean’s return because they might evidence neglect of his cat; moreover, the dean considered himself a wine ”cognoscente” (more than once when he boasted of this I thought of Poe’s ‘Cask of Amontillado’, though, alas, our university lacked the requisite subterranean vaults.)

Rumor has it that the dean kept a not-so-secret cache of cannabis hidden behind his bookshelves. (Behind the book ‘The Secret Garden,’ if I knew my dean.) Maybe this explains why the dean’s cat could be seen sniffing about in just that area. I was tempted to help her find the stashed stuff, and maybe even join her in ‘enjoying the grass,’ but feared the dean’s keen eye might discover the ‘borrowing.’

The cat was called "Molly" – in honor of Molly Bloom from ‘Ulysses’ -- the dean’s field being English Literature. I didn't like the name, maybe because a quondam girlfriend was so called or else because "Molly" reminded me of "mollycoddling" which I wasn't going to engage in with the cat. I toyed with a couple of alternative names for the cat, including "Catnip" and "Cat Ballou" (the latter in honor of Jane Fonda who played her in the movie) before settling on "Cat." At first, she disdained the name, but gradually warmed up to it.

Our situation brought home to me the salience of something the dean had said to me, whose full significance I had failed to grasp at the time, perhaps because he had chuckled as he said it, “I hope you are not allergic to cat hairs.” “Not that I know of,” I had replied – and how could I know of it since I kept my distance from cats, including their hairs. The dean’s apartment had begun to fill up with cat hairs. In my customary response to problems, I ignored it at first. But when the cat hairs appeared on the bed-sheets, I realized that my strategy of keeping Molly off the bed had not worked. Somehow she had managed to ensconce herself there – when I slept (leaving before I woke) or during the day when I was deep inside Roth’s latest incisive look at 20th century American history. To make a hirsute story short, I gathered cat hairs from wherever they abounded, with the help of tweezers (the dean was obsessive on the subject of cleanliness), spurred on by a number of hair-inspired sayings applied to my situation: the dean had me by the short hairs, my career hung by a hair, and so forth, brilliances which I could I could hardly heap upon the dean despite his penchant for metaphor.

Being holed up with a cat for a week turns you philosophical about the breed. One example: The cat had the moves of a small lion or tiger (to whom the cat is related) and if it were bigger could make trouble for me, and only the fact that I was bigger than it gave me supposed power over it. So that I behaved with more decency to it than it would have to me. But then I'm not the kind of a guy to hold grudges.

Henry James said, “Cats and monkeys – monkeys and cats – all human life is there.” It could have been worse. The dean might have had a pet monkey.

With the passage of time (slow), I got used to the cat, and even started to enjoy her presence. She, too, seemed to warm to me, her tail held vertically in the air, a benign sign that all’s well in her world. Maybe because she left me alone when I was down in the dumps, and I left her alone when she wanted to be. I was still a dog man. I would always be a dog man. But the cat was no longer anathema. And when the dean returned, cooing, “I can see that Molly likes you”, and promising that he would use only me as his catsitter in the future, I smiled a Cheshire-cat smile, fearing anything I said would sound false. Molly, too, seemed to nod her head at the prospect, but maybe I only imagined this.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

5 Kitten Poems by David McLean

where kittens sing

wherever kittens sing they squeak
easy, sleep hard and twitch
when they dream like maniacs
or children, but staying real
as smoke over a battlefield
or a computer dreaming.
while paws hesitate a second
to wake a mother, memory
becomes an expectant predator
as mourning becomes less electric
and more a matter of forgetting
dead flesh as well as the self.
robbing the tiniest lives,
these unassuming murderers
made out of tooth, blubber
hair, eyes like a lifetime
where time in them burns
an apparent insecurity,
a subtly loving brutality
walking sunshine, killers
dreaming and victims
learning, balls of eyes
and fur and life
that burn here

little kittens

the sun comes up again
full of little kittens
and they are playing,

an exquisite little lady
belly-flopping into litter
and loving it

like her brutal month old brothers.
the sun comes up, these days,
mostly for kittens and other lovers.

