Burlap Cat part 4

Burlap Cat 4

This story references the earlier episodes.

It may be read with the other installments or by itself.

See “Burlap Cat” under the “categories” widget.

 

 Joanne could do nothing but stare at the pile of brightly wrapped packages. This year, Santa (or a far more sinister force) had brought her something most unwelcome.

That something was an ancient toy cat made of burlap. It had a large head and a small body, a missing ear and a missing button eye.

Joanne kicked the thing under a table when her parents came down the stairs. She was not one to leave her problems lying around for others to see.

Joanne then had a fuzzy moment with her family, opening presents and pretending not to be scared out of her wits.

It was not until her parents had returned to their room, to get ready for the big Christmas party later on, that Joanne was able to collect herself.

She dragged the burlap cat out from under the lamp table and whispered. “What do you want from me?”

Joanne neither expected or wanted the thing to speak, but she hoped for a sign – a clue, as to how she might banish it for good.

It all started a week ago when her friend David had shown her a website that sold supposedly haunted items. Joanne had only looked at the burlap cat, then three days later it arrived at her door, in an open, unmarked box.

David laughed at Joanne and swore it had been a mistake. He named the cat Marvin and suggested they contact the site that was selling it.

The owners of the site claimed they never had anything like the burlap cat for sale, but they offered to buy the thing for fifty dollars.

Before Joanne could ship it off, the burlap cat somehow managed to leave her house.

The cat reappeared in the arms of David’s two-year old cousin Randy as he was getting his picture taken with Santa at the mall. Joanne and David had been the only ones watching him. Randy ran off with the cat when they asked to see it, disappearing into the crowd.

Joanne and David had cornered the boy in a deserted section of the mall. Randy was safe, and willing to give up the cat, which he had also named – Marvin. If David had been playing a Joke he would have admitted it then – instead he took the cat and shipped it himself.

Joanne had been given two days of restless worry.

It was almost a relief to see the burlap cat again. At least now Joanne could know for certain where it was.

The door bell rang – We Wish You A Merry Christmas – and then David let himself in. He was white even before he saw the cat. Joanne feared to ask what was wrong.

Instead of speaking, David handed Joanne a sheet of printer paper. It was an e-mail from the owners of the site, the very people to whom they had sold the cat, the people who would have still had the cat if the world was a place that made sense.

Joanne read the printout. It was very brief and to the point.

“You may keep the item and the fifty dollars paid for it. Do not contact us again.”

Without saying a word, David grabbed the Burlap cat and headed for the door.

Joanne caught his sleeve. “David, no! That thing could be dangerous!”

“I know” He said. “My father has a gun safe. There are no guns in it now so he has left it open. Not even I know the combination. I figure it’s as good a place as any to keep something dangerous.”

Joanne still didn’t let go of his sleeve.

“What are we going to about this? It can’t go on forever.”

David sighed. “I suppose we can start doing some research. A lot of my Face Book friends are ghost and big foot people so I posted a picture of the cat. I figure if anyone knows anything they’ll tell us.”

Joanne smiled. “Ok, but it’s your funeral.”

David smiled back. Then left the house. He had people of his own who expected to see him in good spirits.

Joanne tried to think about what kinds of cookies and pies her aunts would bring. They thought she was too skinny. Joanne took it as a complement, and as an excuse to live a little.

Joanne retreated to the bathroom to fix herself up. To Joanne fancy dress meant blue jeans without holes and T-shirts without wrinkles. Toss in a hat and some cheep plastic jewelry and she would be ready to meet a queen.

“There is my hippie princess!” said Joanne’s Grandfather later that day as he handed her a twenty-dollar bill. “Merry Christmas!” Joanne made her way past her relatives to the kitchen where she started to pile all manner of delicacies on to a paper plate.

A Toy train whistled around the living room, beside enough doll houses to make up a small city. All the younger children had brought their newest treasures, and Joanne recalled how her dragons once rained fire down upon toy land.

A familiar name distracted Joanne from her slice of chocolate pudding parfait. It sounded like “Marvin”.

There seemed to be a fight among her youngest relatives. She hovered behind the couch and listened in.

“He wants to ride the train!” Whined a smaller girl who was clearly feeling left out.

A bossy older boy took the train away from the girl and set it carefully back on the track.

“If your teddy wants to ride, he can wait at the station.”

The little girl whined. “Trains don’t go to the station. They go to the mall!”

An elderly man intervened. “Easy there.” He said to the children. “I told her that the mall used to be a train station a long time ago, I guess she got confused.”

The mall used to be a train station.

Joanne recalled what little randy had been doing when she and David had caught up with him.

“I found a train!” Randy had said as he peeled paint off of a wall to expose an old poster.

Maybe the cat had been trying to tell them something, something about the mall.

Joanne had a bad feeling.

The toy train sped toward Joanne.

Balanced atop the engine was – the Burlap cat.

