Friday, 19 June 2020 09:06

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Why I Write.

By Kathy Low

I am an introvert. Growing up, I was always told, in order to get ahead, I had to be more assertive and to speak up. Our society rewards extroverts but views introversion as a personality flaw. All the successful and beautiful people on TV and social media are outgoing and boisterous. All the popular kids in school are extroverted social butterflies. In the workplace, it is all about networking and getting in front of the right people. I envy the eloquent public speakers who can capture the hearts of their audiences. From time to time, I would summon up enough courage to speak my mind or mingle in a party full of strangers. All these endeavors, however, would leave me emotionally drained. Eventually, I accepted my introversion just as I accepted my myopia.

A few years ago, a friend recommended the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It turned my life around. The author argued that Western culture wrongly undervalued the personality traits of introverted people with sound research and examples. This gave me validation that I am not flawed. God just created me with a special quiet power. Since then, I have embraced my introverted personality and let it chart the course of my life. Looking back, I would have chosen a much different career path if I had appreciated my quiet personality.

Months before my son went off to college, I started looking for a new hobby to fill my time when he leaves. I have loved reading murder mysteries sine I was a young girl. I credit my Mom for instilling in me the love of books. I used to daydream that I could write murder mysteries like Agatha Christie. With my introvert self now free to lead the way, I decided boldly to try my hands at writing.

Writing is a solitary activity. I find I can express myself without stressful person to person interaction. Moreover, writing my thoughts is less intimidating than speaking them. It is no surprise that I have always preferred email and text over phone and face to face conversations. Researching and planning a novel is stimulating. Creating imaginary characters and to see them come alive is fun. Although I know it will take me a lifetime to master the craft of writing, I am excited for the challenge.

During this crazy coronavirus pandemic time, I find poetic justice when I see my extroverted husband climbing the walls because Governor Newsom would not let him play golf, while I am at my happy place, in isolation, re-reading all the Miss Marple books and writing my first murder mystery.

 

Coral’s Gift

By Judith L. Levine

Coral felt the pull of one nursing baby, then another. Despite her efforts to wean them, they still came to her, especially when she lay in the warm sun that brightened a patch of rug. Their two tiny bodies had her own white and muted orange coloring and the distinctive black spots on her head and back.

Her lady was talking to that thing she called a phone. Usually Coral didn’t listen, but her ears perked up when heard her own name.

“Coral’s been weaning her babies for a few weeks. With Brian over in Iraq, I can’t afford to keep them. You know anyone who wants gorgeous kittens?” Coral’s lady, whose name was Liza, waited for an answer.

Coral did, too. She dreaded losing her babies. She’d been hoping it wouldn’t happen this time. Not these two who were sucking now, and not the other two, romping between the living room and the sun porch. She licked the one Liza called Piggy because he was always eating. But Coral knew he often wanted sanctuary, not milk. He would hate to leave her.  

Squeaky was sleeping now. Coral’s tongue cleaned him, paying special attention to his beautiful face, then licked Piggy and herself. When she finished, she heaved herself to her feet and went to supervise the other two. Liza had people-names for them,  but Coral like to think of them as her explorers, Christopher and Amerigo, names she’d learned when Liza told them to a girl in this very room.

All right, Coral. Stop ruminating and get down to business. If you don’t want to lose your babies, you’re going to have to find a hiding place. She padded around on silent feet, peering behind chairs and the sofa. Were the kittens small enough to fit under the furniture? No, not in this room.

Keeping her claws retracted so they wouldn’t click on the bare floor, she crept silently . Bathroom, kitchen, mud room. No safe place anywhere. No point in investigating her lady’s bedroom. Liza’s bed and dresser and Brian’s chest were solid right down to the floor. Shoeboxes covered the closet floor.

For days, Coral kept her eyes wide and her ears alert. As long as the kitties continued to nurse Liza wouldn’t take them away, so she often flopped down near where they were tumbling, or she licked one awake. Piggy, at least, would always come to her and suck.

But one day, Liza had a visitor, a harsh-voiced, gray-haired woman with clacking heels and abrupt hands. When Liza asked which kitten she wanted, Coral held her breath. No. Please don’t. The woman looked as horrified as Coral felt and left soon after.

But the next time, a younger woman visited. One of her kids smelled worse than the cat box when Liza forgot to empty it, which didn’t happen very often, thank goodness. He wrapped fat little fingers around Amerigo’s tail and yanked.  Coral’s poor baby howled, whipped around, and scratched the little boy. Coral hissed and growled and screamed. The boy’s mother snatched both children and rushed out, while Liza lifted Coral with gentle hands, brought Coral’s face close to hers, and whispered, “It’s okay, honey. They’re gone.”

That night, in the moonlight, Coral prowled again, more anxious than ever. She herself  had been taken from her mother to a place called a pound. She’d lived in a stinky cage in a big noisy room with lots of crying animals until Liza came, looked at all the cats and then handed the man behind the counter some pieces of greenish paper. Liza’s house, with its food smells and the breeze coming in the window—and Liza herself—was so much nicer than the pound.

Oh, how she didn’t want her babies in a cage! And what if a cruel person bought them? All night she searched for a way out. Far away, a cat yowled, and she thought of Gus. Christopher looked just like him. Gus had wandering privileges, and he knew things She wished she could see him again., but Liza kept the cat door locked since the babies came.

Suddenly, Coral froze, remembering something Gus had told her. On a  summer day he had wandered down to the creek. He’d been sunning himself on a big flat rock when some big boys came along carrying a cloth sack. The sides of the sack were moving, and mewing sounds came out. “It was kittens,” he told her. “And those murderers threw them in the water, and then the moving stopped.”

Thinking of it made Coral’s stomach hurt. She would scratch and bite anyone who tried to put her babies into a sack. Anyone. Even Liza. Yes, she would. She couldn’t sleep all night. She wished she could talk to Gus again, but she hadn’t seen him since that last night he visited.

Over the next several weeks, Liza talked to the phone again and again, but nobody came. The kittens hardly ever nursed anymore, even Piggy. Coral watched the sun set and rise, wondering each morning if this would be the dreaded day. She couldn’t eat. Her milk dried up. Then, one day, Liza’s friend Maggie sat on the sofa with both Christopher and Amerigo in her lap. Loud purring came from both of them, and they licked her, That nice lady patted Coral’s head and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll bring your babies back to visit you, Mommy,” and held them near. Oh, no. She’s taking them away. Sadly, Coral licked them goodbye. She would miss them so much, but Maggie would be a good lady for them. If they had to leave, Maggie was a lucky choice.

But one day, a man came carrying a cage like the one in which she rode to the vet, and Coral’s heart stopped. She hovered anxiously, rubbing against Liza’s legs as the man talked. She heard him say, “wife” and “wheelchair” and “lonely” and  “cheer up.” Coral knew cheer up. And lonely, too. Liza always said Coral cheered her up when she was lonely for Brian who was fighting in a war. She didn’t know war, but cheering up made Liza smile.

Coral rubbed against the man’s legs. His wife needed Corals’ babies. If they went with him, they would be helpers. She meowed, “You can bring both of my kitten to your wife.”

The man said “Thank you.”  He said the words to Liza, but Coral knew who really gave the present.                                                                                                        

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