Do you ever think about…

And probably it is a matter of being better off not thinking

But…

I’m sitting here and writing a piece for a novel about one of my characters, and all of a sudden I stop, right in the middle of where he’s about to get violently murdered if he lets his guard down.

Why have I stopped right there?

A strange thought goes through my mind.

Did he remember to have breakfast, did he make the bed and tidy up after he got up?  Did he have to arrange to have his clothes cleaned, or were they cleaned for him?

Does he have a maid and a butler and a cook to do all those things?

The problem is, we don’t know what happened before he finished up in that precarious position.

We may know that he was taught to fight by a zen master, a swordsman, though I’m not sure if there is a requirement for fencing, to drive defensively, to kill people in more ways than you’ve had hot dinners.

We may know that he was in a similar fight the day before, and his energy has been depleted and may be running on painkilling drugs.  Of course, if that’s the case, and knowing the side effect of some of those drugs, he may be impaired, and slower in reaction time, which might mean premature death.

But we don’t know if he ate anything, whether he slept well, or not at all (though sometimes it rates a mention more often than not as an afterthought or an excuse), whether he has any distracting thoughts, like what the hell am I doing here?

Everyday things which all of us, and I’m sure even the most successful of spies, have to deal with.

Just a thought.

Back to the fight, yes he wins, got a couple of slashes and there’s a copious amount of blood on his shirt.

Let’s not worry about who’s going to clean up the mess, or do the washing.

A few running repairs with needle and thread, including the requisite grimaces in pain, someone else will clean the shirt, and yes, there’s always a cupboard full of clean clothes to change into.

Moving on…

No more conversations with my cat – 100

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

Even now, I still believe he is here with us, in spirit, though sometimes I swear I hear him coming down the passage, or is sitting on the floor, behind me in the office, waiting to hear the next piece of writing and offer his often sage comments.

But, no. When I turn around he’s not there, and I stop, for a moment or two, and remember.

This was Chester.

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For a few days, we have been monitoring Chester.

He hasn’t been talkative, in fact, I have been mistaking his usual taciturn nature in the mornings for what it really was.

A total lack of interest in anything.

He did not come down in the morning. OK, so, sometimes he cracks a hissy fit and totally ignores me.

But, this is different.

After a few days he returns and gives me the benefit of his wisdom.

Today, he hasn’t shown at all, so I went looking for him.

He was in his usual hiding spot, lying down.   I give him a pat, he opes his eyes and looks at me.  This is a cat who is not well.

I pick him up, and there’s no immediate fight back. He doesn’t normally like to be carried anywhere. Today, he’s putty in my hands.

I call the vet. She can fit him in now if I run.  I’m running.

He goes into his carry basket without a fight.  OK, now I know something is definitely wrong.

There’s not a sound between home and the clinic. Usually, he screams the place down, trying to get him into the carrier, and then makes as much noise as possible when driving.

Today there is nothing, not even a whimper.

The vet comes out. She has been seeing him for the last ten years and they are well acquainted.

We see her every six months. Without fail, for shots and stuff.

I take him out of the carrier and he lies down on the metal bench.

She looks at him, then picks him up.

She weighs him.

He’s lost two kilos, and that’s a lot for a cat.

I can see it’s bad news.

It is.

He’s 19 years old, long past the average life expectancy.

To keep him alive now would be inhumane. He has, apparently, reached the end of his life, and has lost the desire to eat or to do anything. There was nothing I could have done to prevent it.

She says, it just happens.

It will be quick and it will be painless.

I can see in his eyes that it’s what he wants.

I said goodbye, went outside and sat in the car, and cried.

There’s going to be a lot more tears before this day is out.

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 99

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

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This is Chester.

Not everything is fine in la-la-land, as he now calls it.

Not happy that I didn’t tell him about the second week of child invasion.

He should consider himself lucky that the school week started on Tuesday, and only one was staying home to do schoolwork.

The other has been able to return to the classroom.

One less tormentor, I heard him mutter as he slinked past the room where the homeschooler was working.

But a more sinister problem had arisen.

He’s stopped eating his food.  I first thought this was part of a two-week standoff, where he cuts his nose off to spite his face.

This is not the first time we’ve been through this.

So, just to see if it is a fit of pique, I get him his absolute favorite food.  Fresh Atlantic Salmon cut into small pieces just the way he likes it.

Yes, the aroma reaches him in his hiding spot, along with the call-out that I’d bought him salmon, but when he goes to the bowl, he takes a sniff, or two, then wanders away.

He doesn’t even look at me.

Very, very unusual.

I will be keeping an eye on this.

 

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 98

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

20160903_163902

This is Chester.  He’s now over having the grandchildren staying with us.

