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Underated rhythm section. Also liked to fix dead birds and wheelchairs.

I remember getting into an argument years ago with a supposed metal head, that said it didn't matter that Bill Ward wasn't a part of the reunion.


I was like, what the **** are you talking about. Ward is about as essential as anyone is in that band. I'd easily consider him as one of my top 10 drummers.


One of these days I need to finish that story. I wrote it shortly after it happened and it was too upsetting for me to revisit. Not only because of that poor ****ing bird, but how it was a perfect symbol of everything that was collapsing in my life at the time.



Don't have much insightful to add, but yeah, they're great.


I easily prefer Ozzy era to Dio. The former brings a genuine emotion to the music that compensates for his technical inferiority. (I'd also take solo Ozzy over Dio era Sabbath.) But the latter is great too. I even think there's good stuff in the other, less loved eras.


I think Sabotage is my favourite album of theirs as it best balances the experimental direction they started to move in with the sheer, impenetrable heaviness of their earlier albums.



Don't have much insightful to add, but yeah, they're great.


I easily prefer Ozzy era to Dio. The former brings a genuine emotion to the music that compensates for his technical inferiority. (I'd also take solo Ozzy over Dio era Sabbath.) But the latter is great too. I even think there's good stuff in the other, less loved eras.


I think Sabotage is my favourite album of theirs as it best balances the experimental direction they started to move in with the sheer, impenetrable heaviness of their earlier albums.

I don't really follow the non-Ozzy stuff. And I like all of it (except Technical Ecstasy, which I've never heard).



I had Mob Rules a million years ago and almost never listened to it. Because it is just missing that alchemy when it's Dio's voice. As impeccable a band they are, the secret ingredient is Osbourne's voice. It is undefinable. How something can be that frightening, but also so full of pain, is a thing to behold. And it seems absolutely effortless. He seems completely unaware of its effect. It's what puts a person inside of that swinging wall of noise. Shrivelled but still howling.



GAY ANDY

On Halloween streets, Gay Andy is out here too. Waving at us from across the street those times we pass him. Dressed like Anne of Green Gables, just like he said he would do. Almost dancing from the excitement of the fat bag of candy he carries with him.

There are also executioners. Two of them in black hoods. Stepping out from shadows and walking shoulder to shoulder. Bored with their axes and dragging them noisily behind them on the pavement. Sometimes they stand under streetlights, motionless. Dark shapes on the corner. Other times, they will be next to us on doorsteps. Saying ‘twick owr tweeat’. A speech impediment that is familiar but that I can’t place.

When I look up at them, I see part of their face they don’t want me to through their eyeholes. Bits of forehead and nose. But not enough to recognize them.

“Twick owr tweeat”, they say in unison. I think of blonde hair. Possibly twins. Big drooping lips that shiver when they can’t pronounce words right. To this day I can still remember their voices and I still don't know who they must have been.

I am Dracula this year. Was also Dracula last year. But don’t have my fangs or cape when I sneak back outside while my grandmother checks my candy for poison. Everyone thinks I am done for the night, but I remember a couple of houses that didn’t answer the door and so I slip up the street. By myself. Get my bag filled with the bad left-over candy. The people inside look at my like I’ve been there before, even though I don’t think I have.

At the end of my street, I can see one executioner is waiting for me. I realize he’s much older when he comes up to me. Am confused when he asks if I want to trick or treat with him. He still doesn’t pronounce his r’s as he leans over me. I don’t even see the other one sneak up behind me. Yank my nearly empty bag from my hands. Hear them laugh as they disappear over a fence.

Sitting on the street corner, I notice another vampire is watching what has happened. Blood is running from the corner of his mouth.

“Hey, you want me to get them?”, he asks me.

I nod and he runs towards where they disappeared. Cape fluttering as he hops a fence. I am glad to have another vampire here to watch out for me since I’m just standing there, not sure what I should do. Not sure when I’m supposed to turn back and go home.

I tell my family what has happened to me as they sit in front of the television. Follow my father outside as he stalks the streets, looking for the executioners. Talks to neighbours he’s never talked to before. As we walk, he lets me know the vampire was probably in on it. That even he is laughing at me, along with the other two. That I should never trust anyone. Not even other vampires.

