Cat Chronicles, Episode #1: The Beginning

I had always wanted a cat. I wanted a sweet, warm lap cat that would fight for my attention and curl up next to me, purring while I wrote stories. I envied my friend Crystal for her gorgeous tuxedo kitty named Felix. If I could have cloned him for myself, I would have. My husband was not keen on adopting a cat, however. We already had a dog and two kids. That was plenty for us. Plus, litter boxes. Yuck.

Little did I know how my luck would turn one Wednesday in 2014.

Caleb was only eight months old. Wesley was three. We had just dropped my husband, Kris, back off at work after meeting him for lunch. I was headed up the ramp to get onto the interstate, and glanced to the left at a man in an orange vest picking up trash with a grapple tool. That’s when a tiny black flash darted out in front of the truck.

I swerved to miss it, thinking it must have been a chipmunk or something. As we passed by, I saw a small black kitten curled up in the weeds.

My heart jumped. My mind immediately flashed to visions of a fluffy black lap cat, forever grateful for being rescued from the tires of passing vehicles.

I pulled over.

“I’ll be right outside the truck,” I told Wesley, rolling down the backseat windows. “I need to see something.”

I circled to the back of the truck, and sure enough, there sat the tiniest kitten I’d ever seen. The moment she saw me, she ran over to me, mewing loudly. I was impressed by her set of lungs in such a small body.

I picked her up and cradled her in my palm. She felt as light and fragile as a baby bird, and just as fuzzy. She curled her tail, which had chunks of fur missing, around her body and settled down. That’s when I remembered the man picking up trash. I stepped over to him.

“Do you know who this kitten belongs to?” I asked him.

He smirked. “Nah. But it’s been following me around for over an hour. She almost got ran over a couple of times.”

“Oh no!” My heart broke. What now? “I can’t just leave her. She’ll get killed.”

The man stopped in his task and shrugged. “I ain’t seen a mama or any other kittens around here, so it must be lost.”

I held the kitten out to him. “You should take it home. It seems to like you if its been following you around.”

He took a step back and held up his hands as if I’d just suggested he contract the plague.

In hindsight, I should have taken that as an omen…

“No way, I ain’t taking it.” He smirked as she began to doze in my hand. “It looks to me like you got yourself a new cat.”

He laughed and walked away, dropping more trash into his bag.

I climbed back into the truck and looked into the backseat. Caleb chewed on his fingers, and Wesley’s eyes were huge. “Is that a kitten?” he asked, unable to hide his thrill.

“Yes,” I said, “but we’re not keeping it. We’re just going to find it a good home.”

I tucked her into my lap and pulled away, making it only a few yards before she jumped down and began circling the pedals at my feet.

In hindsight, I should have taken that as a warning…

“Ok, this won’t work,” I said aloud as I reached down and plucked her from the floorboard. She loudly protested, clinging to my hand with needle-like claws.

I pulled over at the very next exit and found a gas station. Pulling up to the curb, I stepped out of the truck and called to the clerk through the open door. “Excuse me, do you have an empty box I can have?” I held up the kitten, who looked around with pure innocence. The clerk smiled and brought out a large, empty liquor box.

I thanked her, set the box into the passenger’s seat, and plopped the kitten inside.

She easily used those needle-like claws to scale the wall of the cardboard, and jumped right back out.

I scrambled around the floorboard, located her fuzzy little form, and dropped her back into the box, folding the lid down gently.

Seconds later, the lid popped back open, and she jumped out, leaped over the console, and hid beneath the backseat.

I knew if I left her beneath the seat, there would be trouble the moment I pulled away. I snaked my body over the console, stretched across the floorboard and gently gripped the kitten, pulling her free from the carpet like velcro. I plopped her back into the box and folded it shut. When there was only silence, I sighed and headed home.

The moment we reached the interstate, a tiny black claw thrust up through the center hole and waved around like a spiked periscope. It was followed by two triangular ears, and a tiny round head. She mewed at me, then attempted to climb out.

Traffic slowed to a crawl, so I took a picture, then pushed her head back down like a gentle form of whack-a-mole.

As we inched along the interstate, she tried it again, this time swiveling to look at me, attempting to use the charm of her cuteness. For a moment, the spell worked. I took another picture and laughed.

She saw her opportunity and took it.

In hindsight… well, you know.

I pushed her back into the box and held my hand over the lid the rest of the way to keep her from climbing out.

Every few minutes, she jumped up and stabbed my palm with a needle-claw.

By the time we reached our animal clinic, my hand looked like it had been attacked by Baby Wolverine.

I unbuckled the boys, held Caleb on one hip and the box on the other, and walked up to the counter.

The two women stood to peer into the box.

“Awwww, a kitten!” They both exclaimed, and took her out.

“Will you check it over and make sure it’s OK? I just found it, but we can’t keep it. Do you think you could find it a home?”

