SHORT STORY FUN
Our short story competition is now open. Below is an example of an excellent short story. Have a sneaky read of this during your lunch break.
Then put pen to paper and write your own short story. It must be no more than 800 words long and be about Ireland in some way. Entries to firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR WHOM THE CAT MEOWS
By Rebecca Kennedy
I would stick with the term “word vomit”, I feel like it sums it up best. Because I thought I wasn’t talking fast enough but as it turns out I was just mumbling. See, I was trying to explain to someone how I felt. I was trying to articulate all these mashed-up feelings. But it turns out I was just making noises. Michael said it sounded like a hoover trying to suck up coal. It’s like the time I was really nervous about the end-of-year geography exam. I stayed in the whole weekend studying for it. I put special emphasis on rock formation because Mr. Coleton just rushed through it. The whole night before I was hunched over the books and I thought I flew through it until the school rang my mum the next week and said I had failed. When my mum asked why they told her I had just wrote “Rock formation” and that was it. Just those two words… all on their own, over and over again. But in my mind I was incredible. I could have written that exam. Let’s not waste time on false modesty here. I could have successfully re-designed the earth.
But that’s all part of it. Not being able to distinguish between dreams and reality. They call them delusions. I guess I always had them. Like when Michael first moved in with me and my mum. There was this cat that lived in our neighbour’s garden. I remember he was grey with green eyes but apart from that he was just an ordinary cat I suppose. Anyway, one day I was in my backyard bouncing a football off the shed when I hear this noise. I look around and the cat is standing on the wall just staring at me. So I just stared back at him because you should never back down, especially to a cat. And then, clear as day, he said my name. I swear to God he said my name and then he beckoned me over. I was petrified but I felt as though I had no choice. He could talk; God knows what else he was capable off. So I went over to him and he told me that if Michael didn’t rethink his decision to move in with me and Mum then there would be a serious attempt made on his life between now and the next episode of casualty. And then he vanished.
I told mum and Michael this as soon as I was sure the cat wasn’t around. Mum was really annoyed and said that Michael was staying and that was it. I screamed that her selfish attitude could all cost us our lives come Saturday night. And I believed it, because it was real to me. You see, that’s the thing about losing your marbles. You never think you have any less then you had in the beginning. That’s why that day I was trying to tell Michael I didn’t feel great I didn’t know I was just making word vomit. I thought I was articulating myself quite well actually. My brain was trying to push out words and my mouth just wasn’t co-operating. But I didn’t know that. I thought Michael could understand me. Like when your child and you think you can speak other languages by imitating the sounds of that language. I didn’t know why Michael was panicking. His face was all red and he kept saying “sit down”. And then more people came and they said “sit down”. But I couldn’t. The cat made my skeleton metal. How can you sit down when your skeleton is metal? Then a man was yelling “CALM DOWN”. Which was ridiculous, how are you meant to calm someone down by screaming at them?
At this point I was beginning to hear a weird noise. At first I thought it was the cat. He wasn’t appeased that Michael continued to dwell in our home. That’s why he made my skeleton metal, because Mum and Michael lived in sin. I thought he was hissing at me. He was trying to confuse me. But the noise just grew louder and louder even though everyone was shouting. I was able to see their words. They leaped from their mouths and smashed into the walls. Every time “calm down” collided with “sit down” the noise became more sinister. Then Michael was whispering “Please Melissa, stop that”. Then I realised that it wasn’t the cat. The noise was me. And I guess someone must have drugged me. Because next thing you know, I passed the feck out.
Dr. Fannon only really uses her face as a bit of real estate to keep her eyes, nose, mouth and mole. So when I’m telling her the story about the word vomit and the cat and the noises she doesn’t really give much away. Her face has that concerned/condescending expression doctors use when you’re talking. And she keeps nodding along with what I’m saying. As if she was there. Yeah, yeah……you went batshite there for a while. Nod. Nod. Nod. And she keeps interjecting these random questions.
“Would you really use the term……word vomit?”
