Thursday, March 22, 2012

CHAPTER ONE: CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN



                                          

 

 


                                            

 

 

 

Confessions Of An Honest Man

A Novel by Art Rosch
Copyright 2010
All characters in this book are either fictional or in the public domain.

 

 

     September, 1967.  Detroit, Michigan

          Aaron Kantro followed his colleagues through the labyrinth of the nightclub's kitchen and out the back door.  A waft of cool air hit his face as he stepped onto the concrete platform next to the loading dock. His sweat instantly began to dry and he could see steam misting from the other musicians' tuxedos.  It was the band's third break.  They would play one more set of forty five minutes.   Then their work for the night was done.         
          There were nine or ten people gathered around the rear entrance to the club.  They were either jazz fans who wanted to hang out or they were so loaded they didn't know how they'd gotten there. 
          A man with his shirtails dangling from his suit stumbled into Aaron.  "I wan' shake your hand," he announced.  He extended his unkempt digits and then pulled his hand away if to recalibrate his arm's trajectory.  Aaron, when he put his hand out to respond, felt like an idiot.  He put his hands in his pockets and hoped the man would go away.
          "I tell you somethin'", the man said.  "You play some drums for a white boy.  Some fuckin' drums.  I close my eyes, can't tell the diff'rence.  Sound jus' like a real drummer."  He tried again to extend his hand and stumbled across his own feet. 
          "Excuse me", a young lady said, as she passed between Aaron and the drunk.  She wanted an autograph from the legendary saxophonist, Zoot Prestige.  Aaron's boss transferred a cheroot from his hand to his mouth.   He leaned down to inscribe his signature into the lady's little book, while trying to keep his eyes averted from the cleavage that was so conspicuously thrust into his face.   Aaron noted this little drama and lost his anger.  Zoot Prestige was just too funny. Aaron quietly moved behind the imposing figure of his boss.  The drunk rambled away, talking to himself.
          Aaron was the only white person beneath the scalloped awning.  There were perhaps ten white people in the club.   It bothered him more than he would like to admit that he longed to see other white faces.  It had been his decision to play jazz, and his brand of jazz carried him to black clubs in black neighborhoods.  Sometimes, the moment he walked into a place, he felt the air freeze with racial tension.  Sometimes he was scared.  The only way through it was to play the music.
          As the little throng dispersed, Zoot butted his smoke in the sand of an ashtray.  He stepped off the concrete pad and walked across the lot towards his car.
          After waiting about thirty seconds, the group's organist, Tyrone Terry, followed the lanky figure of his boss.  Aaron waited another thirty seconds and followed his colleagues to the cream-colored Continental.  This precaution seemed a little silly but there were probably narcs in the club and Aaron had to admit that it was pretty obvious what was happening when three jazz musicians got into a car and didn't go anywhere.
          Soon the men were engrossed in the ritual of the pipe: lighting, inhaling, holding breath, exhaling.  It was cozy in the Continental’s plush interior.  Air came sighing through the upholstery’s leather seams as the musicians' weight compressed the seat cushions.  Zoot and his side-men were settling down, recharging their nerves for the next set, the last set.  It was one o’clock in the morning.
          "She wanted you to look at 'em," Tyrone said to his employer.
          "I know," responded Zoot, "but it seems so...I don't know...un-chivalrous to put my nose right into a lady's cleavage.  Besides, it's redundant.  I seen titties before.  Wan't nothin' special about hers...they's just...."
          BANG!  There was a huge sound, an explosion.  The men's bodies reacted instinctively.  They ducked, and their arms rose to cover their heads.
          The car lurched as a man dove across the hood, holding a pistol in his right hand.  His legs swam wildly as he fought to stop his momentum.  Whatever tactic he had in mind, it wasn’t working.  The car’s sheen and finish turned the hood into a sliding board.
          "Jesus fucking Christ!”  In the back seat Aaron cursed loudly without thinking.  He had never before heard a gun shot.  In spite of this fact, he recognized the sound.  It was rounder, weightier, and more final than the sound of a firecracker. 
