Friday, July 30, 2010


Writer-cats don't just sit around looking good. They teach you things.

I got my writer-cat Percy on my fortieth birthday, a Himalayan who looked like a tiny lion in the palm of my hand, elegant, even then. He grew up to become a dog-cat...loyal, present, sweet, never out of sight. In my former attic, he napped next to a lamp while I wrote, re-wrote, re-wrote again, and finally finished my novel, The Right Guy. When I went downstairs for a break he followed, descending the stairs like a slinky. When I stopped to answer the phone or read the mail, he had a seat until we were ready to return to the attic where I'd go back to the page and he'd resume his nap. Writer-cats nap 22 hours a day. They have to, because that's how much time writers spend thinking about their novels.
The move to our new house was probably tough on him with the dismantling of old routines and the adjustment to new ones. But worse for Percy was a daunting spiral staircase that leads to the loft where I now write. Steep, with tight turns and open between the steps to the ground below, the staircase is challenging to the most nimble beings, but with my encouragement he gave it a shot - a little hop and then, bunched around his four paws, tiny turns until he was facing the next step. Another hop, more turns. And that's where he quit. For whatever the reason, less agility or fear of height, he wouldn't do more. He settled for waiting on the bottom step while I worked above, finishing, refinishing, and re-re-finishing my finished novel. I put an out-basket next to the lamp, big enough for a manuscript.

Two weeks later, while I worked on finishing the novel anew, I heard a small, unfamiliar sound. I turned and sitting there, at the top of the stairs, was Percy. It probably took him the entire time I'd been there, or maybe he worked on it during his two wakeful hours. But there he was, on the job. I called him over and praised him for being brave. Then I moved the out-basket and like a writer-kitten, he hopped up and sat in its place.

There are no more reasons to hold onto the book, but letting it go is like...well, Percy knows.

I need to find that lamp.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stop, here.

Morning drive-by:
A kid, nineteen or twenty, loping along in long, baggy cargo shorts and a t-shirt that swallowed him. Tanned like a road worker, white-rimmed sunglasses, short, hair. A buzzcut. Looking too serious for his years, he stood at the side of the road watching traffic to the left and right. I stopped and waved him across but he turned his back to me.Then he held up a hand, and yelled, "Okay, stop here." A dozen four year olds, all in little red shirts that matched his came to a halt, then formed a single crooked line. Like a momma duck, he led them across, standing in the middle of the road until they scampered to safety.

A teenage camp counselor, taking the job seriously. I knew this kid was a hero to someone in that little group if only because of the white rimmed sunglasses, big shorts and because he probably called them "dude."

But I liked him because he made me feel good about everyone.

Except the crying dog-walker. I still wonder about him.