• csalisbury
    The thread about Cat Person reminded me I wrote my own (very) short story about a Cat Person a few years ago. Figured I'd share it here

    Cat Story

    At noon, I paused. I turned and took a picture of my cat. I let the cat out, then uploaded the picture to my laptop. My desktop wallpaper was an older picture, of a different cat. I opened up the new picture and changed the tone to sepia. It made the picture feel old-timey. I imagined my cat as a gunslinger in the wild west and laughed.

    From next door came the muffled sound of a classic rock station. All the hits, I thought. Gifts from our fathers, I thought.

    Cold light came through the kitchen window. There was still frost on the ground. A million frosted blades of grass. I imagined that I was the size of a bug and that I was walking through the lawn.

    I coughed once, held my breath, then coughed twice more in quick succession.

    The world is getting old, I thought. The temples have all crumbled. I imagined my cat as a scavenger and myself as a wizened druid, forgotten, squatting among toppled masonry. I imagined that my cat felt guilty because he was a scavenger. I imagined myself rising slowly, from behind a great stone block, and walking to him, offering him absolution.

    I poured some coffee and sat at the kitchen table, staring out the window. I could hear the neighbors arguing. After a while, the neighbors’ kids appeared in the lawn and began playing a halfhearted game of catch.

    I imagined that the neighbors’ kids were old eskimos and that my cat had put them on an ice floe and pushed them out to sea. The air would be cold and salty all at once. I imagined the salt clinging to their eyelashes as their bodies grew cold and their minds slowly evaporated into the icy air. Maybe, in their senility, they would imagine that they were their parents and begin arguing. I imagined them dying that way, arguing, as my cat stoically mushed his sleddogs back inland.

    I began to leaf through the pile of unopened mail on the kitchen table. A bill, a bill, some coupons, a letter from my brother. A postcard. The neon nightscape of Reno on one side, my brother’s sprawling handwriting on the other. He was getting married, he said. I know it’s weird to tell you in a postcard, he said, but I thought you would like the picture. She’s thirty-five, he said, and she’s been married once before. She says everyone has two great loves in them, he said, and that the second one is the truest. She studied theology, he said, but she is not a priest.

    I imagined that my brother was in AA and that my cat was his sponsor. I imagined them playing scrabble in a diner at night, drinking coffee and talking about how you have to take it one day a time.

    The neighbors kids had stopped playing catch and appeared to be trying to pick the lock of the apartment next door. By now the frost had melted. The older one, the girl, appeared to be frustrated with her brother. Her eyes were big and she was gesturing violently. I watched with satisfaction as my cat appeared from around the corner of the building and walked coolly past them.

    The vessels have all broken, I imagined my cat saying, and I alone persist.
  • Baden

    Needs a bit of an edit here and there in my view, but it's a lot better than "Cat Person" :) . I interpret it as the cat being the narrators' "magic" or free self that can roam outside while he is one of the "broken vessels", "the wizened old man", stuck inside. The magic self, the scavenger, can still get something from society whereas to him there is nothing of substance left out there "the temples have crumbled". The magic self is able to "stoically" handle the problems of the cold social world, such as the fact that kids lose their identity and turn into their frustrated parents. The cat/magic self alone persists as everything else false falls apart. The narrator then gets to have his cake and eat it; he can stay locked away from the world and remain morally suitably perturbed by it whereas his magic self can explore it unperturbed, and heroically (like a "gunslinger in the wild west" ) traverse its painful landscape.
  • csalisbury
    Needs a bit of an edit here and there in my view, but it's a lot better than "Cat Person"
    Well, the first draft ended with him texting the cat 'ur a sult' but I've grown a lot in the past four years. Now it's just implied that he thinks the cat is a sult (which he is.) Thanks for the feedback, and interpretation. It's funny - I wrote story about 4 years ago on a lazy day off work, drinking coffee and scrolling facebook. I've always been kind of fascinated by the 'flatness' of older's people facebook presence. Of course that's probably just attributable to their lack of familiarity with social media, but I thought it would be fun to do a story in the voice of someone who really was that flat (" 'all the hits,' i thought'' etc.) But then as I kept writing, it became a little stream of conscious-y and ---- I think your interpretation is dead on. It's basically a unintentional 'schizoid' self-portrait.
  • Noble Dust
    Revisiting this weird piece; I made the music.