my kitten Sylvia

my little kitten Sylvia
is painted fluff and stardust

smelling like water and love.
she lies in the sleeping box

watching me from high security
and i sit, her brothers nuzzling,

one at each bony knee,
and am free and happy an eternity

because, if Sylvia believes in me,
then i must really be


Dante is a little cat now,
not a dead man from Italy

and his purgatory is mom's
shortest absences, her reassuring

excursion to the self-same places
still being themselves, never dead,

because she was a kitten too,
once, she stills smells exactly like love


the speed of a tiny cat
becoming a man is a heart's absence

because i am nothing before animals
and less than dust.

you stare at me uncomprehending,
Charlie, and we both know eternity

and everything, nothing
all at once,

what is lacking me
your tiniest touch

About David McLean:
David McLean is Welsh but has lived in Sweden since 1987. He lives there on an island in the Stockholm archipelago with many cats and one dog. Recently three exceptional kittens were born to his special feline affection. He has a BA in History from Oxford, and an unconnected MA in philosophy, much later, from Stockholm. Up to date details of McLean's publications, over 950 poems in print and online zines over the past three years, and several available books and chapbooks, including three print full lengths, some print chapbooks and a free electronic chapbook are at his blog. His latest full length laughing at funerals from epic rites press is available via Small Press Distribution here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Purrsonal Story "Okay, I Admit It" by Diane Payne

Okay, I Admit It
by Diane Payne

The other day when my eleven-year-old daughter Ania and I were walking home from the dentist, she started laughing and told me the dentist asked if her mother was carrying a cat in that pack Tuesday afternoon. When Ania admitted that I was carrying a kitten in a pack (while she rolled her eyes to convey My mother), the dentist said she wouldn’t be caught dead doing that. The big joke is both Ania and I wear those little packs over our stomachs and we each carry a kitten when we walk Barto, our dog. Ania was the first to get a pack and she insisted I get one after the kittens grew too large to fit in one pack. I thought it was cute when Ania carried the cats and I walked both dogs, but the first time I carried a kitten in my pack, I must say, I felt a tad silly. Friends would stop and say, “See, I told you you’d turn into a cat person.”

“No, no. This is all Ania’s doings,” I’d protest.


Claudia, the mother cat, has jumped into the carrier for a couple of walks, but spends most of the time ducking her head, apparently embarrassed when her pals from the days she roamed free see her being carried around like a queen. When friends say we should let the cats go outside, let them live free, I remember the frightening episodes that occurred during the days Yak chased cats, and remind them we take the kittens to the woods when we let Barto run free, and I add, “The kittens seem quite happy to be carried through the woods.”

I didn’t plan on having cats, but I didn’t plan on having dogs either. When we let Claudia move in, we had an old dog that despised cats. Yak wasn’t happy about Claudia, but he was arthritic and realized his cat chasing days were over, and since Yak agreed to let Claudia remain, I had no choice but to consent, and Ania’s been elated ever since.

Not being a cat person, it took a few days to realize Claudia was female, and a few more days to discover she was a mother. Unfortunately, the vet didn’t tell us that until after she spayed Claudia. Ania found the two kittens out in the bushes. Yak couldn’t believe his bad luck when he discovered there were two more cats entering the house. Barto welcomed the distraction. The kittens liked to lie next to Yak because he was furry and didn’t move much. A couple of months after their arrival, Yak died, and the cats kept smelling his doggy bed, waiting for him to return. At times I think I’m still waiting for him to return.

Yak’s not the only reason I don’t know much about cats. I was allergic to them. The first week I broke out into hives whenever Claudia jumped on me or if I lay on my pillow after she had been there first. Ania would look at the welts on my body and dread the day Claudia would have to go. But, after a week, my body realized Claudia wasn’t leaving, and the hives miraculously disappeared.

After years of sitting in the homes of cat lovers, having their cats jump up against me and rubbing their tails in my face, and responding with eyes swelling shut and hives appearing wherever their fur touched my skin, I honestly believed cats were just devious creatures who not only knew they were causing me this great discomfort, but that they were deriving great pleasure from my misery. I always compared cats to dogs, dwelled on how cats snuck around a room and hid behind chairs, or climbed above furniture, then leapt off, scaring the wits out of me. I couldn’t understand why someone wanted a companion who spent the night outside doing who knows what, killed birds without mercy during the day, and had no use for taking walks. But, now I’ve learned cats like sleeping inside under the blankets at night, enjoy taking walks in a pack, and are easily entertained by screeching at birds while they sit by a window, flapping their tails madly.

