I’ve enjoyed writing for many years. I'm dedicating more time to the craft in my retirement days.
Bill Holland put forth this challenge with simple rules as follows:
There are no rules! How do you like them apples? I provide a picture, or pictures, and they serve as the inspiration for a short story (or poem) by you. It’s just a fun writing exercise. Let’s not bog it all down with rules, okay?
Here's my flash fiction story based on that guidance and the pictures Bill provided for us. Enjoy! And be well, be safe, and make good choices.
I call my dog Cat. I named her Catarina Catalina Catherine Canine, and every time I look at her I think to myself, “What the heck was I thinking? Why did I give her such a crazy long name?”
So, I just call her Cat. And when I do, she looks up at me with great anticipation. Or maybe it’s frustration. It’s sometimes hard for me to read the difference. Some days I think she’s excited to go, to get out there and enjoy her morning run when she looks at me that way. Other days, I know she is frustrated with me but pretend like I don’t. And that probably frustrates Cat even more…
Most of my friends think I named her Cat because I was trying to be ironic. You know, ironic because John Wayne had a dog named Dog in the movie Big Jake. Dog was one cool customer, I’m telling you. Seems like all Jacob “Big Jake” McCandles had to say was, “Dog,” and Dog would know what that one word meant…no matter the context of the moment. In other words, I guess, it was more than just the dog’s name. And I hate that Dog got killed in the movie. So sad.
Anyway, with Cat, it’s nothing like that at all. When I say, “Cat,” Cat looks at me and kind of turns her head a bit to the side like the RCA Victrola dog. But then, so does my cat. And that’s super weird because my cat’s name is Jake. I don’t know how she knows she’s a cat or to respond to the name Cat. I mean, who ever told her she was a cat? And like I said, for the love of Pete, her name is Jake!
But I think the point of that whole story is I call my dog Cat because Catarina Catalina Catherine Canine is a really, really long name. I’d run out of breath if I ran around all the time calling, “Catarina Catalina Catherine Canine, hey, Catarina Catalina Catherine Canine, it’s time for breakfast. Come on now! Hey! Catarina Catalina Catherine Canine, where are you? Aren’t you hungry?”
I think you’d probably agree: it’s easier to just say Cat. And also, I think, I was trying to say that I need to tell Cat more than the word "Cat" in order to get her to do something. Jake can get Cat to move with a simple swing of a clawed paw, but I have to practically drag old Cat along on some days to get her started. But boy, once she does get started….
So, anyway, back to our story: Cat and I had been out for our morning run—well, she runs, actually, and I ride my mountain bike alongside her; I don’t have the knees for jogging anymore—and I guess she sensed we were getting closer to home, was tugging me along at a full-on mushing gait like she was headed for Nome in the final leg of the Iditarod or something. I mean, she always gets a little rambunctious toward the end of the run/ride as we get closer to the house, but on this morning she was not just tugging like normal, she was really hauling the proverbial mail.
As we rounded the corner onto our block, I soon figured out why, too. We had company. I could tell we had company because there was a Lexus SUV parked in our driveway. I have no idea how Cat could tell we had company, but she is pretty damn amazing like that. I mean, she seemed to know that someone was at the house when we were some two or three blocks away. How does she do that? Is it her sense of smell? A different, sixth sense I just don’t understand? Whatever the case, she was onto the presence of guests at our house long before I saw the SUV that wasn’t mine in the driveway that was.
Don’t get me wrong. I knew whose car it was…and so did Cat. It belonged to our daughter, who no doubt brought over our granddaughter so we could see her. We loved seeing her, so I was now getting almost as excited as Cat was to get home.
We reached the driveway, navigated through the parked rigs and into the garage where I stopped my mountain bike. Cat was practically pulling my arm off in her excitement so I reached down and unleashed her. She ran to the door leading into the house, jumped up on her hind feet, slapped a front paw down hard on the handle, pushed the door open and zoomed right in, slobbering and barking a very excited greeting to my wife, my daughter and my granddaughter.
By the time I got my bike hung up on its hook in the garage, made my way into the kitchen through the garage door, the excitement had abated some. My wife and daughter were standing at the kitchen sink talking, holding mugs of warm coffee in two hands, the way they do: one hand’s fingers grasping the handle, the other wrapped around the body of the mug like it was cold out or something. My granddaughter sat at the kitchen table giggling as Cat licked her, jumped up with two paws in her lap, wagged that big tail back and forth, back and forth in time to a joy meter way down deep in her puppy dog heart.
“Hi Grandpa! Can Cat and I go out and play? Please!?”
“Of course, sweetheart. But don’t go any further than the playhouse, ok?”
“Ok, Grandpa! Ok! Come on, Cat, let’s go!” She ran out the back door with Cat in tow, the two of them so obviously excited to be together, looking forward with great anticipation to another outdoor adventure.
I watched through the window as she ran up the stone steps while simultaneously doffing her backpack and blue jean jacket. Cat was already out of sight, and I could imagine her standing in front of the playhouse door, panting and spinning excited, anticipatory circles while she waited not-so-patiently for her best buddy.
After my granddaughter was no longer in view, I turned around and noticed that the two coffee mugs had made their way to the kitchen counter. I gulped as I turned my gaze toward my wife and daughter, was greeted by furrowed brows, folded arms and tapping toes on two right feet. Boy, my daughter sure was her mother’s doppelganger. Even in the heat of a scolding moment—like I knew was undoubtedly coming—they were two peas from the exact same pod.
“Um…it’ll just be for a little while,” I started, in a voice I tried to make sound as innocent as possible.
“Dad!” my daughter hollered. “I told you last night I needed to have two straight hours, no hanky panky, no fooling around with dogs and cats and who knows what all else goes on in that playhouse out there!”
“Now, now, sweetheart, “ I said.
“No, dear, you need to abide by the rules we all agreed on,” my wife interjected. She didn’t raise her voice, wasn’t excited in the slightest. She was just the calm voice of reason, and I knew for absolute certain she was right.
I hung my head and looked down just as Jake was walking between my legs, rubbing herself up against my shins in a figure eight pattern, back and forth, back and forth and in between.
“All right, all right,” I said as I turned to walk out the door, up the stone stairs and to the playhouse with bad news in hand. “I’ll go tell her it’s time for home school.”
“Hey, Dad?” My daughter called behind me as I was opening the door.
“Yes?” I turned and looked back at her with my best Cat-like puppy dog eyes.
“Dad, you can play with her in a couple hours, ok? Right after we finish Math. How’s that?”
“Oh, that’d be just dandy,” I said. “Thanks, kiddo!” I turned and grabbed the door handle, swung the door open quickly and bounded—as best as an old arthritic man can bound, I suppose—up the stone steps and over the hill hollering for my granddaughter and Cat all along the way.