Saturday, February 6, 2016

My Round 1 Entry For The NYC Midnight 2016 Short Story Challenge: "#TheCat In The Snow"

For once, I have an actual short story to share. 

A bit of an introduction first.  I have a poor track record when it comes to keeping up with my writing lately.  So I decided I needed something to force me into action.  I was on Facebook and came across a contest from NYC Midnight, The Short Story Challenge for 2016.  In Round 1, I had a week to write a 2500 word short story on an assigned topic in an assigned genre with an assigned character.  I had to write a fairy tale in which a rumor was spread and an aspiring singer was a major character.

I was none too thrilled with this assignment.  In fact, this was so far out of my comfort zone that I felt like I was getting screened for colon cancer.  I gave the assignment to my girlfriend and she wrote a great traditional fairy tale with princesses and troubadours.  I ended up writing something very modern and cynical.  I wrote about a cat I saw on the Internet. 

I think it turned out better than expected, once I got over my initial misgivings.  So I hope you enjoy!

#TheCat In The Snow
by Mike Imprixis
Once upon a time in a place called New York, there was a young man named Kevin.  He lived in an apartment in the second story of his landlord’s house.  Kevin worked as a teacher’s aide at the local elementary school and Angie was a cashier at the Seven-Eleven.  They had met at a local coffee shop two summers ago at an open mic night.  Kevin read poetry about the gap between The Rich and The Poor, and Angie sang an Adele song.  Three months later, they moved in together.

Kevin always had his mind in the past, thinking about a time of peace and prosperity called The Clinton Years.  The shuttered, abandoned homes in his neighborhood wistfully reminded him of times when things were happier.  He would jot these things down in a small notebook and wrote in his blog he called #recessiondepression about the shrinking middle class and the injustices of the Top 1%.  People told him, “That’s great, bro,” when they read his blog.

Angie would constantly keep busy trying to learn to sing the most popular song by the most popular artist, whether she heard Taylor Swift on her iHeartRadio app on her iPhone, Adele from her Twitter feed, or saw a Nicki Minaj video as she was checking her Instagram.  She would invite her girlfriends over to watch American Idol whenever it was on.  Angie’s singing, like Kevin’s blogging, would elicit the same tepid response from her friends: “Girl, that’s great.”

Kevin and Angie loved each other as deeply as two young, pretty people could love one another.  They both knew they were special.  They both knew they were cut out for more.  But most importantly, they both loved the amazing sex they had.  That’s why they so looked forward to the blizzard that was being promised that weekend in January.  The landlords were in Florida and they could be as noisy as they wanted. 

So, after having amazing sex with his girl that morning and writing up a Facebook status about it to show how in love they were, Kevin put on his green, brown, and yellow Bob Marley beanie, his blue Scott Pilgrim retro parka (the movie had come out almost ten years ago so it was almost retro at the least), his best boots and gloves, and went out to take pictures of his neighborhood so people could see how the other 98% lived.  Angie stayed in bed as it was her day off anyway. 

As Kevin walked through the snow covered streets, he came across a house his friend Jamie had lived in back when Kevin was in 5th grade.  The house was boarded up and the snow had piled high and deep, making it impossible to walk up to the front porch without effort.  However, Kevin saw something sitting there.  He squinted as the snow got in his eyes and saw an orange marmalade colored cat.

From afar he seemed to be orange, anyway.  Kevin looked at the poor thing and he looked too frightened to move.  He put his iPhone 5s in his pocket and started walking up through the drifts in the front yard of the abandoned property.  He said, “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!”  He made psst noises.  “Poor thing’s probably lost.”  Kevin saw that the cat had darker fur on one side of his body than the other.  In fact, as he got closer, Kevin noticed that half the cat’s face was orange and the other black.  The cat seemed a little thin so Kevin thought he’d take him home, give him some milk, and maybe keep him warm.


Angie hugged the cat as she sat at the table in the kitchen.  Kevin was getting a bowl to put milk in.  “He’s a cutie.  I mean, he’s a little weird looking, what with the half-black face and all, but still.  Aw, listen!  He’s purring.  Yes, you are.  Yes, you are,” she said as she rubbed her nose to the cat’s.  “The ‘lords will never let us keep him.”

Kevin put the milk bowl down and Angie watched as the cat jumped out of her arms and onto the floor.  “I know.  But honey, it’s snowing.  I couldn’t just leave him out there.”