They glanced at each other. “We’re taking the weekend off, so there won’t be anyone here to watch it or feed it. Plus, it’s two days before Halloween… we have a policy against adopting black cats out before Halloween. People do horrible things to black cats at this time of year.”

Just my luck. I have found a black cat two days before Halloween.

In hindsight…

I resigned to take her home with me, but only for a few days. Once the threat of Hallow’s Eve black cat sacrifices had passed, I would find her a home. I tried not to think about what my husband would say…

The ladies took her to the back to give her a mini-exam (because what other kind of exam can you really give a kitten this small?). I took the boys next door to Dollar General and bought a litter box, litter, and kitten food. I studied the photo of the minuscule morsels on the outside of the bag claiming to be “actual size”, and wondered how she would get her tiny mouth around them.

When I returned back to the vet, the ladies brought the box with the kitten back out to me. A small paper bowl of food was at the bottom, and she was, miraculously, asleep.

“Well, here’s what we know. It’s a female. She’s healthy. She’s about five weeks old, and she was very hungry. What will you name her?”

“Oh, I’m not naming her,” I told them. “I don’t want to get attached. I can’t keep her.”

“Well, we need a name for the computer records. How about Pumpkin, since you found her right before Halloween?”

She turned and began typing.

“Uh, sure. That will work for now.”

I took the box and snoozing kitten home, set the box in the middle of the living room, and stared at it.

What now?

I called my husband.

“Um, listen, I have something to tell you…”

He was not happy. He swore he wouldn’t be cleaning any nasty litter box. He determined she had one week, tops, before we find her a home at all costs. One thing was abundantly clear: we weren’t keeping her.

That evening, when Kris arrived home, he took a deep breath and said, “Let’s see this cat.”

We looked around the room.

She was gone.

He shook his head and sat down on the couch, narrowly missing her as she uncurled from the shadows of the cushion.

She immediately climbed up his shirt to his shoulder, tucked in her little paws and tail, and fell asleep, purring loudly.

 

I held my breath.

Kris rolled his eyes.

“Fine,” he grumbled. “We can keep her. But we’re naming her Shadow.”

I turned and walked into the kitchen where I could fist pump in privacy.

Just before turning the corner, I glanced back and caught Kris reaching up to pet her.

I should have known we were simply under her spell. In the weeks to come, I would realize exactly what we’d gotten ourselves into.

Daniel

Contest entry: for short story competition, 99 words or less.

The dirt floor was cold and a draft breezed through his threadbare tunic. In the pitch blackness, a low growl rumbled. It reverberated in his chest and sent sharp chills up his spine. He gagged on the putrid odor of urine and blood. Sweeping sounds of pacing beasts and wet smacks of hungry jaws echoed in the shadows. Moist heat blasted his face as a sliver of light illuminated razor-sharp fangs.

Trapped in a den of starving lions, he did what any man void of fear would do.

He began to sing.

Fiction is great, but real life is better.

Natalie Cone | Encouraging and Empowering Women

1/4/2013

I love to write stories of all kinds. My computer is littered with scenes and words and characters that put up with whatever strange circumstance that I throw them into.

But fiction is not always what is the most fun. Sometimes… well, most of the time… it’s the REAL LIFE stories that are the most hysterical.

Natalie Cone | Encouraging and Empowering Women
Photo by Ella Jardim

Like a couple of weeks ago. We were travelling home from spending the weekend with my family. My husband played the “Where is…?” game with Wesley to keep him entertained. Kris asked where his nose was. Wesley expertly pointed to his nose. Kris asked about his elbow. Wesley held up his sweet, bent arm and pointed. When Kris asked where his gluteus maximus was, he pointed at me.

Or what about this afternoon? I was in dress pants and a nice sweater from an appointment earlier in the day. Because Wesley had been so well-behaved, I took him to a park to play. The wooden playhouse was high. Like, super-high. But I was wearing flats. And hey… I’m not THAT far past my athletic days. So I took a leap off the edge to make sure I was at the end of the slide in case Wesley decided to ride it down. I landed on my feet, but my upper body pitched forward. I did a curled-over awkward run, then tangled the toes of one shoe into the hem of my other pant leg. Doubled over, I did a sort of run-hop, run-hop, run-hop until I finally landed on my knees. Unfortunately, the playground was right in front of a fire department. I am pretty sure I will later see myself on America’s Funniest Home Videos, shot from a fireman’s cell phone.

Just this evening, my husband and I decided to crack open and take apart my HP Touchpad, after I have been having some battery charging issues. I have been stressing over this touchpad, which was a gift from Kris for Mother’s Day. I had tried everything–leaving it on the charger for days at a time, getting an inductive charger, forcing a hard reboot. Nothing. I even considered wrapping it in my hair and singing the Rapunzel Healing Incantation from Disney’s Tangled.

