Trippy slammed his laptop shut and hurled it against the wall.
The two cats didn’t move. Mischief, the asthmatic Siamese, opened his one good eye before falling back asleep. Hemingway, the fat Tabby, didn’t flinch. She’d been on the losing end of another backyard brawl, a two-inch gash on her forehead still oozing.
Always a prolific writer, Trippy didn’t know what to make of his troubling new condition. It’d been nearly two months since he’d written a thing. The minute he sat down at his computer his fingers remained frozen above the keyboard, as if they’d lost all connection to the brain. The longer he stared at the screen, the whiter it got; like a snowstorm.
He tried drinking. It made him sick. He tried smoking pot. It made him stare at the cats. He tried long walks near the burnt-out pier, but that only managed to get him mugged twice in four days. And when he googled “writer’s block” on his new laptop, he quickly came to curse the know-it-alls who claimed to know all about him.
“Crackpots,” spat Trippy at the monitor.
He stopped himself from throwing his new laptop, but instead chucked a solid glass paperweight at the wall, where it left a softball-sized indentation, dropped to the floor, and split into pieces. Mischief hissed. Hemingway growled. And Trippy set out for another long walk along the burnt-out pier. At least he didn’t get mugged this time.
After two more months of staring at the blank screen, Trippy wondered if he’d ever write again.
“I’m sorry, cats,” he said. “Writing’s been my life, and you guys have been with me every step of the way. But it might all be over now. I’m stuck.”
Both cats lifted their heads and eyeballed Trippy from the opposite side of the room. Mischief got up first, stretching his front left paw, then the right, before limping over and climbing into Trippy’s lap. Hemingway meowed and walked the other way, glancing back once before shimmying through the cat door.
“I don’t blame you,” said Trippy. “Who wants to hang out with a loser?”
Trippy fell asleep on the couch while listening to Mischief’s congested wheeze. When he awoke the next morning, Trippy saw that Hemingway still hadn’t returned. It wasn’t odd for the cat to stay out late, getting into who-knows-what kind of trouble, but she always made it home in time for breakfast.
Where’s that old Tabby run off to, thought Trippy?
He rose from the couch and was halfway out the door when Mischief made a small sputtering sound, something between a meow and a cough.
“Wait right there,” said Trippy. “I’ll be back soon.”
He’d only walked a short distance when he spied the marmalade-colored lump in the middle of the road. Hemingway, the grizzled Tabby with more than nine lives, had finally run out of luck.
Tears streamed down Trippy’s cheeks as he carried the cat’s body into the yard. Mischief and Hemingway had been with him from the beginning, since his first published stories, his first novel, and all the rest.
Later that night, after laying Hemingway to rest, Trippy returned to the garage to fetch his portable typewriter. He’d seen the light-green Hermes Rocket earlier that day while looking for a shovel. Holding the old typewriter again took him back to those heady times when he wrote for hours on end, often while the two kittens tore through his apartment like a pair of Tasmanian devils.
Trippy blew the dust off the typewriter and carried it back to his desk. A daddy longlegs crawled out from the space between the “Z” and the “X.” Otherwise, the old machine looked to be in good shape. He spun a fresh sheet of paper into the carriage and loosened his fingers like a concert pianist about to embark on the performance of a lifetime. His knuckles cracked. His mind focused. Trippy was ready to roll.
He started slowly at first. But Trippy was soon typing at full speed, the unblocked rhythm of the keys pulsing to life under the weight of his eager fingertips as he composed a long and loving tribute to his dear old cat.
Greg Roensch is a writer and Potrero Hill resident who owns an editorial services business.