Joanne knew it would somehow escape David. She didn’t know how the cat was able to travel from place to place. Neither of them had ever seen it move.

The train struck Joanne’s foot and fell over. Joanne picked up the cat. “Marvin likes you.” said the girl who had wanted the cat to ride the train. The girl was the daughter of an older cousin. Joanne wasn’t good with names. Joanne said “Where did you find this?” The girl replied “Under the couch. Is he yours?” Joanne nodded. “Yes he’s mine. Thank you for finding him.”

The girl went back to her own doll.

Joanne was once again disturbed by the fact everyone called the thing Marvin.

Joanne retreated to her room immediately and called David. She almost collapsed when he answered the phone. She gasped “Are you alright?” David answered “Why wouldn’t I be alright?” There was a pause, then he shouted “Don’t tell me the cat came back!”

Joanne didn’t need to answer. David went on. “Look Jo, you have to keep an eye on it at all times. I’ll try to come over as soon as I can.”

Joanne interrupted before he could hang up. “There is something about that old poster Randy found at

the mall. I think we should have another look at it.”

David tried to keep his voice under control. Joanne wondered if David’s parents were nearby. “We can go to the mall tomorrow.” He said. David then whispered. “Stay strong”

Joanne ended the call and pocketed her phone. David never used words like “Stay strong” they seemed far too cheesy. David was too strung out to act cool. This made Joanne afraid too.

Joanne gripped the cat-like she was holding off a Lynx. She looked it in the black, button eye that was dripping dried glue.

“Marvin” she said to the cat. “I will go to the mall and look at this poster. If that is what you want, please behave yourself.”

Joanne woke the next day to find the cat had vanished. The surge of relief almost made her forget that she had made a promise.

“Are you sure it didn’t just fall behind the bed?” said David as Joanne arrived at the mall with her two other friends Shelly and Eric.

Jo would have to choose her words carefully to avoid arousing the suspicions of her friends.

“I looked everywhere for that thing! It isn’t at my house anymore!”

Shelly inquired, “What isn’t at your house?”

“Just some toy.” said David. “I think Randy lost his elf.”

“Good riddance” said Eric. “He probably hit his sister with it one too many times.”

Shelly wanted to shop for shoes and Eric always followed Shelly, so it was all too easy to ditch them.

Joanne never thought she would miss Eric’s lost puppy routine or Shelly’s tendency to shoot down all of her jokes but now they seemed so normal and safe compared to what she and David had stumbled into.

The both of them agreed that they probably had not seen the last of the burlap cat, and that people would think they were crazy if they asked anyone else for help. Given the situation, it was probably in their best interest to learn as much as they could.

The building that contained the mall was huge. Most of it was still empty. The empty parts were roped off, forcing people to crowd into shops in pursuit of post-holiday bargains.

The mall was new but the building was not. As Joanne recalled the place had been saved from the wrecking ball by some historical society or another. More stores were added all the time. Still places remained behind walls and plywood partitions, places not completely given over to the modern world.

It was in one of these places they had lost Randy, only to find him again at the end of a dark, dilapidated hall. Randy was safe but what would become of them if they pushed their luck?

Joanne reminded herself that the only thing to fear was mall security as they slipped unnoticed behind the same partition they had slipped behind in pursuit of Randy.

They were now in the part of the mall that was yet to be opened, the part that was still half-way between old and new. Paint flecks covered the floor like leaves in a forest. Statues and benches were wrapped in plastic and the air seemed even colder than the air outside.

“Do you remember where it was?” said David to Joanne. “Not really” she admitted.

When chasing Randy, it had all been a blur.

They retraced their steps past loose tiles and stacked plywood, past empty alcoves that might someday contain stores.

Something caught their attention from far off.

“Hey cool!” said David. “Their painting a picture on the wall!”

In the gray light of the high windows a detailed landscape came into focus. A railway bridge spanned a ravine, and old-fashioned train engine huffed and puffed across it.

“Wait a minute.” said Joanne. “Look at the edges!”

The edges of the painting were covered up by peeling paint and crumbling plaster. David gasped. “This isn’t new, it’s old! Someone painted over it a long time ago. They must have only just discovered it!”

It suddenly dawned on Joanne.

“David!, Randy Discovered this!”

David nodded. “Randy or the cat, look!”

The train in the painting had seemed like part of an old poster when Randy peeled the paint off of it, but there had been more than just a poster hiding behind all that paint and plaster.

The workers fixing up this part of the building had found Randy’s train. The train was part of a much larger painting that covered the whole wall.

Part of wall was covered in an ancient chalkboard.

Numbers were painted on this chalkboard, numbers and the names of cities.

Some of the cities were places Joanne had never heard of.

“This must be a train bulletin board.” said David. “People would look at it to see when the trains arrived.”

He went on. “The train board looks like it is glued to the wall. Whoever used this building after it was a train station couldn’t get it off so they just painted over it.”