I don’t want to believe it. Don’t say anything as we walk from street to street. Tell myself I shouldn’t have taken out my fangs. Shouldn’t have left them on the kitchen table. How then maybe I would have had a friend out here. Someone on my side.

No one would have dared then.





NO FRIES FOR WOLFMAN

My grandmother had cleaned my witchcraft out from the Scooby-Doo pool. An aborted invisible potion made of mud, assorted spices and bird bread. Dried in a heatwave. Then cracked into pieces by a shovel and some sixty-year-old grit.

My grandfather had toured my Museum of Accidental Death after breakfast. Standing in a bathrobe, staring at the motorcycle crash, and the poor cowboy who’d been dragged skinless across my bookcase. The skeleton of an innocent man hanging from my doorknob gallows. The tombstone I had set upon my pillow as a monument for those who die in their sleep.

And now I was turning into a werewolf. Mistakenly reading lycanthropic incantations all the way to the end. Had meant to stop before it had all come out of my mouth, before the curse could be activated. But I’d been distracted by the grilled cheese my grandmother supplied me with. Had been chewing and chanting at the same time. Spit crumbs into my tomato soup when I realized I had said every last line of it. That I was now surely damned and that both my grandparents were long tired of me and wouldn’t have had the time for any of it.

After lunch, I inspected myself in an unused room. Next to an unused bed. Took off my shirt. Rolled up the legs of my pants. Felt around with my fingers until I found two bony spurs growing from my ankles. Like little clots of hair beneath the skin. But hard. I had never noticed them there before. It seemed this was to be the beginning of the changes. They were already aching. The transformation would be painful, and I would eat my neighbours. I had seen all the movies and knew my fate.

I only dared to tell my friend Chris what was happening to me. He lived in the townhouses, and he took me down to a room at the back of his basement. The one that was dangerous with battery acid. Imprisoned me behind a pile of overturned chairs. Left me down there in the darkness while he found some older boys outside and charged them admission to come see me. They peered over the gauntlet of chair legs to look down at the bumps on my ankles. I began to growl when they didn’t understand what was so scary about that. Tossed pillows and musty blankets at their heads as they grew bored of me. All of them powdered with battery acid. Probably getting in their mouths. Also covering my bare feet as I howled and began frothing at the mouth.

When they began to leave, I escaped from my prison and chased them up the stairs. Followed them outside where they stopped and turned and pushed me into the grass. Asked for their dollar back as I lay there. I could see Chris inside, watching from the kitchen window. Waiting to see what they would do to me. Refusing to come out until it was all over. Frightened by my howling.

He would not give them their money back. Would keep it safe inside his pocket. Inside the kitchen. I was sure he was planning on using it to buy French fries and gravy down at Harry’s Charbroil Grill. I wouldn’t have minded some of those too, even though I wasn’t sure a werewolf could eat that kind of food. Especially one that kept being kicked in the stomach. Who might be beaten up forever.

Later that day, as I watched Chris eat his fries, and I played with the salt and pepper shakers, my guts throbbed as I came to realize I probably didn’t need to be worried over the next full moon. I felt I must have been wrong about everything. I didn’t feel frightening enough. I could tell by how Chris was acting towards me I wasn’t going to turn into anything. You share your fries with a werewolf when you believe them. And I could see Chris was lying to me when he started talking about all the teachers I should maybe consider eating instead.

He knew I couldn’t do any of that. That all of the teachers in the whole world were safe. That I wasn’t a werewolf. He just didn’t want me to notice as the last french fry went into his mouth and the waitress swooped in to scoop away his plate.

"I bet Mrs. Belford tastes awful”, he said. Chewing.





The following is a rare example of me trying to write an actual story, proper. My girlfriend signed me up to some short story contest, and I felt compelled to actually write something that had some chance of winning. I didn't want to let her down.


Then I got assigned "Political Satire" as a genre and I realized I was ****ed. I watched Death of Stalin for inspiration and realized this was just not going to happen. I clearly was not cut out for that kind of thing. That takes though, and preparation.