  • Baden

    That's pretty cool :up: . Did you make the video too?
  • Noble Dust

    Thanks; no, just the music. The dancers improvised their movements within a short space on the walkway when no one else was walking; slowed down, I like how it makes the pedestrians almost part of the choreography, so I tried to accent those moments with the music. I could watch that footage over and over again indefinitely, regardless of any music. What's cool is that I think this collab highlights differences of philosophical perspective; the filmmaker is a self-proclaimed "Duchampist", which comes through in his approach to setting and direction of the dancers. But I'm not a follower of Duchamp at all, and what I saw in the movements was Kairos, as opposed to Chronos (Greek words for time; Kairos being the opportune moment when the divine "timelessness" cuts through into finite "timeness", etc). So, conflicting viewpoints working together to create something that creates the opportunity for yet more viewpoints.

    Edit: I love the guy's embarrassed smile around 2:10. A hardened New Yorker finally shaken out of his shell.
  • Noble Dust

    I "co-produced" this track, which means my dear friend Charlene wrote and partially arranged it, and then sent it to me for completion. I changed some song structure stuff, removed some stuff, and then added some of my own stuff. My only problem is that I did a rough mix, but was late on delivering a final (my fault), and so she had her other mix guy do a mix. The mix is not that great. Nuances are lost. Dynamics, especially. But I love her melody and lyrics enough that I can look past it (I guess). The emotion still mostly comes through. [headphones recommended, to pick up the nuances that are barely there...anyway...]

  • Posty McPostface

    Get's awesomely close to spiritual singing in some Arabic fashion at the halfway point.
  • Noble Dust

    Thanks! Isn't she great? I can listen to her sing all day; I'm lucky enough to have her singing on some tracks of mine as well, forthcoming.
  • Posty McPostface
    Thanks! Isn't she great?Noble Dust

    Superb, I would say.
  • Noble Dust

    Right? I had nothing to do with that section (vocally); her friend originally did it, singing a Mahmoud Darwish poem, but she decided to do it herself, and totally killed it; hearing both versions, her updated version elevated it to something totally different.
  • Πετροκότσυφας

    I like! Both the vocals and the drones.

    Speaking of Mahmoud Darwish poems, here's one, in translation!

  • Noble Dust

    Oof. Thanks! Sadly I had more to do with the moments where the drones are broken by actual chord progressions; not because that's my thing; just because that's what the track needed, occasionally.

    Still listening to the Bass Communion shit I posted, because I'm a stickler. Will check out the Darwish poem asap. :up:
  • Noble Dust

    I like the poem. I mean this in the worst possible way, but the rhythm reminds me of the sort of stuff I write. This person seems to have a better sense of community, though. Translation is always awkward, but it's good.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    Oof. Thanks! Sadly I had more to do with the moments where the drones are broken by actual chord progressions; not because that's my thing; just because that's the what the track needed, occasionally.Noble Dust

    You mean stuff like the ones that are heard between 1:47 and 2:25? At any rate, I didn't mean to be that accurate. The backbone seems to be the drones (not even sure if the term applies, but that's how I categorise it), so by drones I mostly meant the instrumental part (as opposed to vocals).

    Yeah, I'm not sure how good it is as a translation, since I can't understand arabic, but I like it in this form nonetheless. I like the rythm too, although, I'm pretty sure it would be different in my head had I read it first and not listened to the recitation.

    The Bass Communion tracks is nice too. I had only listened to "Ghost on Magnetic Tape" before.
  • Noble Dust
    You mean stuff like the ones that are heard between 1:47 and 2:25?Πετροκότσυφας

    Exactly; those chord changes are mine. I was so inspired by this song though, because her melody so strongly suggests a chord progression; It's so rare to work with a vocalist so intuitive that he/she can just sing melodies that basically create their own chord progressions. So, with this track, I had the luxury of deciding how and in which context, if any, I wanted to highlight the chordal structure that she was suggesting, intuitively, with her voice. Thankfully, the way I did it ended up working for her; she agreed with how I heard it.

    The backbone seems to be the drones (not even sure if the term applies, but that's how I categorise it), so by drones I mostly meant the instrumental part (as opposed to vocals).Πετροκότσυφας

    Oh totally, the backbone of the track, in terms of emotion, is the "drones". But I think that the melody, especially the chorus, is what carries the track from point to point.

    I like the rythm too, although, I'm pretty sure it would be different in my head had I read it first and not listened to the recitation.Πετροκότσυφας

    Same; I don't know. Hearing the translation sounds really nice. I don't know what that means.

