And He Bought a Crooked Cat is now out in the e-anthology (POD coming later) REJECTED (don’t have credits for cover image, but all rights are with current holder). It’s very satisfying as the first page or two of the story go back well over 20 years.
I don’t remember what prompted it, but back in the late 1980s (IIRC) I came up with a scene in which a young man follows a grotesquely disfigured cat down a narrow, twisty street. At the end of it, a crooked old man informs the protagonist that having walked a crooked mile, he has to buy the crooked cat. Unfortunately, that was as far as I got with the concept.
I do remember trying several angles on the lead to give him some sort of character arc. He’d just had a bad break-up. Or she hadn’t even realized he was into her (this might just possibly have been drawn from some personal experience). But I still couldn’t figure out why the crooked cat would show up, what happened next, or why anyone would care.
I think the idea of nursery rhyme characters as a chaotic, nonsense-force trapped in the rhymes manifested before my final protagonist, Paul. Once that idea came to me, I started playing the chaos opposite an era that looked staid, nonchaotic, sober—the 1950s. Only underneath there was all this chaos and restlessness, and now the rhymes had returned … And slowly Paul took shape. A writer/editor, serious, intelligent, and depressingly middle-aged at 25. Staid. Afraid to take a chance.
And then the crooked cat showed up. And four and twenty blackbirds plucked off someone’s nose. And the kittens showed up at the door asking for pie …
My initial ending drove home the subtext of the story rather explicitly. I wavered back and forth on that and eventually decided by best friend Cindy was right and cut the explicitness out. The story, which had bounced to multiple venues by this sort, still kept bouncing back. Finally last year I sent it to rejected and … success!
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