And a point


So facing failure, my usual default mechanism kicked in, and I just started writing about cats.



I didn't win.



VIVE LE CHATS



1

For the cats of Johnson P. Swivell it was a matter of little importance that the Great Leaders favorite socks had gone missing. They knew nothing of the Leader himself, and even less regarding the well documented softness of his best stockings.

Maybe if they had paid attention to the story on the front page of the previous morning's newspaper, they could have at least read the words of the Great Leader himself as he bemoaned their precious nature, their rarity of comfort and how no one in all history had ever seen such durable knitwear. He raved at great length over this tremendous strength. "Not just beautiful, but indestructible,” he claimed. He boasted of how they had never once torn under the duress of his dangerous toenails which, in a moment at odds with the immaculate appearances he kept up, he admitted to having forgotten to cut for some time now.

“With such a pair of socks, there hardly seemed any need,” he’d written with such a profound sense of loss, one would not only imagine tears in the eyes of all the citizens of Bassinette, but even in those of the Great Leader himself.

Just the thought of such a thing sent shockwaves through the town. This was a man who, even as a newborn, was already known to have been much too engaged with his studies into astronomy, philosophy, chemistry, political science, architecture, archery and Russian literature for common tears. Now, sobbing and keeping himself hid beneath his bedsheets, seemed the only state anyone could imagine him.

It was clear, these were no ordinary socks.

In no time it became the talk of the town, and everyone had their theories as to what had happened. Possibly an abduction, with hopes of a ransom. Or maybe political payback schemed by the leaders of neighboring districts. Only one thing was for certain. This was not simply a matter of these socks becoming lost in the wash. Not a soul would dare suggest the Leader simply give his dryer a second look in the chance that they were still there, only a little further back than he was accustomed to reaching. Such heresy could have been a deadly miscalculation.

“This is a day of mourning,” their leader had written. “A day where neither shoes nor socks of any stripe should be considered as anything but deeply lacking. And more importantly, woefully inappropriate.” Then finishing his declaration with such an abundance of exclamation points, the hearts of his people immediately understood what the passion of this moment was calling for. They too, would consider themselves sockless.

But regardless of all of this, this was hardly a story meant for feline eyes. These were, after all, not the most politically astute of animals, and so preferred to leave all matters of hosiery, leotards, leg warmers and, most especially, men’s socks for the historians and scholars of the day to quibble over.

All they wanted was to be fed, and so could not help but delight in the discovery of Mr. Swivell’s now permanently bare feet. Wandering about his house in solidarity with his Great Leader, such pale slabs of flesh, it turned out, were much more responsive to the kind of biting they liked to give whenever they were in need of a good feeding. And Mr. Swivell, presently grieving and hardly in any state to deny the requests of these cats he loved dearly, soon found himself beginning to feed them with an alarming regularity.

2

When looking floor bound in the home of Mr. [COLOR=var(--clrSquiggleHighlightTextColor,#000000)]Swivell, it was hard to tell what sight one might marvel at first. The cats had certainly become enormous. Not only fatter, but hairier and toothier, as if some sort of new evolutionary state was taking place in his modest shack of a house. But there was also the sight of his feet, which had been reduced to such a ragged state, one might find themselves wincing with every step he took as he constantly paced in a continuous fret of tin opening and iodine application.
[/color]
Looking at the man closely, as the police officers made sure to do the day he came into their department to inquire about how they were coming along in their search for the Leaders missing socks, revealed him to be a man in distress. Whatever weight his cats had gained, he had shed two-fold. His eye sockets were cavernous and his voice little but a rasp as he explained it was a matter of great personal urgency that these socks be found. “My cats you see...they’re eating me out of house and home.”

The police paid him little mind. They had been dealing with no end of inquiries regarding the Leaders socks these past few weeks, and while they assured everyone an official record would be kept of their concern, they hardly had time to really listen to anything that was said. As for the problems with Swivell’s cats, they suggested he consider getting himself a dog.

“Oh, no,” Mr. Swivell moaned, “My dog just died. It’s much too soon for another.”

