the cat came back

The ingrate. Just look at him, belly on the cool wood floor, little right foot sticking out so coyly. We rescued him from the bushes two years ago, when he was just a few weeks old, nurtured him to health, spent a bazillion dollars in vet bills -- he was always getting torn up outside by some thing or some other cat. We cooed to him and coaxed him and played with him and educated him and lovingly encouraged him to love us right back even as he chewed on our fingers and nipped at our ears -- hahahahaha. Our mistake.
Here is Cleebo, named for the same character in The Aurora County All-Stars. Cleebo the Clueless, I called that character. But this Cleebo is not clueless -- he's wily and crazy like a fox.

He stays away for months at a time. Yes, months. He returned at Christmas after an absence of a month, and we rejoiced. He sauntered in, chowed down, and waltzed right back out the door. He was gone for over two months this spring -- we were sure the coyotes that live across the way had gotten him. But here he came on the Fourth of July, still wearing his collar and name tag (with our phone number on it), loping down the driveway like he'd never been gone a day, right past me as I stood in the garden and watched him, my hands full of weeds.

We were overjoyed to see him the first time he came back. We had been so worried about him and had missed him so much. Now, when he shows up again, we hardly move. Someone says, still lovingly (we are suckers for Cleebo, we can't help it), "you ingrate..." as he sashays past us heading for the food bowl. Then I make sure he has his flea meds and is up to date on his shots before he can get back out the door.

He has been in and out since July 4, and I don't know if he intends to stay for a while or not. I've thought about writing about this cat, making up a story for a picture book, but I don't have a strong attachment to that idea, and I need that strong pull to the heart before I can make any story successful, so I'll pass on using Cleebo as a story idea.

So I won't write about Cleebo, and I don't write about my children or grandchildren or even the present day. I tend to plumb my young life for stories instead. I always go where my heart leads me, in trying to tell a story. The craft can and must come later. But if my heart's not in it, if there's not something strongly and steadily pulling me toward writing a story whether or not it ever becomes a book, then I leave it alone -- it's someone else's story to tell.

I've got four or five stories clamoring for my attention right now. I've got to turn my full attention to book two in the sixties trilogy soon, but I think I can work up one of these shorter pieces now. Which one is yakking the loudest? Time to sit down with my notebook and see.


  1. Deborah,
    I loved the part about how a story must pull at your heart... I'm going to use it and quote you on day #1 of my writer's workshop, when school starts. Your blog is going to be an anchor piece as my 4th graders pursue writing this year. Thank you very much.

  2. Thanks, Leslie, I'm honored. I'm interested in how you work with your writers in light of having a story pull at their hearts instead of being an assignment to satisfy your particular writing goals and assessments. I think you can do both with the same assignment.


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