          The man on the car's hood waved the pistol frantically.  Slithering to get his balance, he clutched at the windshield wipers and missed.  Gravity and car wax slid him across the polished metal until he landed on the ground.  The pistol fired as he hit the gravel.  The bullet penetrated a tire with a loud hiss.
          The man sprang up and disappeared among the ordered rows of vehicles in the parking lot.
          Zoot Prestige held a finger to his mouth, slid from under the steering wheel and dropped quietly to the floor of the passenger seat.  Zoot didn't want to get shot.  Zoot didn’t want to be a witness if somebody got shot.  Zoot didn’t want questions.  Zoot didn’t want any dealings with the Poe-Leece! 
          Aaron scrunched onto the floor of the back seat until his arm rested on the hump of the drive shaft.  Tyrone, on the other side, was hoping to disappear via the flawed logic of an ostrich.  He was pulling his little pork-pie hat over his eyes.
          A voice shouted, "I'LL KILL YOU MOTHERFUCKER!” 
          Two more shots were fired from the opposite corner of the lot.  Two sparking ovals of muzzle flash lit up the windshields of Cadillacs and Thunderbirds.  A man’s face appeared, pressed to the window of Zoot’s car.  His cheek was distorted against the glass, with an eye like a panicked horse.  His quick breath steamed the window only inches from Zoot's face.  With a slight turn to the right, Zoot became a virtual nose-to-nose mirror image of the man with the gun. 
          The enraged shooter didn’t see the human being an inch from his face.  He raised his snubby revolver over the top of the vehicle, fired twice without aiming, and ran to cover behind a black Eldorado.  The wind had changed.  The shots were barely audible.
          "Sheee-it!” Zoot grumbled, “I hope nobody messes up my short.  I paid three hundred bucks for this custom paint job.”  The immaculately polished car was long and sleek as a submarine.
          A voice shouted, "HEY LOOK HE'S OVER THERE!" 
          Bang bang bang! Flashes lit up the musicians’ faces.  Guns were all over the place.  Aaron looked at Tyrone.  The keyboard player had twitched and spilled a pipe full of burning marijuana into his lap.  He brushed and patted frantically to prevent embers from smoldering through the pants of his tux.  Thrusting his hands into his pockets he made a basket to prevent sparks from spreading onto the seat or the carpet. Aaron produced a handkerchief and helped contain the disaster.  Tyrone was feeling little stings of fire burning their way into his palms.  He was tossing the embers back and forth as he jumped and wriggled all over the tiny floor space behind the driver’s seat.  When the young musicians’ eyes met they realized that they had entered the realm of the completely absurd. 
          They began to giggle, as quietly as possible.  Tyrone managed to empty his lungs without breaking into a hacking cough.  The bodies of both men were convulsed with terrified hilarity.
          Aaron's legs were crossed on the floor of the back seat.  Zoot gestured with his fingers for the pipe.  Tyrone handed it to Aaron as he muffled his cough and put out the fire in his lap.  Aaron gave the pipe to Zoot through the space between the seats. 
          The parking lot was a bedlam of running, screaming people.
          Two men, fingers snarled in each other’s sport coats, rolled across the hood of Zoot’s car.  The metal on the Continental went ‘scroich! bunk!’.  Zoot winced and hid his face behind his hands.  The men vanished somewhere in the gravel of the lot, grunting and cursing.  A grey fedora with a black band lay on the hood for a moment before a stiff breeze carried it away.  Zoot elevated his head a few inches and tried to inspect his hood for damage.  It was impossible.  The windows were now opaque with steam.
          Zoot relaxed.  He sat with his face level with the knobs on the dashboard.  His wrists were on his knees and his hands hung loose in the shadow beneath the glove box.  He loaded the pipe and handed it to Aaron through the crack. 
          “Don’t strike no match!” he said.  “Use that thing.”  He pointed to the black knob of the cigarette lighter.  Each door had an ashtray and each ashtray had its own lighter.
          Zoot sniffed the air inside the car.  “I smell somethin’ burning,” he said.  “You cats makin’ barbecue back there?”  His voice was good natured and mocking. 
          Observing Zoot's total poise, Aaron and Tyrone hissed through their lips with suppressed giggles.  It was impossible to tell which part of the moment was funny and which part was terrifying.  The giggles and spluttering had equal components of panic and the hysterical disbelief of pot heads in a bizarre situation.
