Monthly comp: July 2020

About Forums Den of Writers Monthly Competition Monthly comp: July 2020

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    Don’t know how many of you support the Big Issue, but you might well have heard of Street Cat Bob, who adopted a young homeless man and saved his life. Sadly, James Bowen’s feline saviour died in June after being hit by a car. Many people have been moved by their story, and Bob was quite the poster-cat for the Big Issue.

    I loved the film – A Street Cat Named Bob’, and have the soundtrack on CD. Song titles are a prompt I often use, so…this month you have a choice of titles from the soundtrack, (either Looking for Paradise OR Month of the Cat) 400 words to play with, and a cat must feature somewhere in your story.

    Have fun x

    (And if you’ve not read the book or seen the film, do)


    Month of the Cat

    To be clear, although Gus didn’t get on with the cat, he was never cruel to it. When his wife, Mildred, died he didn’t want to go on taking care of it.

    ‘It’s vindictive,’ he said, ‘it kills half a dozen birds every day. It craps on the decking, wrecks my flower borders, and last week it scratched up the wallpaper.’

    We looked out across the garden and the cat looked back at us from the bushes. ‘The vet says there’s a farmer near Tavistock who needs a cat for the mice in his barn.’

    After a week, I called in on Gus. He was nursing a bandaged hand. ‘It was the cat,’ he said, ‘scratched and bit me when I tried to catch him. I’ll have another go soon.’

    Two weeks later, I was in the neighbourhood and I thought I’d stop by for a cuppa. Gus had the curtains drawn. After the tea was made, we sat in the gloom. His arm was in a sling and his fingers, poking from the bandage, looked fat and unhealthy.

    ‘I keep the curtains shut at the moment. Cat’s making a right old mess out there, but not much I can do until this clears up. He waved his hand and winced with the movement. I thought I saw the shadow of something moving outside, on the curtains, but I couldn’t be sure. When he showed me to the door, I caught sight of him properly. His face was yellow, and his skin was puffy: waxy, for want of a better word.

    Another two weeks and he was dead. Heart attack his daughter said. She looked drained, what with his death coming so soon after her mother’s. I stayed for a few hours and helped her sort out some of his things. Gus was a tidy soul and I was surprised at how much we got through. She thanked me profusely and as I was leaving, I said, ‘What about the cat? Will you be keeping it?’

    ‘What cat?’ she replied.

    At home next morning I thought about poor old Gus. Not a happy end for him, but, ‘Que sera,’ and all that. I was expecting Vera for coffee. Patio would be nice in the sun, so I went to set the table. Smelt a bit, out there. Then I saw them: a dead sparrow and a mouse, without a head.


    Looking For Paradise

    The mossy church bench had no kids fighting around it. No grumpy, obstinate husbands, or house-din. Just bliss. I breathed deeply as I listened to the trees above, its branches whispering and swaying in a gentle breeze, stirring birds into song. A squirrel wriggled up rough bark and disappeared into the foliage, minding its own business, as was the old man ambling towards the gate, scanning each grave as he passed it.

    ‘Lost something?’ I asked as he drew closer.

    ‘Aye, Paradise,’ he offered back.

    In other words, mind your own business, Fiona … except he didn’t strike me as scornful.

    ‘You had paradise and then you lost it?’ I pressed softly. Poor man; this was more than confusion, I felt. ‘If it’s not here, perhaps it’s at home. Would you like me to walk with you? Help you look?’

    ‘Would you?’ His face lifted. ‘See, you barely notice Paradise until …’ His face crumpled. ‘Left me the day Sheila did. I buried her back there, second row on from the wall, only the week afore last.’

    How sad. In his own addled way, was he trying to tell me she’d left him feeling so hollow, that he felt compelled to come looking for the happiness he was missing?

    ‘Well, I often feel that home is where you find most things – including paradise, if you look hard enough.’ Huh, I ought to be listening to my own advice.

    ‘Happen you’re right. I’ve been so deep in the doldrums, I haven’t had the energy to look properly until today. I thought the most likely place was at her side, but all I found were dead flowers.’

    He seemed to enjoy my company even if it weren’t quite the paradise he was seeking. We came close to it, I felt, as he reminisced about the blissful married life he’d been blessed with for so many years.

    His gate opened with a creak and the man’s eyes sprang wide. ‘Paradise!’ he cried, running to a tabby cat mewing by the porch. ‘I’ve been looking for you!’

    He picked the cat up, kissing and smoothing its striped forehead. ‘You’ve been out looking for her, haven’t you? But we have to accept its just us now, old boy …’

    And I was forgotten.

    I made my way home, in hope of peace if not paradise.

    390 words


    Looking for Paradise

    “… it was the one-eared cat from next door, a noted flâneur in other gardens.”
    To the North, Elizabeth Bowen

    From the window of the flat where I’m living, I look down on a dull garden. There’s a lawn with shrubs around it, and from up here the bushes are fat and green but bare soil dries between them. The shrubs flower sometimes but never in sync and I can’t say the garden is abundant. This summer its owners, a couple as old as my parents, have several times invited me downstairs for a glass a wine. With one of their diffident smiles, either the husband or wife – they copy the smile from each other – tells me I might enjoy the coolness. They mean the garden.

    So we sit in canvas chairs with cushions behind us where the canvas has stretched. We don’t all want, says the husband, to get backache. I don’t say I’ve never had backache. In the shade of their garden umbrella the husband stretches forward towards the table and pours the sweet rosé because the wife has chilled it in the fridge and carried it out on a tray with glasses and they are an equitable couple. The wife says the rosé is such a nice colour and I wonder silently why she doesn’t plant some pink flowers in the bare soil.

    We watch a cat jump down from the garden wall. It stretches out several metres away in a patch of sun. They are so calming, says the wife, and the husband says this cat has been in the wars. I say yes, not wanting to remain silent. I think about how, from the flat, I can see into the gardens on either side, crammed with big, rich flowers, with climbers on trellises, with shrubs bearing different coloured blooms and leaves.

    The cat, says the wife, knows all the gardens around here. Its own garden often has children playing, running around, calling out. The cat likes sanctuary. She gives me one of those smiles.

    From the flat I’ve heard these children as if distantly or through glass, even when the window is open. Their voices are light-filled and energetic and full of plans. Let’s do this, they say, let’s see if – . I listen with the attention of someone wanting the distance between me and their garden to shrink, someone wishing for plans.

    396 words including title and quote

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by Libby.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by Libby.

    Last chance to enter something in the monthly-that-turned-into-two-months competition…


    Well it was a small select number of entries this month…well, two months! But they were none the worse for being that.

    – a tale with sinister overtones… having been on the business end of a cat’s claws more than once, I’m glad my scratches didn’t end up this way.

    – such a poignant story. I fully expected this to be linked to dementia, but the twist, when it came…lovely!

    – this was so atmospheric, peopled by such very different folk. I could almost taste the rose and feel the sun on my skin…

    Thank you all for going with my catty theme. The baton is passed to Janette this time, because her story really tugged at my heart strings. x


    Congratulations @Janette! I really enjoyed your story. And I loved @Athelstone’s too. So creepy …


    Congratulations to all (of us), especially @Janette 🙂


    Gosh, just seen the notification in my in-box. Thank you @Squidge for such a good challenge (pity more didn’t join us), and @Athelstone and @Libby. I thoroughly enjoyed your stories and feel we were all winners.

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