“Well, if that’s the case, might I suggest you start standing up to these cats of yours yourself,” one officer suggested, sternly.

Mr. Swivell could only continue to fret. “It’s just that they’re so.... large.

Before he could articulate to the officers just how big they’d truly become, Mr. Swivell began to weaken. If it had not been for a man standing nearby to catch him, he surely would have crumpled to the floor. Slowly, once he had been brought outside and balance was regained, Mr. Swivell began walking away without saying another word, wincing at how painfully potholed the pavement had become over these years.



3

Every morning, as cats bit Mr. Swivell into wakefulness, he recited a small prayer for forgiveness. With untold numbers of cat teeth presently sunk deep into his cold and dirty feet, and his stomach turning itself upside down in a madness of hunger, his early morning thoughts were rarely in tune with the Great Leader’s suffering.

Unless today’s headline was destined to be different from its usual pronouncement that his socks were indeed still missing, Swivell needed to quickly reconsider how he spent his mornings. Kicking away cats or filling his belly with morsels of newsprint he’d torn from the previous day's newspaper, were hardly any substitute for good and hearty prayer. There was, after all, only one life in Bassinette which was destined to be precious, and it was certainly not that of Mr. Swivell. And so, he prayed only for a return of his former state of grace, a return of his socks, and nothing else, so help him God.

Meanwhile, his cats had no time for such religious convictions. They were more bothered by the fact that their appeals to the feet of Mr. Swivell were no longer providing the sustenance they’d grown to expect. With his cupboards almost entirely bare, their suppers could no longer be counted on to be such treats as pot roast, chicken legs or fish entrees that had been baked with the heads still on. With meals now an irregular occurrence at best, the cats had been forced to begin scavenging the neighborhood to satisfy their hunger.

Of course, Mr. Swivell’s preference would have been for them to stay inside. It was a terrible embarrassment having them rampaging all over the city, but there was little he could do, as there was never any shortage of unmended holes in his walls for the cats to slip through when he wasn’t looking. Mr. Swivell would sometimes even see them ransacking the homes of his neighbors as he hobbled about town delivering mail. As he crept up onto their porches, they’d open the door to scold him about all the food that had been taken. About the terrible biting habits their pets had learned from his. And as Mr. Swivell shamefully walked away, he would see his cats come bustling out of the unmended holes of his neighbor's walls, sometimes with new friends alongside of them, hungry for whatever a few bitten feet could get them.

4

Food quickly became scarce in Bassinette, as did the prospect of ever seeing a single soul walk its streets unaffected by a limp. A town meeting was called in desperation, and as one barefooted soul after another wandered into the town hall, all sorts of shouting began as the room filled past capacity. Farmers shouted at shopkeepers, bankers shouted at clerks, parents shouted at grandparents, and the fewer problems they solved, the louder it became.

“I can’t possibly do my barefooted duty with all my cats behavin’ like Swivell himself raised ‘em”, one man screamed while pointing towards some injustice done to his ankles.

“And what about food?”, cried another, “At this rate we’ll need to ask the cats politely if we can eat them. They’ve gotten so bloody big; we’ll no doubt need their permission if it comes to that.”

“Don’t you dare,” a woman in a bonnet scolded, “I’d sooner be bitten right down to the bone, than for anyone to lay a single tooth on my poor Francis. He’s full of such love. He truly is!”

As everyone shouted about the same thing, little consensus could be found amongst the people of Bassinette. Hearing his name repeatedly mentioned amongst the clutter of voices, Mr Swivell only shrunk to the back of the room, feeling his voice was much too soft to be of any use to the discussion. He simply waited for his moments to chime in for the obligatory “And Godspeed to our leader’s socks”, then fell back into stony silence.

Suddenly, a voice rose above the din. “Or maybe we'll just put our damned shoes back on.”

Crawling up onto a table, a young girl now stood high enough above the others they could see she was not only wearing shoes, but also knee-high socks, defiantly pulled all the way up. “Our leader does not care a lick about us. He only raises our taxes. Allows our homes and roads to fall into disrepair. Overruns our headlines with his childish sulking. Yet here we are, fretting over where he has misplaced his precious socks. But why? I say lace up. All of us! Lace up! And then stand up!”

