Extreme Writing Challenge #27: “Helena”

I had every intention of writing a story without the letter T, but that did NOT go well.  I underestimated just what I was taking on!  That will be an upcoming post, but it isn’t happening tonight.  😀  So instead, here’s a different challenge.  Enjoy, and the challenge will be revealed at the end!


Alan’s boss had suggested he take a vacation—demanded it, actually.  He was suffocating.  He’d dissolved into a catatonic ghost of what was once Employee of the Month for a year running.

Alan sought simplification in a small city in Montana.  He wandered the streets, trying to duplicate the excitement he’d felt as an exchange student in France.  Back then, the mystery of a new place was enough to intoxicate him.  As he roamed the streets of Helena, unchanged by its newness, Alan’s greatest fear was that he could not escape the monotony of his life unscathed.

He walked for so long that the buildings around him began to blend together, until Helena’s majestic cathedral jumped out at him.  Alan swallowed a lump of regret as he recalled the day he’d been excommunicated from the church.  When it happened, he’d felt vindicated.  He was 26 then, shameless and provocative.  He’d have never guessed that his lifestyle would eventually dislocate him from an admirable future.

Alan returned to the motel with a scattered mind.  He was no closer to resolving his emotional catastrophe.  He lied down and willed his mind to eradicate his troubles, and that’s when he heard the cat meowing at the door.  He opened the door to tell it to scat, but the orange tabby invited itself inside.

The motel manager told Alan he’d tried for years to locate the cat’s owner.  Every night, Alan fed the cat scraps from the lunches he got at the delicatessen down the street.  He’d never been a cat owner and was surprised to learn that the tabby reciprocated his affability.

When the day of his return home arrived, Alan could no longer deny that the tabby cat had become his catharsis.  He loaded his belongings into his car and vacated his motel room with the cat in tow.  Maybe Alan was simply lonely; but maybe this animal was a catalyst for realizing that it was possible to fill the empty spaces in his life.

Alan used his last vacation day to purchase food, toys, and catnip for his new friend Helena.  He put on a Beatles record and, as With a Little Help from My Friends started to play, he ran his fingers over Helena’s back and said, “I dedicate this song to you.”


The challenge?  The word “cat” appears at least once in every sentence, and in each sentence it must be used in a word not yet used in the story.



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