Gaston the Cat-Prologue

In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.

Terry Pratchett
Image source: Pinterest

It was a dark and stormy night. Little Gaston, a waif of a cat with ribs showing through lackluster fur, searched vainly for his Kibbles and Bits. The bastards forgot me again, he sighed. These were famine times and Gaston decided he would have to go out on his own into the dreary witch infested forest of the Swiss Alps and hunt for himself. Ha, Ha, Haaaaaa, he chuckled with a deep yoga-esque front stretch, his tail in a proper question mark position.

Gaston loved a bit of drama. It made his life more interesting. But today he felt more like adventure down by the lake. He hadn’t seen his otter friend Jefferey in a while. He needed a change. The girl, Charlotte, kept him up most of the night. She had a peculiar habit of caterwauling late at night.

She would wail; oh, oh, ohhhh god, repeatedly. His man-bro, Gunnar, tried to hold her down and comfort her, but she kept bucking him into the air like a camel jockey in a high stakes race across the desert. Humans, he thought, who can make sense of what they do? Anyway, I need to get away and have a bit of real cat food feasting. A nice mouse under the house will do. Maybe Ratatouille, the squirrel, will be out looking for a nut and we can have a game of chase. Now that is good exercise for a proper cat, such as myself, Gaston thought.

Now, sitting in the middle of his cat box prepared to purify his soul by dumping a bit of toxic waste, Gaston had an epiphany. What the hell am I doing? he pondered. I can take a proper dump in the wilderness like my ancestors did. Gaston stepped out of the box and flicked bits of cat litter back into the box from his paws. He hated listening to Charlotte complain about his only happiness in this stuffy house.

A good refreshing dump and then a lion like leap away from the spoiled ambiance of his private endeavor was the joy of the day and then comes Charlotte fussing about the mess. What did she expect and besides, his man-bro Gunnar could ruin the whole house with his force-fed vegan diet. Yes, she complained about that too. Females, there is a subject of eternal guess work, Gaston smirked to himself.

Escape was easy. Gunnar had long ago left him an escape hole in the closet with the water heater. The hole where the water pipe came into the house was big enough for him to squeeze through and drop to the ground below under the house where a magnificent mouse meal surely awaited. Gaston stood and pulled the door handle down. He made his way to the hole in the corner and peered down to sniff. Ahh, such a rich aroma; damp earth, wood, and the flinty oder of stone. It smelled like freedom.

Gaston dropped a tad unceremoniously to the ground, looked around to make sure no one saw his awkward landing, and proceeded to hunt with skulking silence and fierce intent. Not really, but it sounded cool to Gaston.

I Remember That Day

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon
Photo by Suzanne Walker on Pexels.com
In flames and rivers of crimson, they lay,
With weary eyes, they saw their fate.
As the chaos of war reached for their souls,
Courage bid them rise and fight that day.
When the battle raged and wounded fell,
Death threw open the gates of Hell,
And good men carried the Brave away.
Remember Our Veterans

Paint Me-10

Gunnar parked by the cabin. It was just turning dark and the nightfall was clear with the lighted horizon behind the mountains reflecting off the snow giving everything a soft blue light. He knocked the sawdust off his coveralls and went inside. He removed his winter clothes and hung them up in the mudroom before entering the living area just like every evening. He stood by the small wood stove and stoked the fire. The heat felt luxurious as warmth crept back into his arms and legs. He drew a hot bath and washed the sawmill out of his skin, hair, and thoughts.

After a good hot bath, Gunnar fed Gaston, who was perky and looking royally indignant, happy to see Gunnar return home. He fixed a stew and pot of spiced tea, placed it on a wooden tray, and made his way up to the loft. The tray rested on the dresser as the room filled with the savory smell of the stew and wisps of spiced chai tea. The rustle of sheets broke the spell of daydreams held in the fading light from the mountains shining through the picture window next to the bed. The woman in Gunnar’s bed felt his warmth against her as his arms encircled her.

She turned into him. The silk shirt his models always wore fell open as she hugged him and mimicked Gaston’s welcoming purr. Gaston cocked his head. She is finally learning, he thought. She lay on Gunnar’s chest and wrapped her arms around his neck to hold him tight against her. She had felt the change in him; a metamorphosis that promised she would no longer have to leave him and reset his mind. He was no longer slow and reserved with his passion. She felt his wildness become a fervor. She had promised herself when he was ready, she would consume him like a forest fire with her love.

“I love you, Char. With every ounce of my soul.”

She held him tight to her as a tear fell from her cheek to his neck. “Let’s eat before it gets cold, and then I have a favor to ask.”

