He caught up with me by the swings, long legs taking him across the distance in half the time mine did. But instead of teasing me further, he let me sit down and then gave me a push. ‘Higher,’ I said, and he obliged. It was then that I realised I could get away with just about anything today. ‘Higher,’ I said, and the sky came closer, and closer. ‘Higher!’ Until the swing could not go any further and Jimmy couldn’t push me if he tried. The sky and the earth took turns to see me, and every time I started to drop, I savoured the wind in my hair, the way my stomach would tighten up. I was supposed to pump my legs to get the swing going, but I didn’t have to now. I didn’t have to do anything.
I might fly, I thought. The idea popped into my head as the swing started to fall. I could fly. The sky was rising to meet me again, and I thought I might meet it halfway if I just let go. I can fly.
And I did. For a split second.
Then there was pain, and tears, and a panicked Jimmy, and a trip to the hospital, and two boring hours in the waiting room as our neighbour scrambled to reach my parents, and we waited for the doctor to set my cast. Jimmy spent most of that time avoiding my eye.
It wasn’t until the end of the day, as we were being driven home, that he leant in across the seat and said, ‘The swings were a stupid idea.’
I ignored him. I had a cast—I had earned the right to decide what was stupid and what was not.
‘They were,’ Jimmy insisted. ‘They don’t know the way to Heaven.’ Then, he hesitated, like he was about to spill some big secret. ‘The cats do, though.’
That’s from Daisy Cutter Danger, Katya Bozukova’s story in Cat Tales, the anthology drawn from last year’s Book a Break short story competition. I would have done D for Daisy but I already had Debbie, so it’s J for Jimmy instead. Besides, if I did Daisy, it would be too difficult not to tell you the end, because Daisy Cutter Danger is all about her ‘first lesson in mortality’, and Curtis won’t let me tell you what that is. Jimmy’s only a minor character but he does his bit and it all adds up to make a smashing story. It’s sad because Daisy’s Nana Pattie dies, but touching too because Daisy goes looking for her – and, in a way, finds her. With the help of the cats, of course.
Naturally, it got me thinking about mortality. I’d never really pondered the matter, to be honest – one doesn’t when one’s ending the life of a mouse. But everything dies, I suspect, even me, despite being Sir Thomas More reborn. Next time I rather fancy coming back as the reincarnation of Shakespeare, but from what I’ve heard, we don’t get much say in the matter. For all I know, I could end up as a sparrow. And be eaten by a descendant of Tiberius. What a fate! The very thought takes my angst to new heights. How many years have I left? Whither now? No time to lose! Quick!
Katya, incidentally, isn’t just a wonderful writer, she does art work too, which you can find here. And of course, if you buy Cat Tales, you’ll not only read about Daisy’s first lesson in mortality, you’ll also make the world a better place. Thank you!
The proceeds from Cat Tales go to two charities, Cats Protection and the Against Malaria Foundation. So please don’t hesitate to spread the word (reblog, twitter, faceboook, sandwich board, Times Square illumination – all and any means are welcome) and help us raise all we can.
In a special promotion deal, the price of Cat Tales is just $1.99 for the whole month of April. Available as a PDF (or epub / mobi) complete with colour illustrations directly from this site* by clicking the button below. Also available in print (black & white, $9.50).
*You can buy from Amazon here, but buying from this site results in $1.61 after the PayPal commission, as opposed to just $0.70 from Amazon. An insecticide treated mosquito net, which protects on average 2 people for 3 to 4 years, costs $2.50. PLUS, if you buy from this site, you’ll get a personal message of thanks from Curtis along with a short story of his own (in which Nibbles the cat, I’m sorry to say, comes to a rather unfortunate end).