    The Bass Communion tracks is nice too. I had only listened to "Ghost on Magnetic Tape" before.Πετροκότσυφας

    Word. That's his big piece, for whatever that means. Molotov And Haze is waaaay better.
  • Baden
    One of the first from a collection of short stories I recently wrote:

    Zebo and the World Spirit

    The more you know, the more you take. Trusted for pain, trusted for life.
    Arli Aspirin slogan

    Zebo’s first inklings of his commitment to fight the growing consumerization of society begin in a pharmacist shop with him staring at two packets of aspirin and wondering which one to buy. One is non-branded generic and one is the brand he came to buy, the one he has seen on TV, Arli Aspirin, the Arli of the ads in which the side view of a human head is seen chalked on a board and an aspirin is animated flowing heedlessly through from mouth to stomach, and the chalked head through some clever animated trick removes itself from its two dimensional surface and becomes three dimensional filling out and transforming into a woman’s face, and the woman smiles and removes a hand from her forehead (an act which there is no doubt in conjunction with the smile signifies a removal of pain) and says, “Thanks Arli!”, and then across her forehead the Arli logo appears in a slow loss of transparency such as it initially seems like the pale outlines of a tattoo before becoming opaque enough to manifest more as a separate but bonding presence of smile and words and face and aspirin and brand all perfectly synchronising in the last moments with an offscreen voice pronouncing, “It’s ok, it’s Arli” in a tone that is the absolute yang to the Arli Lady’s (and this is how anyone in their right mind, having seen the ad, simply must thereafter describe her) yin so that if you allow yourself to fully experience the ad, the absolute cohesion of effect is something approaching sublime.

    And so naturally, on staring at the two packets of Aspirin, generic and Arli, the choice of which to purchase can hardly be clearer, and it’s only Zebo’s lack of on-hand cash which causes pause. He also wants to buy mouthwash, and the non-Arli aspirin being three times cheaper than the Arli, and though therefore no doubt being utterly ineffective at eliciting that non-headache smile such as smiled by the Arli Lady, (oh, Arli, l, l, lady, it trickles off his mental tongue), tempts him if only because it will allow him to make his two purchases rather than having to forego one. If he had an actual headache, of course, the decision would already have made itself, but as he’s merely in preventative mode, the probable inefficacy of the non-Arli aspirin (and who is it for anyway? poor people who want to pretend they can get rid of their headaches? like that gives them some kind of status buying a drug, any drug?) doesn't bother him so much, just as when you’re not hungry, you care less about what food you buy even though you know you’ll kick yourself later for the lack of self-consideration, and he does know he’ll be kicking himself later if he actually gets a real live headache and only has this non-Arli shit and takes it hoping against hope it works and offers that, again, the hand-removing smile (sure, it’s just an ad but it so syncs with feelings and expectations and reliefs he’s had before on taking Arli. He trusts it. What else is there to say?) only to offer nothing but painfully broken hopes expressed in continued cranial throbbings… And the mouthwash purchase is no big sacrifice anyway.

    So, obviously, musings over, he’s ready to take the rational decision and look after his possible future headache-suffering self and ignore the lesser issue of mouthwash lack, but just at the moment his contemplations are forming into the rational shape of this conclusion to be sent through whatever nervous transport system buzzes from his frontal cortex down his spine to initiate the rudimentary action of picking off the pharmacy shelf the Arli rather than the other whatever-the-hell-it-is that also just happens to have ‘aspirin’ written on it but with no guarantee whatsoever it will be of the same, or even remotely near, quality, character, or effect as Arli, ARLI, aspirin (l,l, lady...), just at that moment it happens that a pharmacy assistant sidles up next to him and begins restocking the whatever-it-is stuff, and he asks without thinking, the question just kind of jumping out of his mouth (and if he had known what the question was before it jumped, he wouldn't even have asked it in the sure knowledge it would result in nothing but a contemptuous look and surly response filled with patronizing import and superior placing in all things social and intellectual the respondent above the questioner): “What’s the difference between Arli aspirin and this aspirin?”

