Break Time–or, a Story Called “Cat Nap”

Tonight’s writing challenge is…

Actually, there isn’t a challenge for tonight’s story.  As much fun as my extreme writing challenges are, sometimes a girl just wants to write with no constraints.

I’ve been asked before why I torture myself with my restricting challenges.  I always give those people the spiel about how they teach me about the flexibility of the English language and help me to convey single ideas in an endless number of ways.  But the truth is, most of the writing I do isn’t constrained like it is in my stories here.  I want to share a story I would write without any limitations.  So, enjoy.  Next post will be business as usual.  😉

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There is no better napping place than Her stomach. Especially on the days she wears those wool sweaters. Nothing beats the moment she grabs a book and sits on the seat built into the window. The sun hits her just perfectly and I’ll lie on her stomach from the first page to the last.

It’s always been this way. The day she brought me home, she set me on her abdomen and introduced me to a warmth I’d never known. It was a drug I never gave up. Even when I grew and I could only lie on her stomach with my paws on her chest, reaching for her face.

Things changed, though. At first I couldn’t complain that her stomach was warmer than usual. Extra heat, yes please!

When my favorite napping place began to morph into a mound not fit for comfortable sleep, I grew a little worried. Was it a punishment? Did I eat one too many leaves off of the fern in the front window? Had I left paw print evidence of my midnight adventures on the kitchen counter?

Before long, her stomach was so big and round it wasn’t only uncomfortable, but it was impossible to lie upon it. When I tried, I either rolled right off or the lump in her shirt would kick me. I resorted to sleeping in the fresh laundry, no matter how much she scolded me. Fair is fair.

I barely noticed when her belly returned to normal. The return of my napping refuge came at the price of a new creature invading my territory. It was my size and kept low to the ground like I do, but it smelled suspiciously like a bath and elicited screeches that could break a deaf cat’s ears. The creature was almost permanently affixed to the warm belly I once napped upon. I was left to perch myself on the back of the sofa and look down upon the squealing thief in my spot.

For several years I endured the inconveniences of the creature’s presence. It stole my mousie toys and for a brief period even helped itself to my food. Only after it was locked in its bedroom was I free to curl up in my usual spot on her stomach, and only if I could catch her on the sofa before she found something to scrub or sweep or dust.

I accepted this new lifestyle eventually—against my will, of course. The creature began to grow, and the larger it became, the more belly time I seemed to procure.

On a winter night, she was cooking in the kitchen and the creature sat calmly in front of the television. Approaching with caution, I surveyed the creature as I cursed the cold air that had seeped in from the outside. The creature’s stomach looked almost big enough to lie upon. It was a risk, but it was one worth taking.

There is no better napping place than Her stomach. But in a pinch, the creature is just as happy to have me on his.

Extreme Writing Challenge #45: “Memoir”

I’m having one of those Saturday mornings in which I was sure I’d had a million things I wanted to accomplish before my husband and stepson get out of bed, but now I can’t remember a single one.  So instead, I wrote a story.  As I was writing, I had that TV show  Lottery Changed My Life on in the background.  It featured a man who won the lottery and held on to all of his winnings so he could buy suits and spoil all of his cats rotten.  At first, I wondered how you could win millions and not at least treat yourself to a mansion or a few nice cars…and that curiosity was immediately followed by my imagining what I would buy for my cats if I were to win the lottery.

Don’t tell my husband I said that.  Please.

No, this isn’t how I’d use my lottery winnings. Okay, maybe a little. (Source: http://www.wallpaperspoints.com)

Here’s a new story for you.  The challenge, as usual, follows the story at the bottom.  Happy Saturday!

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Chip took the shuttle from the hotel to the airport, wearing a rumpled suit and a cracked pair of sunglasses. His luggage still sat on his hotel bed. In his hand was a half-eaten breakfast burrito he’d swiped from the continental breakfast room. The bus driver laughed and said to Chip, “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes?” Chip thought she sounded like a cartoon villain. He liked that.

The trip had been more of a splurge than Chip could afford. He’d find it all funnier if it hadn’t ended exactly as he had feared. The predictability of it all caused Chip to shudder. Things would have been so simple if Dixon-Waite had just agreed to publish his memoir. Chip had flown across the country, sucking his bank account dry, and those fuckers called security to escort him out of the building. It was borderline abusive, Chip thought. They’d tugged on his shirt collar—he could have choked! Okay, maybe he’d been a little grouchy with the receptionist. And yes, he’d pushed his way through the double doors that led to Mr. Waite’s office, interrupting an important meeting. He only wanted to ask why. Why not give the man at the bottom a chance.

