Saturday, February 13, 2010


I'm currently working on a manuscript to send to the Breadloaf Writer's Conference as a writing sample to see if I can get it. I would pretty much do anything to get to go to Breadloaf. The piece I'm working on is very different from the writing I do on here. On my blog, I tend to get really chatty and careless even. I just let it all hang out. For my more professional writing, obviously, I'm more polished and measured and I don't write quite so much. Usually, my two writing worlds don't overlap, but I'd like to share with you today, a little excerpt from my Breadloaf application. You will notice the difference in tone and style I think, but I still think you might appreciate the story. This is just a small piece of the overall manuscript, which is a series of short, present tense vignettes all centering around a main theme, which is a certain internal struggle I have. If I were to boil it down, the whole bigger piece is about learning to love and about being selfless. (And dangit, whenever I paste from Word, the formatting gets so screwy and weird. Drives me nuts.)

This vignette is about how I got Canela. Let me know what you think.

The last thing I want is a cat. I don’t need something to take care of with the litter box, food, vet’s bills. I haven’t even managed to take care of myself since (Ex) and I broke up. It’s been eight months and I still live in my parents’ guest room. I still work at a strip club. I don’t have a boyfriend. I don’t really have any kind of friend for that matter and I’ve gained fifteen pounds. The list of things I want is long and a cat isn’t on it.

“Did you see the kitty?” one of the dancers asks excitedly.

I’ve just gotten to work and we’re changing from day shift to night so it’s a little hectic with some dancers clocking in while others are cashing out.

Working in a strip club, there are several jokes I could make to answer her question. Usually if a stripper asks you anything about seeing a kitty you can expect to be out at least twenty five dollars before all is said and done.

“No,” I say, “I did not see the kitty. I’m not sure I want to.”

“Oh my God, it’s adorable. It’s out in the parking lot. Brian found it and he’s carrying it around.”

Brian is the parking lot attendant. He stands outside every night waving two Mag-lites directing the cars into parking spots they could have easily found on their own. He looks like he’s landing planes.

All night the girls are running back and forth from the parking lot to the club because they want to pet the kitten. Finally, curiosity gets the best of me.

“You want to see the kitty?” Brian asks me.

He makes a kissing sound, bends down and snaps his fingers and a tabby kitten, big-eared and skinny, trots out from under a Buick. The kitten is so tiny that I imagine she has barely been weaned and one of her front paws is peach, while the others are grey. When I scoop her into my arms, her purr drowns out the bass thumping from inside the club. I can’t even hear the traffic speeding by on the highway beside us.

“You want her?”

“You’re not keeping her?”

“Naw, I don’t want no cat. She’s a friendly little thing though. Sweet. Make somebody a good pet if she don’t get run over out here in this parking lot. She ain’t a wild cat, that’s for sure. Somebody musta dropped her off.”

I keep the kitten in the break room. This accomplishes two things. It keeps the dancers inside and it prevents the kitten from getting hit by a car. The kitten is thrilled with the attention she gets, along with several pieces of take-out sashimi. Whenever I can get a bouncer to cover the register, I check on her.

“Somebody’s got to either put her back outside or take her home at the end of the night,” the house mother tells me.

I can’t take a kitten home. It’s not my house for one. Maybe if I was on my feet more and had my own place. There was no way I could have a cat at my parents’ house. Not with their three dogs. It would never work out.

I left my cats in Atlanta with (Ex) for this very reason. They loved that backyard. They sunned themselves on the back deck and chased chipmunks under the pine. I couldn’t take them from their home. I knew how it felt to be ripped from a place you loved and forced to live somewhere you didn’t and I figured if I had to suffer, it wasn’t fair to drag them along with me.

I had two cats. One of them since the sixth grade. My mother bought her for me at a pet store across from the mall the week I left Millpond and moved with her and (my stepfather) to New York. She said I needed something to love. That cat was sixteen years old. And I abandoned her, thinking she would be better off without me.

I don’t deserve another cat.

I call my mother and tell her about the kitten.

“Do you want it?”

“I don’t know. Someone has to take it, at least for the night. Maybe I can find it a home.”

