Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Story of Jerald
(draft 1)
By Guillermo Lopez on 9-14-05

The black car pulled up alongside the curb in front of the small house. It idled for a moment and then gave a tentative honk. A few sparrows burst out of a frail poplar tree but the house remained still. Through the windows of the car, four heads simultaneously began to shake from side to side in protest of an unvoiced duty.

After a brief flurry of arm-waving, pointing, and lip-pursing, a man came out of the passenger side and began to pick his way through the front lawn. The grass was tall and healthy and still glistened with dew. He reached the doorstep, looked down at the clinging bits of grass and moisture on his shiny black shoes, sighed, and began to pound on the door. "Jerald! Jerald! Are you even awake, you son of a bitch?!"

As he raised his arm to begin a second barrage, the door swung open just enough to allow a long, thin face to poke out. "How could anyone sleep through such a warm greeting?" Jerald's sly grin staunchly refused to go along with the theme set by his squinting, sleep-rimmed eyes, his unruly mop of curly, brown hair, and the plush bath towel of deep maroon wrapped loosely around his waist. "Good morning, Mr. Eiderdown."

"I knew it. I fucking knew it. You know, you're the last one we pick up on our carpool for a reason. You'd think with more time you'd be ready but no, you just sleep in longer. You're worse than our students!"

The grin remained. "Hey, that is a cruel accusation-"

"How can we give out demerits for being tardy when the four of us show up late every day? You're turning us into a gaggle of hypocrites!"

Jerald flung the door completely open and stepped out onto the porch. "Let me know if your honour becomes wounded enough to consider ritual suicide. I may even perform it with you, just to be polite." He gripped his towel with one hand as he leaned around Mr. Eiderdown. He waved to the women in the car. "Mrs. Plover! Miss Godwit!" he yelled. The older woman stiffened indignantly and looked away. "I know none of you have had a decent breakfast! Come inside for a moment and have something to eat! I have muffins!" Jerald stopped waving and began to rub the concave portion of his abdomen. "Mmm! Muffins!" He adjusted his grip on the towel. "Hurry, before I become indecent!" The younger woman laughed and opened her door.

"You are already indecent!" shouted Mrs. Plover through Miss Godwit's open door. She opened her door and began to shuffle out. "These muffins had better be very good," she muttered as her lips began to twitch into a smile.

Mr. Eiderdown, Mrs. Plover, and Miss Godwit ate standing up in the kitchen. Mrs. Plover was beginning her second muffin (blueberry this time) and Mr. Eiderdown was pouring orange juice into a fourth glass when Jerald proclaimed himself ready to go.

"But where's your belt?" asked Miss Godwit.

"I have no idea," Jerald shrugged. "They're probably gallivanting about with my contact lenses."

"So that's why you're wearing spectacles. Hmm. I think you should let your contact lenses go gallivanting more often."

"What kind of example would that set for the rest of my belongings? I'd never find anything. I'll find them soon. For today, I shall just have to figure out another way of keeping my pants where they belong."

Mr. Eideldown handed Jerald a chocolate muffin on a napkin and the glass of juice. "Try eating once in a while. Now let's go."

"We can take my car; it's a bit roomier."

"What? Jerald, our cars are almost exactly the same size."

"I know, Eideldown. It's simply that when I spill this juice, I'd prefer it be in my own car."

"Fine, we'll take your car. Now let's just go!"

Jerald spilled his juice exactly two minutes into the drive when a primer-grey (except for the flecks of orange rust) truck with tires designed for traveling in mud squealed and swerved in front of Jerald's white sedan. Jerald jerked the car away from it. WHUMP! There was another squeal as the truck accelerated away. "What the fuck?! Did we hit him?!" shrieked Mr. Eiderdown, who had already been half-asleep.

"Language, Mr. Eiderdown, language," Jerald said absently. He stopped the car on the gravel shoulder. "I didn't get near that truck. But I am afraid we may have hit something else."

Jerald stepped out of the car. There was very little traffic. He squinted through the glare of the sunlight on his glasses. He heard it before he saw it.

A strangled hissing came from a dark, furry mound on the edge of the road. It was a cat. Some kind of housecat.

It was a sort of tabby, covered all over in thin dark lines. The lines around the head broke up into dashes and spots, marring the tiger pattern. Jerald stepped closer.

He was met with that same choking hiss. The hiss became a sustained screech as the cat's front legs struggled to move it forward, away from what had hurt it and what was still hurting it.

Jerald saw.