Chip had seen something like this once in a movie. He’d studied every hand movement and every intonation of the protagonist. He had it in the bag, Chip did. The trouble was, this was not a movie and Mr. Waite was not entertained by Chip’s character. Security dragged Chip out of the building, reminding Chip of his younger days of getting tossed from a club by a burly bouncer. It was all in his memoir, if Mr. Waite would bother to read it.

A smart man would have taken a hint. But Chip was an amateur. He threw a weak punch at the security guard, a blunder that landed Chip in a headlock with his arm twisted like a licorice rope. The encounter grew from a meek scuffle to a full-on brawl that ended with the security guard calling the police.

Chip took off running for the hotel. The security guard was hot on his feet. Once in the hotel lobby, Chip was sure he’d lost him, until he saw the guard approach the front desk. My name, Chip thought, Mr. Waite knows my name. He took a detour through the breakfast room and slipped out a side door of the hotel, hopping on the shuttle that was just pulling away. His flight was hours away. Maybe he could make a round trip and sneak up for his luggage. He patted his wallet, secured in his chest pocket, to be sure he had it on him. Just in case.

On the bright side, Chip had a great new story to add to his memoir.

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The challenge was:  The story contains at least 25 seven-letter words that contain the letter U.

 

Blocked

It’s been…over two weeks since my last post.  I could blame it on the fact that my mother-in-law came all the way from Maryland for a ten-day visit.  I could blame it on the fact that I’ve been running until my legs turn into pudding as I train for the 10k I recently signed up for.  (I still suspect I had been drugged at the time.)  I could blame it on the fact that I’m writing a memoir.  Unfortunately, I can’t blame any of those things.  The truth is, guys, I straight-up have a miserable case of [bleeping] writer’s block.

Let me prove it.  Here is a picture of (some of) the various scraps of paper on which I’ve jotted down the beginnings of stories that went a whole lot of nowhere:

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And that picture doesn’t include all of the stories I’ve started…and scrapped…on my computer.  It got so bad, I even made a list of the things that usually inspire me.

1.  The soundtrack to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
2.  The Sixteen Horsepower station on Pandora.
3.  Watching children playing.
4.  Sipping a glass of wine.
5.  Going somewhere new for the first time (even if it’s just a street in my city I’ve never been down before).
6.  People watching in crowded places.
7.  Running.

My writer’s block isn’t from a lack of ideas.  I’ve got ideas coming out of my arse.  (Not literally.)  It’s just that after the first paragraph or two, my mind just goes BLANK.  As easily as turning a light switch on and off.

So, my sincerest apologies for the lack of new stories.  I’m Determined (with a capital D) to finish the story I’m currently working on.  I just felt that, in the meantime, I should probably post something and admit that, challenge myself as I might, I’m still not immune to the writer’s block monster that gets us all at one point or another.

Source: http://www.icanhascheezburger.com

This Week’s Babble

Random thoughts, observations, and conversations from the week of March 9, 2014.

Orville (cat) growls at nearly every noise he hears outside.  Unfortunately, he sounds like one of those slow, long farts that escapes after one loses the battle with trying to hold it in.

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It’s strange to be in the restroom at work and see the same shoes you’re wearing on the floor in the stall next to you.

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When your biggest fears are spiders, car wrecks, and the apocalypse, it’s frustrating that most of your dreams are about spiders, car wrecks, and the apocalypse. 

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Random tidbits from the Shamrock Shuffle race:

1) 5k finish time:  29:04.  Personal record!
2) Billy (husband) finished his first half marathon in two hours, ten minutes.
3) There’s no high quite like being cheered on as you cross the finish line.
4) I had my first green beer after I finished the race.  I was disappointed to discover it still just tastes like beer.
5) Dogs can finish half marathons and look just as energized as if they’d woken up from a five-hour nap.
6) When I have a baby, no matter how athletic I am, I will never be badass enough to push a stroller for an entire race.
7) A surefire way to feel ridiculous is to be passed by a runner wearing a shirt that says “Mommy-to-be.”

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A friend held her birthday party tonight at Bodovino.  At one point during the night, I caught her staring at me with a strange expression on her face, and then she said, “Meow?”  I wondered if she was trying to determine whether or not I speak Cat, but it turns out she was cracking a joke about some cat-fur-like attire belonging to another patron.

