Todd Shewchuk



I should have let them take the eyes instead of the tongue. I just wasn’t seeing the big picture. I didn’t think about how I would rather be able to scream. I think that’s what broke me. Not having that release. And seeing. Seeing what they were doing helped break me too. But I choose to see. There are worse things than being blind. I hate these fucking cats.

My father picked me up from the bus station once again. He was easy to spot. I just looked for my signature in his slumped shoulders. Once again my new beginning had the same ending. I mean when you drink like that and act like that and feel angry like that, well things get the fuck out of control real fast. I had run home again. The ride to his house in the country was long, and we listened to 50’s pop hits on his satellite radio.

After the third day I really wished I hadn’t taken the effort to set my alarm for 6 a.m. It didn’t wake up the cats but it marked time. So I knew where I was at the same time every day. And if I had taken the effort to set the alarm why didn’t I tune the station fully. So every day at the same time I had to listen to static news reports and garbled morning host chatter. It got bad when I hoped to hear my name since no one had seen me in 4 days. When you’re a 30 something loser with no job, and lives at home with no car and no hope, not many people know you’re missing. They already think you’re gone.

My father and I fell back into our routine. Since I didn’t have a job I became domestic. Did the laundry, washed the dishes, meals, housekeeping, and of course looked after the cats. There were six of them now. The first had shown up 3 years before at my father’s door. It had either wandered off or had been left by the side of the road. Fat Cat didn’t stay outside for long. At first she was as pleasant as a kitten could be. Although a pleasant kitten is still akin to jabbing your hand into a sock filled with razor blades and fishhooks. And Fat Cat begot Bruiser and Bruiser begot Sid and Nancy, and Sid and Nancy begot Mr. Fuzz and Squiggers Magoo. There were others but this was the lineage of the house.

Cats are evil. If any cat lover tells you different just picture how happy cats looked when they are dressed up. They think dark thoughts and enjoy manipulation. Enjoy toying with death as they make their prey go out of their minds with terror. But I fed them and picked up their shit, my dad’s house, and my dad’s cats. They would all vie for spots to sleep on him when he would fall asleep on the couch. Fat Cat always won.

After I fell I think I passed out for a bit. It was the fall combined with the booze and drugs. Of course that was the exact reason I shouldn’t have tried to change the light bulb. Of course it was the reason why I though I could. I at least should have used a chair and not climbed up on the cupboards. I woke up the next day and my mind didn’t register that I couldn’t move. I lied there for a bit without even trying. I had been in situations before where the worst case scenario was enacted. The shadow feeling inside knew that this was one of them. I took a deep breath and tried to rub my face. The air was familiar with urine. It was the first time since I was a baby that I didn’t feel myself lying in my own piss.

Before my dad left to visit my sister he turned and told me to behave. I said I would and we both played our role. Familiarity with your parts is what makes our relationship work. What would any change do anyway? Change everything.

I can hide behind the awful stinging fact that my mom died when I was 14. It could be pointed to and judged as where everything went wrong for me. But that was the beginning, and the start of the story isn’t the end. I had devoted many hours and tireless efforts to truly and completely destroy myself. I got drunk with bad intentions. Part of me felt horrible about how I was reacting to this. My father had lost the love of his life, his high school sweet heart, while his son used his own pain to look him dead in the eye and consistently lie and steal. I think it was the lying; I couldn’t help it at this point. It was my language. For twenty years.

I knew she was on my chest without even feeling it. Day was dappling through the kitchen curtains and I felt the dark through my eyes as Fat Cat blocked it. They had food, by this time I could smell it since I was close to their dishes even if I didn’t remember doing it. I had hoped that by closing my eyes tight enough I could will this into a dream. She left my chest and jumped on to the cupboards. She was not going to let this be anything but real. Even though I couldn’t feel it my body reacted at the impact and made me gasp. She was replaced by Mr. Fuzz and Magoo in my sight line. It seems they were eating the lower half today. It was like when they played with mice. They chewed slowly and if I shut my eyes, they would creep close to my ears. Chew chew chew chew chew. Or they would simply place their paw on my closed lids and put a little pressure to force me to open my eyes and watch. It was all about the pressure for them.