“Yes, I think it sums it up best.”
“Do you think you lived in fear of the cat?”
“No, I wasn’t afraid of the cat.”
“It sounds as though you were afraid of the cat.”
“I had a healthy respect for the cat. Maybe it was born from a place of fear.”
“Do you like Michael?”
“Yes. I like Michael.”
“You are not being very talkative.”
“Look, I like Michael. There is nothing wrong with Michael.”
“Why don’t you say something nice about Michael?”
“Michael…..Michael…….Michael has a nice shiny head of………….scalp.”
“You can go now Melissa.”
When I first arrived at St. Bridgets I was bounced around from ward to ward. This isn’t unusual, if you haven’t been diagnosed with any specific mental illness yet. It comes down to whether you are considered harmful to yourself or others. Since I wasn’t really either I was finally placed in the C-ward. I didn’t really care where I was, as long as the cat and Michael weren’t there. This is where I first met Monica. Monica was in for a rather shambolic attempt of suicide. Poisoning she told me, was the sexiest way to die. Who poisons themselves? Tragedy bound lovers and heroic leaders, that’s who. But the problem, she informed me was getting your hands on the stuff. Especially in Ireland, where you have to have a letter from your mammy just to buy a fecking bottle of bleach. So Monica came up with a plan to poison herself. She learned from a documentary that you could give yourself potassium poisoning…..if you consumed 23 bananas. She had it all set up. Only the supermarket thought it was odd that a young woman should want so many bananas. So fearing for her sexual well-being they rang her mammy. Who had watched the documentary with Monica. Before she had even rolled the peel down on her certain death she was committed. “The real tragedy” Monica said “is those suicide bananas cost me a fortune”.
The thing about hospitals for the mentally ill is that time goes slower here. Everything has to be routine. Monica and I like to break up the days further by intervening them with several chain-smoking breaks. What I have really come to dislike is group therapy, which is not called group therapy but “sharing time”. So the fact that a therapist along with a brigade of overly-eager psychology students attend is supposed to be calmly ignored. They expect you to be forthcoming with your feelings. As if we were some horrid breed of American. So I don’t really like to attend. Which Monica says is a form of “self-abuse” as I am deterring my own road to recovery. I maintain it is not and half the time nothing gets done in group therapy because Dr. Fannon is aggressive with her questioning. Like the time she asked this girl called Clare questions about her son. And we all knew Clare didn’t want to answer. She kept clenching her fists until they turned white. Dr. Fannon just kept going and even the psychology students looked wary. Eventually, Clare just climbed in under her seat and ignored the good doctor. Then Dr. Fannon stood up and demanded that Clare answer her. Which Clare did.
“Sorry doctor. I can’t pick up. The reception is awful down here.”
Although I must admit that things have gotten better since I arrived. Dr. Fannon along with Michael and mum helped me realise what happened the day of the noises. I had come home and discovered that Michael had backed over the neighbour’s cat and killed him. I was particularly distraught as the cat had shown Michael so much mercy over the years. I picked the cat up and held him, covering myself in its blood. That’s why everyone was panicking. I was in the middle of a complete breakdown drenched in blood of some mysterious origin. Michael thought I had hurt myself and called an ambulance. Dr. Fannon also helped me understand that the cat never spoke to me. He just voiced the part of me that felt threatened when Michael came to live with us. And my skeleton was never metal. I was in shock and thought I couldn’t sit down. The staff here tell us that if we don’t look after our mental health and do not seek treatment then the mind simply doesn’t cope and breaks. Those breakdowns can come at any time, in any shape, form or colour. So whether that form may be a menacing cat from next door or 23 ominous bananas it doesn’t matter. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am slowly getting better. I’m investing my time in becoming a healthy individual. And by the time I get out into the world I will be armed with better coping abilities and a healthier state of mind. I just hope there is no more word vomit. And I might just keep my distance from cats in general.
Rebecca Kennedy is a recent graduate of the Kidwelly School of Art.
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