Caught Out

Renn always worried. He worried about something, trivial or not, almost everyday of his long long life. A life so far of over a thousand winters, but now he really had something to worry about. “I am hardly myself”, he thought. “ I am but a wind-fell weak branch. There is little magic left in me now, but I shall be a stubborn old stump.”

He was never powerful, or even regarded as clever in the wide and intricate realms of Queen Mab Kingdom. His kind were once many, and fiercely loyal to The Fey. The power and magic of Dryads was deeply knotted twisted within the trees. Oak was strength and Ash offered wisdom, but Renn dwindling tribe, still kept the oldest ways of Faerie. Rowan was Renn’s tree, the one wood of magic, the wood of his bond.  Now in a time of fewer trees, nymphs had been brought low. When sap no longer flows, natural magic dies.

He was weak, capable of only  simple, small spells. Once he could wildly shifted-shapes with ease, now he could only manage small creatures, nothing massing more that five or six kilos. For centuries he won his way artfully by theft, impersonation, and deceit. And now, he was reduced to beg. He went back-door to back-door trying shapes that might gain him a meal. He found these humans he once tricked with ease took no interest in his well being when he assumed aspects of  marten, stout, pocket-bagger, or raccoon. Of the simple forms he had taken in the past, only strayed house cats gained some small degree of charity in this place, once forest, now bland domesticated lands.
He felt cold and weaker still as the seasons changed. The few remaining trees slowed for winter’s sleep.

Luckily Renn found his benefactor, or benefactress to be more accurate in Marguerite. She was a small elderly woman whose small elderly home was thankfully beneath several mature Oaks so Renn could summon strength and and inspiration there. He appeared over several days as different cats – charming, curious, hungry cats, each in need of a meal. For his own amusement he added a unique personality to each, one affectionate, one timid, and one so rude and bold! Marguerite had a loving heart, but spending so much of her time cataloguing the districts wild flowers, pressed during summer months, left her with little imagination for the naming of cats. Particularly the bland variety of cats that Renn could barely manage in his weakened state.  She called him in turn “Marmalade”, “Snowbell”, and “Tiger.” Kindly she spoke with each, complementing them in the manner  that cats so love.

Often she would reminisce aloud about a Tuxedo Cat, her dearest companion of many years who had passed. He was a fine cat and her dearest friend. They took leisurely walks together, though he might insist on being carried for the return leg. Evenings they would read by the open hearth, or play cards (they both cheated outrageously). Afternoons they might garden. He destained getting his white paws dirty, so helped for his part by reading aloud to Marguerite the books they both held dear.
She loved those summer afternoons, listening to his small high voice reading “Pride and Prejudice” or  “Wuthering Heights.”  His own taste ran more towards poetry, but “Paradise Lost”  hardly seemed something for the casual work of gardening. Most of all, they found great comfort in the pleasure of one-another’s company over the years.
Marguerite was concerned about the health and well-being of her visitors, now her friends. On her pension-petite, as she called it, one cat would visit the Veterinary Clinic per month to insure their continued good health, but who should be first?  Fate would decide, she thought. “Who ever I can pop-into a pillow case today, will go first.”

Renn was adorable and cuddly,  comically overplaying “Marmalade” when the fabric closed around him. Weakened as he was, all he could do was tussle and hiss while his mind spewed curses and spells. He changed through every form he could remember, hoping to locate his small sharp sword in the possession of one. But it was no use and finally he drowsed.

A strange voice woke him “ Well, yes Mme., let us take a look at this fine chat-in-a-sack you have brought.”  Renn panicked! What had he been? Often he slept as a hedgehog rolled into a spiny ball, but that couldn’t be right!  Frantically he tried to snatch an image from Marguerite’s thoughts!  A cat! Yes a cat of course! In a wink he changed just as the cloth was unknotted! Margarite caught her breath with surprise. It is the miracle for which i have so long hoped, she thought. Renn smiled to himself and purred with satisfaction as she scooped him into her arms. He admired how striking his black and white paws looked, set against Marguerite’s lavender velveteen collar. She trembled with joy and holding him close she lovingly whispered, “Boots,…. you’ve come back.”

by-Doug Mathewson

Still Hazy About Hazels

So this guy was named Philbert or something, I said.

That Filbert, what a nut!, You exclaimed.

Who’s Philbert? Your moron boy friend asked.

No no, it’s just a joke!, You declared.

Your idiot boyfriend didn’t believe you, I saw.

He squirmed and simmered uncomfortably,

(the mention of another man),

you enjoyed it, I shook my head

by – Doug Mathewson

A Day In The Life

This piece was written for the Creative Soup Project instalation “A Day in The Life” which I was very happy to participate in. The rest of this project may be viewed at:

Every fall at some point I re-stick all the stickie notes on my fridge. I had a little time before work and wanted to get it out-of-the-way-as-they-say. Some notes could go, even ones I’d had up for years. “Fix eight-track player in VW bus” no longer carried the urgency or relevance it once did. Same goes for “Arturo, cat feed.” Do I know an Arturo?, or is Arturo the cat? I can’t seem to bring either one to mind. Other notes will stay as they have for many years, Duct tape, even the new clear duct tape, looks forlorn and haphazard in the kitchen so I don’t use that. I thought of fiber-glassing over my oldest notes, but what if I needed a new refrigerator? The doors would surely not interchange. 3-M dry-mount adhesive spray from the art-supply store works well on these tattered missives. I may need my many notes with their cryptic amendments. “Write great book! (one that makes sense this time) and get rich! (explore more on how to…), those two had to stay. I needed room for something new.

One of the daily papers ran a photo of President Elect Obama hugging a young Iraq Veteran in a leaf strewn Park. She would have been on tip-toes to meet his embrace as he bent to meet hers. But she had no toes, or legs. Two carbon-fiber replacements were clearly visible between her warn flat shoes and her thrift store coat. Barack’s expression showed such a depth of compassion. His eyes, the set of his jaw spoke of his understanding, and of his intense resolve.

The picture is now eye level on my fridge. It’s like a book-mark, a kind of place holder. It reminds me where I left off yesterday in my revived commitment to be a empathetic and compassionate person. That’s more important, I think, than all the rest. Including the problematic Arturo, who might or, might not, be a cat.

by-Doug Mathewson