As part of the COVIS 19 restrictions in place, the grandchildren cannot go to school.

However, because their parents are both working (which is very fortunate as so many others are not) they have asked us to look after them.

So, they arrive Sunday night, stay the whole week, and go back home on Friday.  It means they are homeschooling, so the internet is taking a beating, I have to feed them, morning tea, lunch. After school snack at three and then dinner.

Chicken nuggets, pies, and shoestring chips can only go so far, and, no, he does not like scraps from their plates.

And having to cater for four rather than two means a gentle shift in logistics.  More shopping for food, having to do the washing every day, tormenting the cat.

OK, that last part is where Chester comes in, or, rather, he stays hidden away.

Remember that phobia he has when the grandchildren are around?

Now they’re here semi-permanently, he’s in hiding, and coming out only for food and water.

And to let me know just how displeased he is.

He wants his domain back.

Pity I haven’t told him yet they’re going to be back next week.

 

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 94

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

20160921_071506

This is Chester.

We are in the middle of a philosophical debate.

No, it’s not about whether the world is flat, though sometimes I think he has that notion, as well as all humans are basically stupid.

I’ve been thinking about the pandemic and how it might meld into a plotline for a story.

Chester is not happy that I should use China as the country with global ambitions, after using the term ‘global domination’ and got a very silky retort.

He doesn’t seem to think that by causing a pandemic, making each of the G20 nations basically launch themselves into insolvency in order to maintain some semblance of economic stability, that China, who miraculously recovers, becomes the nation who saves the world?

It sounded quite good in my head.

Particularly when you see nations like the USA, the only other country that could tackle China as a ‘savior’ state, is going slowly down the gurgler.   Or so it seems, and it’s only a matter of time before something gives.

Chester and I now have mandatory viewing every morning, the Donald Trump show, where we lay bets as to whom he’s going to fire or lambast.

Chester thought the Doctor was gone for all money on Monday.

My money was on the reporter, who wouldn’t stop asking questions.

But today, it might be about Joe Biden and the Democrats, and the ramping up of the Republican’s political campaign.  Who said the COVID briefings had to be about that mundane virus?

Still, it’s back to the drawing board.  The overall plot is good, creating a virus that brings almost every nation to its knees, and one that rises out of the ashes to ‘save the world’.  It’s like you don’t need bullets and arms to fight a war, just a hell of a sneaky virus; you know, infecting people when you don’t know you’ve got it and infecting others.

Hang on, Chester’s calling.  It’s time for the Donald Trump show.

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 90

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

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This is Chester.

He’s not looking forward to being in quarantine.

Yes, he’s been keeping up with the latest developments regarding the Coronavirus, but like many, he doesn’t seem to think it will affect him.

After all, he says smugly, there hadn’t been one recorded instance of a cat getting the Coronavirus.

Of course, he’s right, but I still search for a searing reply.

That may be, but what if they’re not reporting cat infections so as not to alarm the cat population?

Aha, got him with that one.  He ponders that for a moment or two.  I decided to add fuel to the fire.

Apparently, dogs can contract the virus, but after reporting one, there hadn’t been any more.  What if they’re not telling anyone that more dogs have contracted the virus so owners and pets don’t get alarmed.

A reply quick as a flash, Dogs get everything that’s going around.  We cats are more resilient.

Until you get cat flu.  Yes, my nana’s cat got cat flu and it killed him in 2 days.  This virus is a much deadlier form of flu.

A suitable look of concern crossed his face.

Maybe I’ll stay indoors for the duration.  It’s not as if you’re going to let me roam the streets any time soon.

Maybe I will, I say.  Perhaps it is time I started letting you out from time to time.

A shake of the head.

We’ll revisit this when the crisis has passed, he says getting up and walking off, tail flicking in annoyance.

One to me, none to him.  Yes!!!

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 89

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

20160921_071506

This is Chester.  We have been discussing the possibility of being stuck in the house for anything from 14 days to 10 months.

Yes, the Coronavirus is finally arriving in Australia, and though it is slow to catch on, we are being warned that it could get a lot worse, very quickly.

Chester has suggested we barricade the doors and windows.

Alas, I tell him, this is not the same as the American cowboys fending off an Indian attack.  No circling the wagons, and definitely no John Wayne to ride in and save the day.

Too many westerns on Fox.  I keep forgetting Chester has mastered the art of turning the TV on and changing channels on the Foxtel remote.

I also tell him that the virus is not only airborne, spread by those who cough or sneeze, but also by touch, like shaking hands, and hugging.

At that, Chester takes a good three, four steps back away from me.  So, he challenges me, what are the options.