The girls voice rang with sincerity and passion. But then, so did the grumbling that began once she finished speaking. Few knew the girl well, only that she was some know-it-all who’d recently come to Bassinette and been making trouble ever since it was made clear she would need to discontinue her studies at an out-of-town university. She seemed not to understand how vulgar it would have been for her to graduate with a degree their leader did not yet have the time to earn himself.

“Still smarting over your wounded book smarts, I see,” an old crone cackled from the corner of the room.

“You think your fancy shoe wearing makes you better than us?”, asked another, proudly holding up one of his bare feet in a fit of flexibility so poorly timed, he would be immediately knocked over by the surging crowd.

“Guess you ain’t knowed mobs like us don’t need to read up words before we start smashing in girl skulls badly, did you?”.

Such a string of words immediately brought cheers to the crowd. And as this gentleman began to jump up and down on the only book he could find nearby, a stapled pamphlet of Bassinette road signs dropped in the melee by a driving instructor, a jumble of distorted faces pushed forward to grab the girl. Even Mr. Swivell began reaching out, as if he even had the strength in him to participate in such a forcible sock removal.

But, before violence could overtake the scene, the girl quickly jumped from her place on the table and ran from the town hall, shouting her revolutionary chant of “Lace up, stand up” as she disappeared down the street.

The crowd briefly considered giving chase, but after a few steps upon the harshly textured wood grain of the town hall floor, they instead all came to agree heated pursuits of young girls were not what the Great Leader would want. At least not for anyone but himself, and they soon returned to shouting things with great passion.

5

While no official plans had been hatched during their meeting, many women of Bassinette found themselves inspired to make replacement socks for the Great Leader. They decided they would do so in secret, and as they all returned home, a great clacking of knitting needles soon filled the lives of families who had no notion what their wives and mothers were up to for such lengths of time, locked in the bathroom as if troubled digestively.

One by one, these socks were sent anonymously to the palatial grounds of the Great Leader. As the towns sole letter carrier, Mr. Swivell oversaw delivering these boxes, each seemingly adorned with all manner of ribbons, sometimes even with suggestive words written on the attached tags. The Great Leader’s palace was quite a walk from the city, but Swivell didn’t mind. It was a relief to get away from the troubles of Bassinette, however briefly. By now, the cats had taken over the streets and to walk them alone was a great danger. Even more so on an empty stomach.

Once delivered, there would never be any public acknowledgement of how these gifts had been received. With half of those who worked at the press now sidelined by all manner of heinous foot injury, reporting had become unreliable. There were hardly even stories on the growing nuisance of the cats, even though one only needed to peek outside to see how that situation was unfolding. Now the size of small horses, these beasts were regularly dragging inhabitants of Bassinette out into the roads, openly feasting on whatever flesh was exposed to them.

Curled in a second story window, the young girl watched as her neighbors dragged themselves through the street on their hands, their feet now little more than a clacking arrangement of bone. Her features showed no empathy for what she saw. Only great focus on keeping the flag she waved above them trilling in the wind. Emblazoned with the words “Vive Les Chats”, she felt the French was a nice touch as it had once been her minor in college. She smiled.

Meanwhile, off in the countryside, the Great Leader kept by his window, unaware of the tragedies unfolding. He was much too busy trying on socks, then gently tossing them down towards his garden when he found them unsatisfactory. Some were too warm. Some too itchy. Others, he was unsure what was so bothersome about them. Maybe only that they’d made him even more certain his missing socks truly were irreplaceable.

Letting out a tremendous sigh, he began to slowly open another package.



SLOW CANNIBALS

1

One day my father showed up, went into a room and stayed there. Now he lived with my grandparents too.

I had never thought about how my grandparents were his mom and dad. How this meant he’d been here before me. Now he was at the end of the hall, in his sister’s old room. Me in his.

He brought his mental cat with him. Its belly was bright pink, licked clean of fur. Had never seen another person before. Looked at his new home like the walls and all the people in it were on fire. Hid in the basement for months. My father kept to his bed, hiding in his own way. Kept setting his pants on fire in his sleep. Defective lighters exploding in his pockets. He’d wake up with a shriek and his thighs burnt. Pink like the belly of his cat.

