While clearing off the hard drive of a laptop I’m lending to a friend, I came across some great files this morning. The laptop is the one I began using for National Novel Writing Month in 2008. I didn’t really want to participate at the time but went along with it due to peer pressure.
I had this idea for a long time that I wanted to turn into a novel. It came from watching my cat Nevadelia, who has some very strange, though typically feline, habits. Occasionally she sits in the corner of the room, facing the wall, ears flat against her head, motionless for ten minutes or more. One day, when asked what she was doing, I said, “Oh, she’s just downloading from the Mothership.”
And I started building this funny sci-fi story in my head – what if cats were really sent here to spy on us or control us? Like cats were the ones really running the show, and the humans were allowed to have the illusion of control, just to keep us occupied? The animal shelter would be their headquarters, their version of the CIA. I thought it would be a blast to write a story like that.
So when day 1 of NaNoWriMo came along, I ran with that idea.
I discovered the first chapter this morning while clearing off the laptop. I’d never re-read it after writing it over a year ago, and it’s totally unedited, but it cracked me up so I thought I’d share it. It was highly entertaining to write. I may have to continue it.
It’s clearly evidence I was watching too much X-Files at the time.
And it doesn’t have a title yet, but I might have to call it “Labradoodles for Obama.”
The door clicked shut and Sorrel’s favorite part of the day began. He turned over on his side, sprawled lengthwise in a shaft of early morning light filtering through the leaded glass window overlooking the city. The simulated-bamboo vinyl floor was warm, despite its non-wood qualities, made supple and toasty by the slices of sun that cut through the tree-print curtains.
He lifted a foot languidly, stretching his toes until they were hyper-extended, and followed with an enormous yawn that showcased his fine set of milky white teeth. It was a swell day, yes indeed. And with the reckless abandon of a soul with a perfect agenda of napping, eating, spying and reporting ahead of him, he judiciously licked each of his toes and fell back asleep in a sunbeam on the faux hardwood.
Even though he was partially asleep, the sounds of the apartment caused his tufted ears to twitch in different directions like tiny satellites. The radiator made a blunted clicking sound before it heated up, and in his semi-sleep he smiled with the expectation of warmth. The anticipation was delicious. Three short clicks and two long, followed by a slow and steady burst of damp heat from the baseboards.
There was also the slow rhythmic dripping of the tub faucet in the bathroom, the tone of which changed as the day progressed and became more of a splash as the escaped water pooled in the bottom of the porcelain tub. Sorrel could tell how long he’d been napping by the pitch of the water droplets striking the tub.
The energy in the apartment always felt best immediately after Person C17 left – not because Sorrel found her company unfriendly, but there was something about the calm after the storm that ensued once the humans finished their flurry of activity, of spraying and primping, pacing and flinging, cabinets opening and closing, radios going on, getting louder, going off, the hum of electronics, the beeping of mobile phones and computers booting up and shutting down.
They were so busy – the humans. Sorrel smiled to think about how important they all thought their work was. Good — it was supposed to be that way. The humans were supposed to feel important. They needed purpose. It kept them out of trouble.
So the peace and calm that descended on the apartment when the front door of unit #17, which contained Person C17, in building 910 of E. Aloha, latitude 47.627, longitude 122.320 (important information to know, regardless of the GPS on Sorrel’s collar) was Sorrel’s favorite time of day, and he rolled about in that hour or two with absolute kitten glee.
Upstairs, in unit #22, Penelope was shamelessly eating bacon off a cookie sheet left on the counter. Female Person G22a was gone on a business trip, and the Male Person G22b took this opportunity to engage in slovenly human conduct such as Scratching of Balls, Watching of Television, and Drunken and Disorderly Behavior.
Once the ingestion of alcohol was underway, the preparation of fatty foodstuffs reliably followed. Leftovers would be abandoned and accessible via the countertop or coffee table, as the inebriated buffet left Person G22b incapacitated to participate in anything besides lying on the couch watching porn.
The Forces fully endorsed said ingestion and incapacitation. Just like they knew that a self-perceived “busy” and “important” human was easiest to manage, likewise a stoned and stuffed human required little work and little in the way of observation.
So Penelope grew to understand when the big black suitcase came out from the storage room and tensions rose around Person G22a, she was due a nice vacation. The large suitcase was good for a four day respite, while the large suitcase coupled with a duffle meant a week or more. She had a very easy few days ahead of her, filled with much bacon-eating.