Well, firstly cats may not get the virus.  Only one dog, as far as I know, had got it.  You, I tell him, do not need to worry.

As for the humans, well, we are in trouble if it comes.

We will be staying in, in some sort of forced quarantine, trying to avoid the rest of the world until it goes away,

So, he says, that means you have enough cat food and litter, the proper one?

I shake my head like he does when he’s annoyed.

Well, if it happens, I’m sure we’ll find out.  Besides, I add, you need to lose a kilo or two.

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 88

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

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This is Chester.  He had reminded me that it is Dr. Seuss’s birthday

Or perhaps that of the Cat in the Hat.

Chester told me once he auditioned for the role of Cat in the Hat, but he couldn’t get the hat to sit right.

A stitch-up, really, he added.  There was this fat cat, and he told everyone the role was his.

Period.

So, I had to ask, did he get the role?

No.  You’ve seen the Cat in the Hat, haven’t you?  Nothing like him.

So, other than trying to intimidate the competition, what was so scary about him?

Oh, I wasn’t scared or anything like that.  I just didn’t want to make a scene in front of the ladies.

I take a minute, trying to equate the cat in front of me, and that of the Cat in the Hat.

No resemblance at all.

And as for the scaredy-cat part, I decide not to remind him of his all-conquering fear of the grandchildren.

I’ll just wait until the next time they visit…

In less than two hours.

Trying to pick up the pieces

I can see how it is that a writer’s life is one that, at times, has to be shut off from the outside world.

It’s a bit hard to keep a stream of thoughts going when in one ear is some banal detective show, and in the other, a conversation that you have to keep up with.  I know how hard it is because I’ve tried doing three things at once, and failed miserably in all three.

So, out I slink to the writing room and start by re-reading the previous chapters, to get back into the plot.  I should remember where I am, and get straight to it, but the devil is in the detail.

Going back, quite often I revise, and a plotline is tweaked, and a whole new window is opened.  God, I wish I didn’t do that!

Then I get to the blank page, ready to go, and…

The phone rings.

Damn.  Damn.  Damn.

Phone answered, back to the blank page, no, it’s gone, got yo go back, blast, another revision, and back to the blank page.

Half an hour shot to pieces.

The phone rings again.

Blast scam callers.  I nearly rip the cord out of the wall.

All through this the cat just watches, and, is that a knowing smile?

It can’t be, I’ve just learned that cats can’t smile, or make any sort of face.

I’m sure his thoughts are not a vague or scrambled, or wrestling with the ploys of several stories on the go, getting locations right, getting characters to think and do their thing with a fair degree of continuity.

The cat’s world is one of which chair to lie on, where is that elusive mouse be it real or otherwise, and is this fool going to feed me, and please, please, don’t let it be the lasagna.  I am not that cat!

Unlike other professions, it’s a steady, sometimes frustrating, slog where you can’t just walk away, have a great time, and come back and pick up where you left off.  Stories have to be written from beginning to end, not a bit here and a bit there.

It’s a bit like running a marathon.  You are in a zone, the first few miles are the hardest, the middle is just getting the rhythm and breathing under control, and then you hope you get to the end because it can seem that you’ve been going forever and the end is never in sight.

But, when you reach the end, oh, isn’t the feeling one of pure joy and relief.

Sorry, not there yet.

And no comment is required from the cat gallery, thankyou!

 

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 71

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

This is Chester.

When I come down to the writing room he’s sitting on the table next to the keyboard.

I take this gesture to mean that he’s not trying to be confrontational.

He’d be sitting on the keyboard if that was his intention.

Or, perhaps he’s trying to lull me into a false sense of security.

I try to read his expression, forgetting that cats down have expressions, just a single look.

Contempt.

I sit down and we’re now eye to eye. Could it be that he is doesn’t like the idea of looking up at me? Might that almost suggest that I am the master and he is the cat?

Perhaps I’m just tired and writing too much into it. Maybe he just saw a mouse and wanted to get an overview of where it might have gone.

Plenty of hiding places in this office. Chester knows some off them himself because there are times when I can’t find him.

Then he deigns to speak. “I think it’s time you cleaned this room up.”

It seems it’s a universal request from everyone, grandchildren included.

“Sorry. Not sorry. I’m going for the grumpy grandfather’s study children are forbidden to enter look. Piles of books, shelves overloaded with more books, messy tables, and papers scattered everywhere. And nowhere to sit because seats are places to pile more stuff.”

He looks around.

“Done a good job of it then. How do you find anything?”

“I found you.”

“I wasn’t hiding.”

“Oh, I thought you were.”

I’m sure there was that imperceptible shake of the head in disdain, before he jumps down and leaves.

Dodged a bullet there. I was sure he was going to complain about his food … again!