Friday, February 21, 2014

The Last Cat on Earth

Toby slipped on the thick leather jacket. He flipped up the collar to shield his neck and cheeks. Next came a second pair of jeans, buckling them over the tails of the jacket. Gloves and construction boots were necessary. He looked out the window as he donned the ski mask. He watched the undead shuffling on the street corners before flipping goggles to protect his eyes.

He couldn’t risk getting a speck on him. He was the last man who could do the job.

He followed the undead through the windows of his house. Two windows on the west wall, then the one next to the porch. Four of his former neighbors shambled along the driveways. Their eyes were blind, noses turned up to sniff. Maybe they could smell him. Or maybe they smelled Mr. Tibbs.

Scuffling rose behind him. Toby whirled and saw the basement door shake. He rushed over to it, but the button was depressed. It was locked. He heard his sister – his former sister – groaning down there.

He frowned at her through the door. She couldn’t do this job anymore.

“I’ll take care of it,” he told her. “Even though you know I never wanted it here. Do you know how dangerous it is?”

The deck door slid open quietly. There was a little whoosh of air, and then the saddest sound left on earth. A keening, churning whine. As much as he hated these things, it made even him feel a little sorry.

It padded around the plastic deck furniture. It arched its spine, so that when it walked between their legs it would rub its sides. Mr. Tibbs was a self-petter, but that wasn’t enough affection. Even self-rubbing, it looked so damned pathetic.

Toby drew a plastic sheet from the living room and closed the door. No sense in letting dander get inside. This was going to be an allergic nightmare as it was.

“I don’t like you any more than you like me,” he said down to it. It didn’t seem to dislike him, but cats lied with their faces. “This just doesn’t feel right. And you're not eating the food I throw out here. What's wrong?”

When Toby didn’t immediately pet the little bastard, it keened again. It sounded almost human. Kickably human. The kind of humanoid sorrow that’d haunted him up in his safely boarded study the last three days. His wonderful, hypoallergenic study with the view of the wonderfully silent, dander-free undead.

The plastic chair creaked as he squatted into it. He laid the plastic sheet over his chest and lap, hands flattening it into place over his jacket. When it was ready, he patted his thigh. Mr Tibbs quirked its wretched head, then began to climb into the last lap on earth. Even now, there was a little affection left in the world. But only a little. He’d kill the bastard if it got any hair on him.

Dedicated to Marshall, the cat that inspired this piece. Rest in peace, little guy.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

March is #NaNoReMo – Help me pick my book!

This March is National Novel Reading Month, dedicated to getting more people to read classic literature. It’s moved back from last year to help a few people’s schedules, and sits neatly in-between the U.S.’s Black History Month and the April A-to-Z Challenge.

We all have those books we’ve put off reading for too long. Maybe we’ve owned them, or eyed them in the library, or have just heard about them our whole lives. Each reader is responsible for what he or she thinks is a classic. Moby Dick and Wuthering Heights are classics to most people, but if Ray Bradbury looms heavily over you, then you get to Something Wicked This Way Comes

Then across March we all blog about our journeys through our classics. Does the book measure up? Are there things about it you're surprised you've never heard of? Even if you hate it (and I did, one year with Jane Austen), it's worth sharing the experience of canons.

Like the last two years, I’m asking for opinions on which classic I should knock off my list. Because writing my own novel is taking up a great deal of my mind and time, I’ve cut the 1,000+ page novels from the list. I simply wouldn’t do The Infinite Jest or Les Miserables justice this March. This leaves me with five possible books:

1. Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations
2. Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita
3. John Irving's The World According to Garp
4. Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities
5. Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita

I have only ever previously read Wolfe and Nabokov, but never these two particular great novels. Dickens is one of my great hollow spots, while The Master and Margarita is the most commonly recommended to me.

So, friends and fellow readers, which of these five do you most recommend?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bathroom Monologue: Hollow Tree

We laughed at prophecies that we'd be devoured by hollow trees. We didn't know "hollow tree" is arbor-speak for "house." Not until the ceilings caved.
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