He smiled and whispered through his lips attending to her neck. “Tell me.”

Paint me,” She replied with a sultry smokiness in her voice.

Gaston lifted his head and tail into the air and trotted out of the room. He was a Tom Cat, to be sure, but he was no peeping Tom.

The End

Paint Me-9

It was late. Sari drove as quiet as possible and parked behind the cabin. She walked toward the workshop to see if Gunnar was there. She saw he had replaced the combination lock with a key lock without telling her. Her heart ached at this sign of mistrust. She was a stranger, an interloper to his passion for creativity once again. To lose it all so subtly crushed her. She had lost the middle ground between their fantasy and awareness of each other.

Sari took the groceries she picked up while in town inside and set them on the table. The kitchen light’s amber glow revealed Gunnar had not fixed himself anything to eat. She put the groceries away and crept upstairs. She found Gunnar fast asleep in bed, Gaston curled up beside him. Gaston looked up at her with a sad face. He knew this was not what Sari worked so hard for. 

The sour scent of old sweat, paint, and thinner forced Sari back out of the loft. She went downstairs to the guest room Gunnar had abandoned when they became lovers. She undressed as thoughts assailed her. She had failed Gunnar and herself. There was only one thing she could do now. She had to set him free. She had to let her artist paint.

***

Gunnar got up late the next morning and immediately missed Sari. He saw her clothes were gone and he checked the driveway. Her car was gone too. He fixed something to eat and finished his coffee before going out to the shop to prepare Sari’s portrait for the big reveal at its place by the window. He assumed she went to town for supplies and to wash clothes. Three days later, he was desperate to know what happened to her.

Gunnar drove to town and asked around if anyone had seen Sari. No one had. He called her old number from town each day and got no answer. She had left him as Melancholia left him. Gunnar collapsed inside of himself. Sari’s painting was all he had to hold on to. He secretly hoped she would at least come back for the painting.

***

After a week Gunnar decided he needed a walk in the forest to clear his mind. Mud, mixed with ice, crept across leather boots leaving a track to his favorite overlook. Gunnar stood at the edge and looked at the cliff on the opposite sides where he had shared so many vistas of the lake and mountains.

He noticed an avalanche of stone at the edge of the lake further down where the lake was deepest. He thought how it was prophetic of his grip on life as everything cascaded from his fingertips. He felt the panic and sadness wash over him once again. Melanie was punishing him with memories for deserting her and now Sari joined her.

Gunnar stopped shaving and bathing. He only ate in the middle of the day before returning to his painting. His self portrait and his anguish consumed him. He heard Melanie’s voice pleading with him to join her. He promised her with every brushstroke, he was coming. He continued to paint until anger pushed him away or exhaustion forced him to sleep.

One night, he trudged upstairs to the loft where the bed was left as it was the day Sari disappeared; a tangled mess. He curled up in the dirty sheets and wept until his sorrow banished him to the darkness of his nightmares.

The next morning, a sudsy sponge traveled down Gunnar’s arm with the same care as his brush on canvas. Gunnar carefully washed and groomed himself. He had no intention of spending another day painting after today. He made his coffee and delighted in how rich and smooth it was. He smiled at Sari’s portrait and stood for some time admiring his work. Finally, he captured the beauty he saw in her face.

Gaston sat respectfully a short distance away and listened to Gunnar’s soliloquy. Well, it wasn’t Lion King, but it would do.

“I’ll love you for eternity. I never knew how much I loved you until you left me, and then I mourned your absence every day. I hope you know how much I’ve missed you. I won’t paint anymore. I’m going back to my job down at the mill. I didn’t know how selfish my obsession was. I didn’t know how the pain that drowned me in pigments and oils replaced your warmth with a cold canvas. The world and I denied you the love you needed most, and I know that’s why you left me. Please forgive me. I’ll go now. I just want you to know, you will never leave my heart.”

***

Gunnar walked to his truck and drove to his favorite hole in the wall restaurant. They made a massive hamburger and had craft beer on tap to wash it all down. He needed that right now. A waitress came by looking pensive, almost reluctant. She stopped, drew a breath, and engaged Gunnar.

“Hi Gunnar, how are you?” She said in a soft voice.

Gunnar looked up. The voice, her face, everything about her was familiar.

“Don’t you remember me. You’ve known me forever.” She added, more courage and determination came through.

“I, you, you look so familiar. He drew an audible breath. He could not bring himself to say who she looked like to him. He knew he was having another one of those waking dreams. He didn’t trust himself anymore.

