Still Life with Siamese

Calvin guarding my Texas hat
Calvin guarding my Texas hat

So I went to a concert Sunday night to watch a performer I had first seen in person twenty years ago. Both great shows, but it got me to thinking about time and the difference between the type of show a person does when he is younger and the type of show he does when he’s older. The younger show was brash and funny, the older show more thoughtful and introspective.

Apparently introspection is catchy.

Anyway, as I was getting ready to leave for work yesterday, two of my characters started a scene that takes place years from the present set of stories, my fictional equivalent of the gap in the concerts. I could tell it was just going to be a scene or two. Short, sad, poignant. But I had to get to work so I took off and hoped I’d get a chance to write it down later.

But when I got to work, it started to transform. More characters wanted in on the action, the poignant moment turning into an inciting scene for an entire story. And every scene that showed up diluted the original by half. Soon nothing would be left but a watery gruel. The argument in the men’s room was the last straw. Do I want this to be sad or stupid?

I chose sad.

As soon as I get home, I crank up the computer and get to work. And, yes, the characters have decided on short and sad as well. I am deep into it, typing as fast as I can and then….

“MwaaaaaAAAAaaaaaAAAAA” at my bedroom door.

Which is Siamese for “Let me in.” Or at least it is Calvin for let me in. I’ve found that no two Siamese sound exactly alike. Calvin is more of a loud tenor, Hobby is more of a cranky baritone. And neither of them say “Meow.”

I ignore him and try to keep writing, but Calvin will not be ignored.


You get the picture.

So I open the door. “Okay, okay, come in.”

“MwaaaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaaAAAAA,” he says, trotting around the bed and trying to judge the distance up to my Wacom tablet. I use a tablet instead of a mouse. Unfortunately, it has buttons on it that scroll or hide windows. I never use the buttons, but Calvin likes to sit on them and activate them with his butt.

“So what do you need?”

“Mmmmmmmmmm.” Now the Mmmmmmm sound is a funny little noise made without even opening his mouth. It is a considering sound, a maybe sound. If he’s not quite sure what he wants or whether or not he likes something, he will mmmmmmm.

After two tries (he is seventeen years old so some days are better than others), he gets up on the tablet. I remove him before he can activate any buttons and set him on the bed.

“Do you want to go outside?” I’m hoping this is the right answer. Calvin likes to go outside and pee on the car tires. He learned that from our old Dobie Spencer. Spencer is gone, but Calvin still likes to pee on tires.


“Okay, give me a minute. I’m right at the end of this story.”


“Okay, okay, you can go out right now.”

I let him outside, leave the door open a crack so he can come back in and return to the computer. I get one sentence typed and then…

“Waaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” Imagine whiny child inflection.

“Not right now, Hobby.”


Now Hobby has been sick (he’s also seventeen) so it is important that he eats. So if he wants to eat, I have to go feed him. Right now he will only eat tiny bits of chicken so I cut him up a few chunks, wash my hands, go back to the keyboard.

But before I can close the bedroom door…


“There’s chicken in the kitchen, Calvin.”

He comes around the bed, eyes the tablet, wiggles his behind.

“Calvin, can I just finish my story?”


Of course, by this time, I’ve totally lost the flow of the thing. I’m not sure exactly how the story ends anymore, but I remove Calvin from the Wacom tablet and type something.

Maybe it’s finished, maybe it’s not.

I’ll try again when I have less company.



Requiem for Charlie

Charlie wasn’t my cat. He’d belonged to someone once, but it wasn’t me. He showed up yelling at my back door one morning, not quite grown, black and white with a lopsided Charlie Chaplin mustache on his upper lip. His buddy Punkin, big and fluffy and orange, was beside him, silent, Teller to Charlie’s Penn, but looking just as hungry.

They were very clean for strays. Clean and well aware that food came out of back doors. Dumped probably. Or abandoned when someone walked away from their foreclosed home. They looked up at me with every expectation of being fed even though we had never met each other before in our lives. Charlie pressed up against the screen door and squinted up at me with bright green eyes.

I folded.

I dug a can of cat food out of the cupboard and split it between the two of them. Charlie started to purr at the top of his lungs, eating and purring through his entire meal. Punkin occasionally gave me a pleased golden stare between bites.

And suddenly I had some outside cats.

Now my inside cats are older and Siamese, sure of their territory and unwilling to share. But Charlie was never one to recognize boundaries. He’d come in anyway, just to check things out or sleep on the bathroom rug.

Charlie claimed the abandoned doghouse out back. Punkin took up residence on the roof of my car. I had to run the gauntlet to go anywhere. First belly rubs for Charlie (but not too many because he got feisty) and then some head scratches for Punkin while I tried to convince him that I needed to drive his bed to work. Charlie would be there to meet me when I got home, running up when I opened the car door, purring. Punkin would lead me to the house and dart inside to steal some dry food while I got a can ready for them.

About a week ago, Charlie showed up as usual, purring and wanting attention. He took me to the back door and ran inside, but he didn’t want any dry food. Instead he walked through the kitchen, paused a moment, then walked into the living room and hid behind the TV. An hour later, he sauntered out again and flopped over on the floor. I petted him and he purred, but he still didn’t want any food.

I checked him over to see if he was all right. No bites, no sore spots. He didn’t have a fever. His tongue was nice and pink. He looked fine, only he wasn’t. I can’t even say what exactly was wrong, but somehow he wasn’t quite Charlie.

I made him a dish of tuna, which he didn’t want, and coaxed him back outside. He sat by the back door looking up at me and purring. I told him that if he wasn’t acting normal in the morning, I was taking him to the vet.

I never saw him again. We looked all over, but there was no sign of him anywhere. He wasn’t in his doghouse, he wasn’t in his flowers by the back door, he wasn’t watching birds at the end of the yard.

He just wasn’t.

And he still isn’t. In my heart, I hope he found some incredible new place to live. In my head, I know he probably hasn’t.

But Punkin and I can still pretend.