Everything in his room had smoked two packs a day, back in the small apartment he’d barely escaped from. Everything gummy and yellow. A photograph of his wife next to his bed looked old and from another time. Made brittle from all the cigarettes he’d smoked while staring at it. His fingers were orange. He’d burned a hole through the only music he listened to. A cassette he’d mistaken for an ashtray. Now it played slow in all the places that had been melted. His eyes would droop with every strange warble in the singer's voice. As if all the places his cigarette touched made him feel closer to it.

Sometimes we would meet in the room between us. Play video games all day. Forget there were any grandparents at all. He was older and smarter and his hands were much bigger but I was better than him. Would beat him over and over again. Would laugh and laugh except for those times he won and he wouldn’t believe me when I said I’d let him. That’s when I’d get angry. Throw my joystick at his head.

He’d stand up and snap his between his hands. Both the joysticks now broken, laying on the floor. For a second I thought he would hit me. And when he didn’t, I hit him. Right in the center of his chest.

He’d complain all day about how bony my fists were. That this was why his face had turned red. Why he’d cried out in pain.



THREE DEATHS PACKED A SUITCASE

Death #2

Pamela wasn’t the sort of cat you imagined getting eaten by a dog. In the middle of the day, on someone’s lawn. It seemed such a loud awful thing to happen. And she had always been so quiet. Would move so carefully.

We hadn’t seen it happen so couldn't know for sure. But we noticed when the dog across the street was no longer there. A sudden disappearance just days after Pamela went missing. It used to bark behind a chain link fence all day. Sometimes escaping, roaming the streets, full of cat-eating teeth. Now the people who lived there acted like they never had a dog. Were always staring at the ground when they came outside.

It was possible Howard had been watching. That he knew what had happened to Pamela. Maybe even knew what happened to the dog. He was always outside, somewhere. Watching from bushes. Up in trees. The kind of places you could keep unseen and not be expected to help.

Now with Pamela gone the house was all his. And if he had seen something bad, it was never anything to disturb his sleep. He'd always be in his spot, halfway up the stairs. Just like before. Eyes closed. Only opening when he sensed something he didn’t approve of had come inside. But only slightly.



THREE DEATHS PACKED A SUITCASE

Death #1: The Night the Dog Turned Into a Cat

As far as I knew, it had always lived near the washing machine. There was a spot on the cement floor where the window-well cast down a rectangle of light, and from there it would sit and watch all those who came down the basement stairs. I had only seen it once as I sat on the top step, looking down towards where my grandmother stood holding it by the collar.

“Don't come down here”, she had hissed. “Get yourself back upstairs”

He was put in the basement whenever I came to visit. But even when kept out of sight, I hardly needed to lay eyes on the beast to know of its decent into madness. Evidence of the time it otherwise spent running wild through the home could easily be found if inclined to look. Peeking up the pant legs and rummaging through the hairlines of those who had been attacked over the years, I found myself delighted by all sorts of strange malformations twisted into the flesh of my relatives. Before I had even seen the animal, I had already gotten a good sense of what its teeth looked like. Would imagine them down in the darkness beneath me, glistening.

My grandmother did not like to show off such things that made her think herself ugly. Was ashamed of the swollen pink marks it had carved into her scalp. But others in my family were willing to oblige as I followed them around the house, yanking on their clothes, demanding to see their best scars before I was sent back to my mothers. My father was always more than happy to roll his shirt sleeve up and turn his mangled arm beneath the kitchen light. The hands of both my aunts were discoloured with bite marks. And although he was never willing to show me his half-eaten shins, my grandfather claimed to have suffered the most vicious attack of all. While no one believed him, I was left imagining all the bone that would be showing if only he didn’t roll his socks up to his knees.

When I came to stay with my grandparents, permanently this time, I thought of the dog in the basement. Rennie was his name, and I found myself wondering what part of me he would end up biting as we drove towards my new home. How I would show my father and aunts and grandparents what it had done to me. Let them see how I had been changed by him now too.