“Maybe they were trying to protect the painting by covering it up.” Whispered Joanne.

“Could be.” said David. He started to take pictures of the old train bulletin with his phone.

He stood on a bench to get a better view.

In their excitement they almost missed the sound of footsteps coming toward them.

“Sssssshh, you hear that.” said Joanne as she dragged David off the bench and into an empty store. The two hid behind crates as a pair of uniformed figures walked slowly past.

“Just what is your problem, Ben.” said one the guards to the other.

Ben hugged his chest. “I suppose you haven’t heard. They found this wall scraped clear last night. No one knows who did it. I swear it’s like the old place is trying to break out of it’s shell. Abby quit, she says she heard scratching noises on her watch. They gave her that job at the old courthouse. The courthouse has some bad vibes, but better bad vibes then something real like this.”

The other guard chuckled. “So your going to join Abby? I hear there is another opening.” “I might” said Ben. “I might.” “Good” said the other guard. “I can use the extra hours.”

The guards retreated down the hall.

David and Joanne sneaked back to the public section of the mall when the guards were out-of-the-way.

David studied the screen of his phone as they sat silently amid the noise of the food court.

There was something about the ancient train bulletin, something they were meant to see.

 

 

 

Origami Pokian.

cropped-ruke-header.png

Origami is the art of folding paper into shapes resembling people or animals. The crane is the most famous origami figure and it is rumored to have wish-granting power.

Paper Cranes Wiki

To grant your wish, you must fold a thousand cranes in less than a year! If  you are curious about learning how to fold a crane – there is no shortage of wonderful websites that give instruction.

Here I posted something of my own invention, The Paper Pokian.

I have written and am in the process of publishing a picture book for children. The main character is an imaginary sea creature called a Pokian.  This Pokian’s name is Ruke. I have come up with some Ruke – related arts and crafts to promote the book, (To The World Above)  One of these is a folded paper figure that looks like the book’s main character. I came up with it by experimenting with a crane base. 

Here are the instructions for how to fold a Pokian. You will need paper and scissors - (There are some origami purists that forbid scissors – I am not one of them ;) )

Some may think this project is a little complex for children, but I have only recently discovered the joys of paper-folding and regret that no one introduced me to it earlier.

I am an origami novice myself so I wanted to make this project as easy as possible.

Many adults as well as children have trouble with this particular model, especially when making the mane of hair, so I wouldn’t recommend it for those who are very young or those people who are easily frustrated or discouraged.  

Waste paper is a great source of practice material. It is important not to take your project too seriously and just have fun.

I wanted to post something that would pose a challenge to those children and adults who wanted a challenge.

The paper pokian may take several tries. I will include a photo of what a finished model may look like, just to clarify things.   

Paper Pokian A

Paper Pokian B

paper pokian a

paper pokian b

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia – (Thousand Paper Cranes) Paper Pokian photo is my own.

Wierd and Wonderful Shark Eggs.

I am working on a series of articles to promote the children’s picture book I am currently in the process of publishing. Rather then simply stop posting, I will post anything I come up with that my be of interest to my followers.

This is an activity where you try to guess which of these fish hatch out of which of these eggs. The answers are on the bottom.

Shark Sheet  

Weird and Wonderful Chimaera Fish

Hydrolagus 22

Chimaeras are related to sharks, but they are small and mostly harmless.

This does not mean they are boring.

Chimaeras were named after a mythical creature because that is just what they look like.

They are often called ghost sharks because they are eerie.

Eerie is a word I like to use when I can not figure out if something is beautiful or scary.

What do you think of them?

Hydrolagus 1

The spotted ratfish

The spotted ratfish lives in the north eastern pacific ocean. They are often encountered by divers in Puget Sound. Puget Sound is in the U.S. state of Washington.

The spotted ratfish prefers to live in deep water further south, but further north it is willing to live in bays and near beaches, at least during the spring and fall months.

Rat fish can be 97 centimeters long, or 38 inches. Most of this is tail. They are not much bigger then a rat. Males are much smaller.

The large front fins of the rat fish make it look like an air plane. It moves like an air plane too, doing barrel rolls and other tricks.

Rat fish eat crunchy things like star fish and clams, but they also like worms. They chew them with very unusual teeth.

When attacked, the Rat fish may use the poisonous stinger on its dorsal fin, but it usually prefers to keep at a safe distance rather then fight.

They are nocturnal and few can forget their huge cat-like eyes.

Hydrolagus 5

Gulf Chimaera

This little guy is from the north to central Atlantic ocean. He seems to like his water deep, dark, and as far from land as possible. Gulf Chimeras have been found off the coast of Mexico and the United States. They are probably named after the Gulf of Mexico.

Hydrolagus 4 copy

The Narrownose Chimaera

The Narrownose Chimaera lives in many parts of the world, just as long as the water isn’t to hot or too cold. Like many Chimaera fish it likes deep, dark water. So it is rarely seen.

