Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Off the Page

I had been spending quite a bit of time at the computer. I was way behind on a deadline and so I was pounding out word after word, line after line and then not. I was supposed to be getting lots of writing done but of course it wasn’t coming as easily or as quickly as I had hoped. So, instead of writing, I was spending an inordinate amount of time reading the junk that passes as email in my inbox or playing games or searching. Then, well every now and then, I would get a great bit of what I hoped passed as brilliance and I would type furiously for several minutes.
After I had finished writing one of these sections I decided to get up and make myself some coffee. I pushed my chair back, stood up and started towards the door. Then something made me turn back, I couldn’t even tell you what it was exactly, but that’s when I saw, well you wouldn’t believe it, I didn’t believe it myself really. Stepping right out of my computer and onto the desk was a cat. Not any cat, mind you, but a beautiful black and gold Persian cat. One very small paw stretched out of the monitor and was placed gingerly upon the keyboard and then, thinking better of it she reached over past the keyboard to the desk. In a moment the whole of her was out of the computer and she jumped from the desk to the chair and then down to the floor. Digging her claws into the carpet she began to stretch. I watched as she began to get bigger, and then bigger still and then with a flick of her tail she was full sized. She had made her way out of my story and into my office.
It was at this point that I chose to turn around and head back out to the kitchen. I was quite certain that I had lost my mind, or was hallucinating and I thought perhaps a cup of coffee might be helpful. I poured the coffee into the mug and then proceeded to piddle about the kitchen. I started to empty the dishwasher and clean the counters. I went into the living room and straightened the afghan on the sofa. I was wasting time and I knew it but I was not sure of what I would find when I returned to the office. I was also trying to sort out my emotions in all of this. If I went back into the office and there was no cat would I be disappointed, or relieved? Was it a ghost cat or an actual living breathing cat? If it was a ghost cat would I be the only one who could see it? The questions just went on and on. My journalism training kept forcing more and more questions into my head.
Finally curiosity and a desire to end the barrage of questions got the best of me and I walked back into my office. Not too surprisingly the cat was not at my desk and a quick look around gave no indication that it was there at all. I gave a small sigh of relief when out of the corner of my eye I saw something move. I turned and there was a bit of a tail twitching from behind a pile of books on the window seat. The tail clearly belonging to the phantom cat, as I had now started to referring to her in my mind.
I placed the mug on the desk and walked over to the window seat to find her reclining in a small patch of sunlight, her eyes half opened. I removed the books and studied her for a moment. She looked extremely solid with absolutely no qualities you might find in a phantom. I sat down on the worn cushion on the window seat, reached over and began to scratch her between her ears. Her golden eyes opened wide as she studied me and then she began to purr. She was most definitely real. Although how that could possibly be considering that I saw her walk out of the monitor and into the room left me completely incapable of finishing any sort of thought. So I would scratch her then in somewhat of a daze cease. Then she would bat at my hand softly until I scratched her some more.
Finally I got up and walked back across the room to my desk and sat down. My coffee was cold and I wasn’t in any mind to write so I saved my work and shut off the computer. I had been writing for years and during all that time nothing had taken substance before. Well, nothing beyond the written word itself. How could this have happened? Why did this happen? Would it happen again? I picked up my coffee mug and started out of the office. The cat jumped down from the window seat. Stretching, and I wondered for a moment if she would get bigger again. But no she remained the same size. She followed me out as I headed towards the kitchen but she stopped at the front door. She looked up expectantly. I had continued on to the kitchen so she began to scratch at the door and meow, rather insistently I might add. I walked back to the door and opened it for her. She ran under the bushes and then dashed off behind the house.
I walked to the edge of the house but there was no sign of her and I wondered if she had in fact disappeared entirely or if she was off doing whatever cats do when they disappear. I looked up to see my neighbor Mrs. Michaels waving at me. She had lived in that old house for 50 years. Her gardens were amazing, the flowers attracted all sorts of butterflies. If you went into her house you would find at least 100 butterflies mounted with hat pins, framed and hanging in every room. It kind of creeped me out and I really was not into chatting so I waved quickly and then ducked back around the corner and into the house shutting the door behind me.
