Monday, April 16, 2012

Contest Entry: Cooper and the Death-Cat

ATTENTION: Allow me to say that I had almost indecent fun putting together this entry for Anna Meade and S J I Holliday's amazing Once Upon a Time flash fiction contest. So much fun that I really don't care if I place for any of the amazing prizes (of which there is a plentitude - check it out!). I am excited because I am pleased with what I've done here. Very pleased.

If a nursing home seems an odd place to find the beginning to a fairy tale - well, all I can say is that I have spent copious amounts of time in nursing homes over the past several years, as various loved ones have gone there as their last "holding place" before their death-leaving.

I've had lots of time to think about Moosie and Cooper, and fiesty Beulah Judson.

But that's for another post. Read the entry, check out the contest, and enter with a creation of your own!

COOPER AND THE DEATH-CAT
(347 words)


Moosie the death-cat made another circuit at Woolsey Nursing Home. She sniffed the air at each doorway, tufted ears pricked and tail swishing, before moving on to the next room. The overworked, checklist-choked staff sometimes second-guessed when death was near. Not Moosie. She always knew.
            “Tag on Judson, room nine,” said the aide to the nurse fumbling with her medicine cart.
            “Moosie’s in the door?”
            “No – on the bed.”
            On the bed. When Moosie took to someone’s bed – you called in the family.
            The nurse left her medicine cart in the hall and peeked in room nine. Beulah Judson was upright in her hospital bed, talking to her toes.
            “Don’t look at me like that. Cooper wouldn’t like it.”
            As usual, thought the nurse (they never had learned who Cooper was); but where’s Moosie?
            An angry hiss answered her from beneath the bed. There she was – under the bed, not on it. Her back was arched, fur bristling, tail straight as an arrow.
            “I’m not leaving yet. Cooper promised.”
            The nurse pricked up her ears. Beulah Judson wasn’t usually this lucid – even when she did talk to Cooper. And what was wrong with Moosie? This was not her usual bedside manner.
            Hiss. Scratch. YOWL. Scrambling beneath the bed – a blur of striped fur – and Moosie flew from the room, screeching like a banished demon.
            “Cooper! Leave the cat alone!” scolded Beulah.
            Another voice lilted through the room – a cool, sprightly voice that nonetheless sent chills up the nurse’s spine.
            “The cat was here to take you,” said the voice. “I thought you weren’t ready to leave.”
            “Damn you, Cooper - what took you so long? I’ve waited decades.”
            “Too many changelings, not enough children.”
            “I’m too old to changeling,” said Beulah, while the nurse looked wildly about for the source of the voice.
            “To have a changeling,” the voice – Is that Cooper? – said. “And you’re never too old to trick the Others. Do you want out?”
            “Hell yes,” said Beulah.
            “Then how will you leave?” said Cooper. “By death – or changeling? We could use you, you know.”

Comments? Questions? Let me know what you think!
And above all - check out all the other wonderful entries!
(see links below)


37 comments:

  1. Wow...Had to re-read a few times. It's quite ambiguous, and beautifully written. I feel that Cooper is an imaginary friend of some sort, who has perhaps returned to an old friend long after she grew up....Not sure why I feel that. There's an underlying element of suggested menace in this tale that I adore, and the death-cat is a wonderful addition to the story. Amazing!

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    1. Thanks, Corey! I was going for the imaginary-friend-who-comes-back-in-the-nick-of-time angle, with a twist. I've had such great responses to this, I might try to flesh it out and make it longer.

      And of course, menace is always involved when you're dealing with fairies. :)

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    2. I would LOVE to hear more of this story, Angela. Please flesh it out further. And when you do, make sure you let me know where to read it! I eagerly await this =)

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  2. Death cat - excellent. Changelings. Nursing homes. Wow! Love this, Angela! Thanks for entering :)

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    1. Thank you - and thanks for reading!

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  3. Angela - this story went in a completely different direction than I assumed it would when it started...I loved it my friend. I agree with Cory, your story is beautifully written and it alludes to the true mystery of life. Well done, very well done!!!

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    1. O wow - where did you think it was headed? I don't see myself as being a master of plot twists, or as having a distinct "voice" yet; so I am pleased that you think so, on both counts!

      Thanks for reading!

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    2. Wait....Lillie is the one who made the "voice" comment....sorry. My poor applesauce brains. Never try to do a full day's work and write/manage blogs on only five hours sleep..... o__O

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  4. Damn! Now I'm for sure not winning any prizes. :(

    Please let me know when the novel comes out.