          Big cars roared to life and raced from the lot in clouds of gravel and fumes.  Sirens dopplered past, right on their tails, red lights whizzing through the intersection.  Crimson slashes of reflection lit up the Continental’s glass. 
          Then there was silence.  People stealthily emerged from cover, crunch-crunching across the gravel.  They ran for shelter inside the club.  The musicians straightened their bodies with the slowness of clock hands moving.  Soon they were sitting normally on the seats.  Zoot loaded the pipe, lit and inhaled.  He held his breath for a long time, and then exhaled an almost transparent cloud.  He replaced the pipe in a leather pouch, concealed the stash under the seat, and twisted his head from left to right and back again, loosening his neck muscles.  He was sixty-two, and a tenor saxophone had hung from his shoulders for more than fifty years.
          "Should we go back in and play?"  There was a squeak in Aaron's voice.  He made a few mock rolls with invisible drumsticks.
          Zoot looked at Aaron with a bare vapor of a smile, tolerant of his drummer’s naïveté.            "Why would we NOT go back in and play?"  The marquee lights of the street's clubs and bars glowed on half of Zoot's face, shadowing the other half.  This gave his eye a demonic glitter.  He wet his thumb and forefinger with his tongue and smoothed the hairs of his moustache. 
          "Let me point out something to you, babe,” said Zoot.  “We're professional jazz musicians.  We play music, and we get paid.  Rather nicely, I might add, thanks to my modest fame and the fact that I placed at number eight in Downbeat’s Tenor Saxophone category."  He paused for a moment and said with a trace of gloating, “AHEAD of Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz and Gene Ammons.”  He laughed a ripe and disdainful laugh.  The magazine polls had such appalling power to determine a musician’s pay level.
          Opening the door, Zoot brushed a tiny flake of ash from his tuxedo pants with a dapper gesture, and corkscrewed his six foot three inch frame upright.  The saxophonist made a quick but careful scrutiny of his vehicle.  He circled it, running the flat of his hand along its sculpted façade. There were no bullet holes that he could detect, no scratches.  The hood had resumed its normal shape.
          Tyrone and Aaron squeezed themselves out of the car.  Aaron closed the door delicately, with the barest of clicks, as if he feared the automobile would fall to pieces if he so much as breathed wrong.
            The world flickered.  The young musicians’ hearts raced, their nerves tingled.  They were playing a jazz gig with a famous saxophone player!  Zoot Prestige had apprenticed with Duke Ellington, he’d played with Charlie Parker.  He was a legend.
          Zoot straightened his lapels and moved his shoulders inside his jacket so the garment settled more squarely on his body.
          "That's right,” he added.  “We're hipsters, babe, we stay cool.  We got a paying gig, we play until the club owner asks us to stop or it’s two a.m."   Zoot's voice was like velvet and sand, Scotch whisky and smoke. “Long as the drummer doesn’t get shot.  Gotta draw the line somewhere.  Last drummer I lost was Bobby Beffords, in ’65.  And before that I had a good run, only lost two drummers in six years.  Course, I never had a white drummer before.  Everybody upset about that.” 
          He aimed a gentle look at Aaron, to check that he wasn’t being taken seriously.  His smile was full of irony and play.  He brushed a bit of ash from Aaron’s tuxedo jacket.  It was a tender, paternal gesture.     
          Fourteen drummers had come to audition when Zoot was putting together the band for this tour.  Thirteen of them were black.  Aaron was the third drummer to play.  As soon as he finished the tune, Zoot sent the other drummers home.
          He knew he would take a lot of heat for hiring a white drummer.  Fuck ‘em.  The kid was worth it.
          “Ain’t nothin’ unusual happening here, babe”, said Zoot.  “It’s just another gig, somebody’s old lady got too friendly with somebody else’s old man and things got ugly.”  The tall man shepherded his young friends toward the door of the nightclub.  “It’s human nature.  Why don’t we go inside and play some music to soothe the savage breast?  We’ll lay down some Recalcitrant Funk-itis."
          Zoot had just coined another of his classic nonsense terms.  Recalcitrant Funk-itis now joined the lexicon along with Groove-matic Ubiquity, Heliocentric Hot Sauce and other such crazy combinations from Zoot’s fertile mind.
          Tyrone pulled at his cummberbund to conceal the holes in the crotch of his pants.  The young men followed the urbane figure of their mentor back into the humid noise of Mickey Tucker's Jazz Corner.