Source: http://www.space-cow.com

Extreme Writing Challenge #36: “Abduction”

Let’s all admit it: this time change is kicking our butts.  (Okay, Hawaiians and Arizonans excluded.  And anyone who doesn’t live in the US.  You know what?  Just forget it.  I’m probably just being a wuss anyhow.)  Although this is my third day as a complete zombie, I am quite enjoying the extra sunshine.  So is Winston, who was basking in the sun this evening as I was cooking dinner.  That’s right…cooking dinner while the sun is still shining outside.  AWWW YEAH.

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I guess the title of this post did kind of promise a story, didn’t it?  Without further adieu…  (Challenge is revealed at the end!)

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Standing over Ted’s bed, Anita says, “What do you remember?”  The window is half open, blowing in the refreshing breath of summer.  Ted wishes it would blow everything away—the chaos dancing in his skull, the fire in his gut, the nauseating vividness of his memories.

The night he was abducted, Ted had been at his brother’s wedding reception, drinking white wine and dancing the mamba.  He’d stepped outside to have a cigarette when a surge of pain coated his head, like he’d been hit with a hammer.  In just the second it took Ted to blink, he found he’d been transported to what appeared to be a museum.  Lying flat on his back, he was surrounded by sculptures of bodies, plastic skeletons, and thousands of body parts that had been embalmed.

Ted rolled to one side to see a group of creatures wrapped in leathery green strips of fabric, as if they’d been mummified.  They hovered around Ted and began taking his measurements.  The creatures worked in silence and ignored his efforts to try and communicate.  He yelled, he shrieked, he wriggled and kicked, but the creatures pinned Ted down and suppressed his movement.

Ted tried to ignore that he was surrounded by jars of brains, fingers, and tongues—tried to push away his fears of the horrible acts these creatures were about to commit.  The creatures covered his head with a foil sack and the silent air filled with buzzes, beeps, and clangs, leaving Ted to faint over the commotion.

Now, in his parents’ house, Ted sips at a cup of liqueur-laced coffee with his mom.  He stares at the stub where his left leg used to be, considering the prosthetic the doctors recommended.  He wants to feel lucky that he woke up in the hospital to the sight of his little sister, Emma.  Lucky that the doctors describe his recovery as immaculate.  Ted knows he will feel lucky, one day, but for now he’s still haunted, unable to live in the moment.  Even though he survived, Ted wonders if the creatures will ever return and let the research commence.

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And the challenge for this story was:  The last word of every sentence contains at least two Ms, but the letter M does not appear anywhere else in the story.

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Extreme Writing Challenge #35: “Kristina”

Source: funcatpictures.com

Let me set the scene right now:  troops of raindrops marching across the roof, homemade pizza in the oven, and an “it’s-almost-Friday” electricity in the air.  It’s also worth mentioning that my pizza is topped with some of the bacon cheddar cheese I recently purchased at the Trader Joe’s that just opened up in my city.  Top this off with the fact that a new episode of The Big Bang Theory is on tonight, and you have one crazy happy woman right here.  (Minus the big, fat spider my cats just found.  Nothing happy about that.)

Okay, let’s dive into this story business.  You’ll find the challenge at the end of the post!

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Kristina was pretty, but not the kind of pretty like on the covers of the magazines she got when she went into town.  The warm, fetid smell of cow dung clung to her skin like a parasite, and her nose was always just a shade lighter than the fresh-picked red apples her mom served for dessert.  Yet it surprised no one when I admitted I’d fallen hard for her.

I met Kristina purely by accident, but not the kind of accident like the both of us grabbing the same eggplant at the grocery store and my walking away with her phone number.  It was May and I was on my way to talk to Barry Bowers, who was selling a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette.  On a sprawl of farmland that grew a meter for every inch I advanced into it, none of the dwellings was marked with an address.  Barry had told me he was two miles past the Blacksmith Ranch.  By now I was sure I’d gone two miles or more, so I pulled over at a split-level with a tattered American flag softly swaying on a short pole next to the front window.

In the front yard, Kristina was hunched over a muscular black lab, clutching his collar in one hand and a garden hose in the other.  The dog began to whine as I drew closer.  Kristina tossed the hose into the grass and rose halfway, still holding the dog back.  Her bangs were matted to her face and a smudge of dirt sat on the very center of her chin.  She was plump, but not the kind of plump that suggests she didn’t care for herself.

