Writing Practice – 8/26/2018

Sara’s Game (Book 1) – nook p. 100

“Sara wadded up the slip of paper and threw it at the cage wall, toward the tall man’s face.”

He ducked, slowly though, and it slid through the bars and hit his shoulder. She knew she was taunting him, torturing him, and it felt good. “There,” she said. “Eat that.”

He knelt down and picked it up. From behind the cage walls he looked as if he’d shrunken six inches in the last two days. And why shouldn’t he? He’d lost everything – freedom, hope, even, it seemed, the will to live. His long fingers stretched to pick up the crumpled wad of paper, on which he’d written, in his own blood apparently, PLEASE LET ME GO. When he passed it to her, silent, pleading with his eyes because his tongue couldn’t work any longer, because it was lying ten feet away in the dirt, flies already attracted to the rotting flesh, he hadn’t been able to meet her gaze. Her, the tormentor, the captor, the role-reverser.

Her, the one who’d taken him prisoner and thus begun her revenge just twenty-four hours earlier. Her, the one who’d been severely traumatized by this same man twenty years earlier. Her, who had spent years and years in the meantime plotting this revenge, this retribution, this justice that was so far from coming in the “injustice” system that was the courts. Justice? Ha! She’d seen what justice looked like when the judge did not believe a nineteen-year-old girl about the horrors this forty-one-year old had inflicted upon her. Injustice when they said that the statute of limitations had expired. Justice? To say that simply because it was way back in the past it didn’t matter, didn’t count, or still wasn’t impacting her daily life?

Sara had accepted his note, had read it, had crumpled it up and tossed it back in his face. He did pick it up, then, unfolded it, and turned it to show her. He held it upside down.

She laughed. “Damn,” she said, and reached in the bars to right the paper. “It goes this—

He grabbed her hand and yanked her towards the bars. Out of his mouth came a spew of blood, spraying her eyes and blinding her. The shock startled her, and before she could react he had his other hand too through the bars onto hers, and she was somehow now pinned against the wall of the cage with her arms trapped inside, held in a vise grip of his two stronger ones.

“Oh fuck,” she thought. “Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck-“

Writing Practice 7/30/2018

From Telling Stories, page 405

“I am now a very old man and this is something that happened to me when I was very young – only nine years old.”

And though I say it happened “to” me, there is still some part of me that knows I was not completely innocent in it all. Not a bystander – I did my part.

It was a Thursday afternoon in the fall, I think September, and I was walking home from school. Back in those days we were allowed to do that, because it was the seventies, and people trusted one another more. Often, but not always, I walked with two others on my block who went to the same elementary. They had gone on ahead that day, for I stayed behind to chat with the janitor. I liked the way his closet of supplies smelled, so I would sometimes chat him up.

They went ahead, so I walked alone. As I was alone on the sidewalk, I saw, when I was about halfway home, a strange cat on the other side of the street. I stopped. I stared at the cat. The cat stared at me. I watched it, expecting it to run away, or maybe fearing it would attack me, but neither happened. It remained crouched on its hind legs, about fifteen feet away on the other sidewalk.

I reached into my bag. I pulled out the remainder of my lunch – a tuna fish sandwich. Now whether that is fate or luck, I have not yet decided, even though it has been fifty years or more since that day. But, I had tuna fish, and the cat, scrawny, dirty, scabs across one ear and it looked like a few whiskers had been pulled out, his orange-and-white fur looking more like rust-and-brown river water, waited. He stared at me as I approached starting across the street. By the time I was halfway I could see the fear had crept into his eyes, and he turned slightly to run.

So I stopped. I stopped in the middle of the street and I backed up two steps. The cat relaxed just slightly, and I knew it wouldn’t run away then. I crouched down, and then gently placed the tuna fish sandwich, open-faced, on the blacktop, still warm from the sun’s rays, and backed away.

It took him a minute to sniff the air. He slowly, and with great, and reasonable, caution, stepped into the street. Two paces, then four, his feet padded silently. I knew he’d been just barely getting by, and he and I could tell this would be a feast. Maybe more than he’d had in a week. His nose twitched, whiskers flicking the air. His tail lowered, as if he were going to pounce.

He stalked that sandwich, then, for at least five minutes. He took his time, eyes back and forth from it to me to scanning his surroundings. Finally, though, he reached close enough for a taste.

His tongue flicked out, once, twice, three times. I knew he could taste the flesh, and the mayonaise, that my mother used. Even the added salt and perhaps he would skip the little celery bits. I don’t know, but after a couple of tastes he dove in. His eyes closed and he started gulping down huge mouthfuls of fish, satisfying, or at least staving off, a hunger that must have been gnawing at him for days, a week.

His eyes closed, then, and my concentration fully devoted to him, meant that neither of us saw it until it was too late. The Studebaker appeared almost out of nowhere, a silent beast looming immediately over our silent conclave. It struck him just as he noticed it, for his head started to rise up and turn out of the way. I, too shocked to do anything, stood, mouth wide open, as I saw the cat’s orange-and-white body spin off into the ditch, tumbling down and rolling to a stop at the bottom.

The car did not, however, stop. It rolled along as if nothing happened. And I, I strode over to where the cat lay, dazed, stunned, broken and now bleeding again from new wounds and old ones reopened. The grass began to color with his red blood leaking out. He made no noise; he opened no eyes. Were it not for the incomprehensible twist of his back, he might have appeared to be sleeping.

His rib cage, thin, angular, rose a few times, in a slowing rhythm. His back legs twitched once, then again, and then stopped. I stood, silent vigil, and watched as this creature, this being I had never known until ten minutes before, breathed its last. I looked back out to he road and saw the sandwich still sitting there, warming in the residue of the sun’s radiant heat from the road surface. I saw, far off in the distance, the town center and other cars going about their own business. I looked at my hands, hands which had only just now been the cause of another’s death, and I did not cry.

I’ve often wondered why I did not cry. Was it because I did not know what happened? Or because I did not care? Maybe shock? Or just generally too young to realize how permanent death is, even to a creature such as a stray cat? I do not know. Maybe I never will. But I have told this story to a dozen different therapists, ministers, friends, and lovers over the years, asking that question – why not? – and none has ever been able to give me a satisfactory answer. Perhaps none ever will. Until one does, the, I will keep asking, keep seeking. I can do no other.