Friday, October 11, 2019

The Real Cat Lady

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are triumph, trunk, terror, talk, and trust.

They were submitted by:


She stared out at the horde of cats in front of her.

“Toby, Mr Wigglesnout, Sampson, Beverly PurrAngelo, Paula Meowdul, Janet, Lord Buttons, Jesus H. Paws… “

It took her several minutes to finish addressing them all by name, but she knew every single one on sight, knew who was who like she knew her own self, knew all their quirks, their strengths. The pep talk continued.

“…my trust is in you today. We will triumph. We will get the supplies we need to keep going. We will not perish and will celebrate tonight with tins of old anchovies. In oil if you’re lucky. This is the day we succeed, the day we have been waiting for! “

She was absolutely sure of it. They’d been training for ages, she and the cats. Some of the group would get out of control, but Toby was a born leader. The rest listened to him, followed him. If she could keep him on task from the sidelines, everything would be fine. She hoped. They might all perish, her babies and herself, if they didn’t get enough supplies to hide away for awhile.

The world had been full of terror for a long time now. Time, the measurement of time, was pretty irrelevant. The days lost meaning, ran together…there were no watches, no clocks, no schedules. There was only light and dark. Dawn and dusk. Go time, hide time. America’s economy had collapsed under Trump’s second term. And with that so did everything else. No infrastructure, no power grids, no transportation, no Internet…

It didn’t happen in the blink of an eye or anything. It was a slow spiral. When economy tanked, we entered a depression worse than that of the 20th century. People struggled, fought, lost, and died. They preyed on everyone and everything just to survive. Sure, folks banded together near the beginning of the end to try and destroy the government entirely. Rebellions sprung up all over actually, different ideological factions thinking their way was the only way to get us back on course. So instead of having one large group of rebels, we had rebels warring with each other AND the government. I guess that’s where they failed hardest. The military attempted bombing the different groups to prevent coups and civil wars between the different locations each group took over, but the slow spiral had convinced enough people to buy bunkers and arm themselves and to form and train militias. They’d go underground, hide out, strike again when they could. The largest group, The John Brown Union( NOT confederate flag waving assholes. Go figure) tried to set up some new government and named themselves the new leaders, but folks were starving to death. No access to clean water, no hope, no promise of tomorrow. The people kind of gave up, I guess. No one gave a shit what this group tried to do. Out here it was still a very Dog Eat Dog World while those guys were caught up fighting the other factions to retain “leadership.” How could anyone out here starving really care what their promises were? They couldn’t even promise to hold the White House. Probably would have been better than no government at all, but…eh. No one will ever know. Lawlessness is here to stay for now.

She had lived alone with her 3 cats when things started going downhill. She worked at an office supply store that serviced a lot of the Southeastern U.S. Paper, staplers, chairs, copiers…perhaps a dying business, but she had been if not happy at least okay with her life. She didn’t get out much, spent a lot of time Netflixing with the cats, but it definitely could have been worse. The job was the first thing to go. She looked for months for something else, lost her apartment along with nearly everyone else in her building. She had lived in her car for awhile, but living in a car with 3 cats is gross. When things took a darker turn, she took the camper that her parents had stored away in their old barn and made a run for it. It was small, but she could get out of the city and away from most of the chaos. She bought supplies with the last bit of money she had, set up a plot on some hidden away land. She had her cats, a tent, seeds to start a garden, and some food stores that would last awhile.

The garden was still going strong actually, and it kept her pretty well fed, but the food stores had run out long ago. Things had devolved so much that it was never safe to go out at night when people had the cover of darkness to surprise her, and it wasn’t even okay to go out in the day without a weapon. She’d learned that the hard way. But it was either chance it or starve to death in the rv and let the cats eat her body to survive, and as much as she loved them…nah. Not the way she wanted to go. She hadn’t been ready to give up yet.

On most of her runs, she’d see former pets doing their own hunt for survival in the little towns around her patch of land. Or being hunted. People really weren’t choosy anymore. She took in as many cats as would follow her collecting tins and bags of food on her runs. She’d also learned the hard way that starving dogs and a big ass group of cats didn’t mix well without someone getting hurt or worse. She felt like shit every time she left a dog behind with a bit of food she’d found, but it was what she had to do. At least for now.

The group had grown and grown so much it was almost unmanageable at first. All she had was time, though. No job. No Netflix. A few chores. She certainly didn’t have to sweep and vacuum anymore. Or scrub a toilet. So she worked hard trying to train them. She’d use food and treats like sardines and canned oysters that she didn’t want to have to eat. Little by little it began to take hold. Nearly every single one would follow a command. Then she figured out about Toby. Toby had been with her since early on, and she knew all the cats took to him. If he wanted a piece of food, he got it. If he wanted to lay with her, it didn’t matter who was on his lap, they would move. So she worked harder with him than anyone. She noticed that if he did a command every other cat around him would follow.