Thursday, March 1, 2012

TOTAL CELL PHONE BAN COMING SOON!



         





August 1, 2014


        The proof is in, and scientists have concluded that cell phones do indeed cause brain damage. Governments worldwide have stepped up their efforts to recall wireless devices at specified collection points. 
                This is, of course, a disaster for the communications industry. Accusations of bad faith have been launched at the big companies. The congressional moratorium on lawsuits and refunds has caused riots in American cities.
            Media commercials for cell phones have completely stopped.  The vast airwave dead time will currently be filled with inspirational music by Yanni and Clannad.  
          The Corporations need new products and it needs them fast.  Marketing execs are working at top speed to fill the void.  The most promising ideas are coming from the automobile industry.  Vietnamese conglomerate NGUYENGIAP is preparing a sedan with a fifty two inch FlexVision LED.   The screen and speakers will be seamlessly integrated into the vehicle by expanding the windshield and using software and GPS systems to drive the car without the input of a human being.  A steering wheel can be engaged at speeds below 15 MPH. NGUYENGIAP's design team has apparently pulled off a brilliant coup and finally merged the auto and entertainment industries.

UPDATE: January 2016

            The degree of emotional  shock was not anticipated when consumers were separated from their cell phones.  The most common symptoms are anxiety, rage and feelings of powerlessness.  Therapists aren't doing well in helping millions of shaken souls. Consumers have been going into fugue states.  They look into empty space while their thumbs tremble with greater and greater agitation.  Pfizer Pharmaceuticals is testing a medication to reduce these symptoms.  Consumers are also being provided with dummy cell phones to alleviate the effects of what is now called "Texter Reflex Muscle Memory Syndrome". TRMMS.  Or just "Trims".
            The dummy phones are programmed with several hundred generic messages, such as "See you at home," "Tht ws wild lst nite", "Is he cute?", "Did U DO it?", "Gt any E?", "My parents will be gone tnt", "Did yr doc sign yr pot ticket?", and so forth. These messages are randomly scrambled and appear on the dummy phone screens to provide the illusion that consumers are connected to their friends.  Strangely enough, users of these phones forget this fact and believe nothing has changed, that they are using fully connected phones.  This is now called "Object Belief Dissonance," or OBD.  The therapy has had mixed results, but since the killing of Yanni and the disappearance of Clannad, Pfizer has been given the green light by the FDA to widely distribute the new medication.  It will be marketed under the name Gontwich CR.
           



The GIAP 300SLD hybrid vehicle has sold well.  Unfortunately, the glitches in the  auto-sensors and self-guidance software have  caused "mishaps".  Firmware updates have eliminated 88 percent of minor collisions and 76 percent of fatal head-ons.  Rival designs from BMW and Mercedes are appearing on the market as of this writing.  The Mercedes Double Decker Home Theater Hybrid boasts  a whopping  62 mpg. It also has Picture-In-Picture-In-Picture.  Sales have been good.  BMW has matched this success with its clever Mirror 32ESL.  The vehicle features advanced autopilots and software. There is also a choice between full autopilot and manual driving.  Many consumers enjoy the actual process of driving and guiding a vehicle.  BMW has catered to this market and relegates the Big Screen TV to a cleverly designed rear compartment.  There have  been fewer fatal incidents among drivers of the 32ESL. 
            PacBell and other utilities were hoping for a resurgence of conventional telephone usage.  Unfortunately, the outbreak of the stuttering epidemic has forced utilities to put telephone innovations on the back burner. 
           Such treatments as aversion therapy and immobilizing the thumbs with modified cuffs has only intensified the issue.  Parents of adolescents are still, as they say, "talking to empty space", but statistics indicate there has been a five percent rise in direct eye contact among members of nuclear families.
            Hope always burns high that there will be a return to ancient modes of inter-personal conversation.  Rumors are floating about that Mercedes is bringing back a vehicle with bullet-proof transparent polymer windows that open and close.  Mercedes clings to its vision of a future where people greet other people in vehicles or engage in curbside dialogue.
            All of this turmoil may be history when Nokia introduces the ZeroRad Mini-Phone that has been designed to operate without the use of the dangerous selenium diode and other circuits that ramped up microwave emissions to one thousand times the minimum non-lethal dosage.  
            Nokia employee Jorma Kikkinen, the "whistleblower" who broke the radiation scandal is still being sought by authorities but is feared to have met with foul play.