I was impatient to see the guts of the thing. So while we wait for the new battery to arrive, we took it apart. The battery was secured with three tiny micro-sized screws. Kris taped them to the table so that they wouldn’t roll away. A few short minutes later, the tape and screws were gone. We checked the floor. We checked everywhere that Wesley had been. I even checked my hair in case it somehow got stuck on me. I even checked the blinds behind the table to make sure it didn’t somehow blow off in some weird gust of strong wind that would unstick tape off a surface. I was bummed. About an hour and a half later, I found the tape, and all three screws… secured firmly to my sleeve.

So you see? What do fictional characters have on me? I could write a book on this stuff. And the great thing is… Life happens EVERY SINGLE DAY, with laughs embedded in every adventure. Fiction is great, but real life is better.

 

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When ADT Asked for a Safe Word, I Couldn’t Believe the Answer.

Natalie Cone | Encouraging and Empowering Women

4/26/12

Natalie Cone | Encouraging and Empowering Women
Photo by Christopher Harris

 

This week an ADT guy came to our door selling security systems. We had been wanting to get one, and this was a great deal. We sat at the table and filled out paperwork, my husband matching the sales manager in equal seriousness and professionalism, while I sat there reminding myself not to sit with my feet in the chair. And wondering what I should cook for dinner. And noticing that it was almost Wesley’s bath time. And worrying about his fever that had not yet gone down. And trying to remember if the dogs had been fed.

I came back to reality just in time to hear the sales manager ask,

“What would you like your password to be? It’s what you will give the operator when they call if the alarm is ever tripped.”

Without hesitation, I said, “How about ‘I love you’?”

The room grew quiet, then everyone burst out laughing. Kris just shook his head. Then the sales manager proceeded to hold his hand to his ear like a phone and say, “I love you too, but ma’am, your alarm is still going off.”

More laughter.

Then the moment was gone, and we got back to paperwork. But later, I revisited the question about the password. I thought about it probably longer than I should have. To my own internal amusement, I imagined humorous scenarios of having an off-the-wall password.

Ring, ring.

Me: Hello?

Operator: Yes, this is Quintessa with ADT Security. We received notification that your alarm is going off. Could you please provide your password?

Me: Password.

Operator: That’s correct. I need your password, please.

Me: Password.

Operator: [voice strained with frustration] No, I don’t need you to repeat me.

Me: I’m not repeating you.

Operator: Ma’am, I just need your password.

Me: Password.

click.

Me: Hello?

Or how about this one?

Ring, ring.

Me: Hello?

Operator: Yes, this is Arnold with ADT Security. We received notification that your alarm is going off. Could you please provide your password?

Me: Die.

Operator: Excuse me?

In one word, things could turn confusing:

Ring, ring.

Me: Hello?

Operator: Yes, this is Lisa with ADT Security. We received notification that your alarm is going off. Could you please provide your password?

Me: Again.

Operator: I said, this is Lisa with ADT Security. We received notification that your alarm is going off. Could you please provide your password?

Me: I said, Again.

Operator: For the third time, this is Lisa with ADT Security. We received notification that your alarm is going off. Could you please provide your password?

Me: I heard you the first time. Again.

[long pause]

Operator: Ma’am, are you okay?

The possibilities are endless. Here are a few more I came up with for your entertainment:

Never.

Gotcha!

What?

Racist.

Whatever.

Moron.

Goodbye.

Bummer.

Maybe.

I’m sure many of you have some good ones. Humor me with yours!

 

 

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I Took a Shower While My Son Napped. Then I Heard Screams.

Natalie Cone | Encouraging and Empowering Women

9/22/2011

Natalie Cone | Encouraging and Empowering Women

I had finally gotten Wesley to bed for a nap yesterday.

Judging by the depth of his slumber, I figured he would be out long enough for me to take a shower.

I had even decided to shave my legs using *squeal* shaving foam and actually taking my time!

I got everything prepared… shaving cream on the side of the tub, baby video monitor propped up within view and a towel nearby.

The shower was so warm and relaxing, I sighed the moment I stepped under the spray. I got right to my anticipated task of shaving. Normally, my shave is rushed, resulting in a few nicks and a couple of embarrassing missed spots. But this time, I was going to enjoy every foamy minute of it.

A half of a calf into it, I heard a sound that made me jump out of my skin. A loud, high-pitch screech that sounded like a hawk swooping in for the kill. I jerked open the curtain and watched the monitor, but Wesley was snoozing soundly.

What had I heard? Was there a giant mutant rat in the room? Was there something suspicious in the nursery that was coming through the baby monitor? Thoughts of the paranormal began filling my head.

I started shaving again. A couple of razor-swipes later, I heard it again. Louder, this time. I decided to rush through the rest of my shower and investigate, searching for the source.

Then it sounded again, three times in a row. Coincidentally at the same time that my razor ran across my skin.

You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought, as my heart slowed down to a normal pace.

I pulled the razor up my skin quickly. Sure enough, I’d found the source of the sound. It was nothing but a squeaky razor over my leg where the shaving foam had gotten a little thin. I guess it has been a while since I’ve shaved with foam. Apparently I’d forgotten what happens when the foam gets a little thin in places.

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