Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Writer's Digest Short Story Entry

My animals have been disturbingly well-behaved as of late so today's post is my 2015 Writer's Digest Short Story entry for nothing more than entertainment value.

The silhouette splashed across the drawn blinds like some monstrosity out of a B horror movie. I nearly dropped the wineglass I was washing into the sink.

I reached over to pull the blinds up expecting to see something of tarantula proportions, but instead, perched nonchalantly on the glass between the screen and the window, was a rather pretty little spider with a perfectly compact body in the shape of the number 8. A vivid orange marking decorated his back. The late afternoon sun had caught the spider's shadow and enlarged it exponentially through the drawn blinds, nearly giving me a heart attack.

“You could have warned me,” I told him. “Sitting there, looking like Shelob spread across the window like that. Scare a decent person to death.”

“I'll give you three wishes,” the spider replied.

I paused, the wineglass I was washing still in my hand covered in sparkling bubbles.

“Spiders don't grant wishes,” I said. “That's what genies are for.”

“You see a lamp around here?”

A smartass spider. Even better.

“I wish you'd stay out there,” I said.

The spider raised his two little front paws up to his brilliant green fangs and appeared to give a polite bow.

“Your wish is my command.”

And with that my after breakfast guest crawled up the glass and disappeared at the top. I wasn't about to be fooled into believing in a wish-fulfilling spider just because he could talk and disappeared at my command. He probably didn't want to get squashed, though I'm not the spider squashing sort. It's true I prefer them outside. Upon finding one of the little buggers in my house, I drop a shot glass over it and then slip a small piece of paper under its little feet. Most of the time they sit on the paper and patiently wait for me to take the entire contraption outside where I gently drop them into the garden. They usually break their fall by releasing a single thread of their beautiful silk. The smaller ones I leave in the house. As long as they clean up the bug population, they are free to stay, provided they remain out of sight and don't try to join me in bed.

Sometimes it's a toss up who gets to the spider first, me or the cat.

This guy, though maybe not B movie-sized, was large enough that he made me slightly nervous about welcoming him in my house.

A week later I walked into the kitchen to make an espresso and there in the middle of the white tile of my counter top sat my green-fanged, orange-decorated, little friend. He appeared to be preening, admiring his reflection in the stainless steel side of the espresso machine.

“Good morning. May I offer you a cup of espresso?” he said as though his taking up residence in the kitchen was the most natural thing in the world. He gestured to the espresso machine with his two front paws like a maitré d showing me the best table in the house. His orange marking almost resembled a bow tie though it was on the wrong part of his body. The rest of him was dotted with white like a tiny tuxedo.

I stared at him momentarily perplexed and speechless.

“Two wishes,” he said.

“I thought I wished you to stay outside,” I told him.

He rubbed his two front legs together thoughtfully. “Well, you did. And I did. But you still have two wishes left.”

“That's why you're here? To grant me my wishes?”

“I waited in the garden, but you never came,” he sighed. “You do know, I hope, that I haven't got all the time in the world. It's almost winter and I have plans for Halloween.”

No doubt to pose in somebody's fake spiderweb and scare the heck out of the trick-or-treaters. I briefly considered using him as my own prop in an art project.

“Don't even think about it,” he said.

“Do you have a name?”

“Fred,” he replied, tapping his front legs one at a time on the tile. “Just call me Fred.” Tap tap tap. “I'm a Bold Jumping Spider.” Tap tap tap. “We're good luck.”

“Well, Fred, you are quite pretty, but I'm not sure I want to share my house with you.”

“You're stuck with me for now,” he said. “At least until I find a mate. Then I'm afraid it might be all over for me.”

“You'll grant me any wish?” I asked. “Any wish at all?”

“Within reason,” he said, scuttling sideways in a little dance. “I mean, I can't bring George Washington back to life or bring Russell back to you, but you know, there is your artwork to consider and it's really not that bad.”

I regarded the spider. “How do you know about all that?” Not many people knew about my art. I had all but given up at this point and kept it as a secret indulgence just for myself.

“Dream weaver,” he said, waving his paws at me, though I knew spider silk came from the rear. “We know everything.” He sat up on his rump, balancing himself on his two back legs. “I am the embodiment of your creativity.”