            

           


The Cat Without A Purr



I can't post this entire story because I am marketing it.   Agents/editors, I invite you to take a look at this
children's story.  It is 5500 words long. The crowdfunding is at 
Indiegogo funding


Photos and text Copyright 2012 by Art Rosch



       

The Cat Without A Purr

Copyright 2014
Art Rosch


                      "Oh no!  ANOTHER cat!"    David said this to himself as he looked at the big furry animal that had jumped over his fence and landed in his yard.         
            In David's neighborhood he was called "The Cat Man" or "Mister Zoo" because he adopted lost and hungry animals. 
          David wanted all creatures to have good homes and plenty of food.  He had six cats, four dogs, a parrot, a guinea pig and a pony.  They all lived in the house except for the pony, who slept under an awning in a fenced patch of grass. He was only about the size of a little boy and spent the day wandering around with the other animals.
            David watched the cat quietly.  The animal was sitting like a king in his garden.  He had long black and white fur.  His ears were torn from fights and there was a scar on his nose.  His paws were so big that David already had a name for him.  He was Paws!
            David knew that trouble was coming.  The wind changed direction.  It carried the smell of a strange animal.  Six cats, four dogs, a guinea pig, a parrot and a pony caught the smell of the new cat.  Their heads turned at the same time, eyes and noses searching for the stranger in their garden.  They saw him, sitting calmly in the middle of a patch of red flowers.
            It was as if someone had blown a whistle to start a race.  Tweet!  All of David's animals went zooming across the yard at top speed, barking, flapping, neighing and hissing.  Attack attack!  A stranger is in our midst!  Drive him away!
          That's how animals treat strangers.  Animals think about food a lot, and strangers might eat their food.  So their first idea is to chase away new animals.
           Paws didn't run away.  The animals came to a sudden stop in a circle around the new cat.  Wait a minute!  What's going on here?  This cat should be running for his life.  Instead he's standing straight and tall and telling everyone, " You don't want to mess with me.  I'm a pretty tough cat."
            Sniff sniff.  Sniff sniff.  The animals circled the stranger, sniffing his nose, sniffing his toes, sniffing his ears and sniffing his other parts.  Paws sniffed back.  In animal language this sniffing is like seeing a movie or reading a book.  The sniffing says everything.  After sniffing, animals aren't strangers any more.  They decide by sniffing who's going to be their friend.
            This time David's animals decided that Paws was going to be a friend.  They  turned and walked towards the back porch, escorting Paws like a super hero.  They let him go up the steps first. The food and water dishes were on the porch.  The pony waited for everyone else to get up the steps and then he followed.  His hooves made sounds like drum beats on the wooden deck.
               Paws was hungry and thirsty.  The animals stood back while the cat drank a long drink, his tongue going "flup flup flup flup."  Then he ate all the kibble in one of the dishes.
            He was a big cat and he was really hungry!
            David went into the house.  The animals followed.  Even the horse went into the house. 
            David had never seen anything like this, never seen his animals make friends so quickly.  They not only accepted the cat: they made him their leader, just like that!
            Paws rubbed against David's legs with his tail going swish swish swish swish.  David got onto the floor and gave Paws a scratch on the ears and a scratch on his tummy.  The cat rolled onto his back while his tail went swish swish swish swish.
            One thing was strange to David.  Paws didn't purr.  David  could tell if animals were sad or lonely.  He could tell if they had made a great journey across mountains and deserts.  Paws was one of those cats who had traveled a long way.  Today he had found a new home!  He should be happy.
            But he didn't purr.  That was strange.  Happy cats purr.  Don't they?
            David was tired from working in the garden all morning.  He went into his living room and sat on his big soft chair.  He was surprised when Paws jumped right onto his lap and looked straight into his eyes.
            "I wonder," thought David, "what stories this cat would tell me if only he could talk."
            It seemed as if the cat heard his mind.  He's trying to tell me his story, David realized.  Paws opened his mouth and said softly, "Yow?.  Myow?"  His voice was gentle, almost too quiet to hear.  It was a sweet voice for such a big tough looking cat.
            I wish, thought David, that I could speak the language of animals.  They could teach me so many things!
            David stared into Paws' eyes.  As Paws said, "Myow?", a light slowly came from his eyes, a golden light that floated like a cloud around David's head.  The cloud became so thick that David couldn't see his house any more.  Instead, he saw people and places, he saw summer and winter, he saw deserts with cactus and high snowy mountains.  He saw good people and bad people.  Then David heard Paws' voice.  Inside the golden cloud, the  cat was speaking to him in a new kind of language, and he understood!  There were words in this language but there were also pictures and feelings.
