There is a lot of debate, especially in my house, of whether it’s more important to have a good idea or to write what ever it is but wonderfully. This is why I hate debates, there’s never just one answer. It’s parts of things that go into a whole. Yes, I want a grand new concept I’ve never heard of before and I also want flowing sentences and real characters and language that is not too dumbed down and not too pretentious. What I also hate about debates is that sometimes it’s really about something slightly different. I believe that any artist has to find magical moments around them. Beauty in the mundane, mystery in a moment. How we see the world really impacts our art. If we don’t see those things then we can’t fake them in the art.
Bad writing can make the most mind blowing plot not worth traveling. And I have been pulled right in to something so small and every day, or a plot line I’ve pretty much read before, because the language was beautiful. I see it both ways all the time.
This is a small story I wrote back when I was going to write a 365 word story every day for a year. Needless to say I failed that challenge. But this came out of it:
What happened last night was so subtly strange and I was so alone, that it could have been a dream. I had many others last night, but this could have been real. Walking, barefoot, leggings and a tee-shirt, I began the ritual of sleep. Lights went down up stairs and I went to lock the doors.
There was a rare moment of stillness in me, of observation. The back yard was glowing in the night like an alien landing pad. Solar powered lights in the corner of each bed did not truly illuminate, the yard was obscured, all to be seen was the geometric glowing.
I caught sight of one light blinking as if signaling. As if there was a short circuit in the electrical cord these light did not have. Maybe it’s something moving, then I see it, a low lying shadow passing the grave where vegetables will grow and heading for that hole under the fence.
I want to see it. The possibilities of what this shadow could be are endless, some thrilling. If I turn the porch light on, will it simply vanish with out allowing me a glimpse? I try anyway moving quickly back to the window.
It’s a sleek cat, paused mid-movement, brave or simply interested, it hasn’t fled. So I step out onto the porch, feeling as I have crossed a threshold. This is her world now, I have left the safety of mine.
I call to her clicking my tongue and reaching out my hand. There’s very little hesitancy. She comes right over to me, fast. She is the colors of butterscotch with a long, lean face. She’s an adolescent and she still embodies a youthful sense of experimentation and belief in immortality.
“You can’t come in the house!” I lunge for the door thinking I’ve lost her interest, her trust. Instead, she finishes coming over. She passes me, butting her head against my leg, quickly turns, lets me brush the top of her head, then she is gone to the edge of the porch. She looks back at me, one leg on the first step, and I call to her again. She turns and leaves.
This cat has ended up being a fixture around our house. If I go out at midnight and say: “Here, kitty, kitty,” then usually, from five houses down, he will come running on little feet. Yes, Cuthbert, as I have named him, is a he.
At first a little magic was lost as a totem, maybe some traveling spirit form in the night, became something frequent and quite normal, a neighborhood stray. But then became the challenge of gaining his trust and the mystery of why he’d let me pet him but get up and leave when I tried to feed him.
One day the across the street neighbor let me in on a little secret. Cuthbert, known only as that to me, goes house to house getting love and hand outs. What a player! I realized how not special I am.
Real life was conspiring to vacuum up my mystery and leave for another universe with it. But I don’t work that way. I still wonder where he is on nights when he doesn’t come when called, I wonder why he’s so very thin if all of us on the whole street feed him. I marvel at how loving he is, throwing himself across my legs and rolling. I smile at how soft his fur is and how beautiful his long face and green eyes are.
In comes the second character in our tale, or third if you count me, but I humbly believe I am not counted in the world of cats. Dead Eyes. Dead Eyes was given his name by my husband who is much more suspicious of wild life than I am. He’s a beautiful outdoor cat from three houses down and he’s a bully. I’ve caught him fighting with the much smaller Cuthbert and he sneaks to my house at night and eats the food I leave for Cuthbert, hoping he’ll come back to eat it. I don’t think this is fair. Dead Eyes, you have a home. I try to let Cuthie in the front hallway so he can eat fear free and he wont have it. My husband accuses me of a long game I’m trying to pull of moving him further and further inside until he is our cat. He’s not wrong and I think Cuthbert knows, too. I admire his desire to stay free.
I’m stubborn, you know, in continuing to see the magic. Cuthbert, and Dead Eyes for his part in it, have occupied possibly more of my imagination and fascination than most people would have given. The thing about those creative wells is that the more you pull from them, the deeper they get.