The booze didn’t help things. While it was the worst of the symptoms that was all it really was. A symptom. It wasn’t in control, I can say that. It was an excuse. Sober or drunk I made sure my actions made my life harder. But drunk shut up the thinking for a bit. It became routine to deal with the next day dread. And like anything you get used to it. You don’t like it but you know it. That is why books like “A Million Little Pieces” piss me off. You have people falling all over themselves with praise of how courageous the author is, but he never gets to the places where those who live there know. None of the smell from your piss, or the shame of waking up and not looking around puzzled but planning your escape. None of the reptile craftiness that sinks into your thoughts. But poor me.

I am pretty sure they started to eat me way before I guessed they were. I think it happened on the first day. I screamed a lot that day after I realized I couldn’t move anything that was part of me. No one could hear me. It must have irritated the cats, since it was the second night they gave me my choice. There were three of them sitting on my chest as my eyes focused. I had spent most of the second day in an unreal place where my mind became two weasels in a sack. Tearing each other to shreds with every scenario that could be played out from here. It was something I had done millions of times before. Always figure out the angles, what can happen? What will happen? I was paralyzed on my father’s kitchen floor. I hadn’t eaten anything for at least a day and a half. I was very thirsty. But part of me, a small part in the background chorus of my thoughts, looked at the upside to what had happened. I wouldn’t die here. Things would be incredibly different from now on. My fate had been set and I would now be a recipient of true pity and not the falseness that I had grown accustomed too. This was a tragedy while my life style was just destruction.

I had hoped this last job might be the way out. It had all the trappings of everything that I imagined I would want. An office, a challenge and the simple fact that I would be getting paid to write. However, copy writing for a radio station doesn’t really classify as writing. Mostly it was regurgitating the clients thoughts back at them. Even though they had no idea how to properly market themselves. But what can you expect from a small town with small minded business owners. They paid and I typed. I started with Bailey’s in the morning coffee and soon progressed to harder drugs to get through the day. All the time telling myself it was them not me. It was me. I still had a week on my benefits after they let me go, which is when I started paying attention to the buses. They would fly by some stops, the driver distracted, and you could feel the power as it whooshed by. An accidental death clause in my company provided life insurance would see that my dad would get 50 grand. For those 7 days I stood and was almost able to touch the sides of the buses that rushed by.

I was more surprised by the pain than anything else. The last time I felt it was when they all took hold of my tongue and scratched and chewed it out of my mouth. There was a lot less blood than I expected, although I was not in any real position to see. It stopped jetting from my mouth quickly so I used that as my reference point. This was new pain not the dull thud coming from my mouth. At first I believed that the last two days of being eaten were nothing more than a dream. But this pain didn’t come from anywhere below my neck. A contact had shook loose and was traveling behind my eyeball. It was fire. I started to dry heave as I blinked repeatedly. My other eye began to tear up and turned the images of Magoo and Bruiser to nothing more than watery blobs. The loose contact blinked out. I was now half blind. Still unable to scream.

My dad never saw how the cats acted. Or if he did, he ignored it, how love makes people blind and all. Many people would never imagine the baby talk that came out of his mouth when he talked to them. His gruff and burly appearance sharply at odds with his affection. I saw. I saw how they would piss on everything I left not locked down. I saw how they would terrorize the birds and mice they caught. They wouldn’t eat them, just make sure that fear was all encompassing. The hissing and scratching. And the dark looks cast to me from their perch upon his lap. I came to realize they hated me. They hadn’t even waited until they needed to feed before they started to devour me small mouthful by small mouthful. They just waited until I was weak.

Nirvana’s »Come as You Are» is filtering out behind the static of my alarm clock. Songs of a youth that imagined itself above all that had come before. Fuck the 60’s the 90’s kids were oh so much more smart and worldly. The things we would do, the things we would see. Another day was starting and I could hear the cats in the living room just starting to stir. Of course there were always battles for supremacy and fur would fly. Fat Cat had been challenged many times but still was queen bitch. I see a blurry shape move from my left side, where the contact had came out. I didn’t know which one it was but this was the one that would get it. If I was able to get the rest fantastic, if not well, it was time to touch the bus for real. The night before one of them had bit into the webbing between my left thumb and finger. I felt it. Today I could close my hand. I would take any of them but I hoped for Fat Cat. I really hated that fucking cat.