            "I remember," the cat said, "I remember the first time I opened my eyes.  I was being fed by my mother.  My sister and two brothers and I were drinking milk
and purring.  All I knew of life was a giant purr, the sweet taste of milk and the sound of my mother's heart beating. 
            Mother had given us our names.  These are special cat names that a mother gives to her kittens when they're born.  There is no way to say them in human language.  I may have many names in my life but nothing is more important to me than my first name, the name my mother gave me when I was born.
            As I got older, huge hands picked me up and held me in a warm place where there was a giant heart beat.  My mother told me that these were the family that we lived with.  They gave us names, too.  They called my mother Violet.  They called my sister Fanny, and my brothers, Manny and Lanny.
            My name was Claude.  Don't ask me why.  I thought I might be Danny or Sammy, but someone  named me Claude.  Maybe it was because of my big paws.
            When I was about a month old I found out that I was different.  We had just stopped being a pile of kittens at mama's tummy and were getting picked up by people, one at a time.  The family's kids picked up Manny and I could hear him purring all the way across the room.  Lanny and Fanny didn't have any trouble purring.  It was just me.  When I got picked up, my tail went swish swish, swish swish, but there was no purr.  When we were all together I thought I was purring but now I knew I was different and it made me very sad.  I tried to purr.  I rattled the bones in my throat, blew air through my teeth, wiggled my tongue as fast as I could.  Nothing I tried sounded like a purr.
            My mother was worried.  Late at night she took me to the computer and used her paws to Google the word "purr".  We read all kinds of things, but it seems that no one really knows how a cat purrs.  It just does.  Or, in my case, it doesn't.
            "I'm sorry, little one," my mother said.  "Without a good purr your life might be harder than most cat's lives.  Just swish that tail of yours and you'll find someone to love you."
            I hoped she was right.  Another month passed and Manny found a home.
Then some people came to the house and fell in love with Fanny.  She went away with those people.  I missed my brother and sister but this is the way things are with kittens.  They have to find new homes or pretty soon there will be a hundred cats in the house and in my opinion I would not want to live around a hundred cats.  Not even fifty.  Or twenty.  Two or three is just about right.
            Pretty soon I was the last kitten.  A very nice lady came to the house, smiled at me and picked me up.  I swished my tail as fast as I could. 
            "You are very handsome, little kitten," she said.  I was thinking THIS IS IT THIS IS IT!  Someone will love me and take me home.
            A strange look came over her face.  It was a look I would get to know.  I would know that look on a hundred faces in a hundred places.  It was a look of disappointment.  It was a look of rejection.  That's when someone sends a feeling at you that says, "No, I don't want you!"  That's what rejection is.  And it hurts.  It hurts really bad.
            "What a shame," the lady said.  "He doesn't have a purr.  Not even a little vibration.  I'm sorry but I can't take him.  Who wants a cat without a purr, a cat that can't tell you when he's happy?"
            "I can tell you!", I yowled desperately.  "I swish my tail like this, see?  Swish swish.  Swish swish.  I'm happy I'm happy, see?  See?"
            She didn't see.  She couldn't understand my language.
            The next day my family put me in a box and took me to the grocery store.
The kids sat with me out front.  They had written words on the box: FREE KITTEN.
            People picked me up, stroked me, my tail went swish swish, but always that look came, that look of disappointment and rejection.  The look that said NO I DON'T WANT YOU.  People put me in the box and walked away
            Then a man came along.  He barely looked at me.  He didn't pick me up.  He asked the kids, " I have some mice in my apartment.  I need a good mouser.  Is this cat a good mouser?"        
            The kids didn't want to lie.  They shook their heads kind of up and kind of sideways and said "ummmm, welll....there aren't any mice in our house.  Not a single one."
            "All right, I'll take him" said the man.  He picked me up, tucked me in his jacket and drove me to his place.  I was filled with joy.  At last, I had a new person, I had a home!  It was sad to leave my first family but that's how nature works.  Kittens get adopted.  And now I was too.  I was, at last, adopted by a new person.
            The man gave me food, water, a scratching pole and a box to go in.  Then he went to work and he was gone all day.  The windows and doors were closed.  There was no fresh air.  The place didn't smell good. 