“Remember the walks by the lake and the otters. You once told me that the lake never gave up its dead. Do you remember? My favorite was when I cut your hair outside overlooking the scenery and you told me that nature was the path to a peaceful existence. I understand now, what you meant.”

“Melanie”, Gunnar gasped.

She sat down next to him and grasped his hand. “No baby, not Melanie or Sari. It’s Charlotte. It has always been Charlotte. You called me . . .”

“Char, is it really you?”

“Yes, baby.”

Paint Me-8

Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey.

Lord Byron

The millwork paid well. Gunnar’s body and mind responded well to physical labor. Hard work made him hungry, and he looked forward to the joy of a hot meal and Sari’s companionship. She kept him always striving to catch up for those missing years that rarely crossed his mind anymore.

Proper use of time alone at the cabin and their steady income gave Sari a chance to build her dream home with Gunnar. They now had gas heat for the house and hot water. A spring feed water cistern up the hill provided all the water they needed. Soon they would start on the garden house and workshop. She enjoyed starting seedlings of herbs, vegetables, and flowers to get ready for the Garden.

When the summer sun lifted above the mountain peaks on weekends and the long days of summer after work, Gunnar was laying down the foundation of the new workshop. He did most of the work with hand tools, swinging a broad ax to square up the timber, pulling the draw knife to shave off the bark and rough spots. His triceps looked like knots of cordage as he cut the lumber to length with the bow saw. He sweated in the sun, oblivious to the heat as he focused on the perfection of every detail.

On an impulse, Sari talked him into letting her cut his long hair and trim his beard to help keep him cooler. She worried he’d pass out from sunstroke long before he realized he was in trouble. He relented, and Sari set up a chair outside where Gunnar could look at the lake while she cut his hair. “The beauty of nature is the path to inner peace,” he told her as his hair fell to the ground and on the cloth thrown over his shoulders.

When she was done, the long scar on his head was visible. She felt it often while they devoured each other under the sheets. She could see the wound which robbed him of who he was before and set the path for what he had become. At that moment, she felt overwhelmed by emotion and held his head to her breasts and tried in vain not to sob.

“Why are you sad?’ Gunnar asked.

“I’m not sad, I’m crying because I love you, Sari replied, smiling through the tears and roughing up his short hair. You don’t look like my mountain man anymore. You look like a gentleman coming to steal my heart.”

“Was I successful?” Gunnar asked in a playful tone.

Sari looked over at Gaston twitching his tail, a compassionate smile on his face. “I’d like to think I put up a good fight at first, but Gaston thinks I was a pushover for your charm,” She replied.

“Gaston has always been an insightful cat,” Gunnar laughed.

***

The workshop was finished before the early fall returned to the mountains. Life had become a routine of work to sustain their lives together. Routine breeds boredom and Gunnar was unsettled by the neverending chores to support their happy life. He wanted more than working to live. He needed another challenge he could sink his wandering mind into. He had to keep moving or he would sit down and not move at all.

The workshop swallowed up Gunnar’s time more and more. Sari took long walks on the paths around the lake photographing the animals, especially the otters, and harvesting wild plants for food and medicines. They drifted away into separate lives before either of them noticed.

Sari worried constantly. He was painting again but would get angry if she tried to see what he was doing. Gunnar had shut her out. One especially colorful sunset caused the warm colors of fall light to stream through the window where she had played out her role as Gunnar’s model as he painted her portrait. She sat on the bench and rubbed Gaston’s back until he purred. She realized just how much attention Gunnar had given her in those days. Maybe he needed to see her in the light again, brush in hand.

Gaston bit Sari on the hand to remind her to keep petting his favorite spot. “You are such a naughty boy. I think that’s why I like you so much.” The two friends trotted off to the kitchen for some comfort food and reflection together.

***

White pigment glistened on the tip of the sable brush as eyes stared back at their creator, accusing Gunnar, and punishing him for the dirt in his soul. The soft hum of Sari’s pleasure – her eyes, mocked his anguish. A faltering rush of air from his lungs turned to heaves that burned in his chest and clouded his eyes. It was just too much. The portrait finished, Gunnar put down his brush. He sat for a long time and admired the painting. His mind played back those days he had been so energized and aware of every nuance of Sari’s body as he painted. They had both traveled far from those days together.

When the last touches of paint dried, Gunnar decided to unveil it. It was time to reclaim the woman of his dreams, the one that had given him a good life and allowed him all the time he needed to himself to do those things he most loved. He decided to take her to town and have a good time. When they returned, he would give her the painting she asked for and waited all this time for him to complete.