People have told me repeatedly that cats won’t learn their names, won’t come when they’re called, but the cats react a bit like our dogs. They come running when we call, probably, like the dogs, hoping it means a treat or walk. And Midnight has learned one trick we’ve never been able to teach a dog. If we toss his toy mouse, he retrieves it, over and over. I’m impressed with his stamina.

After a lifetime of being catless, I’ve grown quite fond of seeing a cat sitting on my computer when I write (unless the tail is swishing like wipers over the monitor), another sitting on the printer, and yet another on the chair next to my table. At night, I thought they’d sleep on my daughter’s bunk bed, but no. They crawl into my bed, and Barto’s dog bed is in the corner, so it doesn’t take long before Ania yells that she’s feeling lonely and climbs into bed with us also. Talk about a family bed!

Having cats reminds me of when Ania was a toddler. Once again the house is filled with toys, mostly made out of boxes. There are tunnels, weird bouncy things attached to the ceiling fan, and a bunch of boxes taped together called The Ramshackle. There’s even a birch tree propped up against the wall so the cats can climb on the ledge near the ceiling.

The other day one of my students noticed the cat picture on my desk next to Ania and the dog pictures and said, “Come on, admit it. You’re a cat person now.”

Once again, I said Ania insisted that I keep the picture in my office so the cats wouldn’t feel left out. He has a cat and waited for me to state the truth.

“Okay. I admit it. I’m a cat person!”
“You really are,” he laughed. “I wouldn’t walk my cat around in a pack.”

And I can’t imagine our home without cats or taking a walk without the cats. Geesh, I really am a cat person. I admit it and it feels okay.

About the suthor:
Diane teaches creative writing at University of Arkansas-Monticello,where is is also faculty advisor of Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. She is the author of two novels: Burning Tulips and A New Kind of Music. She has been published in hundreds of literary magazines. More info can be found at: Diane's Web site.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cat Chat by Guy Belleranti

Cat Chat
by Guy Belleranti

He greets me at the door
With his Siamese call.
I hold him on my lap.
He curls into a ball.

His eyes begin to close
As I stroke his warm coat.
His meows are replaced
By purrs deep in his throat.

We sit this way some time,
Then he gives me that look,
And tells me quite loudly
That tonight I'm his cook!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Affection to Dye For by Terry Sanville

by Terry Sanville

By mid-afternoon I reached the rickety barn-like building that Grandpop called “the factory.” Thirsty from my hour-long walk in the August heat, I wrapped my mouth around a water faucet in the yard – the iron taste of it satisfying even though the water was warm and rusty.
Grandpop was inside at his machine making gold-handled brooms.

“Whatca doin’ Pop Pop?” I shouted the obvious.

“Got no time for ya, Tony. Got an order to fill,” he yelled over the machine’s racket.

“I’ll go play with the cat,” I hollered back. He smiled and waved me off.

Grandpop only worked until four, so I didn’t have long to wait. Creeping toward a set of open wooden stairs, I passed Hawkins sitting in his office, making out order forms. He looked up from his desk and frowned.

“Where da ya think you’re going?” he hollered. His dark beard shadow looked like coffee grounds.

“Just ta the loft. I’ll stay outta you way.”

“Make sure you do,” he hollered then returned to his paperwork.

I sprinted for the stairs and bounded upward to where the tangy-smelling broomcorn was stored and a flock of pigeons cooed in the rafters. I liked to go there and watch the machinery work on the open shop floor below. All of the equipment used to assemble the brooms was driven by an interconnected system of belts and pulleys powered by a tiny diesel engine that chuffed away in the yard. It was neat to follow the belt drive from its source as it passed through various pulley wheels, changing directions all the while, and ended up connected to the machine that Grandpop stood at all day, sweat dripping off his bald head, his bent fingers attaching cut stalks of broomcorn to brightly colored wooden handles with thick silver wire.

The sun beat on the factory’s metal roof, radiating heat directly inward. I sat near a glassless window on the edge of one of several dyeing tanks, my back to the wall, enjoying the Pacific breeze. An orange tabby cat with chewed-up ears and a white tipped tail trotted up and head-butted my legs, meowing loudly. I reached down and pulled him into my lap, his legs and claws extended. I could feel the rumble of his purring as I stroked his back. He gazed at me through half-closed eyes.

