A feral cat in a small house makes for a conflict for Beth a good Samaritan.
A good deed gone awry.
It was the smell that hit me first as I opened the door to Mariah’s little house. The stale smell of grease, cat urine and feces brought tears to my eyes. I pulled the front of my shirt up over my nose and got a small whiff of the light floral perfume that was my trade mark. When my nephew Scotty would hug me he’d croon, “Aunt Beth you smell just like yourself”. My little trick only worked for a breath or two. I marveled again how someone could live like this. I hovered on the doorsill debating where to put my foot. The floor was littered with debris; clothes, plates with half eaten food, DVD cases, open jigsaw puzzle boxes with pieces spilling out, towels, stacks of books, and fast food bags.
A blanket covered the couch to hide the rips and tears, a pile of clothes lay in soft mound on one end. The cushions sagged sadly evidence that the frame of the couch had long since given in to the stress of constant use. Mariah lived in that hollowed out space. The remotes to the television were on the coffee table within easy reach along with half filled drink glasses, empty chip bags, fingernail polish bottles, a brush, change in all its denominations and pill bottles. Her pillow lay across the back of the couch. She slept there because the bed was inaccessible.
Once I had tried to help. Everything I had touched in that house had something living under it evidenced by scurrying coach roaches and mouse droppings. Five days later I had twenty bags of trash piled against her front fence for the garbage collectors. The benefits lasted less than a week.
Some kind soul thought it would be a good idea to give Mariah a kitten to keep her company. She was enthralled but barely able to care for herself. The cat became feral in that jungle of debris and soon was nursing kittens in a cave like space under the overburdened bed. After many tears on her part and cajoling on my part I convinced her to let me collect the cat and her kittens from the apartment and take them to the pound. It had to be a day she wasn’t there or it would break her heart. She left to go visit friends for a week and gave me the key to her little duplex home.
I nudged a box of crackers out of the way and stepped into the apartment a cardboard box in one hand and a mesh net with a long handle in the other. I followed the path from the living room into the kitchen. Flour dusted the table top; a crusted mixing bowl, a rolling pin and a jar of grape jelly were evidence of her biscuit making. Pans were piled high in the sink washed only as needed. Mariah cooked like a chef. Cook books, one of her vices, lined every shelf and were piled in corners; Southern Living, Betty Crocker, Captain Fergus's Cajun Fish Fry, 30-minute Recipes, The Great Little Pumpkin Cookbook, The Art of Mexican Cooking and dozens more. The church pot lucks were always risky so I brought her to my house and let her use my ingredients averting the danger of food poisoning or the hidden cock roach in a dish.
I nearly gagged as I passed the bathroom. It was truly loathsome. Fetid brown water filled the perpetually clogged bathtub. Unmentionable bathroom debris was scattered across the floor.
Mariah’s mother hit her on the head with an iron skillet when she was a little girl. The State took her out of the home and put her in girl’s facility. She never made it into the foster care program because of her brain damage. She was indomitable to me.
Clothes spilled onto the floor from the mound on the bed. I set the box down next to an inaccessible dresser. The bright white walls were remarkable blank amid all this chaos. I moved enough clothes to a far corner so I could peer into the darkness under the bed. I heard plaintive mewing.
I kept up a steady, soothing banter, “here, kitty, kitty… sweet kitty…Its okay darlings…I won’t hurt you…here, kitty.” Slowly I reached the net under the bed. I could see their little outlines. The mother cat cowered further under the bed and spit as I got close to her babies. I lowered the net over the first little head and gently drew it out. “It’s okay, it’s okay… easy now.” The kitten became a little ball of incensed fury. I disengaged it from the net and dropped it into the cardboard box. I reached my net in for a second go. The kitten in the box became frantic, the mother was hissing and spitting at me. I nabbed the second kitten and slowly drew it out from under the bed.
As I straighten up a mass of indignant, crazed, mother-instinct driven, feline clawed her way up my legs, chest and face, leaping off my head twisting in mid air ready to do battle again. I stumbled out of the bedroom door knocking over the box with the trapped kitten in it. I was out the front door in seconds. I stood on the porch my heart racing my whole body shaking. I looked down at my bleeding arms and touched the scratches on my face with my trembling fingers.
I disinfected every inch of my body when I got home.
Two days later I let the animal control people into Mariah’s apartment. I waited outside.
This review is being submitted by a student of Dynamic Reviewing. Thank you for allowing me to read and comment on your writing.
My name is Charlie and I saw your story on The Review Request Page.
My overall impressions of your story is one of satisfaction and gratefulness. I'm glad I read Feral. I liked the entire piece.
The word smell might have read stench in the first sentence.
Effectiveness of tone and mood
Pinpointing the tone and mood of your story.
The tone: Shown in the setting was one of depression as seen right from the start in sentences as: The stale smell of grease, cat urine and feces brought tears to my eyes, or The remotes to the television were on the coffee table within easy reach along with half filled drink glasses, empty chip bags, fingernail polish bottles, a brush, change in all its denominations and pill bottles.
The mood of the piece, after finishing reading it, left me in a sorrowful mood. I felt sorry for Matriah and her state of being. I also felt sorry for Beth, as Matriah has landed in her lap to care for, as seen in the line, Once I had tried to help and the determination on Beth's part to rid her place of the cats.
The scene showing Beth reaching under Matriah's bed to capture the kittens found me in a frightened state worrying that Beth might end up in worse shape than she did.
Tense and Point of View
The use of past tense was effective, as well as using the First Person point of view.
The development of the plot [Beth being determined to help Matriah] was seen in the rising action with the continual remarkably intriguing and believable description of the state of cleanliness of the little house.
The desiring to help Matriah as thwarted by her mental state and the filth along with the mouse and bugs she encountered in showing her love for her neighbor seemed to me, to be a clear and effective conflict.
The climax, though excellent and dramatic, and not in need of any real change to make a great read could have been even more climatic. If the cat knocked over a space heater that turned on leaving the house in flames would be one way of making the climax even stronger.
The resolution of the conflict left me a little dissatisfied, but not too much. Maybe Beth, who only sustained scratches, could have contracted rabies from the rabid cat and was cured or died.
Grammar/Punctuation, Typos and Spelling were all good except the word coach [roaches] should have been cock [roaches].
Thank you for sharing your work!