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‘Cats meow and dogs bow-wow’

Open SpaceDerek FranzGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Maybe it’s the pit bulls running around, barking in the backyard, but there’s something about the house next door that screams, “Feed me children now!” Seriously, I’m being almost completely literal, here (the house really only says, “Feed me!”). I was thinking the electronic sounds were hooked up to a motion sensor, and then a timer, but after a week of living in my cousin’s house in the California ‘burbs, I now have even less of an idea as to what sets off the molesting cackles of voices.”There’s something spooky about tonight, and I think it’s you! Mwuha-ha-ha’ ha-a,” they say most often from within the tacky pile of Wal-Mart-type Halloween decorations scattered unimaginatively across the lawn. They say other stuff, too (“Co-m-e i-n! hee-hee-ee!”), but I haven’t been able to make it out as well.Creatures that sound like that could only be green and boney, so the stream of erratic, burping laughs became offensive rather quickly when I realized I can’t escape them until I leave this place. The things bring out the bad side of my crazy side, so I’m doing my best to stay inside and avoid being rounded up by animal control.I must’ve looked menacing when I lost my mind mowing the lawn several days ago. I finally dropped the bag of grass clippings, doubling over on my feet to belch a gut-load of mad, mocking laughter in retort. I pointed and sneered at the stupid plastic sticks and blobs that wouldn’t shut up. With my ripped-up army pants, grungy T-shirt and patchy whiskers, I probably looked like I needed a cage.At least the house across the street has a macabre display that’s both creative and silent.A series of fake headstones there provoked some thoughts, and I’ve been pausing to read them on my walks in the afternoon heat.”Stop by here, my friends/as you pass by. /As you are now/so once was I./As I am now/so you must be./ Prepare for Death/and follow Me,” my favorite reads.Indeed, we’re all strapped into a ride for which we never intended to get in line. Children should learn this early. I remember the first time I saw the reality of my fleshy doom – I was 10.The dead cat was the only thing on the dirt road. Its body was squished in the middle and guts squirted out its chest cavity. An eyeball was popped out of the socket as if it had been suddenly inflated. Flies buzzed in and out of the gaping mouth, crawling between its sharp little teeth. Sticky blood matted the mangy, black fur and stained orange rocks and dust in a little round patch under the body.My friend Danny and I looked at it for a while, squatting down to get closer. Eventually Danny found a stick and started poking at it, trying to pop the inflated eye that stared off to the side of the road. I didn’t like that – I imagined someone who loved this cat was now wondering where it was.Later, when I was walking home from Danny’s house, I stopped again to look at the flattened animal. I’d never seen anything so freshly dead. A hot, August breeze ruffled the tall, dry grass at the shoulder of the road. The fur played in the wind, too, making it easier to imagine a loving hand petting it only hours before. No more.The body was gone when I returned to see it the next day. There was only a little, round stain of darkness in the middle of the gravel. It began to sink in that my life will also go away someday.Even now, I sit here, typing, constantly contemplating where I lie between here and there. Such thinking makes me feel dry, so I stand for a cup of water, looking back to where I sat. Chaucer, the black, royal cat of this house, already slumbers in my chair at the table. My coat hangs off the back of the polished wood seat. The laptop is open, its screen aglow as though he’d just been tapping at the keys. His sleek, fine fur tickles an urge to pet it – nay, even lick it. His tail twitches so slightly, curled behind him like a beckoning, black finger. Lost in a sort of vain admiration, I feel out of body for a second before barking dogs and strange laughs wake me from a nap.Jeez – I’ve lost track of the time – where am I? Indeed, that is the question. “Mwuha-ha-ha’ ha-a!”Derek Franz loves Halloween because it adds life – and sweetness – to our dry, dying situation. His mind is still lost, however. He thinks he left it in the basement of a house on 812 Bennett Ave. If you’ve seen it, please contact him at rockgripper8000@yahoo.com.


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