Hydrolagus 3

Eastern Pacific Black Ghost Shark

This Chimaera looks more like a shark then the others, but still has a ratfish tail. By looking at him you can understand why Chimaeras are grouped with sharks.

Hydrolagus 22

Australian ghost shark

Australian ghost sharks live off the southern coast of Australia and New Zealand in 200 to 500 meters of water (667 to 1,667 feet), but they lay their eggs in shallow water during the spring and summer. When coming ashore they must watch for humans, who like to eat them. Adult males can grow to be 65 centimeters long. (About 30 inches) They are also called elephant sharks. It is thought that they use their strange noses to plow up food from the bottom.

Hydrolagus 6

Like many sharks, Chimaera fish store their eggs in cases called mermaid purses.

Many humans think the cases are just bits of plastic, but they often contain baby fish.

How many different purses do you think there are?

Happy Halloween

The lady or the dragon?
The lazy troll or Alf’s creepy uncle?
Yes, this is my costume.
I made it allllllll by myself!

     Halloween is perhaps my favorite holiday – perhaps because it is so mysterious. People in many parts of the world now celebrate this “originally European” harvest festival, and have contributed to it with customs all their own.

Christians swear the holiday is Christian, linking it with the feast of all saints.

Celtic neo-pagans swear it has it’s origins in Samhain, (pronounced Saw-In)  thought to be a feast of the dead – a Celtic new year, or a final chance to party before the brutal northern winter descended.

I often wonder if it has anything to do with the Greek Goddess Persephone, who was kidnapped by the god of the underworld.

He tricked her into eating food from his world, thus making it necessary for her to return to the underworld during the months of winter.

Her return to the world in spring was heralded by the return of life to the world and her departure in winter was when she took the life away with her. (I always thought that the god of the underworld and the souls of the dead that served under him, just wanted their fare share of fresh fruit* and sunlight.)

This idea though – the end of summer and decent of winter – probably inspired many such traditions in the more northern latitudes. When the snow comes, and nights grow longer – (sometimes much longer) then the days, it is probably natural to build bonfires and shiver at what ever mighty beast might be just hungry enough to give you a try . . .

Some link the holiday with mischief and devils – as many use the occasion to vandalize houses and get as drunk as possible – which may be another reason for the masks and costumes.

Egging – is when rotten eggs are broken on front doors.

The flaming bag of poop – is when dog droppings are put in a paper bag and left on someone’s door step. The bag is then set on fire and the door bell rung. The person answering is forced to stamp out the flames getting poop all over their shoes. (Wise homeowners smother said poop bag with a bucket.) 

T P – ing –  is when toilet paper is strewn about.

My home has only seen a few of these – mostly when my dad was still a teacher – so I really couldn’t complain.

The phrase “Trick or Treat” then, may be veiled threat, as less well behaved children may require bribes so as not to trash your yard.

Some say that the tradition of wearing costumes and begging for treats door to door, originated when persons too proud to admit their crops had failed, disguised themselves as beggars in order to collect alms from the wealthy.

Often these persons would dance, or play music, in exchange for receiving a charitable gift. My father has a theory that this “ritual begging” was expected of all persons, so that poorer folks would not be afraid to step forward and admit that they needed help.

For me this day has more to do with generosity then Christmas and Thanksgiving combined, for it’s a holiday that encourages us to share with strangers, be they monster or man.

For Me, Halloween is about acceptance.

All worlds are open and the visitors are all different.

Masked faces could conceal the living or dead, heroes or villains, angels or devils, or even an astronaut or an alien.

Man and beast walk together, neither eating the other ( for all can agree, that sugar is amazing.)

*The underworlders I’ve heard, are fond of pomegranates.

Sorry about A Model Employee –

I’ve got some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that I’ve turned this two- paragraph flash fiction into a twelve thousand word fantasy adventure.

The bad news is that an electronic publisher I’m currently negoatiaiting with - tells me this story has to be unpublished before they can except it.

(Blogging is considered published, it seems – so to all of my fellow bloggers – congradulations, your published.)

If this deal happens, Sam the Zombie will make his new home at Mind Wings Audio – If - for some unforseeable reason - Mind Wings

changes it’s mind, I will post the story here.

I notised it had gotten some views recently – so instead of simply making this brief character study dissappear,

I decided to inform you of what was going on with it.

Once again, I hope you are not too dissappointed,

and will continue to follow Sam’s adventures – should they

instead be sold by Mind Wings.

Thank you for reading.   