The cat wagged his tail.  He sniffed the milk bowl.  He looked up and meowed before going to work licking the milk. 

Angie took out her iPhone and said, “I have to take a picture.  He’s just so precious—“

“Honey,” Kevin said.  “You can’t!  I mean, what if someone sees him on your Wall?  We’ll be out on our ass.”

“Yeah.  I guess you’re right.  But gosh, wouldn’t it be nice?”

“To keep him?  Yeah,” Kevin said, “I wish we could, too.”

The cat looked up at Kevin with its two different colored eyes, one blue, the other yellow, tilted his half-orange, half-black head, meowed once and wagged his tail in a large swoop.  Then Kevin felt his phone vibrate.  He took it out of his pocket, touched the screen, and then his eyes widened.  “Oh, wow.”

“What is it, honey?” Angie asked.

“It’s a text from the ‘lords.  It says . . . they’re staying in Florida until June instead of March.  Hearing about the blizzard made them think about staying.  They also say. . . if we find any stray cats. . . we can keep them?  WTF?”

Angie shook her head.  “You think they know?”

The cat meowed.  He then hopped onto Kevin’s laptop that was plugged in and charging on the kitchen counter.  Kevin said, “Hey, cat!  Get off!”  The cat did get off and hopped back down onto the floor, lapping at his milk bowl.  Then Kevin looked at his laptop screen.  “Holy shit,” he said.

“What now?”

“Come here and look.” 

Angie got up and looked at the screen with Kevin. 
The cat had apparently somehow walked on the keyboard, opened up Word and typed out the following: “Hey, bros.  Thanks for saving me.  That was, no joke, an awesome thing to do, but wishing to keep me?  That was even more dope.  #truestory.  Anyway, I’m a magic cat that grants wishes.  I usually grant wishes for selfish douchebags but that?  No joke, that was a great wish.  So I’ll grant it.”

Kevin and Angie looked down at the cat.

The cat looked up and meowed.

Kevin said, “He can talk?”

The cat hopped up again and walked on the keyboard.  He then hopped down again.  Kevin and Angie saw the words on the screen: “Bro, seriously?  Did you hear me talk?  No, I just type.  BTW, got anything besides the milk?  I mean, I’m a little old for the stuff.  No Fancy Feast?  That shit’s the bomb.”

They looked down at the cat.  The cat just meowed back.


So Kevin and Angie debated what they should do with this wondrous cat they had found.  They puzzled and puzzled over it.  The cat just sat in his new home and enjoyed the warmth.  He was in no hurry to go anywhere, but the humans acted like they were being chased by the po-po, they were so anxious.  Humans were forever a mystery to him.

Then one morning, after Angie had her friends over to watch American Idol, Kevin had an idea.  As he drove Angie to work the next day, he said, “I saw how much you were enjoying Idol last night.  It gave me an idea.”

“What?” she asked.

“How about I use the wish to get you exposure?  You know, for your singing career?”

Angie smiled and let out the biggest, “Awwwww,” that she could.  “You mean you’d do that for me?” she asked.  “Why don’t we just straight-out wish we were famous, though?”

Kevin just smiled.  “We probably have to word the wish just right.  The cat didn’t say anything, but maybe this is our only wish.  I think I’ll wish to get you on Idol somehow.  Maybe get my blog noticed, too.”

“Well, okay.  But they already did the preliminary auditions for the season.”

“I know, but honey, we have a freakin’ magic cat that grants wishes.  I think we can make this happen.”

When they pulled up to the Seven-Eleven, Angie said, “Yeah, yeah.  You’re right.  I’ll see you after work.”  She kissed him quickly on the lips.  “Love you,” she said as she got out of the car.

“Love you, too.”


So after work that night, Kevin and Angie looked at the cat.  They had bought a bed for him to lie in and he was curled up and purring away.  Kevin petted him and said, “Hey, buddy.  We have something to ask.”

The cat looked up at them and meowed.

Kevin took out a piece of paper and read from his well-crafted wish.  He’d taken all day to word this correctly.  He said, “I wish that whatever rumor I write on my blog takes off and spreads so it gets maximum exposure and that the rumor is believed by a lot of people, to the point it comes true.”  Kevin then put the paper away in his pocket and said, “Please?”

The cat wagged his tail back and forth in a lazy arch and meowed.  He then looked at the fridge.  Angie said, “You think it worked?”