I leaned back against the wall and looked up at the pigeons cooing. The hot afternoon stretched out before me, much like the cat in my lap. The rhythmic machine sounds lulled me to sleep.

“COME ON, IT’S TIME,” came shouted up from below. Half awake, I stumbled to my feet.

The machinery was turned off and the sun had dropped a couple of inches toward the horizon. I heard a splash and a loud meow. The tabby cat-paddled in the three-foot-deep vat. It tried to climb out, complaining, and using the worst possible language.

The tank was filled with brilliant aniline dye used to color the broomcorn and give it that green industrial look. I snatched at the cat with my right hand, going for the scruff of his neck. But I missed and my arm went under to the elbow. On my second try I hauled the tabby up and out, causing more caterwauling and hindquarter flicking that added green stripes to my T-shirt but fortunately missed my face.

I dropped the cat and it low-tailed it down the stairs, past Grandpop and Hawkins who were going over last-minute paperwork. They broke into raucous laughter as the green streak shot by. The tabby stopped in the yard to lick his coat, which just turned the cat’s tongue an emerald shade.

“Oh Lord Almighty!” Hawkins exclaimed when he saw me clomp down the stairs. Both continued laughing. I thought they’d get sick.
Grandpop finally recovered. “Tony, that arm of yours is gonna stay green for a long, long time.”

“Really? Neat-o-rama. Wait til I show Rudy and Jeeder.”

“I’d worry more about your Mom and Dad,” Grandpop said, chortling. He handed me a rag and I dried off as best I could.

I was afraid the cat wouldn’t forgive me for dumping him in the tank. But during the remainder of that summer, when I’d visit Grandpop, the tabby would come up and nuzzle my legs and demand affection, although never when I was near the dyeing vats. Out in the yard, the ends of his fur caught the afternoon light and sparkled bright Kelly Green. I named him Kelly in honor of his dye job. By my next summer’s vacation at Grandmom’s he was almost normal color. By the summer after that he was gone.

About the author: Terry Sanville lives in San Luis Obispo, California with his artist-poet wife (his in-house editor) and one skinny cat (his in-house critic). He writes full time, producing short stories, essays, poems, an occasional play, and novels. Since 2005, his short stories have been accepted by more than 120 literary and commercial journals, magazines, and anthologies including the Fifth Wednesday Journal, Birmingham Arts Journal and Boston Literary Magazine. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for his story “The Sweeper.” Terry is a retired urban planner and an accomplished jazz and blues guitarist – who once played with a symphony orchestra backing up jazz legend George Shearing.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Payment Upon Publication

I have been paying as money allows, but from now on I'm going to pay on publication. This will also help keep me organized. I'll also add this on the submissions page. Thanks for reading!

Keep those meows coming!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Warrior Cat by Cornelia DeDona

Warrior Cat
by Cornelia DeDona

All hail Midnight,
black as a deep dark cave
your sleek fur, wet from battle
glistening under a full moon.
Fierce tom cat
mountain trails scream
and hiss your name
as you score another notch
on your untamed belt
a wide belt fashioned for conflict
ravaging feral females and reaping the spoils
of your conquest.
I am but a detour on your route.
I wait for days for you to return home
bloody and bruised
minus some fur
missing part of an ear
a long thick string
of slimy green snot.
accepting medicine
a rebel hungry
for food and affection.
Nudging me to
pet you and
pull on your tail
but just for a minute
barely a minute.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chasing Kittens by Matthew Dexter

Chasing Kittens

By Matthew Dexter

I joined the bowling league around the time we moved into the new house. It was a wise decision for us to switch neighborhoods, my wife was happy to see me smiling again and it was nice to make new friends after losing our son in the war. The old house wasn’t the same since Jamie got his head blown off by an improvised explosive device on Easter Sunday. The shadows hung across the front lawn differently, darker and more ominous. The windows were never open; mirrors reflected the sunlight at strange angles that made my wife cry every time she gazed up the staircase toward Jamie’s bedroom. The house smelled empty and the seat at the table seemed to be occupied by a ghost. We never spoke during meals. The ghost preferred his silence.