I walked back into the kitchen and dumped out my coffee. Then I went back to the door and opened it just a tiny bit to see if the cat was back. She was not. I did this several times, finally recognizing the insanity of it I shut and locked the door and decided to go take a shower. It was well best noon and I was still in the yoga pants and t-shirt I had slept in the night before.
My phone rang and I walked over to see who was calling. It was my mother. I let the call go to voicemail. I already knew what she was going to yet again voice her concern about my spending so much time alone and her desire to see me out of the house and into the real world before I lost my mind. I smiled at that. It was probably too late, seems I had already slipped over the proverbial edge.
I took a quick shower and got dressed. Walked over and opened the door, no cat. I shut it and went back to my room to put on some makeup and dry my hair. I walked back to the door and then stopped myself from opening it. I slipped on my shoes, picked up the library books that had been sitting on the hall table for over a week, grabbed my purse and my keys and headed out the door. No cat. I wondered as I got in my car if I had imagined it all. It seemed real although it was very bizarre.
I headed towards town, dropped off the library books, picked up my dry cleaning and stopped at the market to pick up something for dinner, some milk, some eggs. I even picked up a couple of cans of cat food.
“Do you have a cat?” The checker asked. She had seen me in here a thousand times and I had never bought cat food before.
“Umm, maybe,” I said.
“Oh a stray, just coming to visit? Yea I’ve got one of those too.” She said laughing. I thought you probably don’t have one like this.
It was a beautiful day. I put the top down on my convertible and enjoyed the wind in my hair. It was so gorgeous out that I decided to stop and have a sandwich at a little place down by the river. I decided it would be relaxing and maybe I could just write a little bit while I was there. I grabbed a notebook and pen from the floorboards on the passenger side. I had to dig through several old Starbuck cups, empty Sonic bags and some mail that had never quite made it into the house. I called my mother before I went in and luckily got her voicemail. I told her not to worry, that I was out in the real world running errands and having some lunch. I left the phone in the car. I really didn’t want to talk to anyone I just wanted to relax and enjoy myself. I ordered a sandwich, chips and a soda and took them out to the back patio. It was a deck that overlooked a small waterfall and the river. There were a couple of other people eating there lunch so I grabbed a table as close to the water but still separated from them.
I ate about half my sandwich and began to write. Just random thoughts, nothing at all really, I had recently read that you should write three pages a day of nothing. You know, whatever pops into your head. It’s supposed to help with the whole creativity process, so that’s what I was doing. I found myself describing a banquet hall, with the tables set for a royal dinner. I was careful to put as much detail as possible, I wrote about everything from the dinnerware to the beautiful bouquets of pink peonies and white roses in short leaded crystal vases that adorned the tables. I described the flatware and the glassware.
It was at this point that I realized that my cup was empty and so I put my pen down and went inside to get a refill. When I returned to the table there was a fork on the table near my notebook, I took very little notice of it really. I assumed that it had been there before or perhaps someone had seen it on the ground and had picked it up assuming it was mine. I started to review what I had written and as I reached for the other half of my sandwich my arm came in contact with the knife. I glanced at it and then stopped. Every detail of the fork from the sterling silver to the gold filigree of hearts and flowers was exactly as I had described it in my writing. I put my sandwich down and picked up the fork. I felt the weight of it in my hand. It was very real, but how it could possibly be there and why it had appeared in the first place could not be comprehended.
Then I had a very strange thought. Stranger even then the appearance of the thing itself was why this particular object? Why not the vases and the flowers, which I would have much preferred over a fork? I slipped the fork into my purse and then looked around as if I was doing something criminal. It was after all, my fork, since I had made it up. That thought gave me pause. I had made it up.
I picked up my purse and went back to my car and headed home. I was so distracted I ran a red light and nearly got myself killed. I tried to refocus long enough to get home safely. As I pulled into the driveway I saw the cat sitting by the door, waiting expectantly. I had a feeling things were going to get a great deal stranger from now on. There were so many variables and so few answers except a beautiful filigreed fork and a black and gold long haired cat.

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