Monday, January 10, 2011

My solar system for a bed

I close the door quickly against the wall of cold air that threatens to slam its way into the house and then I watch through the window as Murdoch trots over packed snow, sniffing the air as if it were not icy, the ground not frozen. Cold radiates off the door as winter seeps in. Behind me a loud thump and a slight vibration under my feet as Chestnut drops the three-and-a-half feet down from the kitchen to the floor of the entryway after squeezing his well-fed girth through the spindles of the railing.

He slinks across the floor with urgency, making a beeline to where Bear lies curled up on her bed. Time is of the essence, his archenemy could return at any moment.

Chestnut throws himself down on the light yellow and lime green blanket with a kind of gurgling meow, rolling onto his back as though he hasn’t a bone in his stripy orange body then stretching out and rolling some more, rubbing his face against the fabric.

Turning her head in my direction, Bear rolls her eyes up to meet mine, then sighs deeply and returns her chin to rest on her curled paws.

“I know Bear,” I say and shake my head in sympathy.

It seems Bear is always fighting for a spot on her own bed.

“Come on guys,” Morgan said the other day on his way down the stairs to the entryway, “it’s not a life raft.” I looked over the railing to see Bear clinging to the edge of her bed, folded up like a broken umbrella, all twisted and cramped, while Murdoch sprawled out perpendicular to her, his shoulders and head taking up about a third of the bed, his front legs stretched straight out, luxuriating in the heat of the wood stove. Right in the center of it all, like a fat toad ensconced on a lily pad, sat Cleo, her feet tucked in comfortably beneath her spreading patchwork body of gray and orange, eyes closed, purring loudly.

I laughed at the thought of these three in disaster preparedness mode if there ever were a flash flood on our mountain. “Just grab on to Bear’s bed and everything will be fine!”

The analogy is appropriate, I think, because on any given day Cleo is one part beached whale and one part barnacle. But I’ve always thought of Bear’s bed as more of the center of a mini solar system.

If the bed were the sun around which life in our house revolves, Bear would be the Earth, the most stable, agreeable, and life sustaining, while Murdoch, for obvious reasons, would be Mars. Cleo would claim to be Saturn because, clearly, it is the most beautiful, but really she is more like Pluto, complete with identity crisis. Also she is the smallest of the bunch and regularly trolls around at the farthest reaches of sanity.

Chestnut would not be a planet. With his fleeting appearances in the vicinity of the bed Chestnut is more like a comet hurtling through periodically, when the conditions are just right, which is usually when our Mars is traveling very far from this particular sun.

“I’m letting Murdoch back in,” I tell Chestnut, who lolls on his back, front paws in a relaxed curl over his chest, eyes slightly glazed. “You better get going.”

I reach for the doorknob as he watches me and I can see in his eyes an internal battle: “Do I tempt fate today? Does laziness win out over preservation of life?” I turn away and open the door.

“Come here Murds,” I say, and hear the quick thump-thump-thump of Chestnut’s feet on linoleum. Out of the corner of my eye there’s a fleeting streak of orange and in its wake a trail of sparkling cat hair.


  1. Oh you have GOT to post a photo of all of them on the bed 'aka' life raft! LOL!

  2. An enjoyable read, Heather. You see the amusement in this animal world of yours and I find easy delight in your descriptions of that world. For me, it is often your absolutely dead-on perfect metaphors and similes that flesh out these characters and with some economy enmesh me in the fabric of your story. The bed is not just a lime green blanket but a life raft precariously afloat in your entryway; Bear becomes, under the careless pressure of his peers, "folded like a broken umbrella"; Cleo is a"fat toad" as well as a "beached whale" and a "barnacle". These concrete images, quickly bubbling up in the mind,form very distinct pictures and the animals all begin to take shape, to breathe, to think, to talk. In addition, this entry even uses an extended analogy to further that characterization process. The whole bed arena, copiously "peopled" with animals, becomes a solar system complete with spinning planets and dashing comets. A deft touch on your part -the astronomical comparison aptly matches these characters to their solar twins. And, again, the process of characterization is deepened.Yes, it was fun to read.
    Also, that image as prologue is quite good - you squeezed both Bear and Chestnut into a single frame. Hard to do? Or is just a common sight?