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Cat and Mouse

by HighwayDave 

Posted: 15 June 2005
Word Count: 971
Summary: The trials of pet ownership, manic neurosis, and misunderstandings

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Cat and Mouse

When I first saw the dead mouse in the middle of my living floor I was thrilled. It had obviously been killed by El Sordo and Simochka, my two cats. They had never killed a mouse before and I’d always assumed that they were just too wimpy for that kind of thing. But there it was, curled up, dead, and I’m pretty sure that it didn’t stagger out of some hole in the middle of it’s death throes, stumbling in front of my wide eyed, terrified cats, only to finally collapse dead on my living room floor. The cats were gathered around, staring at the dead mouse and occasionally reaching out as if to touch the curled up corpse. After my initial surprise, I was proud. My cats who normally seemed like super cuddly wimps were now sharp eyed, razor clawed feline killers. Besides, I had stopped at a bar on the way home from work so I was pretty giddy to begin with.
I danced around a little, congratulating them, picking them up and happily telling them, “You guys did it. You killed the mouse. I’m so proud of you.”
They seemed happy.
I got into such a laughing, jolly celebration that I decided I had to call Joanna at work and tell her what our cats had accomplished. I knew that she’d think it was great too. When I called the restaurant where she worked someone else answered and although for a minute I debated telling him about the mouse, I quickly decided against it. Even though he’s a cool guy, who knows how he’d react to my drunkenly interupting my wife at work to laugh and brag about my cats slaughtering an innocent mouse. So I just asked to speak with Jo. Nevertheless he must have told her that I sounded strange or something cause she got on the phone with a preconceived concern that was obvious in her voice. “Dave, hey is everything OK?”
I just blurted it out, laughing and probably slurring as well, “Jo, You won’t believe it, when I got home from work their was a dead mouse on the floor. The cats killed a mouse and it’s lying dead in the middle of the floor. I just walked in from work and there it is, dead.”
Now, somewhere in between my excitement, my laughter, and my drunken pronunciation, although I thought I was clearly conveying my lighthearted suprise over our cats killing their first mouse, Joanna must have heard something like “Got home from work-the cats are dead – their lying in the middle of the floor”. Plus, to Jo, who was getting an unexpected call while at work, my drunken laughing must have sounded a lot like crying.
To my incredible surprise she immediately choked out, “Wh-what? What’s wrong with the cats?”.
Then she started crying.
I knew instantly what had happened and frantically tried to repair the rapidly collapsing situation, “No. No. The cats are fine. The cats are fine baby. They just killed a mouse. I found a dead mouse on the floor. The cats killed a mouse. That’s all. The cats are fine.”
But I knew that neither Joanna nor myself can just say, “Oh, that’s crazy, I thought that you had said the cats were dead. Isn’t that funny”. Not at all, especially not me. Instead, weather real or not, the horrifying image of my walking in from work to find our beloved cats lying dead on the floor was currently searing itself into mind. Somewhere deep inside my being a savage cauldron had already begun to rapidly spin out of control. I was becoming consumed with guilt, shame and sorrow: partially for making jo believe, even for an instant that the cats were dead, partially for not better thinking through the potential effects of my actions, and even partially towards the cats for even suggesting that they were dead. And the whole mix was being violently stirred by the horrible sadness I’d feel if my cats really were dead.
Jo knew me well enough to know what was happening now and what would happen next and she desperately tried to prevent it, “Oh, don’t worry, it was just for a second that I thought something was wrong, just cause you were laughing and I couldn’t understand you. It’s totally OK. It is totally OK, I mean that is crazy that they caught a mouse.”
She tried to laugh.
Yeah, “Ha, ha”, in my heart I’ve already allowed our cats to horribly die while under my care and then called my wife to laugh about it. I was long past any kind of help and I was beginning to succumb to utter hysteria, all I could do was half-heartedly sob “But the cats are OK”, and I could barely even say that since I was quickly degenerating into an all out break down fueled by the guilt and sadness of my cats violent, untimely death. How could I not have been have been there to protect them? Not been there when they needed me? How could I have convinced Joanna that the cats were hurt, dead, sad, whatever. Reality flew out the window and my voice cracked as tears streamed down my face.
Still, Jo bravely tried to preserve the situation, “Dave, it is OK. I completely understand what happened. It was only for one second that I thought something was wrong. It’s no big deal at all. Don’t get upset, the cats are fine, I’m fine. It’s all OK. It was just one second that I didn’t know what was going on.” I just whimpered into the phone, “I gotta go” as I collapsed on the couch sobbing, and then continued sobbing throughout the night while occasionally yelling out, “I’m sorry cats. I’m sorry”.

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Comments by other Members

Richard Brown at 00:46 on 30 June 2005  Report this post
Some good touches but the story didn't quite work for me - the ending stretched credulity! It reads as fact but I could not imagine the shift from knowing that the cats were ok and the mouse dead to the cats being dead. But maybe I'm being too literal.

There are a few technical points. I noticed an 'it's' when it should have been 'its', there was 'weather' instead of 'whether' and a 'their' instead of 'they're'. I felt also that there was a bit of over-writing at times, eg 'Somewhere deep inside my being a savage cauldron had already begun to rapidly spin out of control'. I find it difficult to form an image of a savage cauldron, never mind one that is spinning. There were also a few split infinitives though these days these seem to be acceptable. The one that stood out most for me was 'to horribly die'. 'Horribly allowed the cats to die'? or 'Allowed the cats to die horribly?'

Sorry if this seems too negative but I think the piece would benefit from some strong editing. I'd be interested to know what others think.


lieslj at 13:56 on 02 July 2005  Report this post
Hello Highway Dave

I hope you'll sign up at Write Words and get a circle of writing friends with whom to practise your craft.

You've got a great idea at the heart of this - a miscommunication about pets can certainly make for a funny piece.

My feeling is that you need to streamline a little. At this stage the work is still rather overwritten and thus confusing. I would encourage you to read it aloud and hear for yourself where its strengths are, then to scrutinise the weaker areas and see what you can do to rewrite and strengthen them.

Warm wishes

Dreamer at 04:15 on 03 July 2005  Report this post
Hi Dave,

Like Richard I found his reaction to the misinterpretation of the cat story a little bizare. But I have no experience with drug addiction so maybe this is normal. At this point we don't know anything more about the mc than he has been drinking so I think you need to explain to us why he would react that way, otherwise it doesn't sit right.


di2 at 05:34 on 21 December 2006  Report this post
Good story. I could place myself in the room and in the muddled mind. Well done.

Best wishes with your writing.

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