“I hope so.  I think he’s hungry, though.  He needs some Fancy Feast.”


So sure enough, Kevin wrote a story on his blog that Angie was being considered for Idol.  They even took a video of her singing Adele’s “Hello” at a karaoke bar.  The page views and the comments people left blew up the blog.  In fact, some of the pictures and articles that Kevin wrote about The Great Recession were also getting views and people demanded more Angie videos. 

A few days later, Kevin got a call from a number he didn’t recognize.  He was at work watching the kids during lunch in the cafeteria.  “Hello?” he said, yelling into the receiver over the noise.

“Hey, is this Kevin Durant?”

“Speaking,” Kevin said loudly.

“Hey, my name is James and I work over at TMZ.  You’re the guy who runs the blog, right?  The one with the story about Angie Kapowski, the amateur karaoke singer that wants to get on Idol?”

“Yeah,” Kevin said.

“We want to know why Idol is specifically looking to audition your girlfriend and how you found out about it.”

“What?  I don’t think I heard you right,” Kevin said.  He heard James repeat himself.  Then Kevin went silent.

James just kept talking.  “Hello?  Yeah, as part of the final season, they want to do a special episode where they have bonus auditions for up and coming singers across the country that they heard about.  Somehow, your girl ended up on this list and you reported as much on your blog that up until now, no one knew about.  How did you get that info?”

Kevin was speechless.  “Can I call you back after work?”  He heard James say yes and he took James’s number.

Back at home, the cat continued to sleep on his mat in the kitchen. 

Life was good.


Good, but not great.
You see, the rumor on the blog opened doors for Kevin and Angie.  It led to a spot on TMZ Live for them.  After that, Angie ended up headlining the Idol special with her audition.  Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr. said she had talent but needed more experience, more training.  J Lo was just her usual bitchy self.

Kevin ended up being a regular contributor to TMZ after showing good face on his initial appearance.  Harvey Levin even said his work was good, that he’d love to expand out to do a hard news segment, but he just wasn’t sure if Kevin was the guy to lead it. 

But the money and offers for Kevin and Angie came rolling in.  They got a nicer apartment with deep pile carpet and a couple of paintings from a Sears that was going out of business in Bay Shore.  The cat came with them.  He ate his Fancy Feast.  Kevin and Angie hugged him and loved him, but they still felt unfulfilled.  They got some small gigs here and there on reality shows; their last major gig was on the VH-1 revival of The Surreal Life in which they were considered the “up and comers” learning from veteran celebrities like Christopher Knight and Dave Coulier. 

One day, after they’d finished taping in California and had returned to New York, Kevin and Angie considered what to do next with their lives.  They sat at the kitchen table, just as they did during that blizzard in which they found the cat.  Kevin asked, “We’re gonna be okay for a while with the money we made, but why aren’t we famous?  I mean, like Kim and Kanye famous?”

The cat looked up with his one eye blue and one eye yellow, turned his half-orange and half-black head, meowed, and leapt up on the keyboard of Kevin’s laptop again, walked back and forth, then leapt back down and curled up into a half orange, half black ball of fur.  Kevin and Angie got up and read what the cat had written: “Bros, I totes get it.  You thought your wish would lead to #fame and now you feel like bigger has-beens than Paris Hilton.  I hate being the bad guy here but you two made the wrong wish.  Don’t worry.  Most people do that.  It’s just that I know you guys are talented, but maybe before asking for fame, you should have worked to perfect your talent.  Just sayin’.”

Kevin and Angie looked at each other.  Angie asked, “Did we waste our wish?”  Then she read further down the page.

“BTW, no you didn’t waste your wish.  I’m staying as long as you guys are cool.  I’m down for granting whatevs for your guys.  Y’all are tight.  We’re bros, right?”

So using their fame, they sought out people to help them.  Kevin trained to become a real journalist and Angie got a real voice coach and learned about the music business.  They kept feeding the cat Fancy Feast, but they really didn’t make a wish as big as the rumor one ever again.  Small ones for bus fare and the numbers on the Take Five every once in a while, but never anything as big as their original wish.  They didn’t have to, because they worked hard.  Kevin got a news segment that was spun off into a serious news offshoot of TMZ, and Angie ended up as a back-up singer for Adele before becoming a record producer in her own right. 

The cat was always fed Fancy Feast, but then one day, he got up and left to go find another human to train.  Gotta spread the love, amirite? 

And they all lived happily ever after. 



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