Just yesterday, the departure of Person G22a with both suitcase and duffel was followed almost immediately by the arrival of Person L15 with a large bag of fragrant plant matter, which was followed almost immediately by the arrival of the pizza delivery guy and G22b’s friend from down the hall carrying a case of glass bottles that clinked and left behind extremely entertaining metal discs that slid on the faux hardwood floor with such perfect sound and movement that Penelope could barely contain herself. When none of the other cats were watching, she batted them across the floor and chased them with kitten abandon.
Sorrel had been passing by the unit in the early days and caught a glimpse of Penelope cavorting about with a beer bottle cap and Penelope had never fully recovered from the embarrassment. Likewise, Sorrel had never let her forget it. So now when the mood overtook her, she made sure to carry her prize into the back bedroom where no one could watch or she’d be sure the front shades were sufficiently drawn.
The apartment building was like its own living thing, with rhythms and rituals all its own. The postal delivery man showed up at 11:00 almost on the the dot, arriving wildly in his white Jeep and parking erratically at the curb, hurrying in and unhinging the great mailbox of doom from the wall. The sound was startling at first, crashing and sliding of metal doors, but Sorrel grew to identify it as a reliable source of access to the street.
He didn’t need to get out often, but occasionally his duties required him to be out and about in the city, and he could wait quietly in the courtyard until 11:00 when the postal fellow arrive, arms laden with packages, barely able to see over them, and he’d prop the door for thirty seconds while he unloaded his cargo.
It was that tiny window of time when Sorrel or Penelope (though she ventured out much less than Sorrel) transformed from a lazing cat licking himself slowly in the sun to a feline on a mission, instantly on alert, darting down the stairs and making a beeline for the front door. Sometimes he was able to get by the postman without him even noticing. Other times his escape was met with a handful of swears and a half-hearted attempt at chase, during which Sorrel allowed the postman to think he might actually catch him.
But he never did, and Sorrel would be free to make his way through the city as needed, returning home at supper time to appear pitifully at the front door, where the constant activity of humans returning from their Important and Productive Day Jobs would grant him access to the courtyard once again. The routine at first seemed a burden, but quickly he grew to perfect his technique and now it required little forethought or planning at all.
Today was not a day for escape, however. Today was a day for inductions. Perhaps with a small amount of hazing. Word had arrived that the new tenant in #14 had appeared at the Dispatch Headquarters over the weekend and filled out an R72 (Adoption Application), took a fancy to a certain Siamese, and planned to pick him up on Monday afternoon.
The description of the Siamese, passed down by Autumn who was the main informant living at the animal shelter, led Sorrel to believe that it was Samson, a large snowshoe boy with amazing athletic abilities who had escaped an unfavorable setup in Ballard a month ago and had positioned himself to be picked up by Animal Control and brought back to Dispatch Headquarters for re-assignment. Sorrel was excited to confirm his suspicion; he was in desperate need of a spy who could tackle the roof or the giant pine tree in the courtyard without much ado.
Autumn was generally a reliable source. She had been at Dispatch Headquarters her entire life, arriving as a tiny tortoiseshell kitten orphan that required bottle feeding. Her early illness had left her mostly deaf, but from spending her early days in the lap of the shelter manager at the computer, she learned to read and was even able to operate a telephone, which right now was merely a parlor trick but Sorrel was certain it would come in handy one day.
The markings reported by Autumn that lead Sorrel to believe the cat in question was indeed Samson was the perfect white Hitler mustache aligned above his otherwise perfectly Siamese face. It was a distinctive marking that made humans coo with adoration as it appeared Samson had stolen a sip of milk from an unattended saucer.
Samson was one of the Kitler Youth dispersed throughout the area, easy to identify by their white mustaches. There was one exception to the rule – a beefy, vocal kitler named Cisco who had a black mustache and piercing green eyes. Cisco was a Master Informant at one point and had completed his Service. He retired to live in a little house in North Seattle with a beautiful young human who dressed him up for Halloween and made him his own page on MySpace.
At first The Forces were concerned that such exposure would out him for sure, until they collectively realized that humans were far too self-important to ever realize the extent to which they were observed, catalogued, and ultimately controlled by their Resident Felines.