UKArchive ID: 22280Wherever I lay my hat by thegeeza
Originally published on September 5, 2008 in Fiction

This is in memory of someone I used to know, although it is fiction. I hope he's okay. 1,940 words.

Suddenly there was a blaze of light and rough hands grabbed my coat, dragging me from my sleep. Everything span around, making me feel dizzy and I felt sick as my head struck the soft and damp earth. I opened my eyes and saw the red lights of a van go out as a cloud of stinking exhaust covered me and choked my young lungs.

I shook my head, stood up and looked around into the night. The van was now distant and the road was otherwise empty. The road was wet. A fox stepped out from behind a tree across the road and stood watching me.

I felt a terrible, searing thirst. I had to satisfy it. I was in a ditch by the road and looked from side to side, not sure where to go. I looked down and saw flashes of white in a moonlit puddle of rainwater. I put my hand into the water and lifted it to my mouth, savouring the feeling of the cool liquid in my mouth. I dropped to the floor and licked and sucked up the water until I felt the slimy texture of mud on my tongue. I stood up and saw the fox still watching me studiously, although he had moved forward into the middle of the road. His orange eyes didn’t move as the car slammed into his side, taking him under the wheels and leaving him laying motionless where it left him.

I watched the car move off and the silence came down once again. I moved onto the pavement and over to the fox, watching for any signs of movement from the road. His guts had spilled onto the tarmac and his jaw was twisted horribly; his tongue, already swollen, hung over his sharp teeth. I looked at his bright eye and saw small strains of red streaking across the shiny surface, out of the corner and onto his fur, glistening in the dim light.

I looked at the broken and bloody flesh and my hunger stabbed and twisted in my stomach. I felt weakness pulling at me, all my joints aching at once. The desire to eat pulsed through my every nerve and sinew. I checked the road again before I put my head down to the fox’s body. I sniffed at the carcass and its smell quickened my heart. I salivated and put my teeth onto a piece of lacerated flesh and held it there. My eyes scanned the trees and bushes and I let my tongue slip into the warm and moist meat. I felt a warmth surge through my cold and tired body as blood and juices dribbled into my grateful core. I tore at the skin and ripped it down to the bone, pulling chunks of dead animal into my mouth and down my throat.

My mouth was dripping with blood when I stopped, aware of many eyes watching from the greenery on the either side of the road. I licked my lips and slowly raised my head from the gaping hole in the side of the fox. I licked them again as I saw movement and heard rustling. I drew back to face the movement but it stopped and everything was still. Something moved from the other direction so I turned to face it. A fox had come out onto the pavement. Two other foxes emerged into my peripheral vision.

A roar and a blinding light engulfed me, so I sprinted away, back towards my ditch, down into the mud, along, up the bank, over a fence, collided into a dustbin and stopped by the side of a house. A dog started barking so I made to go back the same way, before I remembered why I was running. I looked up at the wall next to me and jumped onto it, quietly, without a sound. All was silent.

From my position, I could see the fox was still in the road. Shadows started to move towards it but they scattered in all directions as the light of another car approached. The car stopped and someone got out to look at the mangled body. The person lifted the corpse up at arms length and threw it into the ditch. He shook his hands out, got back in the car and drove away. Mindful of the dog, I stayed on the wall. The light from the house partly illuminated the path and all was quiet.

I watched as the animals started creeping through the darkness towards the ditch. I turned away and looked at a half-open window, the net curtains occasionally blowing in the breeze of the night. I could see activity in the room behind the window, but not clearly enough to see what was going on. If I moved back down the wall, I would be able to see inside. I thought about the dog. I don’t like dogs and they don’t seem to like me either but there could be something interesting to look at through the window. I had to see it. The dog wouldn’t be able to get on the wall and I could miss out on something if I didn’t check it out.

There were two people sitting at a table, drinking wine. They were picking at food that had been laid out on the table on plates. My own hunger came back at me hard. I had not had a good meal in a long time. I thought about my family and how they might be eating and how something as simple as a meal at regular times was such a blessing. I had gone so far away from them, so far that I didn’t know how to get back. The comfort afforded by my family seemed lost. I longed to return, to feel the warmth and love of them and for the food. I missed the food. The hunger became a physical pain as I watched the people putting tasty morsels into their big slavering mouths.

I looked at the distance from the wall to the windowsill. It wasn’t far. If they dropped their guard, I could jump across and quickly get away with something without being seen. I thought about the dog but my hunger dominated the fear of attack. I decided that I would try as soon as the opportunity arose. I stood and waited to pounce.

I watched as they finished all of the food. It was gone, completely gone. They reached across the table and touched noses. The man stood up and pushed the window down. It thudded closed and the curtains were drawn. The food was lost. I waited for the window to open, ready to jump, but nothing moved.

