Applesauce Cat

Warning: Mature Content

I was sitting in the din of another rum-soaked afternoon on High Street in some far away town. I was alone as usual. The clock was ticking behind my head like a reader counting down the days to my ultimate demise.

I looked out the balcony fortress at the world all messed up and angry with itself, and I saw a cat eating applesauce down on the sidewalk around the perimeters of chalk art and lonely hearts.

I was cut like dynamite all up in my guts… my face so fucking worn away from the droop of negative gladness that I felt like gravity sucking at a skull through a circus straw, clowns all mad and boisterous running around with shaving clippers to cut away the dirt of dope all muddied in my blood.

It’s the countdown to broken neck as end of summer lawns hiss as the sprinklers spit at the grass like riots, I am hungry and in pain deep down in the belly welly of life on bourbon street sans street, the plastic puppets of a childhood tossed in a bin scream redemption but the oily candles only bleed sin and throat blessings designed to curb the swearing are merely molestations of the skin.

So God, do you have a dick in which to fuck the universe and all its celestial holes?

Alcoholism and roughed up love meet in a bar down on Bleeker Street. It’s puke and madness and a dying heart just trying to reach out to another Rings of Saturn soul, blowholes and arrows, hard drinks and drugs and tattoo flu shots trembling at river’s edge, in upper north Wisconsin, where I want them to spread my ashes, like tumbler cheese on a cracker, and GODmother is dead because money is more important than any sensibility of love and honor… fuck you Chicago and all the piss you dump and pray for… my ass hurts, like a tiger biting into the bone, and I tremble Atlanta, my home, my five-fingered mannequin bone, restless and destructive like a coffee-scented angel on the 285, running circles round the metro like a honey-bee hive, all full of stings and poison and air machines for the lungs, my head, my life, so heavy and strung out like Christmas candles in a circus, a mall walker carrying a tombstone and a blowtorch, attacking the restless kiss as if in a never-ending dream.


Child of the Cabbage (Ep. 1)

Photographer: Reuben R. Sallows (1855 – 1937)

Gracelyn Polk sat in the Cabbage Junction Public Library reading about the Napoleonic Wars from an old, oversized book.

She sat at a large table by herself surrounded by high shelves filled with thick and important volumes, just like the one spread open wide before her. Her muddied golden eyes intensely scanned the large pages, and then she licked at a fingertip and turned to the next ones.

“I see. How interesting,” she said aloud to herself.

Sunlight streamed in through long, narrow windows situated at the top of the outside walls. The beams bathed Gracelyn in a yellow, angelic glow as if she were dead and doing her homework in Heaven.

But Gracelyn Polk was very much alive, and had been for 413 years now, even though at the moment, she was really just a girl of 11 and the smartest sixth grader at Cabbage Junction Primary School.

She looked up at the ceiling and smiled to herself as she thoughtfully spoke to the air. “I just love history. It’s just so fascinating – especially when you’ve lived through so much of it as I have.”

When the girl decided she had had enough of the Napoleonic Wars, she closed the big book, clumsily lifted it, and returned it to its waiting space on a nearby shelf. She slapped her hands together as if knocking off dirt. “My, my. Books are so heavy and take up so much space… And so much paper.”

She suddenly felt very small surrounded by all the high shelves of books. It was very quiet in the library as it should be. She glanced up toward the windows and could tell the light of day was beginning to fade. A red wasp angrily danced against the glass. She retrieved her cell phone from a deep pocket in her pink sweats and pulled it out. She held it up before her face, smiled, and took a selfie. “I don’t know why I do that,” she said to no one. “I’m such a hot mess.” She looked at her phone again – no messages, no calls, no energy. Gracelyn sighed, snatched up her backpack from the large table, strapped it on and walked toward the exit.

As Gracelyn approached the circulation desk near the front doors, she smiled, waved, and cheerfully called out, “See you later, Mrs. Costilla,” and walked out with a bounce.

Mrs. Costilla didn’t reply. Her bones remained still and silent, gathering the gently falling dust from the comfort of an office chair, just as they have done for a very long time now.


Gracelyn pulled her bike out of the bike rack, got on it, and started to ride down the middle of Main Street. There wasn’t any traffic – only silence and wind. Her burnt-sienna hair flapped and flowed behind her like a torn flag on a motorboat as she passed by the husky downtown buildings of red brick and large windows. A horribly dressed and bald mannequin slept dead on a bed of broken glass in front of the Cabbage Junction Thrift and Antiques store.

