“Avogadro’s Number” in response to a reader’s request for my “real” writing.
A friend just asked me “Why don’t you put some real writing on your blog, Marla?” I was a little hurt at first, but I understand what she was asking. Since my blog is a way of building readership, why don’t I include a lot of the essays or poetry or even fiction that I write? (In other words, why do I keep all the “good stuff” to myself?)
The answer is simple: publication. Once I post something on this blog, it’s considered published and in many ways, “dead.” A writer may be lucky enough to have it anthologized or successful enough to include it in a book down the road, but for poems, essays and short stories, journals usually want completely unpublished material (unless you or the work are famous), and that includes blogs. Once they’ve already been published elsewhere however, I can give a reasonable time for them to use it, then put it on here.
I don’t blog to turn these snippets into a book. The purpose of my blog is to give you a taste of my humor, my reflection, my family and background, and my voice. (Click on any one of those words for examples of each.) Hopefully as my publication credits grow, you’ll be interested in supporting the journals/magazines who publish me, and eventually, I hope you’ll buy my books, because with hard work, networking, and luck, I intend to bring you a lifetime of those as well.
So, to answer her request, every so often I will give you something “real” from what I’ve already published, and hopefully the rest of the time you can survive my daily “fake” writing. 😉
Following is the first part of “Avogadro’s Number,” a short story I wrote which was published last year in Spyridian Review, a cool gothic collection of literature by a little indie publisher. Mine is just one of several interesting pieces in the collection, so consider purchasing the journal if you enjoy this kind of work.
Warning: this story contains violent content and may not be suitable for younger or sensitive readers. One of my causes is animal welfare. I wrote this short story with the purpose of bringing attention to that cause (and…because I have a demented brain).
Only the first part of the story is posted below. The ending of this story is available in the Spyridian Review.
“Avogadro’s Number” – Part I
Mr. Winters died after several minutes of convulsing. His body collapsed just inside the kitchen door, his white fur caking with drying vomit.
Pippa cowered in a corner of the kitchen. This couldn’t be happening. She never liked the stuck-up and coddled Mr. Winters, but this meant trouble. Her right front paw throbbed where Papa Lloyd stomped on it. Her hind legs shook and she shuddered as a little stream of pee escaped. This frightened her more and she limped to the corner of the living room. From there she could still see the dead cat, and Cody.
Cody, a 1-year-old Golden Retriever and youngest of the three animals, sniffed fluids near the cat’s mouth and backside. He scratched rapidly at the floor near the cat’s head, but Mr. Winters wouldn’t move. Cody’s large paw hovered for a moment before he took a few steps backward and barked. If nothing else, one or two big barks and Mr. Winters usually stopped whatever nonsense game he was playing and paid attention or skedaddled.
But the cat wasn’t moving. Cody, not understanding this game, looked to his left, where Pippa trembled in the living room. Her white and black body stood shaking over a second spot where she peed on the carpet. The husky panted with a loud, raspy breath which worsened and included a quiet squeak the more she panicked.
Pippa knew Mr. Winters was dead. She had sniffed dead things on her occasional escapes from the house, but never watched anything die until today. She knew Papa Lloyd would be home soon, and Mr. Winters was his favorite.
Pippa flattened her ears against her head. One was missing its top. It happened on a day they were outside. The sun was shining. It was warm and Pippa had been so young and foolishly excited at every smell, every sound, every movement.
Papa Lloyd had been gracious to tie her out with him while he gardened. She had ungratefully slipped her collar and forgot herself as her paws dug into the soft grass. When she finally tired of running circles in the yard, when he finally caught her, still cursing, his breath short and his voice raspy from yelling at her, Papa Lloyd was still carrying his shears.
Now she trembled as she watched Cody moved forward and lick Mr. Winter’s belly, trying to instigate a reaction. He succeeded in cleaning a small area of fur but the cat lay still. Cody’s tail stopped moving. He finally understood that Mr. Winters wasn’t Mr. Winters anymore.
Cody thought licking up the mess might make things nicer for Papa Lloyd when he got home. After he cleaned the sweet-tasting floor, he concentrated on licking Mr. Winters’ body, where he mostly tasted dirt and cobwebs and some more of whatever sweet stuff Mr. Winters had gotten into. If nothing else, the cat would look presentable.
Pippa’s shaking tapered off and she issued a few short yips to Cody, warning him off the cleaning. Cody was young and foolish and hadn’t been around Papa Lloyd’s moods long enough to know he should leave that mess alone and come show remorse with her.
In truth, neither dog had contributed to the situation. Mr. Winters rummaged in the basement for a few hours that morning, knocking things over, running up walls and across the ceiling. At least, anyway, these are adventures Pippa and Cody imagined from the noises they could hear. The raucous sounded like a fun romp: getting into things, chasing things and the overall enjoyment cats have by themselves, never inviting a dog to play.
What Pippa and Cody couldn’t guess was that Papa Lloyd left the door to the workshop open and Mr. Winters was enjoying full range of the additional noisemakers and movable objects on the other side of the basement, and a savory puddle of antifreeze.
The two dogs had spent the majority of the morning cramming their large noses into the cat door. When Mr. Winters returned, his white fur was soiled with dust and cobwebs, and he walked with a satisfied air.
Pippa, who had taken breaks to drink more than her usual amount of water in anticipation of the cat returning with a half-eaten mouse or squirrel, was the first to greet Mr. Winters as he came through the door. The cat gave Pippa the satisfaction of a few quick sniffs before getting a drink from the water bowl and jumping quickly onto his Kitty Condo Tree, out of reach, for an afternoon nap.
Both dogs circled the carpeted luxury accommodations and lay at the base, waiting for Mr. Winters to return. About an hour before Papa Lloyd usually returned from work, Mr. Winters commenced a low, drawn-out meow-er-ow-er-ow-errrr, interspersed with hacking sounds which the dogs thought might produce an interesting hairball or animal parts.
Instead, Mr. Winters jumped from his cat loft and made it almost to the kitchen entrance before beginning to seize and arch. He crossed halfway to the cat-door before collapsing, crawling and vomiting the final distance to where he now lay.
Pippa quickly realized something wasn’t right and distanced herself from whatever controversy might be starting, heading first to the edge of the kitchen, then to the opposite corner of the living room where she now sat, far from her second puddle of pee. She yipped at Cody to stop licking the cat, but Cody was certain it was the right thing to do.
Both dogs were too focused on Mr. Winters to hear the car in the driveway. But at the sound of footsteps on the porch, Pippa’s paw hurt, her ear hurt, and she trembled, remembering a kick in the ribs and a burn on the face. She peed a little more.
Cody, who Pippa could only guess was clueless from too many kicks to the head, puffed out his chest and marched confidently toward the door. Cody felt it was his duty to greet Papa Lloyd with love and support and show him how well he took care of Mr. Winters’ body. He positioned himself just inside the front door and stared eagerly as the key turned in the lock.
The rest of this story is published in Spyridian Review. Copies are still available for $10.