    The reply comes quickly and unambiguously “Arli is brand and this one’s generic”, and on noticing the nonplussed look on his face, a more slowly volleyed “There, is, no, difference. Aspirin, is, aspirin” and a kind of rebellious smirk that he can’t manage any response to except “Oh, right” because the verbal volley that’s being smashed into him is being smashed from exactly the opposite direction he expects, and it still takes him five more minutes of painful cogitations concerning the reliability of this information so confidently imparted to buy the fucking generic aspirin. And he forgets the mouthwash. Totally forgets about it. Which kind of defeats the purpose of all the procrastinating. But only in a minor way. In a much more significant way, a window to the world and its workings has been irrevocably opened.

    Zebo’s continuing explorations of this opening dispel so much naivete that continued social functioning is supported only by a thin and fragile thread of self. That thread, he discovers, is produced by and entangled with a solid centre, and this centre he calls ‘the world spirit’ (for want of a better name, and that is a better name than ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ or any of that religious guff which is, he has found through extensive empirical research not to mention much personal experience, to be as phony as Arli brand aspirin). And this world spirit grows in him, protects him, brings him sublime states of mind, and, oh, the most wonderful of dreams! Dreams in which the intensity of experience and emotion burst through his every pore, where on awakening he feels he has been transported back from another planet, and he lies in bed grasping at the fading lushes of dream memory that still bathe him until they evaporate softly and he’s left only with the glimmer of their possibilities and an airy optimism for more.


    Brett, who is participant A, is not in the mood to shove into his face the several dozen pies he has to to be competitive here, but he will anyway. He has signed up for the thing and will, out of a sense of duty, go through with it. The thing. The trial. Parade before us the condemned...to eat. Ha! The punishment is puking! Haha… And Kelsi is watching, which makes it worse. They won’t be together much longer. He hasn’t told her. He will have to. Not yet. Why? Goo of his insides, soft mess held together by a crumbling crust. He’s here, he’s there. Always the damned choosing. After the break-up, he’ll regret and will want her back, sure. But everything is stale. Maybe everything has to be stale... The bread of his mind is stale. The body, the bread. Four years. They know each other inside out, and what else is there? You get one...shot. There’s so much out there… Every day he’s reminded what else is out there. Is no-one aware of time, of opportunity?

    He pulls on his bib, which shouts to no-one and everyone in large red letters, Brett! and he looks around; the other participants preparing, bibs on, bibs off, one guy waving his bib in the air like a flag—no reason, just waving; some practicing moves, bantering, signaling to the audience, family, friends, supporters. All more relaxed than him, smiling, kidding around. No-one knows about time or opportunity. No-one. Yeah, A-One man…Do it! Just doooo it! Kelsi looking more relaxed. See? He could be as miserable as hell and she wouldn’t notice, or even if she did, feel it was her duty to pretend she didn’t, to lift them both. But if you knew, girl, if you knew, be a different story, eh? Very different. If you knew. And soon the time is coming and he stares at the pile of pies on the table before him, the table that stretches twenty participants long, his pile a massive and heaving mountain among mountains, a fortress among fortresses, to be overcome with the brute force of consumption, to the victor, the spoils! To the losers...the spoiled, Ha! And he breathes in deeply readying himself for the shout of “Go!”



    As Brett sucks down his tenth pie Zebo stares through the crowd at his engorgement. Zebo’s disgust at the spectacle is mixed with a very definite touch of awe—the contestants take their eating seriously: Brett for example, weighty but by no means obese, Brett (shaved head and round unshaven face, face that looks, actually, not unlike a pie into which you had stuck two fingers to make eyes and carved a crescent for a mouth) clearly has a method to his madness. He has planned and practiced. There’s a definite choreography to the way he scoops one pie from the table and shoves it in the unnaturally large opening of his mouth (possibly made larger through prolonged and deliberate exercising of the jaw muscles), and there’s a definite concentration always evident in the eyes, a definite systematicity to the chewing and swallowing and reaching for the next comestible that evinces a brief feeling of admiration in Zebo, but then, again, the disgust, the professional nature of the effort, the apparent rationale injected therein through the evidence of obvious preparation and dedication only highlights the overall insult to morality that the whole event represents.