When Gracelyn came to the intersection of Main Street and White Chocolate Road, she turned left. The neighborhood there, called Vinegar Village, was cluttered with old houses, most in shambles, yards overgrown, streets empty, odd smells in the air. Her legs pumped faster because she didn’t like the area. It scared her. “Avoid the dream,” she said to herself. “Avoid the dream.”

As the neighborhoods thinned, the landscape became more pastoral – farmland, fields, and wide pastures cradled by forest walls of dark green. The sky above, wide and bluish yellow. She turned right on a gravel road and toward the big white house that rested at the end of it.

She set the bike down in the grass near the front porch painted battleship gray on the floor and peeling wedding-gown white on the spindles and caps. She bounded up the few steps to the front door. She stood on a faded welcome mat as she fished for a key from her pocket. She inserted it and turned it, then her small hand grasped the doorknob and pushed forward.


The Creamsicle-colored cat, Moses, stared at Gracelyn with wide lemon-lime eyes as he squatted on the dining room table just a few feet from her as the girl did her homework. He resembled a wide loaf of bread. The girl was surrounded by jar candles for light, and she warned Moses of the danger. “Don’t come any closer, my dear kitty, or your fur is liable to catch fire, and that would be a terrible thing.”

Moses quickly turned, jumped down and trotted off into an unknown darkness in another room. Gracelyn shook her head and laughed. “What a smart kitty,” she said, and then she picked up half a peanut butter and mint jelly sandwich from a plate by her side and bit into it and chewed as she studied. “The Romans were amazing engineers,” she said aloud to the quiet house as her eyes danced across the words in the book. “I wish I could have been there to see it all. Perhaps someday.” She reached for her can of Elf brand grape soda and put it to her mouth and drank until it was completely drained. “Damn that’s good,” she said, and she threw the can over her shoulder, and it landed on a growing pile of other cans behind her.

Moses reappeared and rubbed himself against her legs below the table. “I know, dear kitty. I need to find more, or I may not have anything delicious to wash down my meals with. If only I could build a soda pop aqueduct, like the Romans.” She sighed. “But I’m afraid that would be nearly impossible without any help.” The cat purred loudly and uttered an instructive meow. “Yes, yes. I’ll get to the recycling as soon as I can. But I’m very busy, you know… With school and studying and everything else. It’s not easy being a young girl in a world such as this. Be patient, Moses kitty.”

TO BE CONTINUED


Bucky the Horse and the Gods of Radiation (5)

Linnifrid walked, arms outstretched, teetering as if she were on a thin high wire. She was whistling something sweet when something came out of the brush, sat there, and just stared with big eyes. The girl stopped and looked at the cat; it seemed to be voraciously studying her. “Hello there, Mr. cat,” the girl said. “Are you lost?”

The cat moved toward her and started circling her legs and purring. “Now that I’ve found you, how could I ever be lost,” the cat said, looking up at her with a big grin that pushed its whiskers straight out to the side.

“What a strange day it’s been. First a talking tree, and now a talking cat. What’s your name?”

“I’m Fred.”

“Fred the cat?”

“That’s what I said. Right, right. My name is Fred. What are you doing around here? Not many people come around here anymore. I like it that way. People are pigs, but not you. You seem different somehow.”

“You’re being silly. I’m just a simple farm girl living in a police state. I’ve lost my horse and now I’m trying to find him. Have you seen a horse around here anywhere?”

The cat wound around her again, slobbering and pushing its head against her calves. “Indeed, I have seen a horse today. In fact, we shared a few pints and became friends.”

“Bucky’s been drinking?”

“Like a horse,” the cat chuckled.

“Well, what happened? Where did he go?”

The cat stopped and scratched behind one ragged ear. “I don’t know where he went. Last time I saw him he was trying to talk to a tree. Hey. Wait a minute… Didn’t you just say you talked to a tree today?”

“Indeed I did,” Linnifrid said. “He wasn’t the nicest tree in the world, though.”

Fred put a paw to the side of his face and played with his whiskers. “Hmmm, I didn’t believe him, and now I feel like a complete ass,” the cat said.

“So you have no idea where he went?”

“No, I don’t. But I would be honored to help you look for him.”

“Thank you, Fred. You’re a very nice cat. “I usually don’t like cats. I think they smell bad.”

“Thanks.”

“Oh, no offense to you. I was speaking in general terms.”

“I feel a whole lot better. So, do you want to continue walking along the lake or should we make for the forest?”

