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

Friday, October 4, 2019

Just Say No to Time Travel

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 7 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. 

My “Secret Subject” is:

Imagine your life in the 1950s: In what ways would it be different?

It was submitted by:

There's a tough piece of fiction first and then commentary after. 

I'M GAY NOT FUCKING CRAZY is a constant echo in my head while I stand in line waiting for the cup of pills these people are trying to force down my throat. Well, truth be told they do force 'em. I've just gotten really good at sticking my finger down my throat.

The women around me tend to do the same except Joan. She takes them all. She's been here longer than any one of the others I've met and has no hope of getting out. Really. Her dad...well, he'd done things to her for years, but he is also mayor of the town she lives--lived--in, Arlington, and he shipped her up here threatening shock therapy if she don't keep shut up about it all. She had gotten tired of it and told her mom who refused to believe her, and when she told her teacher at school, her parents said she was hysterical and angry with her father about a boy, so they could save face burying the truth then told the school they would take care of it. She's been here since. I heard it's been 8 years. She doesn't have a clue what day it is much less the year.

Anyway, she doesn't want the memories or the nightmares or to care enough to fight off the orderlies, so she takes every last pill and lives in her own little world. Sometimes I envy it. I really do.

The rest of us ain't got there quite yet. Marcy, Barbara, Mary, and Shirley, that's me. We take turns watching out for each other and puking the pills back up in the bathrooms. Technicolor vomit. Sometimes if the wait is long enough for a clear chance, your vision starts to blur and clouds take all kinds of shapes in your mind, so a couple of the us will have to chance a distraction that often leads to punishment, but that's better than the alternative. Otherwise, one of us might end up pregnant through no choice of our own, and that means much bigger trouble. If the man responsible doesn't kill you to cover his tracks and say you charged him in "hysterics", then you face the wrath of the head nurse. And truth is being dead or carrying a rape baby on a mental ward was preferable to her.

She makes it so the lobotomy my parents keep promising me if I don't stop seeing Toni and being a "pervert deviant" so I can get married to a man sound alright. Her name is Bertha, and she doesn't want no marks on her record. It's pristine, she says. No babies on this ward, she says. Two girls have died since I been here from botched abortions so she can keep that pristine record. They got "in the family way" as she says, so she them for a special appointment they never came back from. We may be in a nuthouse, but we ain't stupid. Mostly.

What she ought to do is cut the dicks off those men she has working here instead of always finding time for a flirt or a smoke with them and wouldn't be no problems. But she'd rather see it as our fault for tempting them. We're the fuckups and the whores in her eyes, the troublemakers. Doesn't matter if we scream and fight.

Want in one hand and shit in the other though am i right? She won't ever see it clearly.

I'm not real sure why some of the other girls are here. We've learned already not to trust anyone. Ever. My own parents put me here. I'm 27, have my own job, and live on my own, and they still got me here. I haven't lived in their house since I was 16. They kicked me out. They turned me away. I didn't have no choice in it, but now that people talk about me and Toni, they want to hide me away if I don't live my life their way. They haven't so much as pissed in my direction in over 10 years now... What kind of world are we in where really just about anyone can say you're crazy or a danger, and you minding your own business and paying your own bills can get put in this kind of place? Of course being in love with a woman has something to do with it especially since I don't deny it out there, but not all of these people are gay. Some of these women are here just because they're women.

Mary, for instance. Mary was pregnant before she got here, but something was wrong with the baby, and she had a miscarriage. Wasn't her fault, and she knows that deep down, but she still felt all the things you might expect to feel. What she wasn't feeling though was desire for her husband. Who would? He slapped her around when she wasn't doing the laundry on time or when she didn't have his dinner on the table at the perfect temperature when he walked through the door even though he never came home at the same time. Who would want him? Really I'd like to know. So when she wouldn't put out and beatin' on her got to be more of a chore than fun, he sent her up here saying she isn't right because of the baby, so he can con some other pretty young thing into moving in. So woman loses the only thing she's got in this world bringing her joy, and she's supposed to hop right back on the dick and laundry without a hiccup or she winds up here. Seems real damn fair, don't it? That's the definition of being a wife and sane for the people making the rules, and the rules change whenever they see fit.