Burlap Cat Part 3

Yes, I know that Christmas is still a-ways off. I started this serial last year, and mayhaps should have waited for a more appropriate time to post it. It is I feel, not a  Christmas story so much as a supernatural mystery that is currently occurring over the holiday season. I reference past installments so the reader need not start at the beginning . . . None the less – I hope you enjoy this very early present from me to you . . .  (Note – those who do want to start at the beginning will find the other 2 parts under “Short Stories” Just scroll through to find them -

Joanne relaxed in the quiet comfort of the crowded restaurant. Sylvan’s always managed to be noisy and yet somehow serene. There was nothing to do except make conversation and stare at the odd, vintage knick- knacks lined up on shelves nearly hidden by the shadows on the ceiling.

The menu offered every kind of food imaginable, from local favorites, to the exotic and trendy. Joanne always ordered vegan, not that she was a vegan. Saying the word just made her feel hip and sophisticated.

Her parents laughed and joked with each other. This was supposed to be family time but Joanne made no attempt to join the conversation.

Mere hours ago something had stepped – uninvited – into her life.

That something preoccupied her constantly.

Joanne feared her secret might slip if she answered too many of her father’s questions. He was just trying to seem interested in the affairs of an average teenage girl. Joanne could use some advice but hers wasn’t a problem an adult could understand. Heck, hers wasn’t a problem anyone could understand.

Right now she wanted to lose herself in the drone of happy people and the promise of great food, but the jingle bells ring of her mother’s phone brought it all back.

“Joanne?” Mother’s voice was full of concern. “Mr. Bellows says he found your bike smashed to pieces near his drive way. Honey, what happened?”

Joanne told her parents what they wanted to hear. The rain had caught her as she checked the mail. She had run home and forgotten her bike. A car must have struck it. She was given the usual lecture about not going out in rainstorms no matter how much you wanted those Christmas cards (and the cash they contained). Neither one of them seemed to care about the expensive bike she had ruined and were just glad their daughter wasn’t road kill.

Joanne’s problems would rest for the time being, allowing her to enjoy a truly spectacular plate of rice pilaf and the complementary bowl of fried bananas.

They were on their way home when Joanne’s good friend David decided to call. “What the hell Jo! We thought some pervert had gotten you. What were you thinking just leaving that bike in the road and not telling anyone?” Joanne sighed. “My parents already beat me over the head with that, it won’t happen again.” David snorted. “Understood. By the way I wrote to that website.”

Joanne kept a death grip on the phone.

Three days ago David had shown Joanne a website that sold Items reputed to be cursed.

An ancient stuffed cat made of burlap had caught Joanne’s attention. Joanne had made no attempt to buy the thing, yet four hours ago it arrived in a battered, unmarked box.

At first it seemed David was playing a prank. Joanne had forced him to take the creepy thing back, though he claimed the site had just made a mistake. David named it Marvin and had teased her with it until she left his house, hoping to never see the thing again.

Joanne had stopped at her neighbor hood mail box on the way home from David’s.

Joanne had been startled to see the cat resting on a post as if waiting for her.

She ran, just as a truck struck the mail box and smashed her bike.

Joanne had then tucked the cat under her coat and raced home, Not sure of what else to do with a thing that had apparently saved her life.

It was still resting on her bed as far as she knew, having thankfully not followed her to Sylvan’s.

David had promised to contact the site where Joanne had first seen the Burlap cat, if only to prove she was just being paranoid.

What David had to say now, however, did nothing to dismiss her fears.

“The site answered me almost right away. They swear they had nothing like that for sale. I told them what happened and they loved the story. They want the cat Joanne. They said they would give you fifty bucks for it.”

David sounded excited but Joanne was confused. Many thoughts raced through her mind. Would selling the cat really be the end of it? Would the thing be angered somehow? Was it right to simply get rid of a thing after it had seemingly prevented her death?”

Joanne still feared the cat greatly. She would do without hit and runs and burlap cats if she could.

David shouted. “Hello!” “Augh!” barked Joanne. He whispered. “Sorry, but you weren’t answering. So how about it? All the money can be yours. I’m reaping a small fortune this Christmas.” Joanne couldn’t answer. It had all come at her so fast. What she needed was time to think. She ended the call. There was a text but she ignored it. Joanne eventually had to turn off her phone.

David rang the doorbell later that night. Joanne was in her bedroom staring into the cats one black, button eye. Her mother answered the door saying, “Jo it’s David!” Joanne still contemplated the cat. There came a soft knock on her bedroom door. “JO!” said David. “We need to talk.”

Joanne reluctantly emerged from her place of safety. Like it or not, David was the only person who at least partly understood her situation. He turned on the television when she entered the living room, perhaps to mask the sounds of what would be a very odd conversation.

“Jo this thing was sent to your house not six hours ago and already your like a different person. First, you tell me you don’t want it – that your scared of it. You say your going to leave it at my house, but then you take it with you at the last-minute.”

“Dave” said Joanne. “First off, I’m pretty sure I did leave it at your house. Last I remember, It was sitting there on the coffee table. Since I was already out in the rain I stopped at the mail box. You know that yellow post that protects it from the road? Well, the cat was on top of it. Just like someone took it from you and left it there for me to find.”