“The lake. I think Bucky would go to water.”


The two walked together along the oddly twisting shore of the lake. Fred scuttled ahead so that he could stop and smell everything. Linnifrid’s heart grew doubtful as the day wore on. The sky was growing chilled, and the light was beginning to fade. The girl stopped and was worried. “I don’t have any supplies for the night,” she told the cat. “I’m afraid in my rush to go after Bucky, I left unprepared.”

“It’s okay,” the cat smiled. “I’ll keep you safe and warm,” and then he winked at her in a very creepy cat way.

Linnifrid ignored the boorish gesture and looked around. “I think we should build a shelter.”

She pointed. “There. That’s a perfect spot between those trees over there.”

Fred looked but he really didn’t care. “I don’t think I’ll be much help.”

“You can help me look for wood.”

Fred snickered, but kept his naughty thoughts to himself.

“I can look for it, but I can’t carry it. Unless you want to strap the wood to my back, but then again I’m afraid I’d only be good for a bundle of twigs.”

Linnifrid took a moment to bend down and pet the cat’s head. “Don’t worry about it, Fred. I’m a big strong woman. I think I can handle it.”

The girl and the cat moved away from the shoreline and closer to the edge of the forest that began like a wall atop a short golden and green bluff. Fred scavenged ahead and when he found a few good sticks and logs he called out to the girl and she would come running.

Linnifrid carried the wood in her arms and piled it at the campsite. The cat ran up behind her and pushed himself between her ankles and just stayed there. “How are you going to make a fire?” Fred asked.

The girl frowned and wondered. “I think maybe I need to rub two sticks together, really hard and fast. I saw it on the television. It makes a spark on something really, really dry and then you have to blow on it real gentle until there’s a flame, and then you feed the flame into the wood.”

“Sounds too complicated.” Fred complained. “Don’t you have any matches?”

“No. Of course not. I have no reason to burn anything.”

“I say we forget the fire. We can just cuddle.”

“Oh, Fred. Stop being so fresh, and foolish. I’m a young woman and you’re a cat. I have no romantic interest in you at all.”

“Whaaat? I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m a cat and I happen to like warm places. If you know what I mean.”

“There it is again, Fred!”

“What?”

“Those… Those sexual innuendos you keep dropping. It makes me uncomfortable and I wish you would stop!”

“All right, all right,” Fred said softly. “I’m sorry. It’s just me being me. I talk like that with everyone. You know. I’m a fun cat.”

Linnifrid crossed her arms and looked down at him. “I think you should sleep outside the shelter tonight. Better yet, why don’t you just run off and hunt or whatever cats do in the middle of the night.”

Fred looked down at the ground and somehow he felt very hurt inside. “Oh. I understand. You just want to be alone, or maybe you have a human boyfriend.”

“It isn’t that, Fred. You just kind of creep me out… When you talk like that. I don’t like it all.”

“Can I ask you a question?”

“What’s that?”

“Are you still a virgin?”

Linnifrid grew angry and her face flushed to the color of an apple. “That’s none of your business! How dare you ask me such a question.”

“I’m just curious. I thought you might be experienced and could tell me some things, very detailed things.”

“That’s it! I don’t want to be friends with you anymore. You’re a vile creature I must say. Simply vile! Now get out of here before I throw a rock at you.”

Linnifrid reached down, palmed a stone, and then threatened him with it. “Leave me alone!” She threw the stone and it landed with a thump, barely missing the cat’s head. Fred jumped, his ears went back, and his fur unfurled, making him look more like a porcupine than a simple, dirty-minded feral cat of the wild lands.

“Go!” Linnifrid yelled. “Go or I swear I might cook you for supper!”

Fred calmed and looked at her. “Fine. I’ll go. Good luck finding your stupid horse, and of course, be safe tonight. Lots of things happen in the night.”


The cat turned and walked away, and it didn’t take long for him to disappear like a ghost among the grasses and the dips of the land.

Linnifrid was glad to be rid of him, she thought as she laid out the last of the boughs across the top of her shelter. She sat down on the ground near the fire she managed to make. Seems she was so mad at Fred the cat that she was able to muster up enough friction between those two sticks to birth a spark. Now she felt safer as the dark grew deeper. She’s seen many a night skies, but the one that night was darker than any other dark she could ever remember.

She held her arms close to her body and gently rocked back and forth on the ground. The orange flames were clean and crisp and somewhat see-through. She thought about her Papa and how that it was his great wish for when he passed that he be turned to ash and scattered somewhere out on the farm. He had always said to her that the wind would steer his next boat.

