January 11, 2006

A Happy Story

Read this one out at a cabaret last term, hope the bloggers enjoy it.

A Happy Story

You know it seemed to me that with this atmosphere of death, destruction, vague pessimism and general despondency, the world could use something a little upbeat. Some cheap and cheerful, nicely positive, cute and mostly inoffensive, bit of fiction. So I set myself to thinking: what happy thing would be appropriate? World peace? Well that’s too big, too unlikely. A whirlwind romance? Too unpredictable, too racy. A lottery win? Too material. A random shag? Too macho. A completely happy story, without a trace of irony? Now that’s just ridiculous. I was stuck, and all the thinking was making my head hurt. I needed to get out. Get some fresh air. Things were getting stuffy in my head.

I walk out and two things happen at once; a black cat crosses my path, and I sneeze as I’m allergic to cats. But out of this dual badness, goodness just happens to arise. Amidst the post-sneeze head rush and thoughts of how neat these little turns of fiction can be, a clear idea rises from the ocean of my subconscious mind, onto the beach of my imagination: a cute, fluffy little kitten, eyes wide and adorable in that way kittens’ eyes are when they’re manipulating you. Everyone loves kittens, right? How could it go wrong?

I approach my muse, holding off another sneeze, so as not to scare it away, and I absorb its glorious visage. And sure, it’s a little scruffy and old and flea-ridden and scratched and bruised and skeletally thin and frankly a little on the diseased and smelly side, but I decide this is perfect. I will make this dilapidated creature beautiful through my art. As long as I don’t have to touch it.

So I take my quill and parchment, read: biro and scrap of paper, and I write the story of the poor, yet adorable, kitten that is, quite inexplicably, totally unloved. Homeless and forlorn, this little black kitten wanders the streets until, one day, I cross his path. He follows me home and before I can slam the door in its face, as the poor creature expects, and as I, frankly, am wont to do to strays who follow me home, she opens her dark eyes wide at me, and I’m overcome by this adorable and pathetic little kitten. So I open my door wide and I adorably feed the adorable kitten saucer after saucer of adorable milk, as I think this is what you’re supposed to do. And the kitten is definitely not sick from all the milk, and I definitely do not have a sneezing fit, and despite the fact that I am a vegetarian I find some left over roast chicken in my fridge to feed her and she purrs appreciatively. And it was funny, because no sooner had I written this than an adorable little kitten followed me home.

So my kitten and I were happy, I was miraculously not allergic to her, and she never shat in the house, brought mice inside, or even grew up, but stayed forever a sweet little kitten, who never had to be ‘fixed’, who was never chased by dogs as she was too cute, and was never violently buggered by tomcats as she was too small and innocent. And if ever I had a bad day and felt the weight of the world on my shoulders then she would be there to nuzzle me, purr sweetly, and reassure me that the world is warm and fuzzy after all.

However … however, I could not stop myself writing. Before I knew it I had raised my quill once more and while my left hand tried vainly to tear the paper away, my right hand was writing away, turning my endearing happy story, into a tragedy. I wrote that my adorable kitten grew bored of me, bored of never aging, bored of milk and roast chicken, bored of living in a warm and fluffy little paradise, and it ran away. And it wasn’t funny that no sooner had I written it, my kitten was off out the cat flap, down the garden path and straight over the fence, which was an odd melodramatic image, as the door was open at the time.

So I was sad for awhile, missing my poor, pretty, pretentiously perfect, little kitten. But I decided to be brave, to be strong, to try and hold on, and soon I decided it was best to get over the kitten, there was no use dwelling over the tragedy I’d written of her life, making it an even sadder story, nor any point trying to write it a satisfying conclusion as I’d only end up killing it in some horrible and tragic way. I decided to write a new story, a better story, slightly more realistic, but nevertheless very upbeat. The kitten, this boy’s dream, had failed, but what about man’s best friend?

I wrote a dog, a big golden retriever, with a lovely, glossy coat. This would be a real man’s dog that would fetch sticks, chase cats without catching them and scare children, old people and charity workers away from my house. A dog I was proud to take on long walks through parks, and who was trained to sniff the dogs of attractive female dog-walkers, hence providing an obvious and clichéd opening to talk to pretty women.

True to form this dog arrive, bounding down my garden path into my arms, knocking me over so that we wrestled in the mud in a manly and good-humoured way, yet, in a stroke of good fortune, neither my designer jeans, nor his coat got the least bit muddy. And by the end of the week all the people I didn’t like knew to steer clear of my property lest the dog should bark aggressively at them and snap at their heels, whilst never actually hurting anyone. And in the first long walk alone I had three phone numbers of stunning female dog-owners, who I seldom called as they had hairs everywhere in their houses and over their clothes and smelled of dogs, but the fact remains I had the numbers, and unlike with the kitten, I could leave my dog out at night so that I could go on the pull, safe in the knowledge that even as I would just manage to score a goodnight kiss from one bitch, he would have already shagged about three.

But again I couldn’t keep my hands off the quill, this time I got greedy, I was nostalgic for my kitten and wanted both her and the dog, so I wrote my kitten again, wrote her returning, haphazardly over the road to my front door, as cars swerved to avoid her, always just missing serious accidents. As this happened, I was waiting on the pavement to scoop her up into my arms, when the dog ran out of my house, a golden blur, straight into the middle of the road, straight for my kitten and once more given the opportunity I could not stop myself writing this into a tragedy. He snatched the kitten up in his jaws and shook her this way and that, tossing her to the floor, a poor broken ball of fluff, matted with blood. And my dog turned his golden head and looked at me, his eyes aflame, blood dripping from his maw. Then the truck hit him.

Maybe animals weren’t the way to go? Maybe something a bit more human, a bit more grown up would work. So I wrote a wife, not the masculine dream wife, the product of years of misogyny, but a balanced woman. She would be gorgeous, yet subtle, slender, but not thin, small, but not short, intelligent, but not pretentious and funny, but not comic. She would be a fantastic cook, who regretted the fact that she did not have much time to cook, due to her career as a hugely successful international human rights lawyer. And when she came home at night and ate the meal I prepared lovingly for her, humouring me that it could actually match up to her fabulous culinary expertise, and then we would retire to the bedroom to have absolutely red-hot, fantastic, explosive sex.

This time I couldn’t even wait for it to come true before I wrote the tragedy, and before I even got to try her cooking, brag about her career, or take her upstairs even once, she had cheated on me. Then she left me. Then she died. I spiralled into a deep depression, and burnt all my stories, threw away my pen and never allowed any writing implements near me again in case I felt the urge to write once more.

Instead of writing, I went back to where I found that first diseased and dirty feline. I searched for hours until I found it, or one that was suitably disgusting, and I carefully guided it into a carrier with a sharp stick. I took it to the vet and I had it fixed up, given medicine. Then I took it home with me and fed it the proper cat food and a bowl of water every day. And I was happy that I finally had something real, it wasn’t perfect or spectacular, it wasn’t house broken, it scratched and bit sometimes, it brought in rodents of all shapes and sizes, but I was patient with it and knew that I was making its life better. But no matter how patient I was, I was still allergic, and the constant sneezing really got to me after a week and I had to turf it out and give it to someone else. Still, I tried.

So we all lived. Except for the kitten, the dog, and my ex. Who were dead.


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