Cheeky bastard.

“Don't let my cat see you doing that,” I said. “Behaving like a circus act would get her all excited.”

“Don't be rude,” he countered. “And stop changing the subject.”

“How did you know about Russell?”

He gave a smirk. “Everyone knows about Russell, my dear.”

I supposed he was right. I had loved nothing as much as my art and Russell. But back to the subject at hand.

“All right then, I wouldn't mind selling my best piece for a million dollars.”

“Small steps, my friend, small steps.”

“A gallery show?”

“Is that an official wish?”

I shrugged. “Sure.”

“Your enthusiasm is overwhelming. Please try to restrain yourself.”

As I mentioned before, I had all but given up ever being a professional artist. I was enthusiastic about my art, but the enthusiasm of others for it left a lot to be desired. 

I glared at him. “I wish for a successful gallery show.”

“Your wish is my command,” Fred said baring his green fangs in a grin.

“Thank you. But now, Fred my friend, you are out of here.” I grabbed my shot glass and tried to drop it over him. He jumped sideways into the sink, achieving some pretty impressive air. I panicked thinking he was going to fall right down the drain.

“Fred! Are you trying to kill yourself?”

He glared at me with his spider goggles.

I managed to get the shot glass over him after a few more hops around the stainless steel of the sink and slipped a piece of paper under his feet.

“This hurts me more than it does you,” I said as I carried Fred, the glass, and the piece of paper out into the garden. I set Fred free among a beautiful spray of late blooming roses.

“I'll be back,” he said as he crawled off on his irregular gait, looking for a meal. I pitied the grasshopper he was sure to unearth.

Nine months later having just returned from a very successful art gallery tour, I noticed a beautiful fuzzy spider with emerald green fangs and an orange marking on his back sitting calmly on the counter beside the espresso machine.

He seemed larger and quite well fed.

“Hello, again,” he said. “Still got one wish.”

“Fred, I haven't seen you in quite some time,” I said.

“You've been getting on quite well,” he said. “Congratulations on your success. My work, however, is not yet finished. You're still spinning your web. You still have the one wish.”

I thought about what he had said regarding finding a mate. “Fred, I wish you a long and fruitful life.”

“Your wish is my command.”

The next morning when I got up to prepare an espresso, lined up along the edge of my kitchen sink were six little black spiders with perfect little bodies in the shape of the number 8.

“Good morning,” they said all together in their tiny high-pitched voices. “You have three wishes.”

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Who Are You and What Have You Done With My Pets?

The food saga has actually turned out quite tame and all four pets have been rather quiet and subdued as of late.

It's unnerving.

After a couple of days of dirty looks and reluctant munching, Puckett and Percy have embraced their new food enthusiastically and without incident.  Willow continues to turn up that pug nose of hers and will only eat three or four kernels of the original food in her cage where no one can see or bother her.  She is still a bit of an airhead about it though.  I fill her bowl and call her to come upstairs and jump in her cage and she will dance around in the kitchen mewing and watching me walk away with this look on her face like I'm taking sustenance right out from under her nose.  We go through this dance every day.  It's been over two months.

Other than that though, the animals are quiet.  Tess spends her days sacked out on the porch watching the world go by.  She doesn't even dance through the yard, chasing birds anymore. She barely barks at anything.  In the house she lays on her bed or on the kitchen floor and watches me with big eyes.  She will be eight years old in March so perhaps she is just getting older, but whenever I take her out for a walk or a run she has her old energy back and tears around like a puppy.  She plays with the Cowboy like she's still a puppy too.  She could be depressed because of the weather.  Or something else is up.

Puckett sits on her "throne" (a rather large box) and surveys her kingdom.  She doesn't even boss the other animals around anymore like she used to.  She just sits and glares at everyone.  And she definitely does not follow me around the house in the morning chirping and demanding affection.  She just gives me the hairy eyeball like I've done something.