Linnifrid was hungry, but she had nothing to eat. Her stomach grumbled. “I would give anything for a steaming pot pie right now,” she moaned aloud to the flames and the darkness. “I can just imagine the flaky crust, the creamy gravy, the crisp garden-fresh vegetables.”

Then she heard something move in the grass. A twig snapped. Then there was a voice. “I think you’ve lost your mind,” someone said through the air.

Linnifrid jumped to her feet. “Who’s there? Who’s out there!?”

“Why it’s me. Your beloved horse, Bucky.”

“Bucky!” Linnifrid yelled. “Is that really you?”

The horse stepped into the glow of the fire and smiled at her. “It is indeed me. I’m so glad I found you.”

TO BE CONTINUED


Mr. Rumples

The diligent sound of war machines cracked an October day of bright sun.

There is a disease in the air now and everyone stays inside – mostly. There is no more school or work or going to the doctor. Medicine finally failed. There was nothing that anyone could have done. Someone somewhere chose war over healing, and that’s why the jets still roar, and blood no longer matters.

All I have left to drink is grape juice and I’m getting rather tired of it. I like to sip it near the window in the morning when I look out at a world that is no longer blue, but rather a sickly shade of yellow. The everlasting haze rests its weary head of death in the cradling arms of the mountains, and when it wakes it pukes out noxious gases all across the land. I cough all the time now. I can barely breathe. Everyone has cancer except for the devils that rule.

The other night I opened my blinds to look at the full yellow moon for the last time. The stars were retreating. I watched and watched and watched. I concluded that the spaceships weren’t coming to save us after all. Can I blame them? What reason would anyone have for saving us? Love? Does anyone out there love us?

At night it gets cold and dark, and I must light a wood fire in the wide-bellied fireplace in the main room. I live by myself in a worn mansion outside of the city, a bit in the country. No one comes around much anymore, but there’s an old black cat that sleeps in a dusty chair most of the time. The cat is sick too. I hope the cat dies first because if I die first there will be no one to feed it. The cat’s name is Mr. Rumples, which is funny because my name is Mr. Rumples, too.

I have a gun and only one bullet. I thought about shooting Mr. Rumples once when his sickness was really acting up. I couldn’t do it. I keep the gun on the floor near my mattress where I sleep. I’ll know when it’s the right time. I have a knack for intuition and an eye for irreversible devastation.

I used to have a wife, but she died when the storm came. She was a beautiful woman with intelligent breasts, and near the end her favorite meal was a toasted English muffin and Gatorade. I laughed at her a lot. We laughed at each other a lot. We had been married for 39 years and together we brought five children into the world – they’re all dead now too, as well as all my grandchildren – seventeen of them. It seems like everyone is dead. What does one do with that kind of fucking grief? Put it in a jar? Throw it to the stars?

There had been years of grand love in our large home, a home that was always filled with warm voices and the smells of steaming gumbo and cherry cobbler from the kitchen. The wife had limited cooking skills and so I had hired a woman to come in to help. She was a black woman by the name of Rosie. She was a stumpy yet cheerful woman and her laugh resonated above all others throughout the house. Her pancakes, stuffed fat with fresh Maine blueberries, were the absolute best. Now Rosie’s dead, too. I miss her, and the love she had brought to our hearts and bellies.

 There’s a family cemetery on my land and when it’s safe I go out there, wading through the golden floss of waving grasses until I reach the place of the two oaks and their slotted canopy of love. I run my hands over all the stones I had chosen – and they were just regular rocks really and I had scratched all the names and dates into them with a big nail. I often lie down on the ground when the sun has warmed it and I look up at the yellow sky and wonder all about why the Great Bog had left me to live to the very end and not the young ones or anyone else for that matter. Was it the evolution of my sins that left me with this torture? A wind carrying nothing whips across my face.

I can see the old work shed, rusted and red, and it’s kind of collapsing in on itself. I haven’t mowed the yard or plucked the weeds in months. What’s the use of doing anything, I often wonder. So I do nothing but wait. I wait by the window. I wait on the porch when it’s safe. I wait to fall asleep at night but rarely is it restful. There are noises in the nights here – great booms and screams and sometimes even the thundering of the sky, that angry sky committing abuse in the dark. I shuffle, I starve, and I pluck memories from my head like feathers from a chicken. I don’t want to remember anything or anyone anymore.