The garden door opened and I froze. The woman was very near as she put a black plastic bag by the door and went back inside. Keys rattled in the lock. The light went out and it was dark again. I jumped down and went to the bag. Perhaps there was food inside? Maybe I could open the bag and get at the food. The hunger was unbearable. I remembered the dog but he must be sleeping. The food would make me feel better, then I could go to sleep somewhere. I could smell food in it. I jumped on the bag and it tipped onto its side. The opening stayed together and nothing fell out. I sniffed at the opening and could smell some kind of meat. I had to have the food. I looked around the garden for any sign of movement and clawed at the bag. It started to give. I pulled at the plastic with my mouth and shook my head to clear it from my teeth. I clawed at the bag and the contents started to spill onto the floor. I stopped and made sure no one was watching or coming to see what was going on. I pushed some cardboard and bits of paper away and saw the meat. I took it into my mouth and bit deeply into it. Divine! I chewed, swallowed and ripped at the contents of the bag some more and ate until I was full.

I realised that my head was completely in the bag! I thought that seemed like fun but I came out backwards and licked my fingers. I drank from a bowl of water by the door and sat on the wet grass. I’d definitely think about trying to find my way home tomorrow, but only after a nice sleep. If another bag was put out like that, what would be the point of going anywhere though?

I remembered the dogs and the foxes and thought it best to sleep behind the bushes, out of sight. As I clambered through the undergrowth, I saw a hole leading into the garden next door. The dog couldn’t follow me there, so I went through it and across the lawn as far away from the dog as possible. There was a gap behind the shed, so I squeezed into it, curled up and went to sleep.

It was morning when my slumber was shattered by the crash of metal. I jumped up and looked around the side of the shed and saw an old man looking at a pile of tools that he had dropped on the floor. An old woman scurried out of the house and barked something at him. He held a hand up in her direction and paid her no attention. With cat-like senses she noticed me. She shouted at the old man who looked everywhere but at me. She pointed and shrieked until he spotted me.

He yelled at me and the woman shouted at him. He had a fat belly and a big hairy moustache. He lumbered at me so I backed up, knowing he couldn’t fit behind the shed. He bent down and his hairy hands swung at me, missing by some distance. I backed away some more until I bumped into something. A dog started barking on the other side of the fence so I spurted forward, towards the man’s hands, dodging them and past him.

I felt my neck being grabbed, quickly followed by my stomach as I was lifted into the air. I saw the old woman’s contorted and gruesome face as she struggled to hold me. She pulled me into her bosom, choking me with perfume. As I struggled to free myself, she was talking at me. I flipped over but her vice-like grip held firm. The old man was looking at us, laughing. The woman was rubbing my head and my back so I stopped trying to move. It felt quite nice. She walked me into the house and I tensed, sensing danger, but the stroking made me feel better. I jumped when the old man turned on the tap to fill a bowl with some water but she held me tightly in her arms, stroking me, talking to me, just like my old family did. He turned off the tap and came towards me. He put it on the floor. She put me down next to the bowl. I looked at each one of them and sniffed at the water. I was very thirsty, so I licked it. It tasted great. The woman started to stroke me again, so I kept drinking. The man put some fish on the floor by the bowl, so I had some of that and was happy when the woman sat me on her lap in front of the warm fire.

It was then that I decided to move in.

The end. (c) Steve Smith. 2008.

© thegeeza (thegeeza on OLD UKA)
UKArchive ID: 22280
Archived comments for Wherever I lay my hat
sirat on 05-09-2008
Wherever I lay my hat
I don't like to be negative but I didn't really understand the point of this one. It was clear almost from the first sentence that the narrator wasn't human. The only interest remaining was to find out what species he/she was. Dog or cat were top of my list. As a cat's eye account it works okay, but the only theme I could extract was the idea of stray cats choosing their owners. Was that it?

Author's Reply:

bluepootle on 06-09-2008
Wherever I lay my hat
I think you've set yourself a really difficult task with this one. It's really a list of events, like a 'night in the life' so there's very little emotion. Combine that with the fact that it's immediately clear that we're dealing with an animal, and I found it quite difficult to become involved in the story.

Maybe if you tackled it in a more emotive way, it might work. But generally I think you've got a hard sell with the first person animal story. It's difficult to find a new take on it.

Author's Reply:
Hi BP - how's it going?
Yes, I thought I'd challenge myself with this. Interesting that yours and the following comments talks about emotion. Do animals have enough emotional thoughts to not make them seem too human? Your point is taken, though. Thanks for reading and commenting. Steve.

Seebaruk on 06-09-2008
Wherever I lay my hat
I liked some of the imagery here, especially at the beginning with the death of the fox. Perhaps the story would work if it was cut down, and as bluepootle said, there is a lack of emotion. Maybe some backstory introduced in small doses would help, about an abusive owner or something similar? The only other suggestion I would have is that some paragraphs are full of sentences of a similar length, which breaks up the flow and makes it read unnaturally. For instance, the paragraph beginning 'I looked at the broken and bloody...'. Splitting some of them up or combining others would help a lot, and keep the reader in the story. hope that helps.

Author's Reply:
I mentioned the emotion in my previous reply. I think you are right about the sentences. Good comments - thanks for that and for reading. Steve.