            I was terribly lonely.  The hours went by so slowly that I wanted to cry.
            Then I heard a tiny sound.  I looked under the couch.  A little creature with a pointy nose and a long tail was looking back at me.
            "OH!" It was surprised and almost ran away.  "OH!" I yelped and almost ran away too.  Then the creature took a close look at me.  "Whew, what a relief," it said.  "For a minute I thought you were a mouser.  But I can tell you're not the type.  Right?"
            "A mouser?" I said.  "You mean?  Uh..."
            "See?" the creature said with relief.  "Your mother wasn't a mouser and your grandmother wasn't a mouser and I'll bet your great grandmother wasn't a mouser either.  It runs in the family.  You either are or you aren't.  And you're not!"
            "So", I said,..."I presume that you are a mouse." 
            "That's right, I'm a mouse.  My name is Duke."
            He extended his paw and we shook paws and decided to become friends.  All the rest of that day we talked and played.  When we talked we used the language that all animals use.  It's called Everything Language.  All around the world animals talk to one another in Everything Language.  For some reason, people can't speak this language.  That's sad because if people spoke Everything Language maybe they wouldn't treat us like we don't have any feelings.
            When the man came home Duke vanished under the couch.
            After the man sat down with his newspaper I jumped up on his lap, swishing my tail.  "Hello kitty," he said, "we haven't given you a name yet.  What shall we call you?"
            I rolled over on my back and stretched.  I rubbed my chin on the man's knee.  I was doing everything a happy cat can do.  I was watching the man's face.  I was praying that I would not see that dreadful look on the man's face.
            "What's the matter," the man said.  "Don't you like me?"  There it was, the look that I feared.  If a face could be a door, this one was closing. 
            "I gave you the best food," he snarled.  "I got you a bed and a scratching pole.  Why can't you give me one little purr, to say 'thank you'"?
            "I'm doing my best," I said in Everything Language, which of course the man did not understand.  "I'm swishing my tail!  That says I'm happy, see?"  Swish swish, swish swish.
            The man didn't understand.  At that very moment, Duke poked his head from under the couch and said, "Forget it, dude.  The guy's a total loser.  He doesn't have any friends, he doesn't do anything, he never goes out except to his job.  He just watches TV all the time."
            Then Duke ran scampering all the way across the room and vanished beneath the refrigerator.  Talk about bad timing!
            The man had seen my new mouse friend.  His face turned red, and he picked me up roughly.  "That's it!  I've got a name for you.  Useless!  That's your name!  Useless, Useless, Useless!"
            He opened the door of the apartment and threw me into the street.  The door slammed shut.
            I didn't know what to do.  This was supposed to be my new home.  I had a new friend.  I couldn't leave Duke.  I scratched at the door and cried.  When it opened I thought I had been forgiven.  I was wrong.  The man hit me with a rolled up newspaper and yelled "Get out of here you useless cat!"
            I ran and ran until I came to a place with trees and a little creek.  It was getting dark.  I found a hole in a fallen tree and crawled inside as the night covered the woods like a blanket.  I heard the flapping of owls' wings and the wind whispered through the moonlit branches.  I was so scared that I could only repeat my first name, the name my mother gave to me, my secret cat name.  I said it over and over.
            After a while I was so hungry that I forgot to be scared.  I went back to the place where the man lived.  I saw people putting bags of good smelling stuff into silver cans.  When I was sure no one was looking I jumped on top of one of the silver cans and tried to get food out.  The lid was too tight, so I made the can rock back and forth until it fell to the ground with a big clatter.
            There was food all over the place.  There was chicken, hamburger and cheese.  I was just taking a bite when something came running out of the woods and knocked me backwards so hard that I turned a circle in the air.
            "Who...who are you?" I whispered.  I was looking into a face full of sharp teeth.  They belonged to a creature with a long ringed tail and a black mask over its face.  Behind the leader there were four more of the animals, snorting and growling.  I thought it was the end.  I was done for.
            The animal stood up on its hind feet and puffed out its chest.
            "I am Raccoon Tour," it said.  "And these are my brothers, Raccoon Bob, Raccoon Slob, Raccoon Knob and Raccoon Job.  They are so stupid they wouldn't be able to find their own tails if I didn't help them along."
            Raccoon Tour shrugged his shoulder.  "What can you do?  Family's family, right?"
            The other raccoons muttered "Yeh yeh yeh yeh," as they chased one another's tails.  One of them thought it had someone else's tail but turned out it was its own tail and when it pulled hard, it fell over and yelled "Ouch!  Cut it out!"