Now here they were. Ready, she hoped. It had taken a few months if she had to guess. She’d stopped marking days a long time ago. All the while, every small run, she’d noticed a worse and worse crowd in the closest towns. Most slept all day in whatever buildings they were holding or at least seemed to. She’d done a little snooping and could see them in sleeping bags sprawled across the floors through the grimy windows. Others had moved in their RVs and tents. Different groups, though, and the tension was building. She was sure some fighting would break out soon, and any and all hope she had of scavenging in the area would be gone. She’d started to fill a trunk with seeds from her own garden and from the few home stores she’d spotted. She wanted to cram it on this run with more supplies, so they could pack up the rv and move.

These groups in the area would be the end of all of them one way or another, and she’d already waited on this long enough to make sure the cats were ready.

She’d collected a trailer that would fit to her camper awhile back. It was sitting in front of an abandoned home depot not long after she’d made her way out here, and she just had a feeling it would come in handy. Of course at the time, she never thought “handy” would mean stuffing it full of trained cats, but life is strange that way. Or maybe that expression no longer applies. Life is strange in every way these days. She had gas stored for her heaters and stove already. If they could just get food without getting caught, she’d fill better about the whole adventure.

So they set off.

It was fine at first. The cats were darting in stores in their little groups collecting bags of whatever they could find, signaling if it was clear for her to go in with a repeated stamp of their little paws. She’d dash in and grab anything larger while they dropped their goods into the cart she’d wheeled in with her. Things were good. She was sure it was going to be the easiest run of her life.

Of course she should have realized that was actual real life foreshadowing and that nothing in her life went the way it was supposed to…if she had, she wouldn’t have been so surprised when the doorway to the last stop she had planned on making filled with the largest man she’d ever seen.

She didn’t carry guns. She’d never learned how to use them, and by the time she figured out that maybe she might need one out here, most everything had already been scavenged. She found a couple of BB guns that came in handy scaring away scavengers in the garden, but she couldn’t kill a bug half the time much less actually shoot anything. She carried a large hunting type knife that her parents had actually kept in the camper, but…it was in her cart. She was utterly ridiculous.

She stood while he taunted her.

“what ya got there, little lady?”

“you’re a little small to be out here on yer own, honey”

“you look good enough to eat.”

“what makes you think I’m going to let you leave with anything my people could use?”

“What are you going to do about it?”

He was reaching for his belt for reasons to nefarious for her to consider thoroughly at the moment when he screeched and went down on his knees in the doorway. She moved closer to see what was happening. He was blocking the only way she knew in and out of the place. The back had always been blocked by a huge dumpster. That’s when she saw Toby with his claws dug deeply into the man’s back. He growled and howled ferociously for a cat that size, and as she watched more and more of the group showed up all claws and teeth. She couldn’t even tell what the guy looked like anymore when he fell backwards half in and half out of the doorway. He was moaning loudly, still alive, but all that blood…barely. He was barely alive, and maybe not for long.

She jumped over him knowing he wasn’t worth saving and feeling guilty for not helping anyways. She almost made it to the cart when more people started moving in her direction woken up by the commotion of the attack. They looked from the bloodied man on the sidewalk to her and back again.

“what the fuck did you do to him, you bitch?” screamed one of the saltiest women she had ever seen in her life. Her time after the apocalypse had not been easy. Her hair was stringy, greasy and missing in patches. Her face and armed were lined with thick scars like she’d been in a heinous knife attack, and part of one of her ears was missing…

“I…I didn’t do anything to him. It was my cats.”

Laughter surrounded her, but when the tall, lanky man in front of the group wearing the red MAGA hat made a move towards her, Toby jumped between them hissing and ready to strike. He yowled again loudly like he had when he’d attacked the other man, and as both of them watched, cats filled the space between them until you could barely see the street beneath them any longer. Every one of them arched their backs, tails up, hissing and spitting. The groups of them letting these people know they weren’t fucking around any more than Scarface. In fact, the guy on the sidewalk moaned louder still, and when Scarface tried to move to his side, she was held in place by 5 or 6 of the cats that broke away and pushed forward making sure she stayed where they wanted her.

MAGAman took this all in, backing into the group slightly, and frowned. They didn’t seem to have any guns on themselves either. She’d thought long ago that most of the ammo had probably been used up in all the fighting. All that was available to whatever motley groups that formed out here without any real militia training anyway.

“Lady, why don’t you just take what you got in the cart over there and yer cats, and we call it even. This is fucking crazy.”

Toby never eased even as she backed up to the cart and began called them all to her. He stayed until they’d reached the hill leading out of town, and then sauntered off to join them like the badass he was.

She knew they had to pack up and get out of there before those people came looking for their retribution…but she felt a little safer, a little prouder, and like a real fucking cat lady.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

Wandering Web Designer

Spatulas on Parade

On the Border

Follow Me Home

Part-time Working Hockey Mom


  1. Now that's a cat lady! And I love how the cats are the heroes of this story (well, someone has to be and we humans don't seem to be doing a good job of it).

  2. See there's a reason that I am terrified of cats! Great story! (Rena)

  3. You have a knack for taking words and going places I would not have thought of. As a cat mom I think it would be cool to train a horde of cats. LOL but I would hate to be forced into this situation due to an apocalypse.