But, it wasn’t to be. I would not be the only new addition to the home my grandparents were bringing with them that day. A black cat they had named Pamela had been found in front of a Chinese Food Restaurant, and after eating dinner, we took her with us too. And as we came into the house where we both now lived, Pamela jumped from my grandmothers arms and hid, while I pulled up a chair in the kitchen and waited for a mauling that would never come.

My grandparents looked everywhere for where Pamela had run to. Downstairs, I could hear Rennie growling, as if it knew something had changed. And I would be put to bed soon after, before the cat was found, before the dog was let up from the basement.

By the next morning, Rennie was dead. Long after I had fallen asleep, they had let him upstairs to feed. But instead of eating, he had laid next to the feet of my grandfather and stopped breathing. No one had even noticed until suddenly Pamela was in the kitchen with them. How strange for her to be so unconcerned about the terrifying animal slumped nearby on the floor. For a moment they worried he would get up and attack the tiny cat. Until they slowly realized what had happened.

It would turn out Pamela had been hiding in the fireplace. She had blended in with the color of the ash blackened brick. Had been impossible to see. The next morning there were still sooty pawprints all over the floor. I ate breakfast and looked at them. Chewed my cereal. Thought of a dog that no longer existed. And the cat that was now around here, somewhere.



minds his own damn business
Damn, I've got some catching up to do.
__________________



Damn, I've got some catching up to do.

It's just words words and more words. It isn't chronological. It isn't leading to anything. And it isn't going anywhere. One can drift in and out and just read fragments and not really miss anything. One of these days I'll figure a way to make some kind of sense of all of these moments. Maybe once I hit a hundred pages or so I'll trust myself that this might be going somewhere



THREE DEATHS PACK A SUITCASE


HOWARD: Maybe Not a Death, Possibly Alive Forever

When my father came to stay, he brought Cody with him. A cat big enough to fill a room. Tongue sticking out and staring as you walked past an open doorway. He would be sitting upright on the floor with his back against the wall, his legs spread wide open, his pink belly sagging between them. Would run away if you looked at him long enough.

When my father's wife left, she hadn't taken the cat with her like she had the tables and chairs. She’d never liked it. Said it had dumb eyes, that it smelled. It reminded her of all his bad decisions as he’d been the one to bring it home. Even though there had been better cats to choose from. There must have been. She’d point at it. Say mean things in front of it, not thinking those big empty eyes it looked at her with could possibly understand what she was saying. My father saying nice things to it when she wasn’t around, just in case it did.

For a while he was alone with Cody in that apartment, giving him baths, wondering what had gone wrong in his life. He drank a lot. When he ran out of beer, he found an old bottle of Danish Kirsberry liqueur in the closet that he’d drink until his lips stuck together. Would wake the next morning with fur stuck to his mouth and a headache full of sugar. His bathroom sopping wet. His arms covered in scratches he couldn’t remember getting. Had no explanation for now that his wife was gone. Unsure the cat had been washed at all as it lay next to him, still smelling bad.

After my father settled into our house, me and my grandparents paid Cody no mind, as he didn’t want anything to do with us. Spent most of his time next to my father on his bed. But Howard seemed unable to stop looking at him. Couldn’t understand where this cat had come from. Or why he never left. Always inside on carpets, licking his belly hairless. Never going anywhere. Rarely even going into the backyard, as the birds and the grass and the wind scared him. Would get him scratching his way through the screen door to get back inside if forgotten out there for too long.

Howard would sometimes stare at him, this cat that filled my father’s room. He also noticed his dumb eyes. His smell. And for this he didn’t trust my father for having brought such a thing here. Began spending more and more time away from us. Sometimes disappearing for days. Then forever.



My grandmother searched the streets for him all winter. Asking the neighbours if she could look in their garages. Going into their backyards to see if he’d been frozen into their pools. But never any cats anywhere but the big fat one in my father’s bed who no one but my father had ever loved. Who stared back at us like he didn't want to be here either.