“Howdy,” I called.  “Is this where I can find Barry Bowers?”

“Stay,” she told the dog.  Drawing closer, she dabbed her palms with her shirt.  “He’s still, oh, half a mile down that way.”  She waved her hand to the north.  For the first time since I’d exited my car, Kristina glanced at my face rather than some abstract spot below my neck.  The enlargement of her eyes told me she knew exactly who I was.  She didn’t say that she did, but she knew.

Behind me, a bird whistled a disarranged song.  I willed my eyes to part from hers, but they resisted.  Her small eyes–no mascara and no eye shadow—were just chocolate gems as pure as a newborn’s.  It was love at first sight, but not the kind of love that hits so hard and so fast it crashes and burns.

“I…have to go,” I muttered, somehow knowing this wasn’t the last involvement I’d have with her.

We eloped in Vegas ten months later. Kristina was stunning, baring her slightly yellowed smile and her clusters of freckles. I sent the photos to a celebrity columnist for The Los Angeles Times.  They all expected my wife to be thin.  Tan.  Blonde.  Dazzling.  Kristina was nothing like that, and that’s why I loved her.

We lived happily ever after, but not the kind of happily ever after I have to describe.  All that matters is that it happened, and it happened with Kristina.

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The challenge for this story was:  There are no words containing two or more consecutive vowels.

Hope everyone has a great Friday and an even greater weekend!

This Week’s Babble

Random thoughts, observations, and conversations from the week of February 24, 2014.

You know you’re married to a bike nerd when you find a bike in your bathtub.

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Since when do I voluntarily scope out recipes for brownies made with zucchini?  Someone has hijacked my brain.  I’m sure of it.

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Winston was asleep and began twitching, obviously dreaming.  After several moments he began to meow and chirp as he continued to twitch with his eyes closed.  When he finally woke up, he looked around the room with a discombobulated expression.

It makes me wonder, can cats tell the difference between dreams and reality?

Cat dreams:  where they always catch the red dot and everything they touch turns into an empty box.
Cat dreams: where they always catch the red dot and everything they touch turns into an empty box.

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Today I purchased a wedge of bacon cheddar cheese.  I haven’t stopped drooling since.

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Treadmill run:  Four miles (first time ever!) in 39.5 minutes.

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I love what I do at work, but management is so dysfunctional that it’s easy to get caught up in a web of complaining and ranting.  It makes the office feel toxic at times.

I promised myself that every time I would normally complain to someone about something work-related, I would withhold and write my complaints in my journal instead.  I want to contribute less to the poisonous vibe in the office.

By the time I got home from work, I no longer felt the need to write down what I’d wanted to complain about throughout the day.  These things are all in the past, and though annoying, they weren’t so significant that they truly affected my life.

What an amazing revelation.  Just let it pass.  Some things only “matter” in the  moment.

This Week’s Babble

Random thoughts, observations, and conversations from this past week.

Run4Luv 5k results:  Billy placed 22nd overall and I placed 23rd.  I was #3 in my age group and Billy was #1 in his.  Next is the Shamrock Shuffle!

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A woman was walking down Federal Way holding a broom.  Billy and I agreed, she must be a witch.

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A man was flapping his arms up and down while jogging.  Maybe he was running fast enough he truly thought he could fly.

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Billy:  Well, shit on a field of butter!
Me:  There’s such a thing as a butter field?
Billy:  There sure as shit is!

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You’re never too old to enjoy a slinky.

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Yesterday (2/12), a girl at school gave Jacob (9 years old) his own special valentine.  Thinking she was confused because it wasn’t yet Valentine’s Day, Jacob put the valentine back into her desk.

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Today I joined my parents in sending Sticky over the Rainbow Bridge.  We watched him courageously battle his cancer until he could no longer eat, no longer drink, and no longer lie comfortably against my mom’s back as she slept at night.

After petting him and promising we would take away the pain, we took him to the Cat Doctor where an acquaintance of my parents awaited with the single syringe that would end Sticky’s misery.

My mom sat in a chair with Sticky in her lap, wrapped snugly in one of her sweaters.  I sat in a chair beside them, and as Dr. Lobb prepared Sticky’s leg for the injection, Sticky moved his head and front paws so they rested on my lap.