Even Percy is subdued.  He usually runs around the house every morning announcing to the world that it's litter box time and then spends an eternity scratching the litter around.  Then he gets out of the box and runs through the annoucing that he is finished with his business.  Lately, he's in the box and out of it.  Then he goes and sacks out by the heater. Granted his normal bathroom behavior is rather annoying and gets old, but this new behavior is more worrisome if for no other reason, I feel like aliens have body snatched my animals and replaced them with Stepford "pet-bots." 

It's actually really just the worst thing.  Either everyone has had it with winter (and who could blame them, really) or else they are on especially good behavior because they have something really wicked up their sleeves, something extremely diabolical planned for me.

I'm having trouble sleeping at night.

Friday, February 6, 2015

How Dare You!

Willow has outdone herself at the same time as maintaining that she is indeed the most finicky, sensitive, and high maintenance of all my pets.  With a dog who has issues with other dogs and being away from home and another cat who has nonstop stomach issues, that is saying a lot.  I have been called high maintenance by ex-boyfriends and other men who decided they'd rather not date me.  I never thought of myself as high maintenance and then it occurred to me after this latest fiasco.  Maybe it's not me.  Maybe they just meet my pets and run for the  hills.

The high maintenance performance actually began with Percy.  Precious darling has developed a tummy issue.  Three times a day he has the trots something awful, proceeds to stink up the house and foul the litter boxes (yes, all of them) and then slams water like it's going out of style.  I thought kitty had stomach cancer and rushed him to the vet where he received a complete work over.  It turns out darling's tum-tum is just sensitive and he probably has food allergies or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Considering what this cat will ingest given the opportunity, IBS does not surprise me.  Food allergies, on the other hand, are extremely inconvenient for me, never mind that I embrace my gluten intolerance that makes me an inconvenience for everyone else.  Particularly at dinner parties.

But I digress.

I have been feeding Their Royal Highnesses the most high quality, high protein pet food I can find since researching that commercial pet food is basically junk food for animals.  Tess, the German shepherd with the tender tummy herself, can't handle commercial food anyway so I thought I was doing all my pets a favor by feeding them the high quality stuff.  Apparently Percy's tummy is even more tender than Tess' and now he's on an even more special diet.  The vet recommended Science Diet I/D.  I have fed this to pets before.  It's supposed to be super gentle on tummies.  The vet also said to just switch the food out and all three cats can eat it.  It's meant for sensitive tummies and therefore everyone can have it.  I took the bag home and filled three bowls with it. I wasn't too worried about Percy.  He actually will eat anything.  I was most worried about Willow as she despises change and every little thing makes her freak out (and express her opinion on the floor beside the litter box).  Puckett I'm never sure about.  She usually expresses her displeasure by pooping in my shoe.  Willow walked up to the bowls first and sniffed each bowl one way.  Then she sniffed them backwards.  Then she wrinkled her nose and stepped back.  Next came Puckett.  She sniffed each bowl.  Then she sniffed them backwards.  Then she sat back as well.  Percy came last.  He sniffed each bowl one way, then the opposite way, then the first way again and finally began hogging out on the middle bowl.  The other two cats joined him again as if thinking, "Hey, the old food magically appeared!"  Willow turned away immediately after sniffing and jumped on the box sitting on my kitchen floor.  She glared at me with one very pissed off expression like I just performed a betrayal of epic proportions.  Puckett watched Percy hog out for a moment, then smacked his ear to move him over to the next bowl.  She sniffed where Percy had been eating, then turned and returned to her bed, kneading it and purring loudly.  At this point I'm still not sure if she's fine with the food and just not hungry, or if she's going to leave me a gift later this evening.  I decided for as sensitive and finicky as Willow is, I would feed her in her cage with the old food.  I'm a bit worried she might decide to start peeing on the floor again.  I just got her to stop that (again).  I plopped her and her bowl of (regular) food in the cage and closed the door.  Usually when I put her in her cage, she eats a little something, maybe uses her litter box, then jumps into her kitty bed and takes a nap.  This time she sat frozen on the floor of her cage glaring at me through the bars.  She sniffed her bowl then looked up at me again, her face promising horrible things to come when I get home from work.  If looks could kill, I would probably be having my face eaten by all three of them at this point.

The world has wronged her and I have a feeling she isn't going to take it lying down.