Dinner is usually a quiet affair between me and Mr. Rumples. I always light a candle at the table and then we say our prayers that no one hears and then we share some cat food and it’s cold and mushy and tastes mostly of fish no matter what the can says. I hate it, but Mr. Rumples loves it. Damn… he’s going to outlive me and then starve because he can’t open the cans. Poor Mr. Rumples – both of us.

After dinner, Mr. Rumples takes his place in the chair, and I make a fire and then just sit there watching the flames cast frantic shadows against the dusty walls. I have a stick I use to play with the fire. There’s something calming about poking at a fire with a stick. It’s like pretending to be camping and making hot-tipped arrows or torches to keep the creeps in the forest at bay. The creeps were everywhere at the end. People went absolutely nuts, all over the world. It was the worst horror movie I had ever seen.



My breathing is getting worse. In the morning I sit up on my mattress and cough up blood. I roll to the floor and slowly make my way to what used to be the kitchen and feed the cat his breakfast. I have my grape juice and it is starting to sting as it goes down. It is mostly silent during the day. I used to loathe the roar of traffic on the country road, but now there is nothing. No cars. No trucks. No people on bicycles. And across the field the railroad tracks are nothing but skeletal remains now. I walk outside there sometimes when I feel up to it. Not so much anymore. Some days I can barely move. But I did enjoy my walks out there along the rusting rails and rotting ties. I found a few spikes and brought them into the house, but I don’t know why. I suppose my mind is going too.

Sometimes when I’m shuffling about the place I just stop because I forget what part of the house I was wanting to go. I like to go to the upstairs part of the house where the bedrooms are. I don’t really know why I like to go up there so much, but I think it may have something to do with colorful memories – how the children would race through the hall as bedtime drew nearer and bathroom space scarce. I like to look out Jonah’s window. He was the first son and had the best room in the house. I pull up my rickety chair and scan the voided world, all the way to the crisp line of the sea against the shore. It’s so far away and such a pale baby blue color. I would love to go down there, but I’d never make it back alive.

I leave Jonah’s room and slip into where the girls used to sleep. It’s a dark and dirty pink color now. The wallpaper is losing its grip and curling and slowly falling down. I open the closet and there is one faded dress on a wire hanger and a dusty box of shoes on the floor. The house was once looted when I was trying to walk to the sea, and they took most everything that was left.

The boys’ room is down the hall and to the right. I push the door open and it squeaks. This room was once hot cat blue and made to look like a baseball diamond. The younger boys played baseball almost every day in the summers and I often went down to the fields and watched them when I wasn’t working. My wife was always there with them; she was good like that.

Our bedroom was at the end of the hall and is now just a hollow, empty space. I turn on the sink faucet in the adjoining bathroom and no water comes out. I’m thirsty. I’m starving. I can’t do this anymore. There is something greatly heartless in the coming of the end of life. It’s the final pecking into the flesh by a wild bird that does not care to save you. It’s silent. Then Mr. Rumples meows out from downstairs. He must be lonely.

It was a cold night when the end came. I was shivering in the corner of what used to be the living room. Mr. Rumples was burrowed in a blanket on the chair and he was purring.

“How can you be so happy?” I asked him.

He blinked at me once and said nothing. He jumped down off the chair and rubbed against me and then curled into my lap. I stroked his fur and looked into the fire again for a long time. The wind was howling outside and whistled in through the weak spots in the house. I was alone again in this false lap of luxury.

“I’ll be right back,” I said to Mr. Rumples, and I set him back in his chair. “Just stay there.”

The heart races in times of great finality. There’s a gnawing on the soul at the thought of everlasting darkness or the great rivers of Heaven. Will it just be sleep or does one travel to another world to take over for someone else who just croaked? I cocked the gun and wondered. I opened the blinds near where I sleep and looked at the fizzing stars. I thought I could hear someone yelling for help out in the tall grasses, or maybe that was just me. I smelled the gun and wondered. I would have loved to have one last hot shower and a good meal. I wandered through the rest of the house, now flowing with amber candlelight. I set every memory aside and took a deep breath as best I could in each hallowed hallway.

I returned to the main room and drew near to the fire and pointed the gun at Mr. Rumples. He looked up at me and blinked his eyes slowly. My finger tremored against the trigger. For some reason I knew he wasn’t ready, and I also knew that he did not want me to be alone. I lowered the pistol and sat down in the chair with him. He circled in my lap, settled, and purred. The air sirens wailed outside, and we watched the fire, together, for a very long time it seemed, until a final silence fell upon the world.