As the injection began, Sticky immediately began to purr–proof that he would never again feel pain.  As soon as it had begun, it was over.  The beautiful black cat on my lap was at peace, with his eyes open and his tongue hanging out–as if to say, “It’s over, I’ve crossed the Rainbow Bridge and I can be the silly, loving kitty you’ll always remember.”

RIP, Sticky.  You brought my family 14 years of joy and we know you’ll be waiting for us across the Rainbow Bridge.

2/15/14:  Sticky's last look out his favorite window.
2/15/14: Sticky’s last look out his favorite window.

Extreme Writing Challenge #31: “Fired Up”

I’m impressed with myself that I managed to write another story already this week.  Not only have I been trying to keep up with my Goodreads pledge to read 75 books this year, and train for my 5k this weekend, but I’ve been unreasonably busy with trying to break my cats’ bad habits.  For instance, one of them has discovered how to reach my out-of-reach stash of scarves and constantly drags them all over the house and leaves them in random places for me to find.  As soon as I’ve gathered them all up, I turn around to find another one lying in the middle of the floor.  Sigh…

Anyway, here’s a new story, hot off the press.  You’ll find out at the bottom what today’s challenge was!

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Sitting on the purple leather couch, I don’t know what I ought to be doing.  I can remember what we ate for breakfast, how many red cars we passed on the way here, and the cheap, leaden sound of the doorbell.  But sitting here now, I can’t recall the reason Mom drove us here in the first place.

Katie turns the dial on Dad’s old TV, hoping for the glint of a cartoon character as she sails past soap operas and paper towel commercials.  I creep down off the couch and sneak over to the doorway.   Cupping my ear, I strain to sift Mom’s whispers out of the sampling of sounds on the television.  Mom told us to wait in here while she talks to Dad.

Katie hesitates at channel 42, intrigued by a baby in a dinosaur costume.  When she turns the dial there is only static, and another turn takes her back to the first channel.  “You’re back at the beginning, just pick something,” I tell Katie, who surfs again through all of the channels with preserved enthusiasm.   When she finally settles on a program about elephants, I let myself relax.  It’s not hard to separate the sound of my mom and dad from the gentle narrator on the TV.

Part of me immediately wishes Katie would change the channel to the loudest, most chaotic show she can find.  Either a walrus is dying or Mom is sobbing.  Worried that Katie might hear, I ask her, “Can you turn it up a little?”  Katie stares at me with a finger in her mouth and says, “Why don’t you just sit closer?”  Before I can answer, footsteps thump down the hallway like conga drums.  I throw myself back onto the couch, but the footsteps pass our room.  I return to my post at the door.

From the kitchen comes the musical sound of a glass shattering against the wall.  “Jesus H. Christ, Veronica, how many times do we have to do this?” Dad shouts.  Katie turns the volume up from 8 to 12.  In Dad’s bedroom, where the footsteps had stopped, drawers open and slam shut.  Mom is back there, cursing like they do on the DVDs we’re not allowed to watch.

Dad bursts into our room.  He’s quiet and only stares at us, eyes darting from me to Katie to me again.  Katie wants to cry, I can see it in her eyes.  Finally she asks, quietly, “Daddy, did you know Asian elephants can tear down trees with their trunks?”

Behind Dad, Mom appears suddenly in the doorway.  She’s out of breath.  “Riley, Katie, we need to go.  Now!”  Grabbing Katie’s hand, we follow Mom down the hallway and out the front door.  “What about Daddy?” Katie asks.  “How come we didn’t get to say goodbye?”

As Mom ushers us out onto the front step, the smoke detector begins to screech.  Katie stops briefly and says, “Is Daddy’s house on fire?”  Mom doesn’t answer, she just opens the back door and hurries us into our seats.  Dad runs out of the house with the phone to his ear, but by the time he sees us we’re backing into the street.

“Mommy?” Katie asks, turning so she can watch Dad as he fades into the background, “when do we get to see Daddy again?”

“Never,” Mom says.   “Now, buckle your seatbelt.  Mommy’s about to give this car a whole lot of gas.”

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Today’s challenge was:  The first letter of each sentence does not appear anywhere else in that sentence, beginning with the second word.  So if the first word of the sentence is “Sitting,” the letter S can appear only in that first word and not again in that same sentence.

Now let’s see if I can walk through the kitchen to my bedroom without finding a scarf or two in a heap on the floor…

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!

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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.”

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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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