    Zebo sucks absently on the pinky of one hand while the index of the other presses a button on a device hidden in the left front pocket of his no-brand jeans—he cannot see the word “armed” jump up on the device’s small screen but a high-pitched beep, which he hears clearly (though no-one around seems to notice. Notice? What could they notice? They are screaming and shouting and encouraging and berating and laughing and cursing the pie eaters before them) informs him that one more touch will trigger the explosive. And as Brett reaches for the pie, the pie, which Zebo had earlier marked with an easily-identifiable pink hoop around the bottom (before surreptitiously placing it on the table amongst the others), as Brett reaches in scooping motion for this pie, Zebo’s fingers stiffen in readiness. This pie Brett scoops as he’s scooped all others skillfully, nonchalantly, from the table, and up and towards and, in thrusting motion, into his mouth, and Zebo’s finger presses, presses hard, just not giving Brett enough time to bite into the device but making sure it’s entered his mouth, timing, timing, down! and Brett’s head explodes in a shower of blood, brain and skull which mattes the other competitors in gore and within a moment there’s nothing left of his head except a stalk of bony vertebrae and some shredded flesh petals drooping thereon. Timing.

    After the briefest moment of silence, the screaming begins and it’s a screaming of the purest fear and confusion, a deep reflexive screaming as if those emitting the noises have been transmitted to an alternative universe where this is the only sound they are capable of making, a sound resonating with a memory of Zebo’s of being near train tracks and the howl of a train whizzing by, a mechanical yet phantom-like screeching; the scene itself screams through its observers who have lost themselves in their own sounds and these are the sounds Zebo retreats through and from, an auditory hurricane of terror, its cloying presence whirling about him as he departs.

    There is no doubt if anyone knew it was he who had carried out this act they would endeavour to physically rip him into as many pieces of random organic matter as lie strewn now across the pie eating table and would leave him hardly more presentable than the headless cadaver he has left in (bloodied and motionless) situ at said same pie eating table surrounded by screaming gore strewn co-competitors and half eaten pies and the puke now of several pie eaters and an audience suffering through an almost tangible mental torment that leaves them incapable of anything but visceral frightened noises.

    But he is not insensitive to the pain he has caused. Zebo is no sociopath; his act is to be seen in the wider context of the burden of being truly morally engaged, capable of choosing, really choosing. And it has been a process, a long process, such transformations as he’s attempted don’t come without costs. Much has had to be jettisoned, sacrifices have had to be made, and it’s a painful path that has eventually brought him to this point where he can plant a miniature bomb in a pie and explosively disintegrate the head of the person consuming it. A long process, and one of sustained effort and dedication: the planning, the procuring, the waiting, the running, the hiding, the damage, and eventually the design, the maximisation of impact, the artistic flourish, a picture of the greater sin condensed into a blood-drenched headless corpse and the gore-strewn faces of a line of pie eaters shocked from their skins still chewing on their pies. A picture. A mirror. Know thyself!

    So, it’s nothing selfish that drives him, certainly not the fame or notoriety. It’s not the idea of sitting down and watching the evening news and seeing the results of his action played out over and over on the screen. No, not that, not at all, no perverse pleasure at all. If anything the overriding emotion is regret. Regret that the security forces had not heeded his warnings that the revolting scenes of waste, the cornucopia of prurient consumption, the horrible defiled and wasting of food in a world of starvation and want, would lead to this. Had they listened? Of course not. Had they cared? Had they really cared? No. So, this.

    Peace, peace settling. It has begun. No doubt the individual who has literally lost his head over a pie did not deserve such punishment. Who would say he did? Not Zebo. But such a punishment was nevertheless necessary. Some sacrifice is necessary or no progress can be made. And who will make a sacrifice of themselves? Now? In these times? No-one. Not without help… Blessed be he in arms of the world spirit. May his sacrifice lead to grace for all.


    He switches on the TV and there is an interview with the girlfriend of Brett, hideously decapitated Brett, by-his-hand-bodily-destroyed Brett, broken headless Brett, and the girlfriend is Kelsi, and she is dishevelled, teared, torn, talking of a lost future, of unbearable pain, tear-stricken, choked-up, make-up smeared, twisted and torn, and her face, teared and lost, now slowly transforms in Zebo’s eyes into the round and empty face of a pie save for two pastry-poked holes and a sliced crescent of a mouth, and the deep red innards of emotion flowing out through the orifices streaking crimson stripes across the skin, and then the face flattening slowly to a two dimensional impression of circles and dots and stripes quivering flatly across the flickering screen before turning and raising itself again just as slowly, deliberately, intentionally, filling back out into the woman’s grief-stricken features, Kelsi, Kelsi’s face. Kelsi had loved him; love, pain, loss, she had seen it all explode. Everything is broken.

    Everything is already always broken Kelsi, Zebo enunciates into the air. It always has been. This is the only way. May the world spirit be with you.
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