Our new house was a few miles closer to the city, smaller and what my wife called, “Not a fixer-upper, but a quiet little place to die in.” I did my end to try to bring her back to life. Her eyes were empty, but bowling kept me busy while she painted portraits of Jamie and “searched for nineteen years of answers while drinking black coffee.”

One evening after bowling I was strolling back toward the house from my car when something caught my attention: three white kittens running across the neighbor’s yard, into the alleyway behind the houses where the trash is kept and kids go to practice French kisses. I followed the kittens. “Meow,” I said, as I chased them across the grass and into the alleyway, white fur shimmering like a blanket of fresh snow beneath the moon.

“You cats are really fast,” I said, gasping for air, one hand on a trash can, the other on my hip. The kittens didn’t wait for me to catch my breath; they rounded the corner and disappeared into the starry night. I looked up at the little dipper, pulled a half-melted Snickers chocolate bar out of my bowling shirt breast pocket, and cursed the Milky Way Galaxy for taking my son. I saw a shooting star as tears trickled down both cheeks and I licked them and mixed their salt with the nuts and chocolate. “Meowww,” I said to the moon, walking back down the alleyway toward the entrance in the wooden fence that connected with our cluster of houses.

The wife was sleeping with the lights on when I entered the bedroom. “Where were you Tom?” she asked. Strange shadows collected, dancing over the bags beneath her eyes. “It’s after midnight ,” she said, “I’ve been out for hours, bowling ended at seven.” Better to tell her that I was out on the porch smoking a cigar than chasing the cats through the alleyways. “I was smoking a Cuban,” I said. I turned off the lamp on the nightstand and brushed the chunks of chocolate from my bowling clothes. “Aren’t ya gonna change into your pajamas?” she asked. I told her I had already brushed my teeth and was too tired. I didn’t like lying to the wife, but she wouldn’t understand. “Listen to those damn cats meowing all night,” she said. I nodded in darkness, licking the chocolate from the corners of my lips, stretching my tongue into the deepest reaches of my gums, I feel asleep.


Weeks went by with no change. I told my wife after bowling I was going out with the boys drinking, but I was really using those three majestic evenings of the week to run with kittens, through the alleyways full of garbage and illuminated by the moon. Many nights I could keep up with the critters for hours, skittering from one trash can to the next, often a half mile of adventures separated one putrid plastic receptacle from the last. Yet on those darkest evenings when there was extensive cloud coverage or precipitation the kittens would be difficult to follow, like shadows on the walls of an elaborate labyrinth.

I took each night with a grain of salt, crying beneath the moon, my pockets full of chocolate bars to entice the kittens. “Meowwwww,” I said to myself, giving up and giving in, beginning to listen to the words of my son spoken through the mellifluous tongues of the kittens, before making the marathon walk back toward the house around midnight .


I could see a sparkle in the yellow of their eyes as they licked the chocolate from my fingers. It melted into my palms and the kittens purred as I fed them beneath the moon. I figured that when it rained they abandoned me because the chocolate melted from my hands and kittens couldn’t smell so well when everything was wet. I reasoned that on evenings when it was especially dark they could easily eat better things: rats and small vermin that could not protect their carcasses in the densest of darkness. The three white kittens controlled the alleyway, patrolling and showing me love, bringing my son closer to home each month. “Meowww,” they said. I listened for hours.


I fed the kittens beer and they took naps when they were finished talking. They led me to a new treasure every night: a half-inflated rubber woman covered with fresh peanut butter, a vintage bowling ball bag stained by blood, a headless mannequin which the kittens used as a perch to purr beneath the full moon. Jamie told me about the accident; details more specific than the Marines listed in their report. I could hear his voice in the kittens. Their meows became distant, and my son spoke as I drank Keystone Light and sat in the alleyways smoking cigarettes. Every night the kittens led me further and the pieces of the puzzle from Afghanistan were coming together.


One night while especially drunk I heard the final story. Clouds kissed the moon. Kittens licked the chocolate from my wrists, their tongues and whiskers touching in an embrace of Christmas affection. The alleys were illuminated; the neon madness of pervasive holiday fashion. People were laughing; only I was crying, as the kittens told me about the sniper: “Dad, it was hotter than hell that afternoon, but we saw him sitting there on the hill. His rifle barrel was sticking out of the boulder--shining in the sun--pointed at my mates. He blew Captain Katz’s head off. We took him out with grenades, while the gunman pumped the rock full of lead. He was dead and all was calm.” The kittens licked my lips. Carolers were singing, salt was dripping into our mouths.