My turn in line comes up now. I take my cup with a smile because if you don't smile in this place you have to take smile therapy. It's made up by Bertha. Ain't no therapist or doctor doing the process. She puts you in a chair, straps you down, and puts this thing on your face that makes your mouth spread. I think it might be used by dentists, but she's got her own methods. Her own madness. You stay like that until she sees fit, and then you sign a paper saying you understand the importance of smiling for yourself and the other people on the ward. In other words, fake it or be punished. Fake it or be here. Fake it or die. Fake acceptance, fake love, fake being into men.

Speaking of that whole thing, my parents were too ashamed to tell them here I like women, and I won't be the one to tell them either. It was the best thing they coulda done even if the goodness was unintentional. Bertha gets wind of any gay stuff, and she orders them two pride and joy orderlies to...well, you know...while she watches. Gotta make sure you get what you need to be straight as an arrow, you see. Screw the gay outta these girls. New girl came in about a week after I first got here. Her daddy wasn't holding back at all on why she was being sent here, and within an hour after he left, I heard it. Never heard sobbing screams like that in my life, and until the day I die, I will never forget them.

That's why no one knows about me not even the girls I talk to every day. Sometimes Bertha uses one to get to the other, you see. Most of us don't talk about why we got stitched up here. We only talk about being free, getting back home, or just out of here. We have to fake it. Lie. Hide. that's the only way to stay somewhat safe, and even then...even then...

Sometimes I stand at the window overlooking that creepy cemetery out back with it's tiny, cheap markers, and I long for death. It's been months, and I don't know how much longer I can fake it. I don't know if I can lie. I don't know if I can be the obedient doormat I'm expected to be. And maybe dead is better than a prisoner here or prisoner in a marriage to someone who won't let me work and makes me polish his knob so I can get grocery money. How long can I lie? How much longer until I'm back here, and this time with the truth of who I am out in the open? What kind of life is that anyway?

I'm not sure it's one I want to live.


This isn't something I like to think about. Or write about. It's not a time period I look back on wistfully hoping to get back to the real meat of the family. Any time spent in sociology classes will teach you that things weren't even as bad in the 30s for women as it was the 50s. The 50s brought in this need for women to be perfect Stepford wives in a way not seen in quite awhile. And it was its own animal. 

As a queer disabled woman, the idea of going back to the 50s makes me physically fucking ill. 

I came out when I was in high school. Just recently someone I had a message on facebook from a high school bully. This was someone I trusted who was supposed to be a good friend back then. What he sent me was some half assed apology talking about how he mocked me after I came out instead of celebrating my bravery. It didn't even touch the bullying, death and physical threats, and world shaking distrust that permeates my existence to this day that he and people like him caused. That was the 90s. I went through enough hate in the fucking 90s to last my lifetime, that still makes me nervous in public places, that even recently kept me from going to a concert I really would have liked to attend because it was a country singer at a small bar in Alabama. i didn't feel safe. Even going with a dude I still stick out like a sore thumb. or maybe i don't, but after years of being called "dyke" by perfect strangers, I don't feel like I pass. at all. 

I can't imagine living in a time that wasn't also all about grrl power and riot girls and people coming out all the time even in Middle of Nothing, Georgia. I had to imagine for this prompt... and please understand what I've written isn't an exaggeration. there is plenty of history to explore to prove me right. 

here's the thing...when Americans talk about how things are so much worse than ever under Trump, they're wrong. Yes, he's embarrassing. Yes, he's made things worse than under Obama. Yes, he's probably going to make things even worse before he's done. But the only people who really think these are the worst things have ever been have very little at risk. Marginalized people have lived in a world that we understood a long time ago would never fully accept us. We've always been slowly making progress if at all. we've always taken steps back for every step forward. Times are scary, yes. But they're not at all the scariest they've ever been for marginalized people, and even though I wish I had a pink tiled bathroom and I guess it's funny to think about tuna jello molds, the 50s would have meant my death in a very real way, and I don't want anything to do with it. 

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado