The Mental Militia Forums

Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
Pages: [1] 2 3 4   Go Down

Author Topic: The Woman Who Hitchhiked With Cats  (Read 30446 times)

George Potter

  • Guest
The Woman Who Hitchhiked With Cats
« on: December 20, 2005, 10:06:34 pm »

The Woman Who Hitchhiked With Cats

by George Potter

(for Claire and Sharon and all the other daughters of Columbia.)

1.Leaving Song

Rides happen.

She didn't know where she was going or what she was looking for, and was only certain of that basic fact of forward motion. That, for the moment, seemed good enough.

She was a thin, slight woman with terrified eyes, and she looked so out of place walking down the side of the road with her thumb out that most drivers avoided her unconsciously. Her dark hair was drawn up in a tight bun, and she wore a knit cap. She was swaddled in an oversize Army jacket in faded camo and baggy jeans over three pairs of sweat pants. She wore three pairs of socks beneath hiking boots that remained a full size too large, so she had stuffed them carefully with newspaper. Her sex and size was thus disguised with this armor from the Salvation Army. In her right front pocket rode her only weapon, a six inch folding case knife that she had stolen from the place she once called home and a man that she had once loved and called her husband.

Almost twenty hours since her last ride, and a solid thirty miles farther west, a car finally responded to the signaling thumb and pulled over. It was an old car, a boat, and the large block engine that powered it pulsed reassuringly as it puffed thick white clouds of carbon monoxide from the tailpipe.

As she moved toward it, the fear rose up. Fear of rapists and crazy men. Fear of the compromised position that riding in the passenger seat across from a stranger placed her in. But the tingling pain of frozen hands and face fought with the fear and beat it into submission. She put her hand in her pocket, squeezed the knife for reassurance, opened the door and sat down.

Involuntarily, she sighed as the warm air closed around her. The heater was on high and the car smelled pleasantly of pine with a vauge hint of upholstery shampoo. She turned and faced her benefactor, trying to keep the wariness from her eyes and failing.

The older woman smiled, nodded, and got them back onto the road. A few moments of silence passed, then:

"What's your name, my dear?"

"Faith." she lied.

The older woman raised an eyebrow and smiled again. "Well," she said "that's not an important truth."

The woman who was not named Faith swallowed past a dry throat. But that smile was genuine enough, and both the eyes and tone were kind. And, more importantly, she was warm for the moment and moving at a fast clip towards her unknown goal.

"Where are you headed?" was the next question, as if that last thought had been spoken aloud.

"West." Faith replied, truthfully enough. "Just west."

The driver nodded as if this made perfect sense, as if she picked up strangers wandering towards general compass points every day.

"I can't take you far." the driver told her. "But every mile helps, does it not?"

Faith nodded. Suddenly she felt the urge to explain herself, to tell this stranger everything. Why she was running, who she was running from, the cloudy mystery of where she was going.

The driver laughed. "No need, my dear. That is another unimportant truth. At least for the moment. What is important is that you understand the why of things. Why you are leaving. Do you understand that, at least?"

Faith paused. Then nodded. She did.

The driver nodded back, amiably enough. "Perhaps a man beat you. Perhaps he did other horrible things. Perhaps that was not even the worst of it. Perhaps the worst of it was those long stretches where he did nothing. Those long stretches of peace that turned to dread and..."

Faith  stared at the driver with eyes that threatened tears. A bizarre sensation swept through her, a feeling of vibrating. The world outside the car, moving past them, seemed to haze over and cloud. The vibration reached into her body and set up a sympathetic trembling.

"I apologize." the driver said, quietly. "I overstepped my bounds."

The sensation was subsiding, but Faith remained uneasy. "I feel..."

"You feel the leaving song, my dear. More accurately, you sing the leaving song. You are not running from something, child. You are not leaving anyone. You are running from everything, and leaving everything."

Faith stared. Crazy, she thought. Just a crazy old lady.

"But...enough." the crazy stranger said. "Ten miles ahead is a restaurant that serves a fine soup and delicious sandwiches. You are hungry, aren't you?"

Faith's stomach growled in agreement.

The driver chuckled. "Until then, enjoy the warmth. There will be other rides, but you must remain wary, child. Promise me."

Unsure of what else to do, and seeing no harm in it, Faith did so.

The driver seemed satisfied. Guiding the car expertly with one hand, she reached into a compartment between them and brought out a bill. She reached it to Faith, without making eye contact. "Please take it." she said. "You will need it."

« Last Edit: June 20, 2007, 12:48:04 am by Gloryroad »

George Potter

  • Guest
Re: Test
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2005, 10:12:07 pm »

Faith began to demur, when the driver turned her gaze back. There was something in those eyes. Something that caused the vibration to return. Something that made refusal impossible. She took the bill, with a hand that surprised her by remaining steady.

A few minutes later they arrived at a lonely wooden building by the side of the road. Lights blazed out into dusk from two windows and the smell of soup hung thick in the air.

As Faith left the car the driver spoke a final time.

"When you began to hear the song, child -- was it in a dream?"

Faith hesitated. Then nodded.

"And what was the dream about?"

Faith sighed, feeling silly but compelled nonetheless. "I dreamt of my father's gun." she said.

"A good portent indeed." Those eyes flashed, and she sounded amused. "Make me a final promise, please.

Faith touched the money now curled around the knife in her pocket. What harm could there be?

"Listen for the cat." the driver told her. "He's looking for you, and he's a wily creature, but synchronicity is far from certain. Promise."

Faith did so, trying rather weakly to convince herself that this was simply a harmless madwoman asking for meaningless promises. But those eyes wouldn't let her, nor would that vibrating sensation that had now sank deep into her, barely discernable but defiantly there.

Before she closed the door, Faith asked a question of her own.

"What's your name?"

The older woman cocked her head. She gazed at Faith for a long moment.

"My friends call me Char." she said, simply. "And I must go. I have appointments to keep."

Faith thanked her and let the heavy door swing shut. The big car rumbled from the gravel parking lot and roared away down the road. East, back the way they had came.

Faith pulled the bill from her pocket and started. It claimed to be a 40 dollar bill, and boasted a portrait of a strange man with blank eyes and a disturbing smile. In all other respects, however, it appeared real.

Just a crazy old lady after all.

But, having no other options -- and less than two dollars in change -- she entered the warm restaurant and ordered the soup of the day and a roast beef sandwich. To avoid a possible bad scene, she offered to pay in advance with the strange bill. It was accepted by the bored looking cashier without a blink and she was given thirty-four dollars in change in equally odd smaller bills.

She was too tired and hungry to worry for the moment. She sat down and ate, and enjoyed the warm atmosphere of the otherwise empty restaurant.

The soup and sandwich were as delicious as promised.

George Potter

  • Guest
Re: Test
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2005, 10:12:52 pm »


Fatigue insists.

 She slept that night in a drainage ditch a mile or so up the road from the restaurant, belly full and with a pocket of strange currency. She had in mind breakfast the next morning before resuming her westward trek.

She found a worn and suspiciously dirty wool blanket in the trash outside the restaurant. An odd and lucky coincidence to be sure, but it had been and odd and lucky day. 

The almost mile she walked did her in. She wrapped herself in the blanket, snuggled up under a rough overhang, and tried to relax.

She was exhausted, but her mind was keyed up and seemed to cycle over the strange happenings of the day. One part of her seemed to want to drift into the past and re-examine old horrors, the way a tongue wants to probe the grisly edges of a shattered back tooth. With an act of will, she refused to let that happen.

Instead, she dug into her pocket and removed the knife. With it came one of the strange bills. In the bright moonlight, she examined it.

At least it was a normal denomination -- a five. But the similarity ended with the number. Rather than a smug and classic presidential portrait, there was a stylized dog. Quite a handsome one, in a pose of intent watchfulness. She smiled at it, because it appeared to be a mutt. She recognized the sleek head of a Doberman and the muscular chest and shoulders of a Rottweiler. Something about the haunches spoke of the grace of greyhounds, and the tail was a docked stub pointing in the unmistakable attentiveness of a spaniel.

She yawned and the bill grew indistinct before her eyes. She replaced it. Then she snapped open the knife and held it carefully, pointing away from her body.

So armed, exhausted, and in the silent light of the creeping moon, she slept.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2007, 12:48:58 am by Gloryroad »

George Potter

  • Guest
Re: Test
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2005, 10:13:52 pm »

In the dream she was being swallowed by the past, and it was a painful process.

She was bound again to the bed and she could tell by the raucous voices in the living room that this was a night her husband had decided to share with his friends. The fear and hate and disgust welled up and threatened to overwhelm.

The suddenly she was a child again, opening the closet door. There, where it had always hung, was her father's gun. The big gleaming cannon in the worn leather holster. She had only seen him use the gun once, when three raving drunks broke their door down. Her father had stood placidly in the center of the room until they smashed the door from its hinges and staggered in. Then he carefully and quickly shot them down. She remembered them falling like pins in a trick shot, how sudden and effective it was. They died with laughter on their tongues.

"It's all right now, sweetheart." he had told her then. "There are bad men in the world, but daddy will protect you from them." Then he'd put on his hat and coat and drug the bodies away, and did something with them.

She had believed that, in the way only small children can. She believed it so well that when she was feeling scared or nervous for some reason all it took was a glance at the gun in the closet to calm her.

She must never touch it.

But it came to her that she was not a child, and that her father had been dead ten years, and she was bound and roped and raped just a blink away and..

...and this wasn't her father's gun after all. It looked different now. Similar, but smaller. Meaner looking.

My gun, she realized.

She took it, unsurprised by the way it fit her hand, and stepped back across the blink. She walked quickly past her own bound and degraded form to the door. She kicked it open in a fluid motion and -- aiming by instinct and rage -- shot the four men she found there. She saved her husband for last, and smiled at him.

They fell like trick pins. She let out a howling laugh that...

George Potter

  • Guest
Re: Test
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2005, 10:14:58 pm »

...seemed to follow her up from sleep and meld into a yowl of pain.

Reality startled her and she reacted, stabbing out with the knife. Her jabs failed to wound the dark empty air.

She looked at the knife in her hand. Stupid, she told herself. One night you're going to stab yourself in the leg.

The yowl came again, and froze her. Not a part of the dream then. It came again and she shivered. It was unmistakable; an animal in pain and distress.
A few moments of that pitiful sound was enough to vanish fear of the dark and the warm inertia of her bundled self. She got up and moved as quietly as possible towards the noise.

She found the source a few minutes later, thirty or so yards away from the ditch. There stood a solitary post that bristled ugly with strands of rusting barbed wire, just where the thin shrubbery along the roadside gave way to a flat expanse of field.

Tangled miserably in the strands was a large, grey, strikingly ugly cat. When it saw her it broke from the song of misery, as if being caught in such a way was mostly a matter of embarrassment. Both legs were caught, in a way that had them snagged and re-snagged by several strands of the wire.

Two liquid green eyes stared at her. Wasn't me yelling lady, they seemed to say. Must have been some other cat.

A fierce knowledge glittered in those eyes. Knowledge of what she did not know, but the fact of its presence was certain.

She sighed, knowing what she had to do. The cat let her approach amiably enough, but that peace was quickly shattered.

It was a horrible few minutes, that seemed to last weeks. She had no recourse but to slice cat flesh from wire, and the cat had no recourse but to fight the crazy bitch attempting to free him. Three minutes, perhaps -- a whirlwind of blood and mutual pain and mutual screaming. For every barb she freed it seemed the cat's thrashing sank another deeper, and it retaliated fiercely with claws and -- once, very memorably -- teeth that somehow managed to pierce all four layers of pants and take a sizable chunk out of her left buttock.

George Potter

  • Guest
Re: Test
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2005, 10:15:34 pm »

Then, suddenly, the cat was free and bounding away, and her knife broke as she slipped and drove it against the post.

She stared at the broken blade, furious. "You stupid goddamn animal!" she screamed. She grabbed a stick and chased the offending beast, taking huge clumsy swings that the cat dodged easily. A few swings were all she could manage, and exhaustion left her out of breath, panting on her knees.

The cat was gone.

She laughed then, at the insanity of the world and herself. About scars earned for good intentions. How a little cat in a huge field could find such danger. How the simple decision to walk away could make the world so weird.

She laughed until it turned to sobbing, then sobbed until she felt better.

When she made her way back to her bed, she was unsurprised to find the cat there. He was placidly cleaning his wounds. He looked up at her. Some temper you got there lady. What took you so long getting back?

"Ok." she told it. "Fine. At least you'll be a heat source. Goddamn animal."

But she was pleased, deep down. The road was a lonely place, and silent companionship beat out no companionship. Her bed heated up quicker with two, and the cat's rumbling purr against her chest was an oddly comforting sensation.