Jamie continued to speak through my furry friends: “We thought the situation was contained after that. We prepared the body with dignity Dad, called for a helicopter. We were all waiting when a kitten approached us from behind the cliff, purring and drinking from our canteens. I chased him toward the mountain into the heat haze. How could I know there was an IED in such a remote location? I didn’t mean to trigger it--didn’t mean to follow the kitten to obliteration--didn’t mean to take two friends with me.”

Bullets filled the air with celebratory gunfire; a Christmas tradition. The kittens were startled and bolted down the alleyway. I lost them in the madness and minutia of festive florescence. For hours I walked through the alley alone, stumbled home around dawn. “Where the hell where you Tom?” the wife asked. “With Jamie,” I said. She held my head and we began to cry. “Why’s there chocolate on your face?” she asked. “It’s a Milky Way,” I said, falling asleep in her arms, like a kitten beneath the trigger of an IED in Afghanistan .


When I woke the warmth of late afternoon was making dust balls dance before the window, casting strange shadows across the bed. I hadn’t slept this late in decades, not since receiving my honorable discharge from the Marines after Vietnam . The wife walked into the bedroom. She was twenty years younger than me, but her face looked the same age, as if the last three years, especially the last eight months, had weighed upon her features in dog years.

“You’re awake,” she said. There was a sparkle of life in her eyes. I hadn’t seen it since she heard the news about our son. She took my hand and led me down the stairs through the open front door, out onto the grass. Sitting there drinking from a bowl of warm milk were three white kittens, different in the daytime, as if I could only remember their faces in a dream. I smiled, went inside the house to shave, take a shower before bowling.

Before going into my car I invited the wife to join me. She smiled. I placed the kittens in the bowling bag we discovered weeks earlier. They purred as I closed the zipper, leaving an opening for them to breathe. I kissed my wife’s hand and opened the passenger door. She slid into the seat. I placed the bag of kittens on her lap.

We drove to the bowling alley holding hands. The kittens purred and licked my wife’s wrist as she giggled like a schoolgirl. The wrinkles on her face were beautiful, like the topographic map of a mountainous poppy field in Afghanistan . I searched for the circle in the center and smiled like I did when I first met her. I parked the car and we kissed. She pointed out the moon as she carried the kittens in the bowling bag. I kept my ball at the alley so the kittens were all we carried inside. The wife placed the bag on the plastic bench and I bought her a beer and she watched me put on my bowling shoes.

“Shiny and sporty,” she said. I smiled and kissed her again, unzipping the bag to let the kittens have more air.

“Get a strike honey,” my wife said. “Hell, yeah Dad, get a turkey--Semper Fi,” Jamie said. The kittens said: “Meowww.”

I stuck my thumb, middle and index fingers into the white ball and rolled it down the center of the lane, knocking down all ten pins. The three kittens jumped out of the bag and chased it down the alley, into the gutter.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Cat's Issues by Trish Wentling and Bad Cat (art) by Richard Cody

by Trish Wentling

Sitting on my wooden fence
In a tuxedo of black and white
Was my tomcat named Hortense.
I heard his desperate cry all night
Meowing at alley cats to be his friend.
Why he chose those
I will never know
Instead of his toy mouse
In the polka-dot pants.
I added toys that squeaked
And rubber frogs that leaped.
But still he headed outside
For the fence meowing with pride.
Phoning the vet, I hastily spewed the facts.
Vet's diagnosis: Turn him into an indoor cat.
I sleep better and stay awake all day
The little surgery put Hortense back on track.
But his yearning for females withered away.

Bad Cat (art) by Richard Cody

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Purrsonal Story Steel City Cats by Samantha Priestley

Steel City Cats
by Samantha Priestley

We had made up our minds. The time was right. My daughters had reached the responsible and more mature ages of 10 and 7. They were prepared. They had cleaned the house and bought the equipment ready for the arrival. We were about to get our first family cat.