Where it approached the hindquarters, the smooth fur of the cat's body suddenly seemed to violently unzip like an overstuffed welted cushion. A coil of intestine spilled out and glistened purple in the sun. Thin, white streaks pulsed with the rhythm of the cat's shallow breaths. The tail, if the cat had ever had one, was gone and the hind legs were shapeless twists. The fur on them was stained with blood where it had been pierced by splinters of ruddy bone. The shards hung wetly in grotesque parodies of icicles.

Jerald had seen enough. He turned and briskly walked back to the car. The others had remained seated in the car, necks craned 'round. Waiting. "Was that a cat?" asked Miss Godwit. Jerald reached inside the car and pulled a small lever set underneath the dashboard. There was a dull click of the trunk opening.

"Leave it, Jerald, whatever it is." Mr. Eiderdown's forehead furrowed. "We should get out of here before the neighbors see.

"He's right, dear," Mrs. Plover called out. "There's probably nothing we can do for it now."

Jerald, opening the trunk, hesitated. The cat screamed. His trunk was cluttered and messy but it only took him a moment to find what he needed. He walked slowly towards the cat.

"Shit," Mr. Eiderdown muttered.

Jerald glanced up the road for cars and knelt down by the cat. It squalled at him and then turned and screeched at its own hindquarters, at the tangled mess of fur and flesh that held it prisoner. The cat wailed plaintively as its front legs scrabbled again at the asphalt. It stopped struggling, bowed its head, and mewed an acceptance to the hurt and the fear. The cat breathed shallowly. It watched Jerald.

Jerald reached towards the cat's black collar and gently removed it. The cat did not protest his shaking fingers. He removed the silver, fish-shaped tags and placed it in his breast pocket. He placed the collar aside. The cat's ruff still bore the collar's indentation and looked naked without it. Jerald unrolled a small, maroon towel and placed it over the cat as carefully as a father tucking in a child. No part of the cat could be seen. The cat did not protest.

Jerald's hand found the other object. It was a tire iron. He gripped the long part of the "L"-shaped tool and hefted it. His vision wavered as he tried to focus on the small lump in the sea of maroon that would be the cat's head. Underneath the towel, the cat mewed. "A broken, little lion," Jerald whispered to no one.

The tire iron flashed up and came down once, twice, thrice, and Jerald was back at the car, throwing the tire iron in the trunk and slamming it shut, behind the wheel, and they were all on their way once more.

No one spoke. The only sounds were the hiss of the air conditioning, the tires purring along the road, and the shuddering breaths emanating from Jerald's trembling frame. Once, only once, someone let out a whimper that sounded far too much like a wounded cat for anyone’s liking.

(in case I didn't mention it before, this is draft 1)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

My deodorant is Old Spice "Red Zone" Invisible Solid. The scent is "After Hours". The label leads me to believe that I will "SMELL GREAT! All Day All Night". I believe also that using it will make me invisible.

Later that night at the local brewery...

Night Watchman #1:
This is very alarming. I smell someone that SMELLS GREAT and yet I see no one.

Night Watchman #2:
That is not entirely true, Watchman #1. I agree that there is someone very near that SMELLS GREAT. However, I am standing near to you, well within your line of sight.

Night Watchman #1: You are the one in error. My statement remains true because I am blind.

Night Watchman #2:
I apologize for my erroneous statement. You will understand why I made it when I reveal to you that I, too, am blind.

Invisible Great-Smelling Guillermo:
What the hell is the point of being invisible if everyone is friggin' blind?!

Night Watchmen:
We shall fire our weapons towards the GREAT SMELL.

Invisible Great-Smelling and Soon To Be Mortally Wounded Guillermo:
Damn you, Old Spice!

Night Watchman #1:
How did he know my name?

Now that that's out of my system...

I have returned from my swimming class and showered. I am sitting at my desk in my room with a fluffy, maroon towel wrapped around my waist. My short story is due in 24 hours. I cannot leave this desk until my story is complete. I will not eat, I will not sleep, I will not put on pants, I will not use the baffroom. I have 300 ml of water to sustain me until my story is done.

When I return, I shall present to you The Story of Jerald.

Er, I have decided that I can use the baffroom.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I have to write a short story by Thursday afternoon. I can't say this is a great shock considering the class title contains the words "short", "story", and "writing" in roughly that order.

I will do what all great men have done in times of great crisis and tests of mettle.

I will collapse into a quivering, sobbing heap and beseech help from a higher power.

This is where you come in.

A one-sentence plot is alls I need. Nothing too elaborate is necessary. My professor has been emphasizing the importance of character over plot. A lot.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I'm typing this while on the floor in a quivering, sobbing heap.

It's all a bit tragic, really.