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  • J Scott Lane

Cat Walk - Excerpt from a New Novel

The custodian mostly stripped in front of the bathroom mirror, which made him remember to exercise – later – and then mechanically performed all the normal bathroom preparations for bed. Stretching out under the cool sheets, he chose one of the books crowding his nightstand, a documentary on the decreasing population of China and its effects on monetary policy there and abroad. It infallibly produced somnolence in him, as it would any sighted person that wasn’t actively running a marathon at the time of reading. It only took a few pages until the book unceremoniously whacked against his forehead to signal lights out. After marking the page on the labor impacts of dwindling and aging populations with a bright bookmark featuring a picture of a happy man, a patient woman, and an ebullient boy in front of a waterfall, the custodian placed the book on the nightstand before turning the bedside light off.

This action was Martin’s cue to jump partially onto the bed, from which Jon had removed the frame to help ease the increasingly labored feline transitions from floor to mattress. First one, then two outsized paws and legs became visible, followed by the heroic head with ears laid back flat as a result of the strain of overcoming the mattress event horizon, then the final, frantic clawing of the rest of his bulk over the edge. Martin Scorsese stood and posed proudly, black tail-tip twitching, to celebrate another successful summit of Mount Mattress. The fact that Martin would have to perform this heroic feat at the end of each pre-dawn patrol around the apartment, waking Jon each time, never seemed to discourage him in the least. The cat proceeded to curl up near the footboard, backlit by a red-and-orange neon sign for one of the two blatantly themed Chinese restaurants across the alley.

Martin narrowly won the contest to see which of them could fall asleep first. One dreamed not at all, or at least failed to remember dreams upon awakening a few hours later. The other restlessly twitched, chasing murky shapes in a dark alley, filled with both longing and fear of unknown risks not taken.

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