“Let me come get it right now. A kitten doesn’t need to be hanging around in a strip club. Lord knows what can happen to it.”

The first night, I don’t want the kitten in my bed. I make it a shoebox to sleep in on the floor, but it uses its tiny, pin-like claws to hook on and climb up my mattress, where it curls up on my pillow beside my head. I let it stay.

The kitten, which I don’t name because I’m not keeping it, follows me everywhere. It wants to be as close to my face as possible at all times, furiously head butting, bunting against me, even climbing up my pant legs to get into my arms. And it never stops purring.

The second night the kitten gets sick. It knows to use the litter box in the bathroom attached to my bedroom, and it has diarrhea. I find streaks of blood and mucous in the box. Again, the kitten wants to sleep by my head, but in the middle of the night it wakes and cries out, a moan I can tell is from pain. She has stopped purring. The kitten vomits and cannot control her bowels. All night long I hold the limp kitten close to me. I try to get her to lick ice cubes so she isn’t dehydrated.

“It’s ok kitty. It’s going to be ok.”

Her breathing is ragged, yet she manages to tick out a few beats of a weak purr.

In the morning I take the kitten to the vet, where she stays for two days. They put her on an IV, deworm her and give her antibiotics after I authorize treatment.

“Ma’am, you realize this kitten is a stray. She’s very ill and since you say she’s not your cat, we could save you a lot of money if we euthanize her. You do know you are financially responsible for her medical bills if we treat her, right?” the vet tells me.

“I don’t care what it costs. Just make her better.”


Anonymous said...

The last two lines. In this are all telling .
You are a wonderful person !
Love always tells all

Kay kelly

LegalMist said...

I'm in tears at the end. Very well done. :)

kerry said...

Poor kitty!!!! She's so lucky you took her home.

Thank you for sharing.

Corianne said...

Well done. :) Do we get the rest of the story?

Sinclair said...

Hey WL,
This is how you avoid messing the formatting when copying/pasting from Word.
Highlight and copy from Word. Open the windows application called "Notepad" and paste it there. Once again highlight and copy what you just pasted and now paste it in your blog.

When you paste directly from Word you bring all the formatting and it messes with the cascade style sheets of your blog, so Notepad helps you rid of those formatting rules.

Now back to read the real story :) Hope this helps

Anonymous said...

I love animal stories. This one is very compelling. Can't wait for the next installment.

Sinclair said...

I'm just about to believe in parallel worlds. My husband (who is also from California) and I found a litter of kittens outside the summer of 2008. Fed them and gave them water while it was over 90 degrees out. They did not let one get close to the food, as if they wanted him to die. He was very sick. We took him in bathed and kill what I believe was over 200 fleas. He got diarrhea and when we took him to the vet said: he's got distemper, dehydration and tested positive for leukemia... he'd be better off dead - really? I said I didn't care how much it cost or how long he lasted alive... we were going to spoil him and love him. So we did until last July when we moved to MD. He did not like the move and his leukemia started taking the best out of him.

Wide Lawns said...

Thanks everyone. Just wanted to clarify - there is no more to this story. That is the entire vignette.

But, Canela ended up fine. She came home with me. I named her. Nine years later Miss Peachy Paw is going strong.

Green said...

I really, really like this style of writing. I may like more than I like how you write your blog posts (which is already a lot).

Two things:

1. I need more information about Brian - something about him as a person that will make me nod my head and say, "Oh, well sure" when I read him talking with all that horrible grammar.

2. I think it's hilarious that you don't eat bread but are applying for a loaf of some! I hope you win your bread!

Anonymous said...

I do like it - nice work.

Lou said...

It's well written, but I can't say I was sucked into the story as much as I usually am with your other writing. I love cats, but maybe the story of how you obtained him wasn't compelling enough for me. Not much person--person conflict, and I didn't really feel the inner conflict of the writer. Also, I think the ending was sorta melodramatic.

Sorry to sound so negative, but I think your true voice really shines through in your more "casual" blog writing, which is probably what keeps me coming back again and again.

Anonymous said...

I love your writing and I loved the story. Good luck and tell us the good news when it comes.

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