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    1. I dunno, pard - I thought your entry was pretty brilliant, myself. Made me laugh aloud. :D

      Y'know, I'm kind of wondering what this would look like as a longer tale....need to play with that. Thanks for reading!

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  5. Wow that was a great story! Interesting concept. What happens next?!

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    1. Well, Beulah does check out of Woolsey - permanently. But she does not die (of course).

      Still trying to decide if the nurse gets sucked into what happens next. All these great responses has me wondering what this thing would look like as a longer tale. Hmmmmm......

      Thanks for reading!

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    2. SQUEEE so excited! If you write more you just MUST share!

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  6. Packed full of interesting characters! So much creativity and spunk in so few words. I love how your voice always shines through in your writing.

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    1. I think I erroneously posted it above to JoAnne's comment, but I am pleased that you think I have a distinct writing voice, as that is something that I'm not sure I've locked down yet. Thanks so much for the encouragement, and thanks for reading!!

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  7. This feels like a bigger story, loved it! The poor cat ;)

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    1. Thank you - and thanks for reading!

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  8. Not sure I will ever be able to look at a cat in a nursing home quite the same again. Great entry!

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    1. Thanks! The idea had been growing on me for some time. Thanks for reading!

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  9. This is the best opening to I've read in AGES! I'm completely intrigued. More! More!

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    1. Thank you! I'm definitely working on it. :)

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  10. Yes. This is the opening to a novel. Best of luck!!

    Melanie
    Www.melanieconklin.com

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    1. Thank you - and thanks for reading!

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    2. Seriously though, what has Blogger done to the normal way you could add a comment? *fumes*.

      Anyway, never mind that, I'm probably just rubbish: I agree with everyone here about how splendid this is. :-))

      [Though Dionne says, "Poor cat" -- my favourite thing about this was that instead of Beulah being "scared to death" by the cat-like manifestation of terminosity (made-up word!), Death itself was scared...(by which, of course, I don't mean to suggest Dionne is *wrong*; the fact it can be taken both ways is a credit to you, naturally!)]

      Similarly, though I would join everyone in reading more of this, to digress for a moment, as someone who'd never tried flash-fiction before Anna's previous competition, the ambiguity that is almost necessarily forced onto any story by the strict word-count is one of the splendid things about the form, I'd say...[Or is it? I don't know. Go on, go on.. :-)]

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    3. Haha! Love the made-up words and psychoanalysis of my 350 words of near-miss-deathness. FUN. :D

      I agree, one of the beautiful things about this contest is see what people can do with small dosages of words. While I definitely think this idea would carry over into a longer tale, the opening would not be exactly as you see here. In fact, I started with 500 words and had to trim it down to the "dancing skeleton of story", as it were.

      I also love that so many people can look at the same tale and see different aspects, or come to opposite (yet equally valid) opinions.

      Thanks for reading!!

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  11. Great entry! Definitely seems as though it needs to be elaborated on, so I hope you share some of its progress if you do, indeed, add to it. :) (And hey, we both wrote about cats in our fairytales!)

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    1. Yay for magic cats! And I am seriously considering how to flesh this one out. Made some more notes tonight. :)

      Thanks for reading!

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  12. I agree with everyone before me, I love the concept of a imaginary friend who comes back to save his "real" friend. I'd love to read more of this story. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Working on it! Thanks for reading!!

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  13. Yup - count me in on the queue for the book when it comes out. Actually saw a news item on exactly this kind of "on your way mate" cat & thought - don't ever come near one of my characters, Pussy or you'll regret.

    Love the angle on Altzheimers being a different reality - not wrong but different.

    Mark W - yes, this form is challenging but delightful in that it does inevitably leave the reader (and writer in my case) on the end of a string.

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    1. Having been around quite a few Alzheimer's patients over the years, this is really what impressed me - the fact that they're anchored to something, even if its something no one else gets. A lot of times it's one really strong memory that somehow overshadows everything else in their life. Usually small things that somehow, in their mind, have become huge.

      Thanks for reading!

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  14. Intriguing. Not what I expected starting out - but what can one truly expect from "Moosie the death-cat"?

    Well done.

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    1. I GOT A STOFFELOPHAGUS REPLY!!

      *commences happy-dance of awesomeness*

      um....er.....*straightens up and pretends to be well-behaved*

      Thanks for reading!! :-)

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  15. Very intriguing. Nicely done Angela. I've heard about the death cats before, but this was a very cool take on going above and beyond. There's a lot more story here than fits in 350 words. :)

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    1. Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed it!

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  16. SMoooooch, thank you for entering! So COOL!

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    1. Thank you - and thanks for hosting such a marvelous contest!

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