The broken knife vexed her still. It had been her only weapon. Now she was reduced to hands and feet and teeth. An image of the gun from her dreams came to her, and she thought an idle thought:

Tomorrow I'll look for my gun.

It calmed her. She slept like a rock, and the dreams that tried to come were chased away by a pair of green eyes that glittered knowingly in the dark.


George Potter

  • Guest
Re: The Woman Who Hitchhiked With Cats(I&IIofX)
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2005, 10:26:53 pm »

NOTE: I'm not gonna make my deadline, thanks to holiday/family crap that I could have done without. I'm gonna pull an all-nighter tonight and try to get as much as possible up before fateful 12/21 is over tomorrow. Anyway, that's the beginning.


  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 2603
  • CPC? I'd tell you, but I'd have to kill you...
Re: The Woman Who Hitchhiked With Cats(I&IIofX)
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2005, 11:27:40 pm »

And a good beginning it is. :mellow:
I have never regretted that I chose to "take the red pill." But there are days, just rarely, when the truth is so ugly, so brutal, so unmerciful, so relentless, that even if I wouldn't rip the truth from the wall socket and hurl it out the window to crash on the sidewalk below, I wouldn't mind if it featured a snooze button so we could savor just a few more moments in slumbered pretension and warm, fuzzy lies pulled snugly up over our heads.

cowardly lion

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1322
Re: The Woman Who Hitchhiked With Cats(I&IIofX)
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2005, 07:03:55 am »

what jac said.

Sic semper tyrannis, baby!    - Joel Simon

As much as we may not want to consider it, we must have a mindset that enables us to do instant and devastating violence in defense of self and/or loved ones.   -Dave Champion

It's not unusual to run into folks in the internet that are dense enough to have event horizons.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November . . . .

Don't mistake my silence for weakness - no one plans a murder out loud.


  • Just a peckerwood who lives in the hills with too many guns.
  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 5379
Re: The Woman Who Hitchhiked With Cats(I&IIofX)
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2005, 08:31:06 am »

Wonderful!  I don't know where you're going with it, but that's half the fun.  More!
Yet another Freedomista blog: The Ultimate Answer to Kings is not a bullet, but a belly laugh.

Bill St. Clair

  • Techie
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 6852
    • End the War on Freedom
Re: The Woman Who Hitchhiked With Cats(I&IIofX)
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2005, 09:30:05 am »

Very nice. A good winter solstice present, indeed! Looking forward to the rest.
"The state can only survive as long as a majority is programmed to believe that theft isn't wrong if it's called taxation or asset forfeiture or eminent domain, that assault and kidnapping isn't wrong if it's called arrest, that mass murder isn't wrong if it's called war." -- Bill St. Clair

"Separation of Earth and state!" -- Bill St. Clair


  • Plain Folks
  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 6577
    • Living Freedom
Re: The Woman Who Hitchhiked With Cats(I&IIofX)
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2005, 10:26:05 am »

Argh, George. No need for all-nighters on my behalf! (Though I suppose it's too late to say that now.) Although today's posts will be my last for a while, I'll still manage to get my George Potter fix.

This story is already magical -- in more senses than one. I love the $40 bill and the $5 with the dog. (So glad you worked a dog in there somewhere.  ^_^)
Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8

When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi

My life is my message. -- Gandhi


  • Guest
Re: The Woman Who Hitchhiked With Cats(I&IIofX)
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2005, 10:57:25 am »

Hey George,

Second what everybody said, I'm hooked, methinks you really should put a whole lot of your stories into an anthology of some sort. Any possibilities there? I'd want a half dozen copies for gifts and such.

Waiting patiently,




  • Guest
Re: The Woman Who Hitchhiked With Cats(I&IIofX)
« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2005, 11:40:03 am »

Thanks for the early gift George

Drink Deeply


  • Guest
Re: The Woman Who Hitchhiked With Cats(I&IIofX)
« Reply #14 on: December 21, 2005, 04:16:47 pm »

Tomorrow I'll look for my gun.

I like it so far. The story is a quest.

Desperate hero undertakes arduous journey, meets prescient guide, meets magical beast, has dream of his goal: sword (ring, elixir, etc.) of power, reclaims his birthright.

The gun should have a name; it's not just a dead tool.

Wiil there be a snake?

« Last Edit: December 21, 2005, 04:22:55 pm by starborn »
Pages: [1] 2 3 4   Go Up