Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Dog stories and fireworks

We had a good 4th of July--spent Sunday and part of yesterday with some dear friends and their children. Ate BBQ, homemade ice cream, and watched the kiddos set off bottle rockets and the like. Yesterday morning, the menfolk went down to their pond and fished for a while--catching a few perch and throwing them back. It was a welcome twenty-four hour respite from the normal worries of our lives.

I cannot believe that the beginning of  the fall semester is only six weeks away. Summer is already half over.  

Thanks to Hal Johnson's generosity (thanks again Hal) I'm reading some books on indie publishing and contemplating my next move after this story is finished. I have two other science fiction (fantasy?) dog stories that I didn't think anyone would be interested in in part because they were dog stories and in part because they were my first books. But I pulled the first out last week, reread it, and was pleasantly surprised. 

 It still needs some editing--primarily for beginner's mistakes (a few scenes that go no where and a too slow start that could be eliminated by simply cutting the first two chapters)--but it's not as far from polished as I thought it was when I decided I needed to move on to other subject matter. I think I can clean it up with a few months (weeks?) of work. Editing, tightening, and shortening it, could only improve it.

Meanwhile there's a lot to learn about e-book publishing and I intend to arm myself with as much information as I can. If I decide that it makes as much sense after I've done all this research as it does right now, I think I will probably put all three stories (including the one you've been following on my blog) under one cover and see how they do as one book--kind of a small collection of longish short stories/novellas. I've even got a title for it--"Many Tails".  


                That morning the old dog fell down the stairs.

Just as he reached the porch, his hips went weak all at once; folding like the bones had melted. His front legs were no longer strong enough to compensate, and his nails scrabbled against the wood, as he collapsed, limbs splayed in all directions. He drew his feet beneath his chest and tried to pull himself upright, but overcompensated and fell down the remaining steps to the ground, where he lay, paddling in the air.  A second effort, more cautious than the first, was a success. Inside the back door, he panted for a few seconds, feeling his age more than ever before.

                Pain and weakness were his constant companions now—lying down carefully and rising slowly didn’t help any more. The pills the woman hid in chunks of cheese did little to abate the stiffness and the ever increasing weakness in his rear legs. His body was failing him in other ways too.  The day before he’d awakened to find that he’d soiled his bed. Embarrassed and upset, he’d stood as quickly as he could and moved away from it. I’m sorry, he’d told the Woman when she’d found it, his ears back, tail low. I’ll try harder.  She’d stroked him, told him that she didn’t care.  But he hadn’t soiled the inside of the house since he was a pup and dirtying his own bed was unthinkable.

 On top of all that, now he’d fallen where the entire world could see. It would not be long before the Many recognized his weakness and acted on it.

                The cat brushed against him as he made for the water dish in the utility room.  He caught a glint of knowledge in her gleaming eyes as she passed him. She would have been at the window and seen his tumble. Some of the cats the Humans invited in might have goaded him—tried to get him to chase them and enjoyed it when he failed. Not her. 

                 He’d ignored the others as they were little more than irritating competitors for food and soft spots in the sun. But this one was a mixture of youth and wisdom and, likeably savvy. She commanded respect with her claws, should any dog forget their manners, and was a wily dealer in information. Her range was wide and her territory full of informants who would divulge anything she asked—all she had to do was offer them their lives in return.

                He sniffed her cautiously. What’s the word?

                Death. She arched her back against his front leg, snaking her torso and tail around him, ribbon-like, allowing the familiarity with complete fearlessness.

                He waited tolerantly for her to finish. My death or the humans’? 

                Yes. She jumped up onto the dryer, sat, wrapping her tail around herself, and watched him as he took a long draught from the water dish, then added, as though it was some kind of bonus—Soon.

The Old One continue to stand where he was, trying to decide whether to lay in his bed in the front room where the other dogs were probably still sleeping, seek out the woman who would be sipping something hot in front of her computer, or flop down where he was. Understanding how cats, like most wild things, measure time, (Soon could mean, immediately, or several sunrises away), he pressed her. Today—soon?  Or sunrise—soon?

                Depends. She leaped off the dryer and took her own drink from the dish.

                On? He took a step toward the living room.


                What doors? Where? 

                She paused, sat down, and washed her face with the back of her paw. Don't know.  Just Doors—not closed.

                The Old One knew that cats thought of doors as closed or not closed. And that they were concrete creatures—all about senses, tactile experiences, what was food, what was enemy, and how well they could fight or run away--so she was likely quoting someone. So they’re waiting on the Boy. Where did you get this?

                She winked at him with both eyes.  Rabbit. Fox. Rat. I forget. Boy—door not closed?

                Cats never forget. But they don’t always feel like giving out details. Nor do they understand dreams.  Not a door you can go through.

                She strolled ahead of him in the direction of the Boy’s bed. Too bad. I kill plenty.    
                He’d heard that cats couldn’t see the Many.  And he still believed that, but if there was ever a cat that could, it would be her.  You have speed and many claws. He paused. ‘I am not that hungry today. Check my dish after I’ve eaten my fill. These days the Woman was mixing all kinds of special things in with his kibble and his leavings were prized by the others. He would make sure she had no competition for what he didn’t eat.

                Cat-like she did not thank him, just accepted it as her due.  But he also knew that she would stick closer to the Boy for a few days. And for that, he would have given her a dozen suppers. 


Scotty said...

Bit of a change from the creepiness - this one is quite sentimental - I like it.


Debby said...

You've caught the nature of a cat quite nicely!

Mary O. Paddock said...

Scotty--Thank you. It was hard to know how sympathetic to make the cat. :)

Debby--I was really anxious to introduce the cat as distinctly different from the dogs.