David smiled at Joanne the way he smiled at old ladies who swore they had seen ghosts. He was preparing his “are you sure it wasn’t your dog” routine.

“Jo, suppose you did take the cat without realizing it. Suppose you took it out of your pack when you checked the mail. I once searched for hours for a pencil I was holding in my hand. It’s the holidays! Your not thinking about dumb things like reality. Your thinking about that twenty-four hour Skyrim binge you’ve been meaning to run for the past two and half months of school.” He winked. “I know I am.”

Joanne turned away from him. “It was a that.” David crossed his arms behind his head. “You were already keyed up over the way it got here, which I’ll admit, was a little weird, but there’s probably a logical explain – ” Joanne interrupted him. “I ran when I first saw it, that’s when a truck smashed my bike, had it not been for the cat I – I – I ”

There was a very long wait before either of them found words. David went first. “Had it not been for the cat you would not have been out there in the first place. Look Jo, regardless of what I believe, according to you it saved your life, which makes it good? Think Jo, your whole life you’ve never been involved in an accident until now?” Joanne was silent. David went on. “I didn’t know a person’s personality could change as quickly as yours has. The Jo I know would not be cowering in fear of a stuffed animal. If there is any proof something isn’t right with this thing, it’s in the fact the great Jo Jonson doesn’t like it. I say, sell the cat.”

Joanne smiled. “I’ll still have to sleep on it.” David headed for the door. “You are probably still shaken by that brush with the truck. I’d wait for the shock to wear off. I’m meeting some friends at the mall tomorrow. A local band is performing. Just throwing it out there in case you feel like you need to get out of the house. Please watch yourself Jo.”

David left and Joanne returned to her room. She threw herself across her bed, right beside the burlap beast that had her so worried. To think she could fall asleep in the same room with it, Joanne really was the great Jo Jonson.

Early the next morning Shelly and Eric arrived with David, David’s parents, and several small, annoying children who seemed to be even less enthused to be there then Joanne’s older friends. “All aboard the Polar Express!” Shouted David as Joanne shrugged into some fresh clothes.

He was waiting in the living room. Someone outside was furiously pounding a horn. “I thought you said we would be going to see a band!” whined Joanne as she trudged down the stairs. “I Did.” said David. “The Sweet Street Carolers!”

Joanne headed back up the stairs. David followed. “Please Jo, don’t throw me to the preschoolers!” David caught her coat. “There are six children out there who’s parents want keepsake photo’s with Santa. My own folks agreed to take them but plan to spend the whole time shopping. There’s a giant sand box full of real snow for the kids to play in. It’s our job to hang out at the food court and watch them. I know It’s going to be a chore but with you around I’m sure we’ll make the best of it.”

Joanne was a sucker for flattery. She left the house and squeezed into the large van waiting outside. A hyperactive two-year old smacked her with an elf doll until she took it away. David slid in beside her. “My cousin’s a handful so we’ll both be in charge of him.” David handed the doll back to the boy. “You like to run off, don’t you, Randy.” Randy smiled, now seeming to be the picture of innocence.

Shelly was present with a niece and two sisters, one of whom was six and absorbed in a video game.

Joanne didn’t know Shelly very well. She was a relative of David’s and a total buzz kill.

Eric was in charge of his siblings, twins that bickered constantly. He was mostly a fun guy, but his insistence on following Shelly around made him less so.

The mall, a monstrous, castle-like building, was every bit as crowded as Joanne expected it to be. They waited for what felt like hours for the stupid pictures with Santa, only to have Randy start crying at the last-minute. Joanne wondered if this was more about having the perfect Christmas card photo then any real fun for the kids.

The snow pit was a hit though, at least with Randy. The other kids complained of being cold and wet and opted to ride the carousel instead, leaving Jo and David to fend for themselves at the less popular end of the food court.

David raised his computer case to block a snowball. “I’ll forgive you if you don’t want to talk about it, but you didn’t happen to see who was driving the truck?” Joanne shook her head. “It was a white or gray pick up. The weather was bad so it was hard to tell the exact color. I didn’t get a license plate either. They probably lost control because of the slippery road. They probably didn’t even know I was there anyway.”

David’s eyes shot toward the snow pit, then he sighed and shook his head. “Jo now ya got me seeing that stupid thing.”

It sounded like a joke but Joanne took it seriously. “Where?” David caught her as she left her seat. “That kid over there, see? It’s just a Hello Kitty.” Joanne shook him off and headed for the snow pit.

It was not just a Hello Kitty.

A little girl sat at the entrance to the snow pit, playing with the burlap cat. Joanne used all of her strength to remain calm. “My, that’s a beautiful dolly.” Joanne said to the girl. “May I see it?”

The girl laughed at Joanne and tossed it to another kid.

