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22nd May
posted by amber


All night long, like bubbles in a boiling pot, the cats rise one or two at a time, rub against her neck or hands, then sink back down to the foot of the bed.  At 4 a.m. they start to mew and miaow and yowl for food, but she does not respond.

Fifteen cats lie on the bed, an interlinked jigsaw of variegated fur.  Three more shy cats huddle beneath the bed and the solitary one watches from his perch on a high cupboard.  Friends and even strangers have brought some of them to her, but most find her on their own, gypsy cats reading the signs scratched on her fence posts.

The cats seethe and fuss, demanding food, but still she ignores them. Food comes, they have learned, after talking.  She might say, “Bugger off, it’s not even 5 a.m.” or “Can’t a person get a little sleep-in around here? You kept me up half the night.” But today there is no talking.

The sun peeks through the window, casting weak light across the furred bedspread, catching in the threads dangling from the curtain, the curls of wood festooning the lower reaches of the doorframe. And still she will not talk nor will she rise, grumbling, to feed them. She bats weakly at them when, en masse, they stand sentry on her shoulder and the pillow, staring.

Talking sometimes involves the talking stick. Rosey, the eldest, knocks it free and Burns walks across the buttons. A small voice emerges from the talking stick, “911, what is your emergency?”

And still she will not talk. The solitary one, the hungriest of all because the others kept him from the food the previous day, jumps down. Twitches travel up and down his back as he braves proximity, tail high and expanding. He dashes toward her face and swipes at her cheek, claws rampant.

“Bugger off!” she moans, “Can’t you see I’m sick?”

The cats nudge the talking stick toward her and finally she pulls it to her mouth, weeping, “I’m sick, I’m sick, help me.”

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story posted every day on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012.  Stories must be a minimum of 200 words.  Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.


  1. Candas

    Good stuff!! You give me courage…!

  2. Arlene Dahl

    First line suggestion:

    I can’t believe my eyes….a flotilla of thirty-eight…yes THIRTY-EIGHT…white pelicans are passing before me on my lake.

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