Sunday, June 1, 2014

SHORT STORY: The Artist's Cats by Doug Hiser

The Artist's Cats
Doug Hiser

The warehouse is big and spacious and full of odd gusts of breeze from unknown origin. I've slept half the Sunday away. All I do is paint. Make art. I once sold something and got a lot of money.
That was long ago. I still have the money. It was good for one thing. It allows me to eat, sleep, and create. I lost my last girlfriend three months ago. She wanted more in life than to live in a warehouse with hundreds of paintings stacked everywhere. I bought this warehouse because it was isolated, miles from buildings and people, down a dusty or muddy road in the back woods. I had deer and badgers for neighbors. I am by myself, no family, no friends, just a rambling story of wasted years. There is a bright white new canvas waiting for me by the window.
My cats, Felicity and Theseus, come running when my feet hit the cold concrete floor as I slowly get out of bed. The cats purr and rub against my bare legs. I look at my melting clock and see it is already three in the afternoon. I must have drank too much hot chocolate last night. I put on my oldest pair of shorts, the ones with the worn out elastic so that I have to constantly pull them up, and slip into my ragged sandals, heading slowly outside to check the mail, since I haven't since last Wednesday. The walk to the mailbox is at least half a football field and I am glad the trees in my part of the woods are tall and shady because it is early summer and already the sun is bright and hot. The mailbox is full and I have to clean a spiderweb from the handle to get the mail. I don't like spiders. As I walk back to the door an upside down squirrel watches me clinging to a thick tree. I reach for the door and notice the note taped to it.
The note was hand written in purple ink, “I came by last night. I only started to knock or call you but I didn't have the courage. We are over. We both agreed but I keep thinking about you living up here in these woods with no one but those evil cats. I miss you, If you need to talk call me. Pamela.”
I went inside and left the door open to allow more of the cool breeze to battle the heat of the day. The new white canvas stares at me. Waiting. Wanting my time, my energy. I go over to my long row of record albums and pull out the faded black one with the prism and pyramid on the cover. I can hear the crackle of the needle as it follows the familiar grooves of the black vinyl and the sounds of Pink Floyd fill the many speakers hung in strategic places all over the warehouse. The music soothes me like a loving massage. I make some hot tea and stare at the note.
Felicity and Theseus are reclining on the rug near the big windows where the sun comes in and lights up their fur like white feathery flames. They sleep like bats in the daytime and I can tell they dream of hunting as I watch their long tails twitch. I think about her. Pamela was here last night. Dark red hair, almond shaped eyes of purest green, freckled skin like a jungle cat, she was standing right outside that big iron door. She must have stared at that door. I was asleep dreaming of nothing and a red-haired girl was at my door.
As I listen to the sound of “Us and Them” I let it get inside of my emotions and think of red hair and freckles. The cats sleep and dream and I get up and find my favorite paintbrush. The canvas is like a lost lover that is insistent and hungry. I haven't even brushed my teeth or combed my wild hair. All I feel is the music and that white pure canvas enticing me to join it in a dance that only I can feel.

That day and that night belong to us. The white turns to magic, to colors, to something new. The record ends and another drops on the turntable, Rick Wakeman, sounds of grandiose magnificence and I become ferocious with creativity. The canvas and I, into the night and my front door still stands open. The cats have gone out hunting. I sit down on the edge of the bed and stare at the note. But all I read is, “Pamela.”