I had always enjoyed having family cats when I was a child and I was eager to carry on the tradition my family had started. And when the lady from the Cat’s Protection here in Sheffield, England, came to see us for our home visit, she told us she already had a cat in mind that might suit us.

“He’s used to children,” she said, as my two daughters eagerly showed off the basket and feeding bowls they had bought ready for the arrival of their long awaited pet.

“And he’s an outgoing cat, playful, used to noise so he should fit in brilliantly here. In fact, if anything,” she went on. “He’ll find it quiet compared to what he’s used to.”

I had put off getting a cat for a while. My kids pestered me for months, maybe even over a year, before I decided they were ready to take on the responsibility of a cat. We’d done goldfish and a hamster, and I used to joke to them that we were working our way up in size, but in a way we were. It’s one thing for a child to take care of a fish or a hamster in a cage, quite another, I think, to handle and look after a cat.

But now we were ready and it seemed we might even have the perfect cat lined up for us. “He’s wicked,” The Cat’s Protection lady told us. “Really long, with this amazing tail that goes on forever.”

So we arranged a visit to the foster home and prepared ourselves to meet Charlie.

In the foster home Charlie was found striding through the house as if he owned it, his long tail following his body around doorframes and sofas like the curl of an aroma in the air. He was picked up and placed into my arms, his warm body relaxing as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I was sold there and then. He’s a beautiful cat, sleek, black with white stocking feet, tail end, belly and the cutest little face. I stood there with this cat that, in my head was now already mine, feeling totally at ease with him, when the foster lady said. “And this is his sister.”

There huddled up on the sofa was a little black bundle of fur. I heard my daughters both say “Ahhh,” and “She’s adorable.” And I could see this wasn’t going to be easy.

While I already loved Charlie, my two daughters had obviously fallen for Charlie’s sister, Fi-fi. It was impossible to choose of course and that day, as the foster lady assured us that looking after two cats is no different really to looking after one, we ended up taking both cats home with us.

But it became obvious on the way home that Charlie was not the tough cookie everybody thought he was. While Fi-fi bit at the carrying case and tried to claw her way out, Charlie just sat and shook. Once we got home we noticed Fi-fi grooming Charlie and looking after him while he was evidently still very upset. After a week or so Charlie was still reluctant to be stroked or touched at all and was scared of any loud noise or anyone who visited the house. More out of interest really I phoned the Cat’s Protection and asked if they knew where the cats had been found or what had happened to them, as Charlie was quite shaken by the experience of being brought into our home.

While it’s impossible to know if it is the cause of Charlie’s disposition or not, the Cat’s Protection very kindly informed us that the two cats had been found in a steelworks. Real Sheffield cats then, I thought. My dad worked in a steelworks and I remember as a young girl going along for the company’s ‘take your child to work day’. I walked, my little hand tight in my father’s, while booms went off in various
parts of the factory and sparks flew from machinery as we passed. The place was big, loud, hot and scary for me, so I can only imagine what it must have been like for a little kitten. I knew my grandfather had also worked in the steelworks and my husband’s father had also been employed in one of the many factories producing steel here in Sheffield for our famous knives and forks and other items of solid Sheffield
steel. Steel seems to permeate our family, from our fathers and grandfathers, right down to our pets it seems

A year on and I’m happy to say that Charlie is now fully at home with us. The kids pick him up, we all stroke him and he’s become a very affectionate cat indeed, although not quite the confident, swaggering cat everyone thought he was. It has taken time, gentle handling, patience and a lot of love to win the heart and trust of Charlie, but it’s been worth it. Fi-fi, on the other hand, is a girl who knows her own mind and will do what she wants when she wants. They have their own personalities, just like we all do, and are affected by their experiences, I expect, just like we all are.

One thing is for sure, I’m glad we brought both cats home that day. They are different in so many ways and have become a part of our family. I wouldn’t be without my steel city cats for the world.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Outside by Shannon Peil

by Shannon Peil


He's watching so very intently
as I pull up and park
and I can't even remember what it's like
to think 'outside' is so very exciting

Because I spend all this money every month
for a place to put my stuff in
with a roof

All he wants is to climb that tree
and roll around in the leaves I raked
he wants it so bad he'll dodge between my legs to escape
and once he's out there I'll spend all evening catching him
to put him back in a place he can't wait to run away from

is this love?