THREE DEATHS PACK A SUITCASE


Suitcase Street



When I came to my grandparents the day the dog died, I didn’t know I was coming to stay. No one told me anything. Kept thinking I was getting away with something when I just kept staying, day after day. Hoping I had been forgotten. Worrying whenever someone came to the door. Thinking they were here to bring me back.

I remember a woman selling tins of cat food on the porch. Tapping a fork she had produced from her pants pocket on the lid of a can as if to draw me outside. I stood behind my grandmother's legs as she asked how much a carton of this cat food would cost. If she could get a deal. I tugged on her shirt in hopes of letting her know I was frightened of this woman. That maybe she was sent here by my mother.

I also remember the man who sharpened knives standing out front of our house with his machine. Grinding blades, and sparks shooting up into his teeth. Looking up towards where I watched from the window. Thinking I had maybe seen him at my mother's once. Sitting on a couch. A friend of an uncle. An old man who had drunk beer in my old house. Maybe he recognized me, even hidden behind the curtains.

Only after a long time did I forget how I didn’t always live here with my grandmother. Did I feel this was my house too. That no one was bringing me back. But sometimes my grandmother would get very angry. You could never tell when it would happen. It could happen anytime, even when things were going good. Sometimes she would give me a weird look if I told her I hadn’t asked for any soup as she stood holding a giant steaming bowl for me. Or if told her I didn’t remember doing something she told me I had done. Her eyes would change color. Her lips would disappear. It would be on these days, when she would pack my stuff in a small suitcase and leave it at the top of the stairs for me to find, that I would remember I once had another home too.

“Why don’t you go see if your mother wants you”. My grandmother would tell me as I picked up the suitcase. She would be standing at the end of the hall looking at me. Her white hair sticking up. Frowning. Then disappear into a room when I said nothing. Just stood there silently wondering if she had packed enough for me. Afraid to ask. Usually, she only filled it with t-shirts and socks. Always a toothbrush but never anything for me to play with on my trip away from here.

I remember the road I used to walk down, with my little blue suitcase bumping against the side of my leg. A big sky above it. Walking towards a street with lots of cars. A busy street with people going all sorts of places. I decided once I got up there, I would follow these cars, wherever they were going. Surely one of them was driving towards wherever my mother was. And if my grandmother hadn’t caught up with me, as she always would, apologizing and promising me more soup I didn’t want, I imagine I would have stepped into that street. Begun running. Hoping to keep up with whatever car I decided would bring me somewhere.

When Howard disappeared years later, it was this same street I once again found myself wandering up and down. I called it Suitcase Street and I was on it nearly every night. Looking for him. Calling out his name. Worried he’d gone too far and stepped into that busy street. Started chasing the wrong car.

My grandmother had given up on him. Back in the winter. But it was now spring, and I was still looking. All by myself, calling his name. Calling his name. Would stay out until it got dark. Until I saw my father standing far away on the corner in front of our house, having come outside to watch me walk up and down the street, calling out for a cat we both knew was never coming back.

“I’m worried about you”, he’d tell me when I grew near to where he stood, somewhere beneath a streetlight. “Just because he’s gone, doesn’t mean he’s dead. You know that, right? Maybe he found somewhere else to live for awhile. Just try and imagine him being somewhere else and happy.” He shrugged. “It’s possible”

When we got back inside, I would go to my room and my father to his. Cody on his bed as always, just sitting there. Rarely moving. Never going anywhere. Just staring and licking and pink bellied. Still so many years from the day he would eventually disappear too. Forgotten outside one night while my father slept. Him waking to the sound of a dog in the street and not knowing he was still out there. Hearing someone scream “let it go, let it go” and not understanding what they were screaming about. Going back to sleep and never forgiving himself.

For two months my father looked for his cat. Up and down that street. Calling his name long after the rest of us had stopped.

“Cody...Cody...Cody”

Sometimes I suspected my father didn’t want to come back. Had been waiting for someone to pack his suitcase too. All this time. For it to be waiting for him at the top of the stairs whenever he went out to look for Cody. That with it in hand, he could be free to keep walking. Down to that busy street, where he could chase cars and yell his cats name until his voice grew hoarse. Until he disappeared like the rest of them.