Joanne had no intention of joining a game of keep away, so she waited at the entrance to the snow pit. Joanne wasn’t sure what would be the best way to handle this, but one thing was certain. She couldn’t let the burlap cat out of her sight.

The cat was eventually passed to Randy, who seemed to want to give it to Joanne. The boy climbed through the snow in his bulky blue coat, but veered past her at the last-minute, disappearing into the crowd.

“Crap” Said David as he appeared beside Joanne. They ran through the throngs of people desperately searching for the missing boy.

Jo soon caught sight of Randy’s red scarf. He was inching along the wall giggling to himself.

They both raced toward him. Randy squeezed under a partition as soon as he was discovered. David grabbed the large canvas wall (on to which a holiday scene had been painted) and dragged it sideways. Joanne secretly hoped security would come running. They could use extra help catching randy.

Behind the canvas wall was an empty space used for storage. Toward the back was a plastic curtain. Randy pushed past it.

David climbed over covered crates with Joanne close behind him. They emerged into the deserted right wing of the mall. The wing was currently under renovation. Thick sheets of plastic covered everything like ice. Dust hung like mist in the air. Randy’s shadow disappeared around a corner.

Joanne and David tried to keep up but by the time they rounded the bend he was gone.

Joanne caught her breath. “Is there a number we can call for security? Have them watch all the doors or something.” David ran into an empty store and emerged empty-handed. “I’ve got a number for the police – but by the time they – ” Joanne left when she heard a noise. David started to dial. Joanne heard the noise again. Both shouted “Randy!” at the top of their lungs. A small voice called, “Just a minute!” They flew toward the source of the sound.

Randy was standing on a tarp-covered bench, picking peeling, white paint off the wall behind it.

“I found a train.” he said, pointing to part of an old poster somewhat exposed by the paint.

“That you Did.” said David. “The painters couldn’t get it off so they painted over it.” David gripped the boy’s shirt. “Next time just ask Santa for a train, and don’t go wandering off!”

They started to walk back.

“Marvin!” Shouted Randy as he reached for the toy he’d left on the bench.

Joanne had completely forgotten, about the burlap cat.

David was frozen, both by the sight of the cat and the fact Randy had chosen the same name for it.

He handed the boy to Jo, and picked up the cat. “Randy where did you find this?” “In the snow.”said the boy, pointing back toward the lobby. Joanne gritted her teeth, hoping the boy wasn’t too attached to his new friend. “Randy someone lost their teddy. I think we should give it back.”

Randy ignored the tattered, stuffed toy in David’s hands, and started to fall asleep. “Okay.” said the boy, oblivious to the trauma he had caused.

David spoke gravely as they reentered the public section of the mall through the canvas partition, the sleeping Randy in tow. It wasn’t like him to be so serious. “Jo if this is some kind of game you are playing with me, confess now and I’ll forgive you. Face it, you are the only one who could have given this to Randy and told him I named it Marvin.”

Joanne didn’t know what to say.

David spoke for both of them.

“Joanne, I’m selling this crazy thing to the crazies, any objections?” Joanne shook her head, though she felt slightly guilty inflicting the cat on someone else. At least the people receiving it might know what they were dealing with. Perhaps it would be happier with some occult collector, so happy it would leave her, and those around her, alone.

Joanne expected to see the cat waiting on her bed when she arrived home. The weight of the world fell off her back when she saw that it wasn’t. David called that night to say that he had shipped it.

Joanne doubted this was the end of it, but a day passed, then another. The fifty dollars arrived and Joanne soon dared to hope.

Christmas morning however, was not as merry as it could have been, for sitting amongst the presents under the tree was – the burlap cat.

MARCH HARE

Sorry folks, but I’ve been involved in a what is for me – a major construction project, my computer is often buried in junk as I struggle to build a jungle suitable for mom’s chinese water dragon – a lizard who’s space requirements – come to find out – are wildly disperportionate to  its relitively small size. I had also recieved an E-mail from a small online publisher who isen’t excepting but seems to be sniffing at the bait. I seasoned my work some more and sent it back. This will continue until a deal is made or a restraining order is issued.  

Mean while I managed to complete another fun poem. For those who find it confusing, I’ll state it references the Alice in Wonderland duology – I’ve seen many movies but would really like to read the books –  

You live on a rock you think to be flat,

while the moon laughs above you

like a Cheshire cat.

 

This is the inside,

but where is the out?

Your world is a small one,

and yet you must shout.

Quickly I race

through the loud repetition

and into a hole

in your own superstition.

Your late,

your late,

for a brief chance encounter

with an odd twist of fate.

Should you

dare to venture

around the next bend,

there just might be something

that will make our heads spin.

Like you, I am tired of rushing about.

It’s time

for that clock

to be turned inside out.

How long must we travel

to see something crazy?

The powers that be,

I feel,

have gone lazy.

Look There!

Wonderland waits

through a hole in the air.

