Thursday, April 13, 2006

the big sleep (a.k.a. WTMCK-WITW #6)

Ray was a square-jawed black cat with a sign outside his cage that said, “Warning: Do not let Ray out unsupervised. He gets aggressive with other cats.”

You would too if you’d been raised on the mean streets of Los Angeles, a land of brown rivers, pink smog and a fallen angel on every corner. Ray didn’t give much thought to his hardscrabble life or the fact that, by some estimates, he’d turned it around, becoming a cub reporter for the Times—the old rag, before they cleaned it up—when he was barely litter-trained.

By other estimates, it was that gig that messed him up for good. He took his job as investigative reporter seriously, and technicalities like “the law” less seriously. He looked corruption in the eye and, as everyone knows, cats always win staring contests. But after he looked a little too long and a little too hard at a crooked cop’s wife in the alley behind the Shortstop, he acquired a permanent bump on his nose and a barbed wire fence around his heart.

He continued to trot out the news in his signature, no-frills style: a short, sweet “Mrar” that told it like it was and not much else. He lived alone in a third-floor bachelor pad with a fleece blanket and a plain white water bowl for company. No one bothered him and he liked it that way.

He was thinking of the cop’s wife late one night when Cheryl came to his digs. She was a tall dame, towering over him by four and a half feet. Dressed in corduroy pants and a Manhattan Beach 10K T-shirt, she was hardly his type, which was blonde with knock-‘em-dead gams and a fondness for whisky. But it had been a long day and even a jaded man needs companionship now and then.

She opened his cage door. He climbed onto her shoulders. She led him to a folding chair, where he curled up like a spare tire in a sun-drenched junkyard, closed his eyes and purred.

16 comments:

Tracy Lynn said...

OMG. I have to stop reading when you do these posts. But it's like jelly beans, I just can't stop.
I love the Erle Stanley Gardner style, too. Or is it Hammet? Maybe Chandler? Anyway, I grew up on it.

Cheryl said...

Just general noir.

I can't resist jelly beans either, especially if they are the buttered popcorn-flavored Jelly Bellies that most people think are gross.

Tracy Lynn said...

DUDE I LOVE THOSE. I generally get all of them because you're right, everybody hates them except us.

Schrodinger's Kitten said...

Mwahhhh....sniff sniff. Kitty Noir. And sad kitty noir. :^(

and just to reinforce your point - I hate those jelly beans.

Erin said...

Cheryl--You are so friggin' talented it makes me want to vomit. Bless your heart!

Cheryl said...

Thank you, I have always dreamed of being a vomit-inducing writer--I'll do it by spinning kitty sob stories or just by making people envision nasty flavors of candy. Either way works for me.

jenny said...

I would like to see you start writing pulp fiction with an all-cat cast of characters.

I would buy them all. And not even wait until they came out in paperback.

Schrodinger's Kitten said...

Seriously tho, you might have to stop with the kitty posts. I'm honestly considering adopting them all and becoming a cat lady.

Dont worry Tracy - I'll still get a vespa with you...just will need a side car for my cats.

Jamie said...

It's effin' brilliant.

Tracy Lynn said...

Sara, the only thing standing between me and Cat Ladydom is the clause in my lease saying I have a two cat limit.

And that just barely restrains me.

Nance said...

Ray looks like Emily-Cat's slutty mother, Sheena. Having said THAT (!), let me just say this: I share your fondness for popcorn jelly bellies. I like to follow their suggested recipe and eat them along with the toasted marshmallow kind to make the "popcorn ball" taste treat. Cheryl, have you ever logged on to the jellybelly website and tried for a free pkg. of beans?

Cheryl said...

I refuse to stop the cat posts until Sara adopts a slutty kitty and drives it around in a Vespa. There: We officially have a goal.

Nance: I haven't checked out the site (although now I will), but I did visit the factory in Northern California, where you can get big cheap bags of misfit beans called "Belly Flops."

Lee-Roy said...

Genius!

I like the black jelly beans.

thelastnoel said...

This is really terrific creating writing! You should write a book someday.

Jamie said...

I have to comment again because this is just so good, I keep coming back to read it. My favorite things: a fleece blanket and a plain white water bowl, knock-'em-dead gams, a spare tire in a sun-drenched junkyard. I don't know if readers would have the attention span to read this in novel form, but I can definitely see it as an art book with professional photos of the cats and your character sketches on the side. And profits from sales could go to the shelter!

Cheryl said...

Ooh, a coffee table book. I like it. And it would give my cats yet another item to sit on.