Well, your favorite short, chubby, bespectacled writer from Maine survived week one of the LJ Idol For Writers. I finished third out of fifty-seven with the following entry, the assigned topic being “New Beginnings.”
The morning he decided to stop drinking, John woke up on the bathroom floor, a mound of cat shit three inches from his nose. He couldn’t blame poor old Lucy. Three hours earlier he had puked in her litter box and it seemed fitting: shit for tat.
He stood up slowly, clutching his throbbing head. The stench of combined waste sent him diving once more for the toilet, and this time his aim was mercifully accurate. He stumbled into the shower a few minutes later, but it did nothing to refresh him. Each droplet was a tiny, torturous needle, prickly reminders of his sins, of all he had lost. Wife-son-daughter-job. Car.
Naked in his bedroom, he tried to piece together the forgotten events of the night before. His rumpled, unmade bed was nothing new, and itself not a helpful clue, but it did reveal a stain on his sheet and some blonde strands on his pillowcase. And as he pulled on his pants, he tried to remember what she’d looked like. If she had been any good. If he had been.
He dragged himself into the kitchen, tripping over the pile of garbage strewn across the floor. Lucy had knocked the trash can over the day before, in search of food. She had apparently feasted on Chicken McNuggets, a meal John had discarded three days earlier, having settled instead on Jack Daniels. Now the empty bottle taunted his shaking hands from the countertop. It lay next to an empty bag of Kibbles N’ Bits. Lucy rubbed herself against his ankle, an appeal, not for attention, but for food. He reached down and scratched behind her ear anyway, suddenly hungry for a display of honest affection. She bit his hand.
He rummaged through his wallet, wondering whether he had enough money stashed away for a small bag of cat food. He was in luck. Six one-dollar bills. His gaze fell once more onto his messy countertop, shifting from the empty bottle to the empty cat food bag, then to his empty cat, who was now howling in obvious distress. From outside, a squeal of childish delight joined her cries, piercing his still-aching head. It belonged, he knew, to his neighbor’s nine-year-old daughter. He struggled to think of her name, but could only remember that it started with an M.
And his hands would not stop shaking…
An hour later, the late morning sun beat down on Lucy as she rested, full-bellied, on a warm, sweet-smelling lawn. Nine-year-old Madison beamed just as brightly as she skipped rope on the driveway a few feet away.
“Just five more minutes, Fluffy,” she said. “Then we can go inside for lunch.”
Lucy licked her paw contentedly, not seeming to mind the indignity of her new name. And she pretended not to notice John as he hurried past her, toward his dilapidated trailer, clutching a brand new pint of cheap whiskey.