Just a skip

and a jump

through a jabberwock’s lair.

We’ll pledge no allegiance

to hope or despair,

for you are the White Rabbit

and I the March Hare.

 

You live in a world

full of order and rules.

It’s time you skipped off

to a party with fools.

Hats shall be worn

and tea shall be swallowed.

I’ll bring extra chairs.

Just in case

you are followed.

Bohemians at Large in Paris!

The Crime of Backwards Vandalism

How dare they trespass on public property and fix things!

The Paris Pantheon is a sacred monument for the heritage and history of France, a resting place of it’s greatest heroes and most brilliant academic minds. Recently it was also the scene of a crime, at least according to the assistant administer at the time.

I’d be edgy too if someone put me in charge of this thing. It looks very expensive and easy to break.

Back in 2006 the Pantheon’s administrator and his assistant were confronted by a group of ruffians who called themselves Untergunther. The group brashly admitted to invading this national treasure after hours, squatting within it’s confines, and secretly tampering with one of the priceless relics it contained – namely a vintage clock that had been silent for fifty years.

They claimed to have restored the annoying thing which would now require winding and regular maintenance . . . With an already stretched budget, methinks management was not in a position to spend any resources on a thing not even worth mentioning on the tours.

and to your right . . . oh nevermind that’s nothing.

The Administrator was reportedly thrilled, hearing of how these intrepid rogues hid in the building until closing time, and let themselves out through some carelessly unlocked doors. Doors that would grant them passage night after night, until they got a hold of copied keys.

They explored the place from top to bottom – going where no visitors were allowed and no doubt touching things with their unwashed peasant hands.

They soon laid claim to a forgotten chamber just above the ceiling of the pantheon’s famous dome. Here they set up shop, creating a hideout worthy of childhood fantasies. Complete with electricity and internet access, this secret workshop housed a library, and easy chairs that could be folded into unassuming crates should suspicious eyes gaze in.

Also smuggled into this annex was an expert who specialized in antique clocks. He soon discovered why the unrenowned Wagner Clock had stopped functioning.

Apparently someone had taken a crow-bar to its escapement wheel back in the sixties – perhaps a former employee. An electric mechanism had replaced the damaged gears, but that too was deliberately sabotaged. Clearly some one had it in for this hapless time piece.

After dismantling and washing out the rusted works one part at a time, and repairing the damaged wheel, the group removed all evidence of their presence in the building. The only proof being their story, and the newly restored clock.

Naturally the authorities feared for the Pantheon’s security should it’s extreme ineffectiveness became common knowledge. Not surprisingly the current administrator was soon replaced by his more level-headed  assistant, who had a better grasp of law’s letter – if not it’s spirit.

Weeks went by as the group smugly awaited a demonstration of it’s achievement. Fearing their work was for naught they sneaked in once more, on one of the few days the building was closed.

Bells that had not rang in decades chimed on Christmas morning, filling the deserted interior of the neoclassical cathedral.

To the newly promoted assistant, arriving after his vacation, this tick-tocking present was less welcome than a pair of moldy socks. It meant the backwards vandals had struck again.

An expert was hired to return the clock to it’s deteriorating state and Untergunther was taken to court.

Attempts to Sue them however, proved that they hadn’t technically broken any laws – though changes have been made since. It also turns out that trespassing on public property and fixing things is a hard case to sell to a Judge.

The clock itself was only carefully disconnected. The escapement wheel removed. The expert hired to unfix the thing probably never had a request like that in his life and was understandably confused.

You want me to do what now? Break it? couldn’t you just do that yourself?

Unterguther claims it has successfully stolen the wheel from the administrator’s office and plans to try it’s little caper again. Rumor has it they are still going about their business literally over the heads of the Paris Pantheon’s appointed staff.

 Images courtesy of Wikipedia and this flicker account -

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23339804@N00/6014140483/

 

There is also a lot more to the Untergunther story. Dig deeper here -

http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2011/04/unlocking-the-mystery-of-paris-most-secret-underground-society/

 

 

 

Reckless Quest.

We lie here under endless skies,

faceing that space between truth and lies.

The air catches fire as the sunset dies.

 

We wonder,

 

if hell is a gateway -

and heaven’s just a consolation prize.

 

What if the world truly is perfect,

and it’s we who are flawed?

When a wound never heals,

what if this is just how happiness feels?

 

Perhaps, it is we, who should learn to enjoy it.

Perhaps, it is we, who are missing the point.

Perhaps, we are not, to assume that there is one.

 

We cling to these reins,

our own preconceptions.

Perhaps it is right,

that we cast them away.

 

Perhaps before,

we let reason escape us,

 

we should reach out

and catch hold of this beast.

 

Follow it far, toward the darkest horizons

and there learn to master this thing that we are.

 

What if pain contains knowledge

from which we are not meant to hide?

 

What if life is just that wild horse

you were born to ride?