Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bubble and Sass

Kelley has reached $2,500 in sponsorship for her Clarion West daily write-a-thon work. She's written some brilliant stuff, and you have all generously supported her.

One of my favourites was an early piece about Bubble the cat, which I'm reposting here in its entirety (with permission, of course).


for Beverly Marshall Saling. Thank you for your support of my work and Clarion West.

A single white whisker on a black cat marked a leader, and Bubble the Brave led well. He made his neighborhood rounds twice every day. He rubbed noses and smelled scent messages for status reports. He stiff-walked the impetuous young ones back into right-thinking when they needed it. He rough-tumbled kittens to toughen them up. One memorable week, he and a select crew — Scooter, Pirate, Catfish and Bill — routed a Labrador that had recently moved into the neighborhood. The dog went limping, one eye blind, and never came back. It had to be done: the dog was insane, a cat-killer, a child-biter. It had a taste for blood. One day, Bubble knew, it would have turned on its people. They had no cat to protect them, and Bubble considered them his responsibility too.

And he took his responsibilities seriously, even when they were inconvenient and, like today, uncomfortable. He arrived home from the morning reconnaisance soaking wet and requested entrance, looking forward to a warm corner and some Friskies.

The sliding door opened. Bubble looked up into the eyes of his enemy and commenced the required stare-down.

“Your cat’s too dumb to come in out of the rain,” the Usurper said.

“Move over,” Staff said. She leaned out and scooped Bubble into her arms. He did his best to maintain the stare until she carried him out of the Usurper’s range.

“You’re so wet!” Staff said. “My bubblehead kitty.” She was warm, and she knew how to hold a cat properly. She dried him gently. She offered him fresh Friskies. She stroked his head. She was a very good Staff in every possible way except, recently, in the matter of the bed. It was undignified to jostle the Usurper for space; but she was Bubble’s Staff, so every night he jostled. And every night he was put outside the room, trembling with rage and indignation, halfway tempted to return to his kittenhood, his Bubble the Berserker days when all cloth objects feared his claws and anything breakable trembled before him.

Something had to be done. Bubble curled up and hoped the answer would come in a dream.

It came, instead, in the Usurper himself. A disagreement with Staff, the two of them hissing and spitting and stiff-walking each other around the house. He was pleased to see that Staff had learned a thing or two about that. She drove the Usurper off handily, his frustration and anger trailing him so strongly that Bubble imagined everyone could smell it. It was laced with sadness too, and there was a sense of finality in the Usurper’s gait.

Everything was back in place. Bubble turned his attention to planning the capture of the troublesome mouse in the garage, and that night he slept against Staff’s back.

But Staff was unhappy. Her tail was down, and it stayed that way in spite of his head butts and his purrs. Sometimes he had to remind her about food or bedtime. Sometimes it seemed she didn’t really see him. And she never called him Bubblehead anymore.

Something had to be done.

He asked Catfish to keep an eye on the place. Then Bubble the Bold ate a good breakfast, found the last of the Usurper’s scent on the porch, and began to follow the trail.

So many dangers. The cars, the unfamiliar smells, the delicate negotiations with strange cats to cross their turf. He had to fight his way down one alley against staggering odds. He slept that night under a metal box of rotting food and wondered if he would ever see Staff again. The next morning, he licked the blood crust off his wounds and went on.

And finally, the trail grew strong and definite, and brought him to a door. He began to call.

The door opened. Bubble looked up into the eyes of his enemy.

“What the fuck?” the Usurper said. “Bubble?”

He put a cautious hand down, and Bubble’s respect for him went up a notch. It took a certain amount of courage, after the last time. Bubble sniffed the hand and then butted it.

“Jesus,” the Usurper said. “Susan must be going out of her mind. You’d better come in.”

When Staff opened the door and saw Bubble, she burst into yowls and clutched him so hard that he squeaked. Then she extended one arm to include the Usurper in the clutch.

Bubble the Bringer ate a good lunch and practiced his stare of superiority on the Usurper for a while. Then he went out to the garage. He did catch the mouse, but he let it get away: Staff had her present for the day. There was no point spoiling her.

And now, just for me, Kelley's written a second Bubble story, "Bubble and Sass."

Bubble the Box-Master was relieved when all but one of the Usurper’s boxes were quelled and their flattened carcasses carried away. One box was no trouble, but so many at once, all needing reconnoiter, domination of contents, and then regular re-intimidation… it was frankly exhausting, and took time from his responsibilities in the neighborhood. Pirate was becoming restive without proper supervision, and there was a tribe of rats in an oak tree on the next block whose spines needed snapping.

At least the Usurper was finding his proper role in the order of things. He had learned to recognize rudimentary commands — out, in, food, lap — and was proving unexpectedly good at helping Staff understand the autonomy a busy cat required.

“Oh, let him out, Susan, he’s got things to do.”

“What if he runs away again?”

“He didn’t run away. He came to find me and bring me back to you.”

“Danny, you don’t know anything about cats. They don’t fetch,” Staff said. “But I love that you’re such a romantic.” [more]

Go read the rest. Read all 35 pieces so far here. Please consider sponsoring Kelley.

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